Yesterday the Asia / Oceania contingent had the opportunity to lunch with Fr. Julian Carron. Fr. Carron is the leader of the Communion & Liberation community. We are a small group (relatively). Most are from Asia with four from Australia and two from New Zealand. Around the one table as we each shared our experience of God in our lives and local communities, we could see that there was nothing that unites us apart from our experience of God.
If you had watched us at table from a distance you would have been puzzled: ‘what could those fifteen people possibly have in common?’ The entire gathering of 300 for the ‘spiritual exercises’ is a young group. At table yesterday I was an old man (entering my fiftieth year today!). Our gathering is proof of the action of the Spirit of God. Nothing else could have brought such a diverse group together.
It was deeply moving to hear those around the table speak of their lives with God. Some of them (as with the larger group) are from extraordinarily difficult situations. In some of their Asian countries Christians are still a persecuted and insignificant minority. Last night (in the larger group) we heard two young Africans (in their early twenties) speak of seeing members of their families killed in front of them.
Each of the people at table was clearly passionate about their faith. They had put life with Jesus before all else knowing that this decision (and only this) had the ability to give meaning to all the other important dimensions of life. However it was evident too that this decision was not without cost. For many the cost is the feeling at times of feeling alone in their Catholic journey. The people who are around me may be Catholic and a part of parish communities. But does their Eucharistic hour on Sunday really make a difference to their living of the demands and decisions of daily life during each week? Are Catholics in the family and workplace during each week distinguishable from the people of no faith who work and live next door?
Around the table a common call to Julian was ‘come to see us in Burma, Australia, Japan, New Zealand’. He said that he welcomed our invitations and would take them seriously, and then added “BUT….” His BUT was the key: he said: you in your small and struggling communities have EVERYTHING you need to live the life of Faith fully.
We do not need an encouraging visit from anyone else because we are being visited today, in every moment, by Jesus!
This encouragement is the key to the life of faith. How often we can be tempted to think that if we had more support we could be more fully Christian and Catholic. If my friends were more passionate about their faith then I would be too. If those I worked and socialized with took the teachings of the Church seriously then being a Catholic would be easier for me. Well, yes, – but the truth is that Jesus has given every one of us everything we need to be a fully committed and active Catholic. If this is not the fact then Faith means nothing. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are reduced to historical events outlining a moral code. But Catholicism is not a moral code, it is the embrace of a relationship with the divine, and it is God who does the embracing. We have nothing to offer. But when we accept and respond to the divine embrace we are filled with everything. So, in a very real sense we need nothing more.
An immediate fruit of our acceptance of this divine embrace, is that we (with no effort on our part) are united with true friends. They are drawn to us (and we to them) not because we have similar interest, sense of humour and taste in wine, but because we have been embraced by the love of the same father. We are now sisters and brothers. We are family. In the Eucharist our relationship becomes one of blood. The other members of our family may be living in Burma or Brazil, but because the relationship is not primarily physical, geographic distance is no obstacle to the intimacy we seek.
These notes are jotted again in the small café of this mountain village. It is early morning and in a few minutes we will gather for breakfast followed by a day of inspiration…..ie “inspiration” = breathing. The mountain air is refreshing after the heat of the last few months. This morning it is probably only 5-6 degrees.
My thoughts and prayer today is very much with the bishop and priest of the diocese gather in a few hours to bury Fr. Miles. May he rest in peace. Let’s continue to pray for the happy repose of the soul of Miles, and remember too in prayer Bishop Barry and the priests of the diocese, and the entire faith community of the diocese of Christchurch.