We continue on our journey of growth as a community. Our focus this week is on
Prayer and listening.
As we grow as community we need to build on three elements, prayer,
service and listening, especially to the poor. It is through this element that
the community can examine itself and judge whether it is growing or not. As we serve the poor we will soon
discover that there is a need to pray. The reason that we pray is to remind ourselves that we are doing the work of God, Opus Die. A community that is not prayer centred can easily degenerate into a political party or worse into a
burial society. For it does not have God at the centre of the community. Through prayer we are equipped by the
Holy Spirit to do the work of God and for God. Prayer helps us to grow inwardly
and to be connected with the one who has called us to do his work.
“Opening to God in adoration and opening to the poor in welcome and serve
are the two poles of a community’s growth.” (Vanier 1982:97) For community to grow
it must learn to listen. To listen to God and to listen to the poor and the
needs of the community. Ideas and vision can never
be imposed. It is always best to start from bottom going upward and not
the other way round. Community
needs to have a sense of ownership of the ideas and the vision.
To listen is to help people have confidence in their gifts and to
encourage and nurture those gifts.
It is sign of extreme poverty on ones part to arrive in place with ideas
and visions people will look at you and never be involved. It is important for
us as community to grow we need to spend time with people listening before we
embark on service. Jesus Christ
before he healed anyone he would often say, “What do you want me to do.” An
important teaching from our Lord and Master that we need to listen to the needs
of the community and its individuals before we can help. Listening is obedience
to God. It means that we do not behave like the dispensary and that we resist
being efficient with people. When
we listen to people we can build lively communities in which people participate
and are not spectators. ” Service which is really human takes time,” and it is
painful. (Vanier 1982:98)
Fr. Barnabas Nqindi
The Church or the ordinary family is not immune to people who cause divisions and disruptions. The early church which had experienced a sense of community began to break away.
Examples of Paul and Barnabas arguing, Peter and Paul disagreeing. The Church in Corinth began to have deep divisions. People left the community and in some cases left it divided. Judas one of the disciples lived with other others, his heart was full of evil intensions.
This led him to act in a treacherous way. His heart had been separated from
others. Jesus had warned him about this, but he continued on his chosen path of destruction.
He did not want to listen to Jesus. The question to ask; when is it permissible to send someone away?
Vanier states, “These people, whose hearts are filled with jealousy, are often extremely intelligent, with a considerable ability to seize and exploit failings in legitimate authority or the community’s life. So they can appear clairvoyant, to have an ability to redress injustice and save the situation.”(Vanier 1982: 82)
These individuals have the ability to create havoc, sweet talkers, but
leave an after test in the mouth. These individuals because of these abilities can appear as people who are
community builders but ultimately sapping authority and undermining it is the
ultimate goal. Obviously it is important to let then go from the community. Jesus our master is clear when he says,
“If your brother sins against you go and tell him this fault, between you and
him alone. If listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does to
listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed
by two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the
church: and if he refuses to listen to the church, let him be to you as a
Gentile and a tax-collector”(Matthew 18 vs. 15-17)
Venier states that only the elderly in the community can take
responsibility for letting go of a member. At the same time these elders must
take responsibility for failing to deal with the member of the community and
setting up dialogue or avenues for conciliation. Elders would take
responsibility for not having recognised the cracks from the start and acted. The
community is not exempt either it too takes responsibility for its failure to
engage with the brother or sister.
So sending someone away may sound easy on the surface but is shows a
community that has failed on several levels in terms of human
relationships. However if someone
is causing scandal among members of the community, these need to be cautioned
and chastised. If this failures then sending away from the community becomes
the only option. Jesus says,
“..Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be
better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be
drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18 vs.6-8) Finally people are not
sent away from the community because they are difficult. Only those who have cut
themselves off from the community should be sent away.
For these possess a really danger in causing scandal in a community and
sapping confidence from legitimate authority. Sadly such people deflect the
community from its goals.
