Thursday, January 14, 2010

Prayer of the Despised

Today we come to you, Lord, we, the despised. We are not a sorry procession, but a repugnant one. We do not even arouse compassion or hatred, tenderness or sympathy. We are simply despised; we disgust people. The leper arouses compassion. The fiercest criminal stirs up hatred or terror. The mentally ill or the retarded inspire pity or protectiveness. But there is no place reserved for us in the catalogue of the works of mercy.

I, Lord, am a drug addict; for all practical purposes, I have resigned from the human race, I have lost all hope of regaining my self-control, of becoming myself again. There are other people who have drugged, not their bodies, but their consciences and hearts. But nobody despises them. At worst, they are feared.

I, Lord, am a homosexual. I don’t like women. Now and then, I go with another man. I commit fewer sins than my brother who certainly does like women and who even takes up with other men’s wives. But no one at home or outside turns their nose up at him; they don’t find him repugnant; on the contrary, sometimes they even admire him. But everyone, both men and women, shy away from me. And I am acceptable only to someone who, like me, also feels that he has been cast off by normal society.

I, Lord, am a drunkard, but a poor one. I’ve been on the bottle for many years. They don’t want me at home because they’re ashamed of me, and so I’m left to stagger around the streets like a sick dog. When people see me coming, they hastily cross to the other side of the street. Even a beggar occasionally has the consolation of having someone approach him and although hurriedly, put a small coin in his hand. But nobody comes near me; except perhaps a policeman to hustle me off to jail.
Yet, Lord, there are others who also get drunk, but they do it at exclusive parties in the suburbs and, because they are influential, people only laugh good-naturedly at their drunken antics. They are readily forgiven and, if necessary, excuses are found for them by their hangers-on, who cover up for them. No policeman ever lays a finger on them. I wonder-am I more repugnant when drunk than they are, just because I get loaded on cheap wine, while they do it on expensive whiskey, vodka, and gin.

I, Lord, am a prostitute. I can’t claim to be one of the girls, not any more. Because now I’m old and fat and tired. I have no one now to pay the rent of an apartment for me and buy me nice things. I am one of those who have to be satisfied with what my “customers” feel like giving them. I no longer have a nice apartment to entertain my clients in, and I don’t have money to advertise in the newspapers as a “masseuse”. I have to be satisfied with hanging around cheap bars in the slums or street corners in the cold and rain, hoping some poor wretch will be willing to pay me a few coins for the remnants of my favors. People passing in their cars look down their noses at me and quickly turn away so as not to meet my eyes. I am despised even by the high class call girls who, glittering with jewels and wrapped in furs, glide by in big cars driven by their so-very-respectable “patrons”.

We and so many others whom society does not even pity; we the despised of the earth, who arouse neither hatred nor pity nor fear, but only disgust, today we come to you, who are sinless, because we believe that, if you do exist, you will not despise but will even forgive us.

We aren’t trying to hide or to make excuses for the sins that have caused us to be cast off by society. We only hope that perhaps you, who not only forgive, but also excuse, will be able to avoid humiliating us further and to tell us, as once you told a man possessed by the devil, that saving us will let others see your glory and mercy in us.

Remember, you said you came to save what is lost. And who is more lost than we who do not even arouse pity? Sometimes a ray of hope lets us dream for a moment that perhaps you may bring yourself to love even us.

- Father Juan Arias

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Will you come and follow me (The Summons)

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be same?
Will you let my love be shown, will you let my name be known,
Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean, and do such as this unseen,
And admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,
Through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

Lord, Your summons echoes true when You but call my name.
Let me turn and follow You and never be the same.
In Your company I'll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow in You and You in me.

-- John L. Bell (Iona Community, Glasgow.)

(From “Heaven shall not wait” Wild Goose Publications 1987)