Community Service

During a recent period of planning and reflection for our group, I found it interesting that I was drawn to writers who live in community. I was drawn to letters from the Benedictines of Weston Priory, the Canadian Christian Meditation Community, and the Treasures of the Heart by Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities.

There are common elements here, and the ‘wisdom at play’ in learning to live in community is something I hope we can draw from.

Awareness of the need for Repair …

I see in these writings an expression of the sense, ‘welling up from deep within us, a profound ‘No’ to the current reality of our broken world’. In this winter season particularly, the juxtaposition of extremes.. can lead us to a more profound listening, hearing, and sensing of our surroundings as we move between  snowy woods, and the overpowering smell of suburban laundry exhaust, as well as witness the condition of the homeless outside.  This ‘No’, this refusal to accept the pain and grief of an unjust suffering, gives rise to a conviction that a different world is possible — even more –is required of us. ‘The fundamental muttering of humanity turns into a well-founded hope. Something of a sigh of mercy of compassion is hidden in the deepest depths of reality’ .. in the Spirit… And so we come to acknowledge that our energies must be placed at the service of this healing, this repair… Together with our sisters and  brothers, we face the challenge of joining together for ‘tikkun ‘olam’, the repair of the world.

Challenge, Opportunity and Gift

With the acceptance of the challenge and the opportunity to ‘beg to differ’ with the lifestyle which we observe around us, comes the need to acknowledge also a way of being, a desire to involve a spirit of compassion,  that allows us to ‘live and move and have our being’, collectively and individually. Jean Vanier has understood the challenges posed  in building community with people having physical and mental ‘handicaps’. For him, the “very struggle to build community is a gift of God, and in accepting it we acknowledge it as a gift, not received once and for all, but one for which we must yearn and pray and labour day after day. Since community is a living, dynamic body, it is in continual movement… Each community, as well as each person lives its pains of growth, its times of passage”

Acknowledging…

By acknowledging the challenge and the gift, we also acknowledge the forgiveness that we need to practice with a new awareness, as we grow towards interior and exterior freedom from isolation.   Vanier writes,

“Forgiveness is the source and the rock of those who share their lives: to forgive each day, to forgive and forgive and forgive, and to be forgiven just as many times…

We can ask for this means of  grace, for the power to forgive and be forgiven. We can reflect a hope that  our hearts may be ‘unfeignedly’ thankful, and that we show forth praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives. So begins our community service…

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