A Commentary on Jean Vanier -Community and Growth, this book is worth reading as people set up a communities
Time is a great healer we are often told. Give it time. Wait a little while. Have patience. A community or individuals that live by this kind of wisdom are really blessed. One cannot be efficient with people. We need to pay the price of waiting. Often we are too quick to thrown in the towel. We often miss the blossoming of an individual or community if we are too impatient. Time allows for clarity, it allows for the dust to settle, it allows for understanding to take place. It is often true that individuals that we encounter who are difficult and stubborn can become true friends at the end if time is given to allow the relationship to develop. Seek first to understand and then to be understood says Stephen Covey. Often we want to be understood before we understand and this often leads to tensions. We should resist the speedy route of finding solutions. Stephen Covey says, fast is slow and slow is fast. If we are too quick to find solutions then what we often come up with lacks depth. We cannot gloss over challenges but we need to ask God our Heavenly Father to intervene in these difficult and often challening situations.
Growing towards love and understanding takes time. Learning to forgive others and oursleves takes time. Learning to say I am sorry, espeically when we get it terribly wrong takes courage and time. Learning to accept others takes time and ultimately accepting ourselves. What is important is not to give up or lose faith. When we give time to issues or people we are able to understand the other and the issues involved.
Fr. Barnabas Nqindi
Conflict can be said to be good for a community from time to time. It sharpens our minds and ideas. Of course conflict that is physically and destructive is not good conflict for example war, enslavement and human traffic these are bad conflicts which do not ever produce a positive outcomes. On the other hand healthy arguments lead the community to discover more of itself and formulate clear and inspiring visions and missions statements. These will stimulate growth in a community. Communities require healthy conflicts for them to grow and to deepen. Of course sometimes conflict arise within ourselves and we project them to others. Such confict is as a result of us on our part refusing to grow up. It is when egos are strong and sensibility is thrown out. Conflict and tensions arise because we want to control the conversation and the direction of that conversation and not to allow the free flow of ideas. Ideas can threaten us especially if these are taking us away from our comfort zones and then conflict will arise.
Tensions arise because of fear of the future. Not having enough money to pay the bills can cause endless conflict. The tension arises because of the sense of responsbility towards those who we owe money and the commitments that we may have as a community. Such conflict can make us be fearful of the future and lead us to failure to make or take appropriate decisions.
Tension arises within a community because people have not come to terms with themselves. It is quite a struggle to come to terms with oneself. The conflict of the self. Self acceptance is the most difficult thing to do. Hence Holy Scripture teachs us to love our neighbour as we love ourself. We cannot accept the next person as being loveable if we do not have the same view of ourself.
Of course tensions and conflict are not limited to these only. What is important is that conflicts which result in tensions can bring a community together as it struggles within itself to find a solution to the problem. It can be a wonderful time for the community for this increases fellowship and sense that we belong together. Conflict and tensions help us to seek the place of the pain and the cause of that pain and to bring relief.
Conflict helps to come to terms with our spiritual poverty. We move away from blaming others and we take responsibility for our party in the argument. When a community faces the conflict together it means that we have recognized that we need to take responsibility and not to pass the buck. I Peter 2 vs.1-10, says to the Christain community, "Be sure, then, you are never spiteful, or deceitful, or hypocritical, or envious ad critical of each other. You are new born, and like babies you should be hungry for nothing but milk- the spiritual honesty which will help you to grow up to salvation-now that you have tested the goodness of the Lord." If gossip, slander and egos are not checked this my lead the community ceasing to exist and us losing the anionting of the Holy Spirit, which we first received when we where baptised.
Finally conflict and tensions are good bed fellows for these bring us to our knees in prayers as we seek the wisdom and guidance of God as a community. It is an acknowledgment before God that we are helpless. This helps us to overcome the crisis and to move on as a community. A community without God at the centre of it, is bound to fail. A community needs to be continually to be soaked in the life of prayer, day in and day out. For the Holy Spirit will continue to bring light in those areas of the community that need healing and this takes place through the name of Triune God.
Fr. Barnabas Nqindi
My name is Barnabas Sibusiso Nqindi, rector of St Barnabas-Bluff. I enjoy a good debate and I love to see people grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