Before we print the weekly reflection I get extremely nervous. There is a level of vulnerability when I write my reflections and I never know if or when people read my ramblings. Vulnerability is a state of being exposed to the possibility of harm mentally, emotionally and physically. So then, it would make sense as to why I am nervous. I sought advice from my mom (like most children do when they get older) about the realities of being vulnerable to a new parish and she had beautiful words which I want to share with you, “Every great love, friendship or job starts with vulnerability. By exposing ourselves to one another, we are able to be accepted for who we are, loved for who we are… and that love is healing. By not being vulnerable, we are depriving ourselves of the love and acceptance we need to thrive.”
Vulnerability is not to be confused with weakness. Weakness is an emotional, physical and mental disempowerment. It is where a person does not have the inner resources to do what they need to do in a particular situation. Vulnerability is a state of empowerment, where a person does not know exactly what needs to be done in a particular situation but is willing to attempt it, trusting or believing that failure or partial success is better than making no attempt at all. In fact, vulnerability requires great courage because of the risk involved.
No good thing comes without risk! Look at Jesus as He hung on the Cross. He was naked and totally exposed to the cruelty of the world - for what purpose? Through Christ’s vulnerability, we are exposed to His great love for us. We are given the gift of His love, which for God, was totally worth the sacrifice.
Learning to love as Jesus loves requires us to have incredible courage. He demonstrated vulnerability at its extreme through His paradoxical broken heart in the Garden of Gethsemane, His beaten body on the journey to Calvary and His brutal death on the Cross. Was this supreme act of love weakness? On the contrary, it was the bravest most valiant love our world has ever known. Despite the pain Jesus endured, He never wavered in His vulnerability.
What does authentic love entail? What builds relationships with those we encounter? Are we willing to risk of being ignored, rejected and ridiculed for the sake of loving another? If love is worth the risk, as it always is, then we must choose to become vulnerable and allow Jesus to break open our wounds, expose them to the possibility of rejection but also to the possibility of acceptance, healing and love!
Our goal should be to will the good of another, as is the definition of love according to St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. In order to do this, we must become vulnerable to share our innermost thoughts and feelings, always keeping at the forefront of our minds the other person whom we love. That includes sharing with those we love the truth, despite the pain or discomfort they may feel.
Only through vulnerability do we truly become whole. I remember a time in my life where my vulnerability was taken advantage of repeatedly. In order to protect my heart, my inner child built walls around my heart and allowed for it to turn to stone. I was tired of the pain others caused me, despite my openness and compassion. Over time, my heart had become so battered and annihilated that I wondered if I was even capable of loving someone without fear of abandonment, pain and rejection.
The Lord, thankfully, pulled my heart out of its stony fortress, and reminded me of the grace that flows from a vulnerable heart. My loneliness and isolation only made the pain from past rejection worse. Thankfully, I re-encountered Our Lord through the Eucharist and healing continues.
You see, friends, the world has enough tough exteriors, stony hearts, and fear of rejection. We are called to fight against this Culture of Death by mimicking the vulnerability of Christ and giving of ourselves freely, even if that means we get hurt. When we are greeted by pain and suffering, we must turn our faces towards the Cross, and allow for the Blood of Our Lord to heal our wounds and give us the strength to continue to be vulnerable.
This is what my mother meant when she said, “Every great love, friendship or job starts with vulnerability. By exposing ourselves to one another, we are able to be accepted for who we are, loved for who we are… and that love is healing. By not being vulnerable, we are depriving ourselves of the love and acceptance we need to thrive.”