Recollection for September 2019: COMMUNION AND COMMUNICATION
Whoever accepts to be a disciple, is so because he desires to learn, because he has his heart open to listen and to welcome what the Master may say or do. The basic attitude of a disciple is to listen and to listen requires silence, serene and tranquil reception. The words of the Master are lost in the midst of noise and distractions, characteristic of the multitude and uproar. The words of the Master are also seeds that seek good soil to send out roots and to grow and be fruitful. It is necessary to ask God that every morning he may awaken our hearts and give us ears of disciple, to welcome his word and allow it to germinate in the heat of our own life. This was the attitude of Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus; a listening woman, icon of a disciple who contemplates, receives and communicates.
I prepare my heart.
Silence is the door of entry to the process of Augustinian Interiority. In order to have an affective encounter with God, -the principal objective of this day of recollection- you must silence your heart. It is important to eliminate the noises that can distract from dialogue with God. Thus, at the start of this recollection I suggest that you make contact with your heart and give yourself the opportunity of situating it in quietude. You have come together with your religious brothers in a special tranquil place. Release all external noises that you perceive, and be conscious of them without opposing resistance. Let go of mental noises, i.e., memories, thoughts, phantasies found within yourself; be conscious of them without detaining yourself on them, release them. Release the emotions that you perceive within yourself. You are in the presence of the Lord, your God. He is your interior Master and he wants to hold a dialogue with you in the most important chamber of your heart. Be disposed in the silence of your heart and open your ears to listen to the message that Jesus the Master has for you today. His words are the guide for your way. And ask the Holy Spirit for the grace that in the silence of your heart you may have the most felt dialogue with your God.
Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ, is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8). Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God (s, 128, 4).
I open my heart.
With heart well disposed, with serenity, I read slowly the following words, savouring them and allowing myself to be touched by them.
38 As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. 39 She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. 40 Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” 41 The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. 42 There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Lk. 10:38-42)
I return to my heart.
In this closer look into the text, we invite you to leave the traditional perspective of allegorical shape (Martha would represent action and Mary the contemplation) to examine it from the point of view of communication. Both Martha and Mary are friends of Jesus and they are part of the group of disciples. Both perform good acts. Martha exercises hospitality and with greater reason for such an excellent guest. Mary listens to the word, accompanies and attends to the visitor.
The narrator describes the attitude of each one. Martha: “received the Lord into her house”(v.38) and “is busy with many chores”(v.40); Mary is: “seated at the feet of Jesus and listens to the word” (v.39), a posture typical of disciples in that epoch. It is interesting to observe that in these actions both are attentive to the Lord, but they seem isolated and they do not speak nor say a word, nor exchange words, yet each in her own way was attentive to the Master.
What amazes is that Martha, even though busy with many chores and being in the same house surely hears the voice of Jesus, and yet she does not absorb what he says because of the preoccupations; she interrupts the discourse and asks that Mary get up to help her. As if it were insignificant, she does not speak directly to Mary, but uses the mediation of Jesus. It is a paradoxical attitude that leaves us uneasy.
Why doesn’t Martha speak directly to Mary? That would have been more practical, nevertheless she does it through Jesus? Does the text suggest that in our communication within our communities it is unavoidable to think above all in the presence of Jesus? How? Up to what degree?
The era of communication not communicated.
Our era could be classified as the era of communication. In the last ten years the technological advances had been such that in many occasions it is difficult to follow the rhythm of the evolution of new technologies, and as regards the sophistication of the means of communication, the race seems unending: an electronic gadget (mobile phone, Tablet, computer) as soon as it goes out to the market, it already belongs to the penultimate generation…
It is remarkable that in the century of abundant communications human beings carry in hand for more hours a mobile phone than a book to pray or meditate, or the hand of a loved one; frequently persons live incommunicado. Actually, the torrent of information is of such magnitude and volume that no one is capable of directing all the information produced every day. Despite all this uproar of information the human being is incommunicado. It is possible that he spends many hours of the day speaking, sending messages until the battery of the mobile phone is exhausted, still there is no communication. They chatter about superficial and functional things, but it is very difficult in the midst of a whirlpool of messages and words that there be space to open the heart and receive the oxygen of communication, of being able to express what happens in the interior, of manifesting what the person feels and of listening to the other who communicates in depth.
If St. Augustine could take the pulse of the world we live in today, he would detect that one of the illness we suffer from is the dispersion that leads to non-communication. The human being is claimed by many things in the external world, and he lives forgetful of the interior world, turned over as he is to things external. This was the first experience of St. Augustine, the first step of his journey towards interiority and unity:
For love of your love I do this, running through with my memory, full of bitterness, those most perverse paths of mine, that you may be sweet to me, sweet without deceit, blessed and eternal sweetness, and you collected me from dispersion in which I walked cut into pieces, separated from you who are unity, I vanished in many things (conf. 2,1).
Non-communication with God and the Brothers.
