by Sarah Brock
Today’s Readings for the Feast of Julian of Norwich:
Isaiah 46:3-5; Psalm 27:5-11; Hebrews 10:19-24; John 4:23-26
“…but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Julian of Norwich, Revelations 27
One of the more well known quotations from Julian of Norwich, this phrase is often offered as a word of comfort in challenging or stressful times, in times of uncertainty and instability. But, what does it really mean for all manner of thing to be well?
Until recently, I would’ve answered this question with very conventional western ideas of well-being: stable income, health care, reliable housing, sufficient food. And then, I spent some time with a group of people experiencing homelessness, a group of people who were ‘unwell’ by my conventional western definition of wellness. A group of people who had every reason to resent me for my privilege, but instead simply acknowledged that they would like to have a house to go home to as well. A group of people who repeatedly heard themselves referred to as ‘Beloved’ by one of their pastors. And, the particular group of individuals that I came to know, I believe, would generally consider themselves ‘well’.
One man, in particular, engaged me in a long conversation about what it meant to be wealthy. He shared with me that in his years of homelessness, only twice had he ever prayed to God for money. And, both times, his prayers were answered with unexpected acts of generosity. Not only that, but it’s extremely important to him to only accept what he needs and to help out his neighbors whenever he can. But, regardless of his sometimes overwhelming material need, he considers himself to be extremely rich. He is rich in relationship, rich in spirit, rich in faith.
Later in her Revelations, Julian of Norwich seems to answer my question of what it means to be well. “The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything,” she writes (chapter 35). We are all much closer to being the poor, the sick, the homeless, or the downtrodden than we may often be willing to acknowledge. However, God is in each person we meet, each task we complete no matter how small or ordinary. The decision to let our hearts overflow with joy and love and generosity is ours to make regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. No matter what, God is there, present in each moment, each person, each task we complete no matter how mundane.
All shall be well, because God is in everything. May the eyes of your heart, may the eyes of your soul be open to see.
Sarah Brock is becoming a postulant in the Diocese of Massachusetts and lives in Boston.
Image Credit: My own.