By Deborah Gyapong
QUEBEC CITY (CNS) – The poor and the marginalized are crying out for love and relationships, not just generosity and ideas, said the Canadian founder of communities for people with developmental disabilities.
Jean Vanier, founder of the International Federation of L’Arche Communities and author of books on compassion and human fragility, told the 49th International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City June 16 that Christians are called to be like Jesus, with their hearts open to all the poor and disadvantaged.
But opening up to a relationship with the marginalized is frightening, he said, because doing so will destroy the walls that separate people and fill in the gap that separates the rich and poor.
"In our world there is a lot of generosity," but there must be relationships and love, he said, adding that "to be like Jesus, we have to be able to wash the feet of one another."
Vanier, one of several lay witnesses addressing the June 15-22 congress, told the audience of pilgrims from more than 70 countries that "in many ways the church has lost the poor because of a lack of vocations."
The government has filled this gap, which is not a bad thing, he said, speaking in French.
"But what the poor need more than anyone else is people who say ‘I love you,’" Vanier said.
"The presence of Jesus is in the poor" and, in welcoming the poor, people welcome Jesus, he said.
Becoming like Jesus will make people meek and humble, compassionate and committed, he said, adding that it is not normal and not simple.
He urged those present to step outside their "clan" when holding a celebration and invite the poor, the blind and the marginalized.
The mission of Jesus is to send each person to serve the poor, so through the mystery of the Eucharist they know they are loved, he said.
Vanier also expressed the hope that all baptized Christians would be able to discern the mystery of Jesus in the Eucharist, "that they all (may) be one so the whole world believes."