Wednesday, July 9, 2008

All Real Living Is Meeting

As I was working on ideas for a post on either of our series topics of ecumenism or evangelizing, I think I found something about both.... Which is not really much of a shock if you really think about it.

Perhaps one of the reasons that we uncomfortable with evangelizing is because we don't want to "force" someone into our way of being. Well, despite what perceptions may be, evangelizing does not force anything, evangelizing is cooperating with grace, but in a clearly participatory manner.

Isn't it odd that we don't want to "force" our faith on one another, yet we are often very comfortable forcing all sorts of other, and potentially less meaningful things upon one another?
Anyway, that may be another thread to follow on another day.

Let's see where this all leads us today... and maybe we will even get a little church history in here too!

Some time ago, I received a prayer card from The Center For Action and Contemplation. It had an icon of St. Francis embracing the Sultan on the front (see center image above) and the poem at the end of the post on the back.

It has haunted me ever since. We tend to think of St. Francis and the birds or St. Francis embracing the lepers - all of which are great Franciscan images. However, we are not often reminded of a big part of the great saint's life, which was about The Fifth Crusade.

As so much of Catholic Europe took up arms in the Fifth Crusade, Francis went off to The Holy Land. This other link gives a slightly different retelling.

If you click into that link you will learn that his goal was to convert the Sultan, or to literally die trying, by being martyred.

Instead, God had other plans for St. Francis. From the linked article:

Francis entered the sultan’s camp empty-handed as a peacemaker. “He did not consider, whom he had been taught by Christianity to be his enemy, as his enemy,” said Franciscan Father Michael Cusato, director of the Franciscan Institute at New York’s St. Bonaventure University, and a native Clevelander. “He approached all people, beginning with the leper, as his brothers.

It is essential that as we approach the two paths of evangelizing and of ecumenism, that we do so with the heart of Christ. That heart is open, loving and respectful, a heart that longs to make peace and is willing to cooperate with grace in order to do so.

“We know he did not insult their prophet or religion, but talked about why he is a Christian and why people find the right way to God. We know he didn’t insult the prophet or he wouldn’t have come out of there alive,” Father Cusato said.

“The brotherhood was God’s most beautiful creation and he saw the Muslim as his brother, too. It was the first real dialogue between Christians and Muslims,” Father McCreary said.

We are called to live in peace and be open to "the other" but it is hard to put that into practice. Some of us will say things to the effect of "Jesus or St. Francis could do that, but its not practical today." Or perhaps "I'm not Jesus or St. Francis."

Or we might say, "they started it" or something to that effect. As much as I can't really follow Him so easily, I still feel commanded by Christ to not take that stance. After all, He never did. This is a particularly challenging idea, isn't it?

Well, none of us are, but aren't we called to live their lives in some fashion as Catholics? It does not mean doing it perfectly, it just means doing it. This reminds me of something Father Butler says a lot... Forget WWJD. WJAD - we know what Jesus already did, we need to do that too, or at least try.

So what does it mean to engage in meaningful dialogue in the spirit of St. Francis? According to Father Cusato people must understand each other’s perspective. “Until we in the west understand the anger, sense of oppression and world of Muslims in the Middle East, unless we can look beyond the slogans our political leaders give us and ask why, we’ll get nowhere. But it works both ways. They need to know us as well.”

God asks much of us, this we know. And to ask us to be open to everyone, to live in peace, to live in the way of Christ, or WJAD in Father Butler's words. This is a big cross to bear in today's world, but the size, weight or burden of that cross can't deter us from what we must do.

Here is the poem from the back of the prayer card. This was written by Martin Buber, a Jew, making this an even more interfaith post.

God created us all, how we are asked to learn from one another as we walk with each other and with Jesus Christ.

May we all ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and help to be able to do this.

All Real Living is Meeting
by Martin Buber

Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, God,
I do not suppose You are very tied to titles,
You seem to revel more
in creating and loving
Than arguing like we do.

You are beyond any name,
Beyond this group or that,
Beyond ideas or any ability to
Control You by definitions.

You are the Utterly Free One.
You are the Eternal I
That always allows me to be a Thou
Whenever we meeet.

You are the Speaker, I am the spoken,
So Love must be Your name!
Which is always beyond words.



Missy said...

This is really good, Fran--well said.

Sorry if I seem like a broken record, but I keep going back to the story of the rich young man in Matthew because I think it is so *American*--in it Jesus says, "If you want to be perfect..." He doesn't demand perfection. These aren't special instructions for the very holy--they're for all of us. When his apostles ask astounded, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus answers, "for God all things are possible." Meaning, I think, that we have to try. It is in the attempt that God loves us.

What a beautiful poem. Very fitting.

St Edwards Blog said...

Thank you Missy!

I do not think you sound like a broken record and your post about Matthew's Gospel was brilliant.

I agree with you - it is in the attempt that God loves us. I tend to see the connectedness of the attempts as our path.

One of the many gifts of Jesus is the ability to begin each moment anew.

Jan said...

How I love this--all real living is meeting. Thank you.

MikeF said...

Wow! Yes... and that Buber poem is superb. I hadn't read that before.

Thanks you!


St Edwards Blog said...

Jan and Mike - thank you for your visits and for your prayerful presence here.

Glad that you liked this- it was inspired by a prayer card from Rohr's place and was influenced by Mike's blog as well.

Shannon said...

Fran, what a gift to find this tonight. Thank you.