Thursday, 19 July 2012

History keeps us humble!

I have found  that knowing a bit of Church history helps to give me perspective and keep me humble!
History shows us that as a community of faith, the Church, we often need to relearn or rediscover some truth that got forgotten or was denied because it was too uncomfortable, inconvenient or clashed too strongly with the prevailing culture.
Richard Rohr, OFM, writes of one such area of the Gospel that was ignored and got explained away for centuries
'I’m told that the word “nonviolence” did not exist (at least in the English and German languages) until the 1950s. There’s a reason for that: the notion didn’t exist in our consciousness. We didn’t create a word for it because we didn’t get it yet! When Gandhi came along, he pointed out that every religion in the world knows that Jesus of Nazareth taught and lived nonviolence except one religion - Christianity. In very short order, after Gandhi, this became obvious to many wise people throughout the world.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was the one who most influenced western culture regarding nonviolence. That’s why I speak of it as a recovery of nonviolence. We had it, but we couldn’t hear it, especially after Christianity became the imperial religion. When you’re imperial, you can’t hear any talk of nonviolence. You have to be violent to be an empire. So after 313 AD, we pretty much lost the nonviolent teaching of Jesus and it was not recovered until the twentieth century. It’s sort of unbelievable, but in between, nonviolence was almost universally forgotten, denied, or ignored as Christianity needed to justify its own violence.'
In fact, God did raise up prophets within the Church over the centuries who lived and proclaimed the Gospel of non-violence, foremost among them was St Francis. But the Church, at all levels, did not listen. 
Francis was honoured as a great saint, but his commitment to actually live the Sermon on the Mount was considered unrealistic and undoable - which of course it is - without deep conversion of heart and mind and the grace of Christ's Spirit to empower us.
This is but one area of Christian discipleship that has to 'rediscovered' and accepted generally within the Church. 
It is humbling to recognise that the tendency to water down the Gospel is so constant in the life of the Church, and, if we are honest, in our own Christian living.
May the Lord give us ears to hear and hearts to respond to his full Word!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

People of the Way

I always find that Jim Wallis, the American Christian and social activist, has something worthwhile to share. For many years he has been able to combine a deep personal commitment to the Lord within community, along with dedicated work for the transformation of the society in the light of Christ's teaching.

We can be 'tempted' as the Lord's disciples to focus on merely the private and the devotional or to get caught up in 'churchy' matters such as liturgical niceties.

In his book, Call to Conversion, he speaks both of the practical and communal nature of our Christian discipleship.

'The early Christians were known for the way they lived, not only for what they believed. For them, the two were completely intertwined. The earliest title given to them reflected the importance of their kingdom lifestyle. They were not called the people of "the experience" or the people of "right doctrine" or even the people of "the church." Rather, they were the people of "the Way." It is equally significant that the Christians were known as "the people" of the Way. More than just individuals who had been converted, they were now a people, a new community of faith, which had embarked together on a new way of life. To follow Jesus meant to share Jesus' life and to share it with others.'

This approach resonates with the Franciscan perspective: the most frequent verb in Francis' writings is 'to do'. Obviously Francis was not advocating senseless activism. But there is the realisation that we truly believe, not what we say we believe, but what we seek to put into practise in daily living with the help of God's grace.