This reflection is part of the Lenten Reflection Guide 2022: Upholding Human Dignity and Human Rights.
“While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white.”
- Luke 9:29
In the Gospel reading for the second week of Lent, we hear the story of Jesus’s transfiguration. The Christian tradition understands the transfiguration to be a glimpse of Jesus’ heavenly glory, which occurs just before he travels to Jerusalem to set into motion the events that will lead to his death on the cross.
For Christians, the event of Jesus’ bodily transfiguration is paramount – it reminds us that God will take up, transform, and renew all of Creation, because it is good and beautiful. Our human bodies, and all Creation, are loved by God. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection – foreshadowed in this transfiguration moment -- show us what we are worth in the eyes of God.
All life is sacred, and human dignity can never be erased. But in our world, people with disabilities or who suffer illness or weakness are often disvalued and discarded. It is a monumental tragedy, and it is the duty of Christians to bear courageous witness to the dignity of life despite ability, age, health status, or any other factor.
The Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine reminds us, “Persons with disabilities are fully human subjects, with rights and duties: ‘in spite of the limitations and sufferings affecting their bodies and faculties, they point up more clearly the dignity and greatness of [humanity]. Since persons with disabilities are subjects with all their rights, they are to be helped to participate in every dimension of family and social life at every level accessible to them and according to their possibilities.’”
The human rights of persons with disabilities are not often well protected by law or social practice. Several Maryknoll missioners are working to advance the rights and circumstances of persons with disabilities, bearing witness to their fundamental dignity.
Joe Loney, a Maryknoll lay missioner in Bolivia, tells a story from his ministry, which seeks to recognize the dignity of persons with disabilities by helping them find the means to contribute to their families and societies:
“[Doña Rosenda is] raising her grandson, [Juan Carlos,] who suffers from a complete hearing loss and intellectual challenges by herself. Their small fields of potatoes, corn and wheat terraced on the sides of steep mountain valleys sustain them. They raise sheep to obtain cash income.
"Among the activities of our program is an economic sustenance component, where we sit down with the persons with disabilities, their families and local community leaders to analyze the interests and talents of the person with a disability and opportunities in their communities…
"Juan Carlos and his grandmother know sheep grazing very well. After many consultations, everyone agreed we should help them improve the breed of their sheep herd. Juan Carlos greeted us with frequent smiles and enthusiastic jumps up and down. He immediately showed us the baby sheep in his corral…We do our best to ‘hear His voice’ through our program to bring human dignity to persons living with disabilities.”
Questions for Reflection
How do you recognize Creation, including your own body, as good and beautiful? How can you recognize the dignity of those with disabilities or bodily suffering in your community?
An Interfaith Litany for Wholeness
Leader: Let us pray for all God’s people. For people who are blind and cannot see, and for those who can see but are blind to people around them.
Response: God, in your mercy, help us see each other with your eyes.
Leader: For people who move slowly because of accident, illness or disability, and for those who move too fast to be aware of the world in which they live. (Response)
Leader: For people who are deaf and cannot hear, and for those who can hear but who ignore the cries of others. (Response)
Leader: For families, friends and caregivers who serve people with disabilities, and for those who feel awkward in their presence (Response)
Leader: For people who think they are worthless and beyond your love, and for people who think they don’t need your love. (Response)
Leader: For all the people in your creation, that we may learn to respect each other and learn how to live together in your peace,
Response: God, in your mercy, bind us together.
- Adapted from “That All May Worship: An Interfaith Welcome to People with Disabilities,” National
Organization on Disabilities, Written by: The Reverend Kate Chips.
Pay close attention to the needs of your body, through rest, exercise, and healthy eating. Spend this week giving thanks for the gift of being a part of God’s creation.
Faith in Action
Explore the action opportunities provided by The Arc, an organization dedicated to advancing the human rights of persons with disabilities: https://p2a.co/lRPDZ5C
Maryknoll Mission Experience
“On Fridays, we [a couple of Tanzanian volunteers and I] go to a government program about 15 miles south of Mwanza city that ministers to people suffering from mental illness or some other health problem, such as, being mute, blind or deaf. The locals call this area Bukumbi Camp. My ministry with the residents at Bukumbi is to spend time with them, by treating each person with respect and appreciation for who they are. Jesus says: 'Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do unto me [Matt. 25:37-40].'
"One of the activities that we do with residence is to play ‘Bingo’. Bingo is a great game. It pulls us together by helping those who are unable read. When I enter Bukumbi Camp grounds, the residents come to my car to greet my colleges and myself. They have beautiful smiles and are most welcoming. Although these people live a very simple lifestyle, their desire to make people feel at home is what really matters in their lives. People who visit Bukumbi Camp will feel the presence of the living God.”
-BROTHER LOREN BEAUDRY
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers