Individualism leads to Poverty…while Community increases wealth and joy!
The First Reading reminded me of a conversation in 2000:
“The faithful all lived together and owned everything in common.” Once in Melbourne, a Diocesan priest (now Bishop), said (half jokingly) that you religious take the Vow of Poverty but we are the ones who live it! Being a trainee what could one say? Ha,ha.
Perhaps, now with a few years under my belt, I would say: but when you live in community and share resources in common – and don’t carry them with you when you leave a community – then it stands to reason that, over time, good things will pile up and look like luxury.
In Indonesia, a Missionary friend had an old TV for many years, and then a parishioner decided to upgrade it when the building was extended. The same happens to parents when children grow up and decide to “upgrade” their parents. Ha, ha. But rewards can only happen when people are faithful to their calling and make many sacrifices.
So it’s clear that individualism leads to poverty – physical and Spiritual – while community living increases wealth and comfort (as long as one is willing to share!!!!).
Now, the First Reading gives some insights into how we build a strong personal Community:
1. FAITHFUL worship together, which reinforces shared and common values of SHARING.
2. Meeting in General Community (the BIG picture), and
3. Meeting in Particular Community (strengthening friendship through shared interests).
It’s kind of sad that, for example, Australians today can’t see that the above steps were what made Australia strong and tolerant, which has made us wealthy and comfortable.
To maintain wealth: faithful re-enforcing of common values and sharing is still required.
But, to be faithful, gets so tiring: both in Religious Life and Married Life (so I hear!). Now, the 2nd Reading encourages us to reflect how the RESURRECTION of Christ has assured us of a great reward at the end for our faithfulness – something to look forward to:
“so that we have a sure hope and the promise of an inheritance.”
So, never think you/we are GIVING too much, because there is still so much to RECEIVE; both before we die and beyond death.
The Gospel, in the midst of all the Resurrection excitement, then opens up a key, shared value, for any successful community: mercy / forgiveness.
But it isn’t easy to forgive and to show mercy: especially when betrayed by loved ones.
So the meeting of Jesus with the friends who betrayed him, model how to do it; sometimes requiring us to share our wounds with our “betrayers”: so they can truly experience mercy.
Listen closely to the Eucharistic Prayer: “On the night He was to be betrayed, He took bread”
Fr Henri Nouwen once wrote (Reflection 16-apr-2020): what keeps us from opening to the reality of the world? Could it be that we cannot accept our powerlessness and are only willing to see those wounds that we can heal? Could it be that we do not want to give up our illusion that we are masters over our world and, therefore, create our own Disneyland where we can make ourselves believe that all events of life are safely under control? Could it be that our blindness and deafness are signs of our own resistance to acknowledging that we are not the Lord of the Universe? It is hard to allow these questions to go beyond the level of rhetoric and to really sense in our innermost self how much we resent our powerlessness…
At this time of COVID-19, Henri’s words are timely: how many times, in how many countries, have we heard people say recently: we can only get through this if we work together? But it has taken a while for people to get the message.
We are forcefully reminded of the power of Community to solve the problems around us: and this also works with regard to mercy: mercy for debt relief of poorer countries; mercy for the unemployed when the whole community contributes a little each we solve a massive problem bigger than any one of can handle… but in Community we triumph.
And Community became a truer possibility because of the Resurrection of Christ. Don’t just say “thanks God” with words. Let’s say “thanks God” by building better Community through our forgiveness, mercy and faithful gathering in worship every week.
If we don’t: Social Media will train our children & grandchildren, mostly, to individualism; where mercy and forgiveness are much less common. That’s why I say again: Happy Easter!
By Gerard Conlan, OMI