Last week a hero of the faith went to go be with the Lord. He was often referred to as a living saint by many, which could have been viewed as hyperbole until you look at his life and the impact he made in this world.
Last week Jean Vanier passed away at the age of 90. He was a brilliant man who studied theology and philosophy who completed his doctoral studies on happiness in the ethics of Aristotle, but that is not what his greatest accomplishment was in life. Jean Vanier is known for starting L’Arche.
It all started back in 1964, during the Christmas holidays, when Jean Vanier visited a friend who was working as a chaplain for men with learning difficulties just outside Paris, France. Disturbed by the way these men lived, Jean Vanier bought a small house nearby and invited two men from the institution to join him to live. Thus L’Arche (the Arch) was born.
Now fast forward several decades, there are 147 L’Arche centers in 35 different countries, where people with and without disabilities live together as equals. But, Vanier’s work did not stop there. Since the beginning of L’Arche, there are over 1,800 groups called “Faith and Light,” in 80 different nations support for people with special needs and their families and friends.
Vanier said that “living with the disabled helped me to appreciate two truths: first, that people with learning difficulties have a great deal to contribute; second, by living in a community with people – with and without learning disabilities – we open ourselves up to be challenged and to grow.”
As I am preparing for this weeks sermon where Jesus gives the disciples a new commandment “to love one another just as I have loved you,” I can’t help to think of what a beautiful example Jean Vanier gives to us all how we are to love God’s people.
The truth of the matter is that our culture tells us to be selective in whom we love, how we love, and why we love. Most of the time, we love in order to benefit from it, but that is not what we in scripture. That is not how God loves and that is not what we see in the life of Jesus Christ. In scripture we see a love without limits. We see an unconditional love and we see a love that often messy but beautiful and perfect at the same time. It’s messy because we are messy. Life is complicated but God’s love is not messy but beautiful and perfect in every way.
I hope that you will be inspired by the life of Jean Vanier but more importantly, that you will come to find and live out the love of Christ for those God has connected you with in life.