“I am a worm and no man” — Psalm 22:7

File:The Good Samaritan by Daniel Bretschneider the Younger.jpg

Back before we learned the words to start a fight
Back before they told us that the haters were right
He spoke the truth, “let there be” and there was
Love is the language, love is your native tongue. — Switchfoot, Native Tongue

Msgr. Michael Mannion, in a talk he gave about his collaboration with St. Teresa of Calcutta, shared a familiar story from his time in India. He said one day when we was with her at a home for the dying, she was holding the hand of a man who had just been picked up off of the street. Mannion said the man told Mother Teresa, “I’ve lived as an animal, but I die as a human being.”

As I read this, I immediately thought of the extraordinary scene in John’s Gospel when Pilate, pointing to the brutalized body of Jesus, said: Idou ho anthrōpos “behold the human being” (John 19:5). Isaiah 52:14 captures this moment well:

Just as there were many who were astonished at him
—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of mortals.

Entering into the most debased condition of human degradation, Jesus reveals to the world — identified precisely by Pilate, his enemy — the truest form of God and man in a heart made perfect by mercy. In Jesus’ broken Body, God’s project of breathing into clay the divine life to form a human being in his image was finally complete. Moments before his cruel death, Jesus brings the symphony of creation to completion in a one-word coda filled with self-wasting love: tetelestai “it is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus is the perfection of God’s plan for creation, i.e. God and Man co-making a world defined — as God himself is — by love.

The Church is the outworking of this co-making in history, as she exists to sing that paschal coda into a world yearning to become fully human. And saints like Mother are canonized as recognitions of where we have seen the Church being most truly herself — “I’ve lived as an animal, but I die as a human being.”

Back in the early 1990’s, I served as a volunteer at a Missionaries of Charity home for the dying called Gift of Peace. Reflecting on this experience, I gave a talk to Legatus about a year and a half ago, and will share here some of what I said:

As I would reflect on the terrible burdens of the past these people carried, I could see so clearly that Mother’s vision for “missionaries of charity,” sent from the heart of divine love into a loveless world, was genius. Consecrated women inspiring countless people, of all persuasions, to join them in building small communities of hope.

Mother and her movement stand as a clarion call to the whole church, to us laity tasked with the work of civilization building, to respond to the brokenness, anger and despair of modernity not by cursing the darkness, but by kindling a better light; a kindly light; by giving birth to a new culture of hope.

I could tell you a dozen stories that detail the transformation of individual men and women I came to know at Gift of Peace. People who journeyed from hapless and hopeless despair to unshakable hope, all because Mother, back in 1947, said Yes to Jesus on that extraordinary train ride from Calcutta to Darjeeling when he said to her, “take care of them, to bring them to me.” Her call is our call to be light in darkness, joy in sadness, hope in despair, gentleness in violence, life in death.

In God’s providence, EVERY choice has the potential to change the course of history – for better or for worse. St. Thomas Aquinas’ sister once asked him, “How can I become a saint?” His one word answer in Italian captures the whole: Velle! “Will it.” Will it in every insignificant moment of your life, making of those moments signs of a new creation dawning.

Saints are revealers, not concealers of the God of justice and mercy, of tenderness and compassion, of truth and enduring, amazing love.

We could say that God founded the Church, chose US to be a living sign, an effective witness to His FRANTIC desire to build a home for the homeless, to adopt the orphan, defend the widow, give voice to the voiceless, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, reconcile the estranged, free the prisoner, visit the lonely, tend to the wounds of the fallen, heal the sick, and bring good news to the poor.

The church is God’s Habitat for Humanity, a mother who is always a homemaker.
God longs to have the world to know He is true and faithful, patient and compassionate, merciful and just by means of US, we who are the Body of His Son. We AMBASSADORS are, so to speak, God’s sign language spoken to a deaf world.

They’re listening carefully to us. Let’s make certain we are not simply a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal…

Sing to me, baby, in your native tongue
Sing the words of the wise and the young
Show me the place where your words come from
Love is the language, love is your native tongue

Feel your heartbeat bang the drum
Open up your eyes and fill your lungs
The same word from where the stars are flung
Love is the language, love is your native tongue

My heart is a beating drum
My head in oblivion
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

My friend, where did we go wrong?
My Lord, we forgot our sound
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

(Oh-woah-oh-woah-oh)
(My native tongue)
(Oh-woah-oh-woah-oh)
(My native tongue)

Sing it to me, whisper into my ear
Accuser’s voices start to disappear
In the wind, in the tongues of the flame
In my soul, in my one true name, oh

Back before we learned the words to start a fight
Back before they told us that the haters were right
He spoke the truth, “let there be” and there was
Love is the language, love is your native tongue

My heart is a beating drum
My head in oblivion
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

My friend, where did we go wrong?
My Lord, we forgot our sound
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

So sing it loud, get loud, get
Louder than the voices in the crowd, yeah
Even when they tried to drown you out, eh
Your lips, your lungs, your native tongue

So sing it out, get loud, get
Louder than the darkness and the doubts, eh
Louder than the curses and the shouts, yeah
Your lips, your lungs, your native tongue

(Oh-woah-oh-woah-oh)
(Oh-woah-oh-woah-oh)

My heart is a beating drum
My head in oblivion
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

My friend, where did we go wrong?
My Lord, we forgot our sound
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

(Oh-woah-oh-woah-oh)
(My native tongue)
(Oh-woah-oh-woah-oh)

I want the world to sing in her native tongue
To sing it like when we were young
Back before the pendulum had swung to the shadows

I want the world to sing in her native tongue
Maybe we could learn to sing along
To find a way to use our lungs for love and not the shadows

I want the world to sing in her native tongue
To sing it like when we were young
Back before the pendulum had swung to the shadows

I want the world to sing in her native tongue
Maybe we could learn to sing along
To find a way to use our lungs for love and not the shadows

4 comments on ““I am a worm and no man” — Psalm 22:7

  1. Grace says:

    Yay Switchfoot!
    Jon Foreman is my favorite artist ever. Do you listen to his other music?

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