I met with a woman in the hospital recently. She is a beautiful, young, intelligent person — a loving mother, and a beloved daughter. Like tens of thousands of others in America, she is caught in the grips of the opioid epidemic and was briefly hospitalized after an overdose. We talked for a bit, discussed the hardships of recovery and the treatment industry. Her family groped for help from the hospital and others who might be able to guide them to a safe place for healing and hope. Several days later she was found unconscious (OD) in a parking lot after being released prematurely from the hospital to a recovery house, where she was forced to wander the streets daily looking for work. The injustices are too many to list in this brief reflection.
She is unreachable these days, but I sent her a private message encouraging her to never give up. Among other things, I wrote: “you are worthy.” Afterwards I thought about the implications of the word “worthy,” so I looked up the definition. It is defined as “deserving effort, attention, or respect . . . good enough.” I wonder, who is it that judges if someone is good enough? Who decides which people are deserving of attention or respect? How and why could anyone suffering from an affliction feel less than deserving of love, attention, hope, and healing? What is our obligation to others in making them feel worthy? It’s not something we can give to ourselves, because we see our reflections, as in a mirror, through the eyes of others.
I believe that we are all innately good people who often become misguided. We might make judgments because we truly believe that we know what is right for another, or what is best for the world. These human tendencies have been occurring since the beginning of the church (and surely since the beginning of time). St. Paul’s letters to the community in Corinth reveal similar propensities as people judged each other and were divided by their ethical and religious beliefs, education, and even by their feelings of spiritual superiority. It was bedlam in the name of Christ.
Paul reminds the community that anything they have in life is a gift that has been given to them by the Spirit, and that gift is to be used for the service of others — never to exalt themselves in holiness. If they don’t use their gifts to serve others, the gifts are useless. He reminds the community (and us) that we are all connected, and everything we do affects someone. He tells them to “pursue love.”
Let’s pursue love. Let’s use our gifts for the service of others. Let’s let our eyes be mirrors radiating love, so that all who see their reflection in our eyes may feel worthy, because they are.
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