Recollection Material – July 2022: DIALOGUE a style of EVANGELIZATION

Communicating people
Communicating people

1 Jn. 1:1-5.

          Today we live in the era of communications. A glimpse at our surroundings is enough to convince us of the advances made in this field. In all sides we are surrounded with the traditional networks of communication, as do the new social networks. But to communicate is not the same as to dialogue. Communication in many cases remain simply in the level of demonstrative, informative or functional. To dialogue is to take these elements as point of departure to move into the deeper self of the person, where we try not only to listen or fill us with data, but also to exchange ideas, perceptions and feelings. To dialogue is to give space for the other to express himself, to know to listen, evaluate in silence which is an essential part of dialogue. In the dialogue we take the road together to discover the truth, being capable to listen and respectfully to welcome the word of the other, and at the same time allow this word to vibrate in our interior, to manifest in our own words an echo of what we heard, accompanied by our own perception. The sages of antiquity manifested the importance of dialogue, as an instrument of growth human, intellectual and spiritual. Today in the context of synodality, we are invited to reflect on this rich instrument of growth personal and communitarian. Thus we will dedicate the recollection of this month to reflect on dialogue.

Return to yourself.

          At the start of this day of recollection, we invite you to dialogue with God. Open your heart to his Word, that you receive it with love and attention; let it serve you as guide in your dialogue with the Lord.

          God tolerates so many hearts that dedicate themselves to prayer, and are foolishly distracted in many things! …  Accepting superfluous thoughts in already an irreverence towards him with whom you had begun to speak. Your prayer is a dialogue with God. When you read the Scriptures, God speaks to you; when you pray, you speak to God. And then what?…  since we put our hope in God, since his mercy is great, let us say to him: Gladden the soul of your servant, O Lord, since I have lifted up my soul to you. And how did I lift it up? As much as I could; because you helped me, and I was able to control it when I was trying to flee. … You, O Lord are good and compassionate; you are compassionate tolerating me. By my weakness I fall; heal me and I shall resist; Strengthen me and I shall remain strong (en. Ps. 85, 7).

Your voice is my joy.

          Receive and meditate on the Word of God that today enlightens our day of recollection, and which invites us to develop our capacity to dialogue in order to live in communion with the brothers.

          1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard,

          What we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon

          And touched with our hands concerns the Word of life –

          2 For the life the life was made visible; we have seen it

          And testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that

          was with the Father and was made visible to us-

          3 What we have seen and heard We proclaim now to you,

          So that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship

          Is with the Father and with the Son, Jesus Christ.

          4 We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.

          5 Now this is the message that we have heard from him and

          proclaim to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.+

The firmament of the Scriptures.

Biblical Keys.

          The beginning of the First Letter of St. John is unique: it lacks the classical elements of a letter, like the greetings and an exposition of its motives. The Apostle John, in this case, immediately begins to expound a theme, which is nothing more than speak of then Word of Life, with whom they dialogued, to whom they give testimony as an invitation to the recipients of the letter that they put themselves in the same wave length, and that they also dare to know the Word of Life, i.e., Christ himself.

          One of the key words of the beginning of this letter is the word communion (koinonia).  The Apostle John invites to enter into communion with the Father and the Son, so that in them be able to live the communion with all the other witnesses to the Word of Life.

          Furthermore, in the prologue of this letter, the author describes a dialogue between Christ, the apostles and the community of believers. The Apostles, witnesses of the historical life of Jesus, proclaim what they had seen, touched and lived, because they dealt with something real known by them. The Word of Life, Jesus who died and rose, they had heard, and seen, contemplated and touched.

          Well then, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was with the Father and has really manifested himself in history. The Father has sent him so that those who hear the message may have eternal life. More, he himself is the life of the believers.

          Therefore, Jesus Christ, the Apostles and the believers establish a continuous dialogue, and has no other purpose than to give eternal life to those who hear the message. God really manifests himself in his Son Jesus Christ, the apostles proclaim him, and the believers, accepting and living the Gospel Message, acquire Eternal Life. Therefore, we deal with an evangelizing dialogue.

          This is the foundation of the authentic life of communion (koinonia) among the believers, and therefore this very life of communion becomes an evangelizing witness, that has for its point of departure the reality of the manifestation of Jesus Christ in history.

Augustinian keys.

          The dialogue is a very valuable instrument not only in the synodal process, but also in our Christian and community life of everyday. Nevertheless, the first step of dialogue is to learn to listen. It is not a matter of imposing one’s personal point of view, but of taking together the road of charity, and in this way arrive at the truth, as St. Augustine himself points it out in the De Trinitate, where he invites to an intellectual dialogue on the truths of faith, manifesting the desire to be corrected if he was mistaken.

          Consequently, whoever reads this, if he has certainty, advance in my company; investigate with me if he doubts; pass on to my camp if he recognizes an error, and direct my steps when I have strayed. Thus we shall travel together on the paths of charity searching for him of whom it is written: Always seek my face (trin. 1, 3, 5).

          In this text, St. Augustine points out some characteristics of dialogue. In the first place, the sincerity to see if one doubts his own affirmations. Secondly,  the humility to acknowledge one’s own errors, and to accept the opinion of the other. Or else, as he himself points out, by means of dialogue to study deeper the steps of the other person. Only thus can one travel in unity by the path of charity. In fact, charity would be the indispensable condition for the Augustinian dialogue. If there is no charity, it is impossible to advance along the path of dialogue,  since, if egoism of pride prevails, there would be no dialogue, but only exposition of some points of view and imposition of the determination of someone who is more powerful.

          Dialogue, from the Augustinian perspective, can have three enemies: first, not to listen; second, not being disposed to change for being glued to one’s own point of view; thirdly, making the dialogue a process of veiled manipulation to impose one’s own ideas.

          The first of these –not listening to the other person- happens when a participant is not allowed to speak, as it happened with St. Augustine in the case of  the Arian bishop Maximino; or  when the person is not listened to, as happened to St. Augustine in the case of the Manichean priest Fortunato. Dialogue demands to know that there is a moment to expose one’s own ideas, and another moment to be silent, and listen and evaluate the points of view of the others.

          An example of not wishing to listen and not allowing the other person to speak we can see in the Arian bishop Maximino, who in his encounter with St. Augustine in Carthage about the year 427-428, he practically consumed all the time of the debate speaking, without allowing St. Augustine to respond or to present his ideas. Afterwards, Maximino was boasting that he had defeated the old St. Augustune. Nevertheless, in reality, the Arian bishop had not respected the rules of the debate, and instead of dialoguing, he had made an abusive imposition of his own ideas.  St. Posidius  refers to it in this way:

          The venerable Augustine, later, summarized in writing the objections and answers given in the course of the whole debate, to show that the man had not been capable of answering none of the objections, and furthermore, he added those things that, during the conference, because of the shortness of time, he had not added and recorded. Because such was the malice of that man: to occupy all the space of the day with one last and very long intervention (Vita Augustini XVII, 9).

          The second enemy of dialogue is not to be disposed to change or concede in nothing, in order not to lose any privilege or benefice. Those are moments wherein it is sought to solve some problems or situations in the community, but where there is not disposition for dialogue, since the participants remain glued to power, or to certain positions of dominion. This was what happened to St. Augustine with the Donatists. The bishop of Hippo did not get tired of inviting the Donatists to the dialogue; these, however, were not disposed to dialogue, since they knew that most probably they would lose their privileges and benefices, as it finally happened –at least on paper- , on the year 411 in the Conference of Carthage.

          This we could see in the letter that St. Augustine sent to the Donatist bishop of Hippo, Macrobio, inviting him to dialogue in order to maintain the peace of Christ, tolerating the evils and safeguarding the unity.

