Friday, September 02, 2011

Being blown around?

We’re called to be faithful to God, not to a way of life, because we are a pilgrim people. So I’d kind of like us not to be so focused on numbers. It’s more about listening deeply to the Spirit. The danger with communities or churches with declining numbers is that they become too inwardly focused. We need to be prepared to look at things anew and maybe make radical changes…

Sr. Annaliese CSC, in the Church Times back page interview
I find this an immensely reassuring comment. Franciscans particularly find themselves called to be faithful to God, rather than to a way of life, which was St. Francis’ point about resisting the idea foundations, buildings, libraries… He wanted his followers to be free to follow, wherever the Spirit might be leading.

I’ve struggled with this in my own life, I have to admit. It is very easy to become attached to a way of life, and to cling to that instead of to God. Besides, people are often puzzled and disappointed when one shifts gear, as it were, feeling that one’s been unfaithful to something to which they are themselves deeply committed – a particular church fellowship, a home group, or even a denomination.

Jesus himself said, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit…” (John 3.8) and it made poor Nicodemus anxious. But we must be gentle, and pray continually. As Sr. Annaliese said later in the same interview, “Prayer is so important… Our whole life is to be prayer, together and at a deeply personal level. I couldn’t have done anything without that…”

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