Gospel Reading: Lk 16: 19-31. Give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too
Another sign that the way and the goal are not essentially separated is the experience of community that arises when we follow the way in company with others. We usually do not select these companions, as we do in other areas of life; or when we are attracted to certain people because we get on well with them and like each other. The people we walk through the desert with, feel as if they have been chosen for us. When a monastic community decides to admit a new member, it is not just on the basis of their being good company and having a lot to offer. It is somewhat like an arranged marriage. There has to be personal compatibility but there is a deeper sense of destiny at work. The closeness of members of a community, over time and through trials, grows in a common sense of each and all together, being called to follow the same way. It is rooted in a very personal response and yet develops a common mind and purpose.
The Israelites trekking through the Desert towards the promised Land were a tribe. Community is not tribal. It is a marriage of solitude and other-centredness giving birth to something like, but different from a family. The Book of Exodus implausibly claims that 600,000 men (not counting their other halves) escaped from Egypt. They were an unruly, fickle and ever-complaining band, blaming their leader whenever they got into difficulties. Community, like all relationship groups and whole societies, can descend at times into this kind of tribalism for a number of all too human reasons.
Yet, conflict is not the problem. "All things come into being by conflict of opposites, and the sum of things (the whole)) flows like a stream’, a philosopher says. Everything is in flow. The only constant is change. What matters is how conflict is handled and whether a common will emerges to survive the storm and lose no one overboard if possible. This common will is not the result of politics but a direct movement of the Spirit which specialises in unity. When this attitude to community growth is shared there comes, at moments, a glimpse, sometimes even in the storm, of the Promised land itself where all opposites are reconciled.
In today’s gospel, the rich man and the beggar are said to be eternally separated. But the one who tells us this is the one who reconciles opposites and does not wish that anyone be lost.
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2021