In his June 28 blog post, Fr. Richard Rohr, the Academic Dean of the Living School for Action and Contempation, writes the following:
“Francis of Assisi taught us the importance of living close to the poor, the marginalized, the outcasts in society. The outer poverty, injustice, and absurdity around us mirror our own inner poverty, injustice, and absurdity. The poor man or woman outside is an invitation to the poor man or woman inside. As you nurture compassion and sympathy for the brokenness of things, encounter the visible icon of the painful mystery in “the little ones,” build bridges between the inner and outer, learn to move between action and contemplation, then you’ll find compassion and sympathy for the brokenness within yourself.
Each time I was recovering from cancer, I had to sit with my own broken absurdity as I’ve done with others at the jail or hospital or sick bed. The suffering person’s poverty is visible and extraverted; mine is invisible and interior, but just as real. I think that’s why Jesus said we have to recognize Christ in the least of our brothers and sisters. It was for our redemption, our liberation, our healing—not just to “help” others and put a check on our spiritual resume.
I can’t hate the person on welfare when I realize I’m on God’s welfare. It all becomes one truth; the inner and the outer reflect one another. As compassion and sympathy flow out of us to any marginalized person for whatever reason, wounds are bandaged—both theirs and ours.”
Rohr’s words are spot on when it comes to what happens to members of my congregation when they participate in a mission trip. For the last 20 years, my congregation has sent people on mission trips to Appalachia, as part of the Appalachia Service Project, and to The Home of Love and Hope (El Hogar), in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The last two years we have also had mothers and daughters go to the United Nations Conference on the Status of Women, where they spend time with women from countries where women are oppressed and the constant victims of violence. More often than not, these people return from these mission trips aware that their lives have been changed; that this trip in Rohr’s words “was for our redemption, our liberation, our healing.”
This is not only true for mission trips, but life in general. As we move closer to the poor and marginalized in our society, we move closer to the poor and marginalized parts of ourselves. As we welcome those who are broken in our society, we welcome Christ himself, and Christ then does what he always does, he heals us and invites us to embrace our own brokenness.