That is why, prayer which ought to be communication in intimacy and of quality, every time becomes more difficult to live, even within religious communities themselves. And this dispersion is also the cause of non-communication within the communities. Things are done together but not united, and there can be occasions of living in the same space, within the same house, but each religious becomes a stranger to his own brothers, because they have not shared nor communicated the things that in truth are important. St. Augustine reminds us that the heart of man is an abyss:
If the depth is an abyss, won’t we have the heart of man as an abyss? What is there deeper than this abyss? The men can talk, they can be seen acting in the members, hear them in their discourses. But, who enters into his thought? Who comes to see his heart? (en. Ps. 41:13).
The construction of communion demands communication and this must be given in three levels. Communication with God, as Mary does seated at the feet of Jesus. Communication among members of the community, who are also members of the Body of Christ, as happens between Mary and her sister Martha; and finally, communication of the religious of the community with the world that surrounds them, to be capable of speaking the language of the world in which we live so as to communicate the joyful message of the Gospel.
Facebook or face to face encounter?
The first level of communication, the level of which the icon is Mary the sister of Lazarus and Martha, demands silence and solitude. St Augustine clearly points to this:
(…) We believe in him whom we do not yet see. He, that he may not be seen, hides himself among the crowd. It is difficult to find Christ in the multitude. For our spirit a certain solitude is necessary. God allows himself to be seen when our attention has achieved a certain solitude. The crowd creates noise, and this vision demands silence (Io. Eu. Tr. 17,11).
We talk about a silence and a solitude that are not absolute emptiness, but which become a space of communication with God, with the Word of God that always speaks, but which is not always heeded, as St. Augustine points out. The voice of God in many cases does not reach human beings and sometimes not even the religious, for being turned over towards the exterior world, for being dispersed. Possibly, we open much the “book of faces” (Facebook), and we have very little face to face contact with God and with the brothers:
“The Word of God is never silent, but is not always heeded” (s. 51,17).
A second level is the communication among brothers, the level Marta-Mary. We have been gaining in this during the last years, but it is necessary to continue working in our communities, so that truly the means of communication should be what they are supposed to be and not become the means of non-communication, of isolation, where one can be connected to what happens thousands of kilometers away at a distance, where one can pertain to many virtual communities, but can be absent and disconnected with what happens in my real community, with the brother who prays beside me in the chapel, or who shares the table with me every day. It is necessary that we communicate to know each other and to love each other in Christ, and be able to build communion inside the community. Communion is certainly a gift from God, yet we must also collaborate with him. The document “Brotherly life in Community” (Congregavit nos in unum) points out in these words:
It is felt in many parts that a more intense communication is necessary among religious of the same community. The absence and the poverty of communication usually generates a weakening of fraternity by reason of not knowing the life of the other, which makes the brother a stranger and in anonymous relation, plus creating true and personal situations of isolation and solitude.
In some communities the scanty quality of fundamental communication of spiritual goods is lamented: marginal themes and problems are communicated, but what is vital and central in consecrated life is rarely shared (VFC 32).
And the community must communicate with the world outside. Communion is built ad intra and also ad extra. The communion of a community must be reflected in its communion with the whole body of Christ which is the universal Church, since we all form the Body of Christ.
The communication in depth, of heart to heart, which sprouts from fraternal charity and which tends towards the building up of the Body of Christ, is an essential element for the construction of Communion. Bonds of communion are not established from the superficiality of the scrap iron of communication, to use and to throw, from the “virtual” where an exacerbated narcissism can rule, but from the serene in depth communication, of what makes us to be persons, of what makes us Christians on the road towards the Kingdom of God.
Questions for communitarian dialogue.
In the era of communications, we are increasingly more incommunicado, and at times we become slaves of the means of communication. How do you use the actual means of communication? Are you truly free in their regard (mobile phone, computer, Tablet)? Can you spend a day without your mobile phone….?
To build up communion in the community implies giving ourselves the opportunity to communicate with serenity and in depth in the community. How can we foment communication within the community?
What reflection can you make in the light of the words from the document VFC: “The lack and the poverty of communication generates habitually a weakening of fraternity because of ignorance of the life of the other, that makes the brother a stranger and an unknown in the relationships, aside from creating real and personal situations of isolation and solitude? Is this certain? Can it be given?
I elevate my heart.
Let us give thanks to God for the gifts, the strength and the enlightenment he has granted us on this day of recollection. For this the following words of St. Augustine can serve us:
What is the abyss that calls the other an abyss? If the depth is an abyss, will We not have the heart of man for an abyss? What is more profound than this abyss? The men can be talking, they can be seen as acting in their members, hear them in their conversations. But who penetrates his thought? Who reaches to see his heart? Everything he plans interiorly, that which he is capable in his intimacy, what he accomplishes within, what he decides in his interior, what he intimately likes or dislikes, who will achieve to know it?” (en. Ps. 41, 13)
“The heretics do not want dialogue, rather they want to prevail in every way with shameless obstinacy, to harvest, as the prophet said, what they have not sown” (c. Faust. 13,12).