Lent blog: Day 40 – ENCOUNTER 3: – OURSELVES AND CHRIST

Published Sat, 03/04/2021 by

In my last two blogs I considered in Julian of Norwich and Francis of Assisi two sharply contrasting personalities.  What they had in common was that both encountered Christ.  Also, that the encounter changed each of their lives radically as both committed absolutely to following up as disciples the inspiration they received from Jesus.  Beyond that their paths diverged – one a cloistered anchorite, the other an outgoing friar and founder of an Order of Friars.   

In this age, especially in the West, vocations to the religious life are rare though not unknown (recently one of our own parishioners has taken to the life of an enclosed Carmelite with great joy).  It seems though that, for the most part, the Spirit is moving in different ways in our times.  So much so that this has been called ‘The age of the laity’.  The world is our enclosure, as St Francis said – but unlike him we don’t have the structure (and the restriction) of a communal life of faith to sustain us day by day.  The small base communities popular in the 1960s and ‘70s are now also hard to find.  To a large extent then, as individuals and as families, we’re on our own now in the spiritual life.  Beyond any online groups we may have found to nurture us, it’s the local parish and the local church school that is for most of us our major resource.

I have done what I can during this year of separation and isolation to offer online support and nurture amid the pandemic.  But I am so looking forward to re-opening our churches from tomorrow to celebrate the Easter Octave and beyond in shared liturgies.  For I am not the parish – it is something we are together; and no online Mass can ever substitute for the real experience.  The life of the parish community continues to remain suspended in many ways for more than a few weeks to come.  Nevertheless, this Easter marks a turning point that we all must hope will be definitive.

As we experience gradual resurrection in our parish life over the coming months, we must take every opportunity to embrace with joy the spiritual path the Bishop has laid out for us:  Encounter – Discipleship – (expressed in) Missionary Discipleship.  We must also take to heart Pope Francis’ call to show our commitment to Christ by loving service of the poor and needy, and by stewardship of the environment.  What forms these shared commitments will take in each of our lives will differ according to our personalities, states of life and opportunities.  But in this common endeavour we must share with and encourage each other – like the first disciples who, we read: “Went out and proclaimed thew good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it” (Mark 16.20).

MICHAEL KIRKHAM

P.S.  It was with slightly mixed feelings I realised this morning that with this, the fortieth day, Lent reaches its close.  I have enjoyed my self-imposed task of daily blogging through the season.  Like other authors I cherish the notion that somewhere someone will have read everything I posted (totalling now 12,644 words).  From comments received I know that at least a few people have engaged with my reflections each day – and some have liked or even loved them!  To all my readers I say: thank you for taking the time.  I hope some of what I have shared may have helped you in your own discipleship.  Whatever has been of real value I attribute to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in your heart, and feel humble if I have in any way been an instrument of his working.