From July 18th through July 24th we will be sharing daily reflections from the Final Vow Retreat in Bungoma, Kenya. We ask that Brothers and Associates join Brothers Moses Wafula Barasa, Serge Lumbala Kachunga, Daniel Ongeso Ohola, Marc Kabwita Mufuka, and René Mambwe Kijiba in reflection, as these brothers prepare for their Final Vows. Please keep these brothers in your prayers, as well as their retreat leaders, Brothers Larry Harvey and Richard Mazza.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn —
and I would heal them.
Matthew 13: 15 (Isaiah 6: 9-10)
enter into an ever deeper sharing
of faith and prayer with hour brothers;
reflect with them on how you find Him
in your lived experience.
In this way
the community searches out
the needs of the times
and the desires of the Lord
in their regard.
As little children, we cover our ears if there is something happening that we don’t want to hear, or cover our eyes if we don’t want to see something. And, when we are young enough, we actually believe that if we don’t see or hear something, it is not happening. In today’s gospel Jesus quotes the Isaiah to point out that even as adults we continue this practice. We don’t physically cover our eyes or our ears, that would look too childish, but we refuse to hear or to see what is happening because we don’t want to be responsible for responding to what the situation asks of us. It may ask us to change. Jesus goes on to say that those are “blessed” who do not close their ears and eyes to his words and his works; words and works that manifest the presence of God-with-us with all of the change and the generosity that reality requires of us.
In truth, Reality and God’s presence often seem to us to be more than we can bear. So, we blind and deafen ourselves through pleasure, gossip, overwork, addictions, self-centeredness, a sense of superiority, disconnection, non-communication and countless other means we have at our disposal to keep the truth of the world at bay. Our Fundamental Principles call us to listen and share deeply with our brothers as the way to make sure that we don’t close down to our own size the world and the call of God to us. The words of the Fundamental Principles challenge our tendency to close out our brothers, especially those with whom we disagree or whom we don’t really like. It also challenges our tendencies to hold on to rather than express and share our sense of our own life and call. For, when we listen and share, then we are open to the vision of others and we relinquish the dominance of our own point of view By sharing the way we see things with others, we detach from our own point of view and open it to change. According to the Fundamental Principles, it is in such a sharing with each other that we come better to see and to hear “the needs of the times and the desires of the Lord” in our regard.
In the spiritual tradition, such openness to reality as it comes to us through the world and through others is sometimes called “renunciation.” The following is from Ruusbroec’s The Spiritual Espousals (I, iii, A):
This obedience leads to the renunciation of one’s own will and opinion, for only an obedient person can submit his own will to that of another in all things, although anyone might perform external works and yet remain self-willed. Renunciation of one’s own will makes a person live without particular preferences, whether regarding things to be done or left undone, in matters which are strange or which deviate from the teaching and example of the saints. Such a person will rather live in accordance with the honor and commandments of God, the will of his superiors [and the Community], and whatever makes for peace with those with whom he lives—all as discretion requires. By means of the renunciation of one’s own will regarding things to be done or left undone or endured, all matter and occasion for pride are entirely driven out and humility is perfected to the highest degree. God becomes the master of a person’s entire will, which becomes so united with God’s that the person can neither will nor desire anything else. Such persons have put off the old self and put on the new (cf. Col 3:9-10), which is made and renewed according to the most beloved will of God. Of such as these Christ says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (that is, those who have renounced their own will) “for the kingdom of heaven is theirs” (Mt 5:3).