Monthly Archives: January 2016

Love awakened

In this is love: not that we have loved God,
but that he loved us
and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.
1 John 4:10

Love is essentially God’s gift. Our love is a response to that gift and should reflect God’s love.

Today’s Gospel shows the love of God, Jesus full of compassion, feeling in the depths of his being for the people, without a shepherd. In his love he sought to feed them – but not without the cooperation of the disciples.

ShantiDas

Shantidas

Thirty five years ago today, on January 5, 1981, Lanza del Vasto died. An Italian he studied philosophy but really didn’t find his meaning in life until after going to India and meeting with Gandhi and other holy men. His pilgrimage is related in Return to the Source.

Gandhi gave him the name “Shantidas,” the Servant of Peace. Later, he and his wife Chanterelle, with others founded the Community of the Ark, as a kind of Noah’s Ark in the midst of the violence of the times.

The community eschewed many modern conveniences and sought to live a nonviolent life, finally establishing a community in a beautiful and isolated valley in southwest France. They lived without electricity (except to grind their wheat), families and single people, with a regimen of work and prayer.

But they did not isolate themselves from the world. Lanza del Vasto and the community participated in many nonviolent campaigns in France. He also went to Rome in the early sixties to fast for peace; he was given an advanced copy of Pope John XXIII’s peace encyclical, Pacem in Terris.

When I visited the community in 1973, I participated in the daily life of the community, praying and working in the garden. But the last day and evening I spent with community at a demonstration in the nearby Larzac, where the people were fighting against the militarization of their lands.

Shantidas’ message was not an easy one, but I think it was based in his deep faith in Christ, a faith which opened itself to all faiths.

An example of this is noted in this short description of love from his Principles and Precepts of a Return to the Obvious:

Learn that virile charity that has severe words for those who flatter, serene words for those who fight you, warm words for the weary, strong for the suffering, clear for the blind, measured for the proud, and a bucketful of water and a stick for the sleepers.

Love should wake us up to feel with the compassion of God and be of service to God’s people.

it is not easy – as Dorothy Day reminds us by her citation from Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov:

Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thin compared to love in dreams.

May we wake up and love!

 

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Misers and thieves

St. Basil the Great, Father of the Church, defender of the faith, was also an outspoken defender of the poor.

He was a bishop of compassion and solidarity with the poor. In a time of famine he opened a soup kitchen and served meals to the hungry. He founded a hospital for the sick poor.

But he was deeply disturbed by the inequality he saw around him and called for redistribution of wealth and of the goods of the earth.

“What is a miser? One who is not content with what is needful. What is a thief? One who takes what belongs to others. Why do you not consider yourself a miser and a thief when you claim as your own what you received in trust? If one who takes the clothing off another is called a thief, why give any other name to one who can clothe the naked and refuses to do so?

“The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the one who is naked. The shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot. The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor. The acts of charity you do not perform are so many injustices you commit.”

Pope Francis has often reflected the challenge of Saint Basil as when he wrote in Evangelli Gaudium; The Joy of the Gospel, ¶ 202:

As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.

How will we live out this challenge this year in our personal lives and in the life of our nations?

Birthing beginnings

A new year, a time for rebirth.

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Hannah Arendt, in The Human Condition, notes the importance of birth. Inspired by St. Augustine she affirms that

Because they are initium [beginning], newcomers and beginners by virtue of birth, men take initiative, are prompted into action….

It is in the nature of beginning that something new is started which cannot be expected from whatever may have happened before. This character of startling unexpectedness is inherent in all beginnings and in all origins…. The new always happens against the overwhelming odds of statistical laws and their probability, which for all practical, everyday purposes amounts to certainty; the new therefore always appears in the guise of a miracle. The fact that man is capable of action means that the unexpected can be expected from him, that he is able to perform what is infinitely improbable….

Each birth is a new beginning, a recognition that something new, something never experienced before, has come into the world, shaking it up.

We get all too accustomed to the way things are, all too set in our ways and a child is born, turning everything upside down.

So too a celebration of the New Year can be a time to act in a new way, to make resolutions to change things.

Making resolutions is a sign of hope that we are not controlled by our past, that God opens up a way for us.

Keeping resolutions is a sign that God can convert us, change us, move us to be and to act in different, unexpected ways.

It is this fitting that todays Gospel has the shepherd running in haste to the manger. They have been told that something new has happened. A child is born! And if that isn’t enough, this child is God made flesh and is lying in a manger, a feed trough.

Something new is possible because something new has happened. A child is born.

And we can live and act anew – birthing new beginnings.