To all the brothers and sisters of the Oases – Realities of
Koinonia John the Baptist
Christ is risen!
Dear brothers and sisters,
We find an expression in the Gospels which is typical of biblical thematic development regarding retribution: that is, everyone bears the weight of his or her own sins. Because of this, you can’t shift the blame or responsibility on to others, something which is supported in a theology of retribution which is very in vogue today. This theology remains characteristically infantile with an Old Testament flavour, which is used inappropriately to delay one’s own conversion and to advance self-centred pretence.
We live in a time in which it seems there has been a rekindling of the witch hunts of the past. And of course, it is always ‘the other’ who is the witch! So in this atmosphere we find proclamations, naturally addressed to others, inviting them to conversion, with those who make the proclamations acting as if they were in the position to do so.
We find this written in chapter nine of Luke’s Gospel: “Then he said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.’” (Lk 9:23-24). What is most striking here is that Jesus uses a possessive adjective to point out that conversion can’t be anything other than a personal interaction. It is I who must convert myself, and not the others. Indeed this is a new message proclaimed by Jesus, bringing the biblical train of thought to its conclusion: I am responsible for my own conversion.
This means not concerning yourself with the lives of ‘the other’ but with your own life. My first commitment is to myself. Therefore, in this time of Lent, let us concentrate on what will overcome our own egoism, making concrete gestures which are contrary to our own self-interest.
Some people will object to this with questions such as ‘what about truth’? ‘and other people’s sins’? ‘are we not meant to denounce evil’? The response to this is very simple: 1 Corinthians 13, the hymn of love and charity. Draw close to your brother or sister with mercy. Truth should always be filtered through love, and love of the brother or sister is called mercy. This is perhaps the truest and highest gesture of love: mercy which covers all and sustains all. Truth cannot come to birth if not in the context of love and forgiveness.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us battle against our own self-centredness which urges us to pass judgement on others. Lets stop judging or waiting for our brothers and sisters to fail in the way the Pharisees did. Instead, let’s compete with each other in holding our brother and sister in the highest regard, and in using mercy, that most typical of evangelical values.
The Church provides many options for the season of Lent in the areas of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, and above all in works of spiritual and physical mercy. From these we can choose one which we certainly all can achieve: to close our mouths instead of speaking badly of our brother or sister. And if you really need to go further? Draw close to them with gestures of forgiveness.
By doing this, we are enacting the command of Jesus, and we will be a sign of His presence living in our midst.
Plzeň-Valcha, 23rd February 2019
Fr. Alvaro Grammatica