Sibling Lenten Meditation February 23, 2021



The Lord’s Prayer is a sister or a brother’s prayer, assuming with its first words—“Our
Father”—that the intercessor is the emissary of a little tribe. It presumes for us a primal sibling
bond, as surely as it presumes a divine paternal bond. It places us in our littleness before the
Father and among the throng of anawim—the humble ones of Hebrew scripture, those as
“meek” as Moses who knew God face-to-face (Numbers 12:3-8), and as radiant as Psalm 34’s
“poor one” who sees God’s salvation and exhorts his friends to joy. And the Lord’s Prayer asks
of us anawim a very simple Nazareth life, like the Holy Family must have lived: a life of
affectionate obedience with a God who wants to love and be loved, of daily bread and its
humble work, of mutual forgiveness and repentance.

In my twenties and early thirties, I felt anew the grief of my mother’s abortion as my friends
had babies and I began to desire to bear a child. I was very close to my living sisters, but they
did not understand my sadness about the abortion, which our mother had always defended as
a pledge of love for us, her living children—even as she began to be tormented by violent,
cyclical bouts of PTSD that often centered on her forsaken child.

At the time, I worked with human trafficking survivors in different countries, supporting
grassroots rehabilitation homes that looked more like chaotic medieval hostels than modern
care facilities. It was not lost on me that the children and young teenagers living in these homes
were very much anawim: sold into slavery by their own parents and family members, and
sometimes—very sadly—fetishized by donors or advocates who could not fathom their full
dignity. In their experiences of traumatic abandonment and abuse, I saw that these children
had much in common with my lost sibling.

So I passed through this fresh eddy of grief in the company of these anawim, joining them in
the Nazareth life of the Lord’s Prayer: the simplicity of mealtime and bedtime prayers; the daily
bread of meals and attendant tasks of cooking and cleaning; the resolution of spats and
jealousies, grudges and fears.

In the quiet course of home life, the children revealed their grief in stories, memories, and the
pictures they drew: family portraits rendered in crayon or pencil, always showing a mother and
father, sisters and brothers. Almost all of the children desired the love of their families, despite
the cruelty visited on them. I praised the children’s pictures and listened attentively to their
dreams of seeing their mothers and fathers again, knowing that a loving reunion would be
nothing short of a miracle.

Part of me hoped for the children because I wanted to hope for myself. I too desired nothing
more than for my family to be whole and happy, restored to the mythic Nazareth that we, in
our loving but volatile bonds, had never truly known—and that, short of my lost sibling’s
resurrection from the dead, we would not know. If neither I nor the children could hope for
earthly vindication, what could our Heavenly Father offer us to hope for?

Nazareth life restores. It makes us human; it gives us an essential stability that helps us “keep
our healing”, as my charismatic friends say, when the time comes to receive more dramatic
deliverance from the evil that wants to rule our lives. It gave me a sober witness to the
necessity of a quiet life, and it helped me understand that the anawim’s deep, childlike desire
to love and be loved is God’s first invitation to and steadiest consolation in suffering’s great
divestment—because it is the desire that the Father’s heart longs to fulfill: on earth, if we
receive Him, and with beatific fullness in Heaven.

It would be awhile before I forgave my mother and father for forsaking our sibling, or my sisters
for taking offense at my grief. In truth, forgiveness would require much more suffering on my
part. But in Nazareth, littleness became more beautiful, and the paternal love of God became
more present, and the little tribe for which I speak when I say “our Father”—my siblings on
earth and in heaven, and all the anawim who suffer with hope—grew broader and more
radiant with the joy of salvation to come.

Little Sisters and Brothers of Nazareth

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