Finding God in Vincentian work
Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these,
You did it also to me. (Matt 25:45)
Whether it is true or not I leave you to judge, but I think that in days gone by, we all thought that people in monasteries had a greater chance of communing with God than the average person. I suspect the reason for this was the lack of emphasis on the truth that God is in all things.
This was the emphasis of St Ignatius of Loyola and it is found in Māori spirituality in an amazing way: e.g when fishing, you throw back the first catch, or, take from the sea only what you need for now. Here we see a reverence for the Giver of the food and a consciousness of ‘enough left for others’ built into their psyche.
As a Vincentian I do need to ask myself ‘how am I finding God in this work?’ It would be a shame if I spent hours packing food parcels, delivering food, sorting out the shop, attending meetings etc and not allowing all this effort help me to find God more deeply. Every aspect of life connects us to the deity, and for the Christian, relieving the suffering of others is the pathway that leads to God.
It is this understanding which has enabled Pope Francis to compose the encyclical ‘Laudato Si’. In this document is the call to live a simple lifestyle, learn to live in harmony with the earth, educate yourself about its’ needs, listen to the cry of the poor, listen to the cry of the earth, become conscious of the universal nature of family, wake up to the destructive force of our economic system.
Ignoring any one of the above will in some way add to the suffering of people somewhere on the planet. What all this implies therefore is that we ourselves become transformed especially in the way we live. We will never go deeper with God unless we are aware of the universal nature of the human family. The Risen Jesus is at the heart of this family.
Being a Vincentian therefore is not just a matter of giving food to the poor, then returning happily to my comfortable life. If we ask how the work of Vincentians fits into Pope Francis’ Laudato Si, it would be impossible to find an answer unless we take on board the essential components of what Pope Francis lays out for us.
When we look at these issues we can become overwhelmed with the enormity of the challenge and with this feeling we will either give up or do something to make a difference. This is where a healthy focus on the Christ of the Gospels must enter our lives. Without this we will grow tired and angry and risk becoming the ones who really need help. With Christ we will not be afraid of a questioning mind: why am I doing this, why is there such a need, am I helping in the best possible way, why do we have such a gap between rich and poor?
It is through Christ we make our way towards God. It is with Christ we go out on our mission in life, and it is in Christ that we try to live every moment. The relationship with Jesus brings about a growing love for the universal family of which He is a part. We realise there can be no relationship with God, without this love. Therefore, where people are suffering so too is Christ. Where suffering is relieved, so too is the suffering of Jesus.
DISCUSSION: From your experience, what part of being a Vincentian really helps you deepen your relationship with God?
Deep in Christ
I pray you know the power He can give.
May your hidden-self grow strong
And may you live
Strong in faith
And built on love
Until you know –
How high and long
How wide and deep
The fullness of God.
(Based on Paul’s Prayer Eph 3:14-21)