Earlier today I picked up Jean Vanier’s book entitled, “The Scandal of Serving.” The book is 86 pages long and it packed an immense punch. Vanier, the founder of L’Arche reflects in this book on John 13; the foot washing. Allow me to share a few thoughts and quotes from the book.

Vanier argues for the fact that all people who reckon themselves as strong should build relationships with the weak. The weak will call out the potential goodness in the blinded strong. Most of us are blinded by our materialistic lifestyles; we become so absorbed in the race to success that we only live in the shallow recesses of our being. Contact with the poor will awaken the sleeping giants in us.

“People who are weak and fragile obviously need the help of those who are stronger. In L’Arche, however, we are discovering that the opposite is equally true: people who are stronger need those who are more fragile. We need others. People who are powerless and vulnerable attract what is most beautiful and most luminous in those who are stronger: they call them to be compassionate, to love intelligently, and not only in a sentimental way. Those who are weak help those who are more capable to discover their humanity and to leave the world of competition in order to put their energies at the service of love, justice and peace. The weak teach the strong to accept and integrate the weakness and brokenness of their own lives which they often hide behind masks.”

On the other side, Vanier reminds us that contact with the poor will also bring us in contact with our dark side,

“People who are weak and vulnerable can also awaken in us what is most dark and ugly. Their cry, their provocations, their constant demands and their depression can unmask our own anguish and violence.”

The reality of our society reflects our total infatuation with success and how it shallows our relationships towards people who are just like us. We’re afraid to be with weak people because the reality of their poverty gives us a stark picture of our lives minus the trappings we’ve used as scaffolding. Our trappings might be careers, titles, education, hobbies …. you can fill in the blank.

“People who are well-situated in society, who know success, who have a certain influence and who exercise authority, but who are not in touch with their inner weaknesses and poverty, have trouble understanding the loving but demanding message of Jesus. He disturbs them. In the parable of the wedding feast (Luke 14), the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind respond to the invitation to come. The rich and powerful refuse. They do not have time because they have other things to do. They are often seeking the knowledge of God, but their hearts are not humble and open enough simply to welcome the presence of God.”