Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Grace of Community Life

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael, Newe, OSB.

Today I was thinking a great deal about community life. St. Benedict is not surprised that it is going to entail suffering – just as family life also entails suffering. Remember what the Lord said to St. Paul when he was thrown from the horse, “Quit kicking against the goad.” The very thing he was fighting was the very thing that held his greatest joy. His greatest suffering and joy were complete in his love for the Church, his love for Christ. It did entail suffering. All you have to do is read our prayer board. How much suffering is held there! What makes anyone think they aren’t going to be a part of that human suffering, and yet I think sometimes we feel a little bit indignant that we have to suffer so much. And yet we don’t really. If we ever stood back and looked at our suffering maybe we’d realized we’re just kicking against the goad. Maybe we’re fighting the very thing that is going to give us life.
I read a beautiful quote from Community and Growth by Jean Vanier:

“Parker Palmer writes, ‘Community is finally a religious phenomenon. There is nothing capable of binding together willful, broken human selves except some transcendent power.’ And I would add that no reality can lead us into the heart of forgiveness and open us up to all people except a loving, forgiving God.” Henry Nouwen says that, “True solitude, far from being the opposite of community life is the place where we come to realize that we were together before we came together and that community life is not a creation of human will but an obedient response to the reality of our being united. Many people who have lived together for years and whose love for one another has been tested more than once know that the decisive experience in their life was not that they were able to hold together but that they were held together. That in fact we are community not because we like each other or have a common task or project but because we are called together by God. God seems pleased to call together in Christian communities people who are, humanly speaking, very different, who come from different cultures, classes, and countries. The most beautiful communities are created from just this diversity of people and temperaments. This means that each person must love the others with all their differences and work with them for the community. These people would never have chosen to live with each other. Humanly speaking, it seems an impossible challenge. But it is precisely because it is impossible that they believe that God has chosen them to live in this community. So then the impossible becomes possible. They no longer rely on their own human abilities or natural sympathies, but on their Father who has called them to live together. He will give them the new heart and spirit which will enable them all to become witnesses to love. In fact, the more impossible it is in human terms, the more of a sign it is that their love comes from God and that Jesus is living. ‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.’”
Today is Friday, let us keep in mind and what a Friday in Lent is about. Let us remember that Christ walked the way of the Cross. He died for our sins on a Friday and it’s our desire to unite our sufferings to His, to be united in His sorrows, and in His joys. “This day you will be with Me in paradise” was said while He was dying on the Cross. Each one of us in a sense is that good thief, aren’t we? And so each one of us today in our own way can truly ponder the great gift we’ve been given, not because we deserve it, but because his mercies are everlasting.

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