Pope Francis, who wrote recently of the role of the church for the future drawing upon the image of the women going to the tomb after Jesus’ crucifixion. The women who followed Jesus did not allow themselves to be paralysed by anxiety and suffering. They found ways to overcome simply by being and accompanying.
The message of faith must be spoken, not just within the confines of our churches but in the ‘market place’ as well. Yes, it will be a positive move when we can gather together again in our church buildings, but how we gather, and how we are heard as a community of compassion and inclusion are more important than just being in a building! There are many human issues that our people of faith are being challenged by in this current time, and a message of hope and solidarity is urgently needed to be spoken.
These are difficult times for many within our community. Solitude for some, is isolation and acute loneliness for others, living life without stress, is a time of high stress and anxiety for others, economical calm, is worry and feelings of desperation and depression for others, having family members perpetually close by is good for some, and dangerous for others and for some simply painful separation ……and one could go on.
These are human issues with spiritual and religious ramifications within them.
We are not necessarily experiencing this time in the same way as each other. We may all be in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat.
Through it all, how do I believe in a God who promises to dwell in all that is most human?
We are all listening for the next directive from government that will influence the way we live, however, the living of our faith beyond this time is seemingly absent from all dialogue. Surely it cannot just be ‘business as usual’!
There are concerns far beyond and significantly more important than when church buildings will again be open although it seems, without any directives or discussion to the contrary, that this is the only concern of our church leaders at present.
Where is the voice for the marginalised of our society, where is the word of justice for them? In last week’s Eureka Street, Dr Cristy Clark rightly observed that during this time, the frighteningly precarious nature of our lives has been thoroughly exposed, and so too has the inequality of it all. Even in a pandemic, we aren’t all suffering equally.
There can be no true community without a concern for each other, including those who are most in need. Dr Clark again: We can re-imagine a better kind of normal. We just have to be brave enough to try.
In recognising Jesus’ authority, this is exactly what his disciples were called to do. Jesus’ word was a genuine expression of God the Father’s compassion, healing, gratefulness, strength, and transformation. It changed lives and brought about freedom from oppression and hope in a future beyond the limits of what could be seen or imagined!
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given…Go, therefore and make disciples….” Matthew 28:17
This is who we are meant to be, to live our faith with bold confidence both within our churches and beyond, into the market place.
This is true discipleship, believing in God who is with us, in the highs and lows of our lived reality. Our very communion as a people of faith must come from a grateful heart for what we receive and for who we become, as one people in Christ, embracing of all humanity but especially the marginalised of our society.
We are church, within our homes, within our families and within our wider community.
We are ‘authored into living life fully’ when the word spoken is deeply rooted in the reality of life experienced. The voice we need to hear spoken, is that which ‘authors us into living our lives as best we can’, for the building up of a community that is always outward focused towards the poor and the marginalised in a true spirit of justice and mercy.
I continue to yearn for a church that is both totally vulnerable and transparently honest, could we not be that voice for all people at this time?
In her article, Clark goes on to observe that there are so many systems that do not serve (the majority of) us well, but which we have accepted as immutable for too long. She has previously quoted Booker Prize winning author Arundhati Roy who points out this pandemic represents a rupture in the fabric of our societies and is likely to act as a portal between one world and the next. We will have to be very careful about where this portal takes us. If we want to step through into a better world, we need to be crystal clear about what that looks like and deeply committed to the values we will use to guide us.
It makes sense that the values we use to guide us have a concrete form. From a discerning heart we must listen to a voice we recognise, as speaking from a place of shared story. We need to become contemplative and open to listening.
A contemplative person is someone who knows that they don’t know everything and trusts that they are being held by something much larger, wiser and more loving than themselves. Richard Rohr o.f.m.
The Christian of the future must be both reflective and humble. (feet on the ground!)
We can re-imagine a better kind of normal. We just have to be brave enough to try.