Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Read the reflection
(Reference: â€˜Days of Deepening Friendshipâ€™ by Vinita Hampton Wright)
God does not design us to be self-sufficient and to enjoy divine love only in our own way in a private space. Personal attentiveness and an open heart willing to be intimate with God are crucial but even the early Christian mystics who lived in desert and mountains for years on end, learned that community of some kind was essential for balanced spiritual growth.
Bernard Lonergan (theologian) speaks about a three-fold conversion each person travels as they grow in relationship with God. In no particular order, falling in love with God and letting yourself be loved just as you are is what he terms â€˜religious conversion.â€™ It is a deep conversion of the heart. Recognizing the reasonableness of faith and doctrine and giving our intellectual assent to it he terms â€˜intellectual conversionâ€™ and living out our faith in practical ways that impact our daily choices and being willing to reach out to others to make a difference to those around us he calls â€˜moral conversion.â€™ I use the image of three distinctive doorways into the same amazing place.
I suspect some of the tension between Christians can be attributed to people entering their faith journey through these different doorways and feeling critical of or confused by others who seem to have come on a totally different path. The person fervently committed to social justice and action in faith can seem very different to the person who has had some form of deep personal prayer experience of the Holy Spirit and fallen deeply in love with God and is learning to let themselves be loved. Then the intellectual who is discovering the wonder, reasonableness and beauty of philosophy, theology and the traditions and liturgy of the church can seem profoundly different again. Over our lifetime we are invited to keep growing into the fullness of three-fold conversion, (moral, intellectual, and heart.) At the Transfiguration the three apostles wanted to set up tents and stay on the mountain. Yet God calls us, not to set up tents and become contented with where we are. There is always more to grow into, more to learn, more to share as pilgrim disciples and we need to keep moving forward together. We are not meant to be alone on that journey.
There will always be a gap where our human experience and ability ends, and eternal mystery calls us deeper. The Sacrament of Eucharist merges eternal mysteries with physical matter. We eat what appears to be ordinary bread and wine but in doing so we believe we take into ourselves the body and blood of Jesus. In the Mass the Holy Spirit catches us up into the eternal moment of Jesusâ€™ death and resurrection and unites us with the Trinity. We eat the body and blood of Christ and instead of Christ becoming me, I in some eternal mystery, get caught up into the body of Christ. A lifetime of pondering like Mary will still only offer glimpses of this unfathomable truth. Similarly, baptisms, weddings, religious vows or ordination, anointing the sick and dying, reconciliation; each focus our attention on some aspect of our connection with God.
Liturgy provides words, phrases, rhythm, movement, music, silence and prayer. Through each of these we use the physical senses as well as thought and emotion. Even if Iâ€™m feeling distracted and disconnected from God, as I move through the Liturgy I act as if I were connected. I act out my relationship with God with the help of some very effective prompts and often find that as my body worships, my emotions and mind will follow.
I have been blessed to go on pilgrimage and a spiritual journey brings spiritual attentiveness to a new level as we focus our attention on travelling to a certain place for a specific purpose. We commit to this journey, at this time, yet with its particular history. In some sense the traditional practices of our faith are like the well-worn ruts in ancient Roman roads. They have been travelled for so many centuries by so many people that all we have to do is step into them and put one foot in front of the other. We donâ€™t even have to know the way, because the road, somehow, knows it for us. We can simply follow that safe path trodden by millions of feet before us. We enter a kind of timelessness which, when we need it to, carries us along.
Now, we have no embarrassment baking a Christmas cake with great-great-grandmaâ€™s recipe. In fact, we are rather proud to have something so authentic and so good which has gathered layers of love and stories as it passed through the generations. That so many in our family have served this same cake before us, makes us treasure it even more. Yet our culture demands novelty, innovation, newness and entertainment. So when it comes to spirituality, many of us feel that time-tested practices are outdated, irrelevant, and of little use to us today. It can feel either so familiar that we ignore it, or so foreign that we find it too difficult.
Passing down traditions in families is of vital importance to the sense of belonging and identity of our children. Migrant families particularly take great effort to keep alive aspects of their home culture and pass those things down to new generations in different lands. Christians are pilgrim people, travelling in a land that can be hostile to both Faith and Tradition, perhaps especially to Faith that has Tradition. But should we buy into the illusion that we must reinvent everything? When we are baking a cake, or making friends, or parenting, or in marriage, there are people around us who can guide us, make introduction, share recipes that are time tested and work. Our friendship with God and our journey into three-fold conversion, acquires new dimensions and richness when we attend to it through enduring practices of the Faith community, the Body of Christ, and learn to value the path of holiness which God is calling us to journey on, including the people He has placed around us in community.
Simply use these questions as a starter to guide your sharing.
What strikes you most from the Scripture above?
â€œGod does not design us to be self-sufficient." What helps you feel a sense of belonging within community?
How might our unique path of holiness and the different doorways of conversion mean we struggle to accept one another?
Liturgy can be challenging with small children. What is your experience of the Liturgy and praying community carrying you?
How do family traditions help children develop identity and belonging? Share some of your traditions.
Conclude by Praying for Each Others needs
Then pray this together. . .
Pilgrim God, guide us as we travel the journey of life.
Give us friends to live, love, worship and laugh with.
Grant us wisdom and perseverance, when our shoes fill with stones.
Give us healing when our feet are blistered and bleeding.
Surround us with faithful companions, when our faces are stained with tears.
As we stumble and fall may the kindness of loving hands bear us up and hold us.
We pray that as we journey, we may be there for others too, when they need a touch of your presence in the bleeding and the tears, the healing and the laughter, in the falling down and rising up.
God of the journey, Bless all those we travel with. Amen.