          Therefore, brother, we acknowledge the peace of Christ. Let us maintain it united, and with God’s help, let us try together to be good; with the discipline that we have let us correct together; let us together correct the bad ones, safeguarding the unity. Let us tolerate them with the patience we can muster for love of unity, lest, as Christ warned us, by desiring early to pull out the darnel, we also pull out the wheat (ep. 108, 20).

          The third enemy of dialogue is manipulation and pretending to impose one’s own view points, using all types of mechanisms, disregarding all kinds of values, including the most elementary evangelical norms, lying and clothing these lies with robes of truth. This was that the Donatists tried to do in the famous Conference of Carthage on manifesting their disagreement not only in the form of carrying out the conference, but also on the arguments to be presented. Upon undertaking the historical question about Ceciliano and the Council of Carthage, they wanted to manipulate the arguments to their favor, without listening to the Catholic part until St. Augustine himself and the Catholic bishops, going through the historical documents, demonstrated the falsehood of their arguments, and their meager desire to dialogue to dialogue to find the truth, and arrive at an agreement of peace.

          Finally, the dialogue demands humility, charity and benevolence  of friendship. That was what St. Augustine did in the dialogue he made with a group of pagan cults in Carthage, to whom he addressed diverse letters, and whom he tried to bring closer to the faith, since these pagans knew that St. Augustine was a friendly person, but also very learned and prepared to lead them to the truth. Thus the pagan Volusiano says to St. Augustine:

          Here you have, a man capable of all glory, a confession of ignorance. It is of interest to your fame that we know the answer to these questions. In the other priests, ignorance can be tolerated without detriment to divine worship; but when dealing with the bishop Augustine it is not yet written in the Law something that he is ignorant of. May the highest divinity keep safe your veneration, a master truly holy and a father justly venerable (ep. 135, 2).+

Five urgent texts: Synodality is… to dialogue.

Texts from the document “Synodality in the life and the mission of the Church” (SVMI), of the International Theological Commission, 2018.

          1. The same dispositions that are required to live and mature the sensus fidei, with which all believers are marked, are required to practice it in the synodal path. (…) Among these dispositions it is convenient to remember: the participation in the life of the Church centered on the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation; the exercise of listening to the Word of God to enter into dialogue with it and translate it into action in one’s life” (SVMI 108).

          2. “One essential attitude in the synodal dialogue is humility, that favors the obedience of each one to the will of God and the corresponding obedience in Christ” (SVMI 112).

          3. Therefore, the dialogue offers the opportunity to acquire new perspectives and new points of view to illumine the analysis of the topic at hand” (SVMI 111).

          4. “(…) True dialogue is “an art of spiritual communication” that demands specific attitudes: love, respect, trust and prudence” (SVMI 111).

          5. “ ‘The climate of dialogue is friendship. Even more, it is service’. As Benedict XVI emphasizes: ‘the truth is logos  that creates dia-logos, and therefore, communication and communion” (SVMI 1111).

From the word to the action.

          Synodality is an invitation to dialogue, what impediments to dialogue exist in your life and in your community?

          We dialogue with God in prayer. How do you respond to the Word of God directed to you every day? What importance for you has the dialogue with God through the events in your life, in creation?

          We dialogue with the brothers in community. How is the dialogue in your community? Why do you believe that the dialogue in community is important? What difficulties exist in community dialogue?

          To seek dialogue is a synodal and augustinian style of life. How is your dialogue with those who do not believe in God? From your point of view, why is it important today to dialogue with those who have strayed from the Church, or have stopped believing in God? (mention three reasons.)

Final prayer:

          Let us seek him in whom we find the security of all things; let us contemplate him in whom everything is certain; let us love him in whom we have supreme righteousness (ciu. 8, 4).

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Fray Dunstan Huberto Decena, OAR

Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR

Priest/Religious/Bible Professor of the Order of Augustinian Recollects in the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno.