Our Biblical Blog /'Examined Life'
Our Biblical Blog /'Examined Life'
‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever, and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’ Life is something, which we take for granted. Life is such a wonderful gift that it is ok if we have got used to that it is ‘always there’. As in our illustration imaginatively shows, God’s heart, full of the fire of his love, has continuously creating the world. The playful dance of the tongues of fire show this: God, out of love, every moment re-creates our world and keeps it in existence.
The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, however, is a reminder, that this gift is not to be taken for granted. Corpus Christi Sunday invites us to think about ‘God’ as our daily Bread. Just as we have got used to food (somehow there is always something to eat and drink), it is just as easy to take God’s ‘Creation’ and our life to be granted. Have we thought of the fact that ‘bread’ is our most important, and most frequently used word?
John’s Gospel explains why, if we are attentive, God’s Name and Bread are synonymous. We Christians can recognise that it is the same Gift, it is the same source of Life. Ó artos ó gon, ‘The Bread of Life’, that is, the ‘Bread that belongs to the true life’, the Bread that is full of the life it is intended to impart, the Bread which lives and makes everyone alive who partakes of it.
Our painting shows this complex mystery. God wants to share his Life with us. The Holy Trinity ( candles, holy spirit, redeemer-Son) offer the same life that they have for the Earth Community, for the whole of Creation. God has been holding our Earthly home (history), keeping us on his breast, transforming us into his Life. The Cross expresses us the Biblical truth: Jesus is full of Life and the Giver of Life. He ‘has come down from heaven’. This bread is coming down from Heaven. This ‘vision’, as our painting shows, appears from among the gentle clouds which surrounds this Life-Giving Heart, which look like a rich table…
Can we live without eating and receiving this food? Can our faith remain alive? Can our love and compassion be renewed without this daily, weekly sustenance?
When we are eating the Body and Blood of Christ, to eat means to ‘believe in Jesus’. That explains why it is God’s purpose that we eat this Bread, or literally that we believe in his Son. ‘If anyone shall eat this bread he shall live for ever.’ As our painting shows, God reaches out to everyone and offers this Bread, this faith. But the wording shows that there shall be those who eat. Some will refuse to eat, but many will be moved to eat!
Those who eat this Bread, those who believe, they ‘shall live for ever’. Wow! One act of eating bestows life! So, we can recapitulate today’s gospel expressed in our painting. The Bread lives. Those who believe, who eat this Bread, have life eternal. The wonderful circle of salvation is closed: Jesus, the Life, is the centre. All who are made one with him by faith and the Sacraments, are joined to him and are made full partakers of his life, all what he has, or what he does, of what he himself is.
The centre of our image is the Cross. Worth noticing, it connects the continents: Jesus’ Cross unites all peoples. ‘And the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’ The Bread of Life, come down from Haven was the Father’s gift… The Incarnation of the Son and his saving mission. ‘and the Bread which I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world’. This is the gift that Jesus presently gives! It is the gift of his flesh and his blood in the sacrifice upon the cross. This is the gift Jesus himself makes, and will make in every Eucharistic celebration.
The ‘body of Christ’ always one with his sacrificial death on the cross. Jesus By giving himself into death Jesus gives himself to us as the Bread of Life. The Bread, the flesh, the act of giving, all together have one purpose: they intend that the world may have the true heavenly life.
Let us go back to our starting point. Today’s feast (with the help of our image and today’s Gospel) encourages us to see the Source. All the life, all the food, we receive, heavenly and earthly Bread, is the gift of Jesus’ saving death and Resurrection. Let us see the person of Jesus, our friend and Redeemer, as if through a window, in every gift of our lives.
Our Life from Above (The Architectural History of Grahame Park), a sermon and reflection on Trinity Sunday
In brief, Trinity Sunday is about how our life is seen ‘from above’, from God’s point of view. Today, God lifts us up all. May be, we don’t see our life as satisfied. May be, we are not exactly where we should be, emotionally, health-wise, or in our relationships, or neighbourhood. However, today God lifts us up all, to his eyes. Then, the whole landscape of our life changes.
What happens when we see things from God’s perspective? It is a bit like the exhibition on the architectural history of Grahame Park was yesterday. The talk on the estate, the visual illustrations, seeing Grahame Park above made me proud. The place, which is engulfed in sad stories, in an ignored state, and negative social narratives – turns out to be a remarkable design. Once upon a time an empty airfield, the last plane took off from here in 1958, Grahame Park was designed to serve the human community. Two churches, a community centre, a library, lots of playfields for children were built. A remarkable humaine vision. Today’s developers are unable to put human connectedness first. Instead of restoring its original vision and beauty, something lower quality will be built, in terms of humaineness, green-ness.
From God’s perspective, our experience is a true appreciation of our life. God does not demolishes our old life, does not throw us away. He restores us, gives us strength to amend our lives, to continue according to his vision of our ‘original happiness’.
Just like in our Gospel. The conversation with Nicodemus continues with Jesus’ own reflection on God’s saving work. Instead of ‘demolishing’ the world, Jesus tells Nicodemus that the Son of man must be lifted up. For ‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but have eternal life.’ This is God’s perspective.
This is the perspective of Trinity Sunday. The ‘must’, the compulsion, lies in the wonder of God’s love and purpose. Just like the blueprint of Grahame Park design, by telling Nicodemus this in such lucid, simple language Jesus sums up the entire gospel in one lovely sentence. IT is so rich in content that if we had only these words and nothing of the rest of the Bible, by apprehending them, we could be truly saved. These words (and think of the genuine and generous amount of community space in the design of GP) flow like milk and honey, ‘words which are able to make the sad happy, the dead alive, if only the heart believes them firmly.’ (Luther)
‘What a revelation for this old Pharisee Nicodemus who all his life-long had relied on his own works! And this testimony of what is in the heart of God comes from him who came down from heaven, came down so that he still is in heaven, from the Son of man and son of God himself.’ The word, ‘thus’ loved God the world… this ‘thus’ means ‘in this way’, ‘to such an astounding degree’ did God love the world. No human mind would have thought it: God had to reveal it. The persons of the Holy Trinity, together reveal this ‘higher perspective’.
The word, which the Gospel uses, agapón, denotes the highest type and form of loving. It is different than our human love. It is a bit like the present day ‘unpleasant scenes’ of Grahame Park. ‘How could God like the sinful, foul, stinking world? How could he embrace and kiss it?...But he could and he did love it, comprehending all is sin and foulness, purposing to cleanse it and, thus cleansed to take it to his bosom.’
This is the mystery of the Trinity. That God is a community of Love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Perhaps, just as an analogy, when in the One God the Three Persons, there love is seen, is like suddenly understanding the ‘richness’ of Grahame Park’s original design. May this Trinity Sunday, and visiting the original design, how Grahame Park ‘is its first love’, help us to see our lives in God’s joy. Also, may it help us to make the necessary adjustments to return to his ‘original plan’ about us.
Before our Biblical reflection, let me share with you an image, perhaps, my earliest memory of school, which I regard as one of the most influential events in my life. It is seemingly insignificant, as I attended a preparatory class before year 1 in primary school. We children were given the task of building a tower from a big building block set. We managed to build a really tall tower. The head teacher liked it so much that she invited all the other teachers to see it. We were taken to her office, where all the teachers praised us and congratulated for building such an outstanding tower! Why am I mentioning this? For that positive confirmation, I am convinced, was the most decisive moment on my outlook on the world. This has granted my interest in art thinking creatively in solving problems.
I imagine that when Jesus set the scene of the ‘harvest’, as it were, the task of building ‘a tower’ from the building blocks of the Kingdom of God, he did something similar than my head teacher. You can do it! ‘You yourselves have seen what I did when the Egyptians, how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself. From this you know that now, if you obey my voice and hold fast to my covenant, you of all the nations shall be my very own from all the earth. I will count you a kingdom of priests, a consecrated nation.’ Every Eucharist we celebrate on a Sunday echoes this positive confirmation, now, in the words of Jesus. And indeed, just let us have a look at what we have built since last Sunday, as a community. Our lunch-club, our exhibitions, a concert, a community garden, youth activities, contribution to the life of Colindale Gardens, our coming retreat for families, the hoped installation of our tapestry. And, what you have done, the efforts to prove good in situations…Yes, the building blocks of the Kingdom are there, it is up to us, to put them together. But who is the builder?
Today’s Gospel takes us to the motive that lay back of all Jesus’ work, the Lord’s great compassion. But this is fascinating. In our Lord’s compassion, when he sees our world, our lives as ‘unbuilt’, when the pieces of the Kingdom of God are scattered, not in place, he is not only that ‘his heart was stirred’. Oklagseisonai, the verb, which is translated ‘being compassionate’ indicates not only a pained feeling at the sight of suffering. But in addition a strong desire to remove the suffering. It is a sympathy which feels the other’s suffering and means to show mildness and kindness. And this is the moment of creativity. He tells us: you ‘can build this tower of healing’, the church. You can build and create a healing environment which heals through its nourishing beauty and order. So, whenever suffering and sorrow of body or soul met his eyes, his heart was moved with compassion. This compassion of Jesus is one of the deepest, richest, most comforting of all his Saviour qualities. And the same should be said of us. Whenever suffering and sorrow meets our eyes, our heart is moved with compassion.
‘When Jesus saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples: “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.”’ (Matt 9:36) This is the commissioning of the apostles. ‘Build my Kingdom!’ We also see how his compassion is at once manifests itself in action, in creativity. The situation is never a problem for him, but a creative task of healing. ‘The harvest is abundant’, the workers are few.’ Jesus does not say, ‘the field is large, it is too big to till and to sow.’ No. He views only the harvest. The harvest has already been produced – Jesus sees it!
But what is this harvest? What are the building blocks of the Kingdom which we have to find, and put into its right place? There are many answers, and many concrete pieces, which only you can find and put to its place, or we, as a community. Let us pray about it, let us be ready. But let us have this personal vision, too as our horizon for mission. The harvest represents the seekers after God. Jesus’ invites us to suppose that even among the ‘lost’, who are deeply lost, who at present don’t seek after God, they can come to their true shelves.
And this is the moment of being ‘creative builders’. For the task is exciting, but even more that Jesus is working by our side. This positive confirmation of our work generates a very special energy. It is like the joy of the joy of the head-teacher, who summoned all the other teachers. The remarkable thing is that Jesus asks the disciples, ‘we are to ask the Lord of the harvest to throw works into the harvest.’ Jesus has already brought into the harvest his atoning death and resurrection. Without him, the harvest could not be brought in. (‘Our tower could not be built’). But on this Sunday, however, he trains us so that we can join in his concern, and to see the need for more workers, and we are moved to pray for them.
Jesus our Sabbath (our optional world)
Jesus' 'I am sayings' in John's Gospel seem to be overtly repetitive. One can be really puzzled, why does he repeats the same thing, or similar thoughts so many times? And it is in the present time: 'I am saying this to you', I am the vine and you are the branches...
One of the answers is that it wants to emphasise something crucial. Life with Him is different that life without Him.Or, in other words, this world, what we see, what we suffer from so much, which causes so much anxiety and uncertainty, including wars, is not the only world. Actually, the world we see, should not be as it is. There are many painful alternatives, but the Kingdom of God should be the true face of the world in which we live.
It is our choice, it is the fruit of our commitment and conversion. This is the fruit of being loved by God, and loving god.'' 'This [optional, fulfilled world] is a community that continually loves and learns, and the learning includes hearing, searching, questioning, seeing, believing, understanding, remembering, and knowing. "I have said these things to you while I am still with you." "But th Advocat4 the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you." This is a community of continuous learning, a community that continuously loves and learns' (David Ford)
It is also, not accidental, that the them of Judgement is recurring. The Kingdom of God, in particular, when it is not brought to realisation, is a our judgement. In other words, the present world, if it lacks the Kingdom of God, judges us. We can imagine that this judgement is not too favourable when we see the war in Ukraine among us. Helping hands, food, hospitality if offered, will go in our favour. For we can speak of the 'crisis-face' of the Kingdom of God... The nations, and their silent citizens, who are pumping weapons into this war, will be judged unfavourably. The common good of the people, the right of citizens to have a decent living is just being sacrificed when our politics knowingly-unknowingly gives in the interests of the arm industry.
A third recurring theme at the end of John's Gospel is the lots of 'I'-s, the words of mutual indwelling. 'I am in the Father', 'you are in me'.
In facing our judgement, we understand, why it is so important. In order to live the depth of peace, joy and Trust in Jesus, we need a special sense. We need an eye for being with our Lord. This special ability is our desire and commitment to celebrate the Lord's day.
We draw strength and commitment from the Lord's Day, when we celebrate the Resurrection. Meeting our Lord in our worship, drawing on the Jewish appreciation of the Sabbath, we might say, that when we rest on this day, it brings 'a delight and a joy so great and so wonderful that to enjoy them one is endowed with a enshah yeterah, an extra soul.' This extra soul is a 'new access to the powers of appreciation.'
We Christians, we have this extra soul, or extra eye to see the Lord's day. We need this experience, as our 'daily-weekly bread'. This will nourish us to work on making our world a better place.... our life to be visible part of the Kingdom of God.
Let us celebrate the healing power of the Lord's day. Let us draw on this experience of the celebration of the Eucharist, that this day will be 'an experience of freedom', from the illnesses of the world, 'a day of detachment from the vulgar, a day of independence of external obligations, a day on which we stop worshiping the idols of technical civilisation, a day on which we use no money.' We should make this day so much dedicated to the Lord, and ways of resting with God and one another, to the extent that the external world should see it as 'Christian laziness'. When we witness to that God, our Loving Lord, with his day of the Resurrection, is all in all.
Today, as we embark on the Lenten season, the Lord says to us: “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Mt 6:1). It may be surprising, but in today’s Gospel, the word we hear most frequently is reward (cf. vv 188.8.131.52). Usually, on Ash Wednesday, we think more of the commitment demanded by the journey of faith, rather than the prize that is its goal. Yet today Jesus keeps returning to that word, reward, which can appear to be the reason for our actions. Yet within our hearts, in fact, there is a thirst, a desire for a reward, which attracts and motivates us.
The Lord, however, speaks of two kinds of reward to which our lives can tend: a reward from the Father and, on the other hand, a reward from others. The first is eternal, the true and ultimate reward, the purpose of our lives. The second is ephemeral, a spotlight we seek whenever the admiration of others and worldly success become the most important thing for us, our greatest gratification. Yet the latter is merely an illusion. It is like a mirage that, once we get there, proves illusory; it leaves us unfulfilled. Restlessness and discontent are always around the corner for those who look to a worldliness that attracts but then disappoints. Those who seek worldly rewards never find peace or contribute to peace. They lose sight of the Father and their brothers and sisters. This is a risk we all face, and so Jesus tells us to “beware”. As if to say: “You have a chance to enjoy an infinite reward, an incomparable reward. Beware, then, and do not let yourself be dazzled by appearances, pursuing cheap rewards that disappoint as soon as you touch them”.
The rite of receiving ashesbon our heads is meant to protect us from the error of putting the reward received from others ahead of the reward we receive from the Father. This austere sign, which leads us to reflect on the transience of our human condition, is like a medicine that has a bitter taste and yet is effective for curing the illness of appearances, a spiritual illness that enslaves us and makes us dependent on the admiration of others. It is a true “slavery” of the eyes and the mind (cf. Eph 6:6, Col 3:22). A slavery that makes us live our lives for vainglory, where what counts is not our purity of heart but the admiration of others. Not how God sees us, but how others see us. We cannot live well if we are willing to be content with that reward.
The problem is that this “illness of appearances” threatens even the most sacred of precincts. That is what Jesus’ tells us today: that even prayer, charity and fasting can become self-referential. In every act, even the most noble, there can hide the worm of self-complacency. Then our heart is not completely free, for it seeks, not the love of the Father and of our brothers and sisters, but human approval, people’s applause, our own glory. Everything can then become a kind of pretense before God, before oneself and before others. That is why the word of God urges us to look within and to recognize our own hypocrisies. Let us make a diagnosis of the appearances that we seek, and let us try to unmask them. It will do us good.
The ashes bespeak the emptiness hiding behind the frenetic quest for worldly rewards. They remind us that worldliness is like the dust that is carried away by a slight gust of wind. Sisters and brothers, we are not in this world to chase the wind; our hearts thirst for eternity. Lent is the time granted us by the Lord to be renewed, to nurture our interior life and to journey towards Easter, towards the things that do not pass away, towards the reward we are to receive from the Father. Lent is also a journey of healing. Not to be changed overnight, but to live each day with a renewed spirit, a different “style”. Prayer, charity and fasting are aids to this. Purified by the Lenten ashes, purified of the hypocrisy of appearances, they become even more powerful and restore us to a living relationship with God, our brothers and sisters, and ourselves.
Prayer, humble prayer, prayer “in secret” (Mt 6:6), in the hiddenness of our rooms, becomes the secret to making our lives flourish everywhere else. Prayer is a dialogue, warm in affection and trust, which consoles and expands our hearts. During this Lenten season, let us pray above all by looking at the Crucified Lord. Let us open our hearts to the touching tenderness of God, and in his wounds place our own wounds and those of our world. Let us not be always in a rush, but find the time to stand in silence before him. Let us rediscover the fruitfulness and simplicity of a heartfelt dialogue with the Lord. For God is not interested in appearances. Instead, he loves to be found in secret, “the secrecy of love”, far from all ostentation and clamour.
If prayer is real, it necessarily bears fruit in charity. And charity sets us free from the worst form of enslavement, which is slavery to self. Lenten charity, purified by these ashes, brings us back to what is essential, to the deep joy to be found in giving. Almsgiving, practised far from the spotlights, fills the heart with peace and hope. It reveals to us the beauty of giving, which then becomes receiving, and thus enables us to discover a precious secret: our hearts rejoice more at giving than at receiving (cf. Acts 20:35).
Finally, fasting. Fasting is not a diet. Indeed, it sets us free from the self-centred and obsessive quest of physical fitness, in order to help us to keep in shape not only our bodies but our spirit as well. Fasting makes us appreciate things for their true worth. It reminds us in a concrete way that life must not be made dependent upon the fleeting landscape of the present world. Nor should fasting be restricted to food alone. Especially in Lent, we should fast from anything that can create in us any kind of addiction. This is something each of us should reflect on, so as to fast in a way that will have an effect on our actual lives.
Prayer, charity and fasting need to grow “in secret”, but that is not true of their effects. Prayer, charity and fasting are not medicines meant only for ourselves but for everyone: they can change history. First, because those who experience their effects almost unconsciously pass them on to others; but above all, because prayer, charity and fasting are the principal ways for God to intervene in our lives and in the world. They are weapons of the spirit and, with them, on this day of prayer and fasting for Ukraine, we implore from God that peace which men and women are incapable of building by themselves.
O Lord, you see in secret and you reward us beyond our every expectation. Hear the prayers of those who trust in you, especially the lowly, those sorely tried, and those who suffer and flee before the roar of weapons. Restore peace to our hearts; once again, grant your peace to our days. Amen.
This is how usually a ‘bad day’ of mine begins. I have some ill-feeling because of a disagreement over something, which has managed to slip over from yesterday into this morning. It was traveling with me through the night. Then, something at the beginning of the new day, let’s say, a minor mistake by others, triggers out this resentment. It becomes like ‘spectacles’ though which I see the upcoming events of the day. It is, however, like tinted diving googles. I see everything what happens through these hijacked colours. Then, small conflicts trigger out over-sensitivity, and, this, prompts over-reactions. Like a domino-effect, the whole day can end up in ruins.
This morning, at the beginning of the Morning Prayer, I was aware of my googles. I felt, I could not remove it just by a thought. Something else was needed. Then the idea occurred that yep, we are praying, right now, the morning prayer to God, and, together with God. This is not only us, who are starting this day, but God, too. So, I continued this quiet unexpected inner conversation. Well, this is how I am starting my day. But what about God? He also has to start this very day, as this is his Creation. He can’t afford the human luxury of having the day with grudges. He simply cannot get out of the bed on the wrong side (his Creation, sic!). That thought has instantaneously removed my tinted googles. God starts the day in peace and mercy, and with a positive curiosity. So why not imitate Him?
While singing the psalms set for the morning prayer, I managed to look at the icon of the full-figured Christ Pantocrator. The icon itself, as one can see it in our chapel, is just a cheap copy. No particular artistic value. But the icon works as it should. Jesus is sitting on his throne. In the background, intense gold. This golden background, with the Judging God, journeying with us into this new day, summed up the moral of what I understood of how God was starting the day. No remorse, no complaints, no fights and inner-courts over events from yesterday. Only free-flowing pure positivity. The magma of divine nature, which is capable of melting everything into herself…and transforming them. Giving things, thoughts and events the shape, they should have.
If we let our hearts be transformed and directed by these positive energies - the whole day will be, literally, different. You become master of the moment: you can start an encounter with a smile, with a positive twist to the moment. Let us see, how the day, when we begin it as God does, is unfolding. I am sure there are many surprises - just by following the threads, hidden in the day, of His positivity. So, my fallen dominoes, are now being played backwards, the fallen pieces of a ruined day are being set up, one by one. Waiting for God’s touch, not of mine.
In the Bible, these are often those who are in exile, or on the move, who have dreams. When there is an existential crisis, there is an eruption of dreams. No wonder that Jewish people (Abraham, Joseph in Egypt, prophet Daniel, Saint Joseph, the three Kings, etc.) became ‘experts’ of dream interpretation. Culture itself can go through cataclysmic changes, like Europe did at the time when Freud and Jung laid the foundations for interpreting dreams.
In these ‘exile situations’, identity becomes fluid. The old belonging is lost, the present is unsettled, the future is yet out of grasp. Undefined. We Christians, today (again!) live with the sense of Biblical exile. It is part of scrutinising the signs of the times. The apocalyptic mood of the readings before advent highlights this instability around, but also in, us. And just like our Old Testament predecessors, we can attain the ability to decipher dreams, and understand the meaning of the signs surrounding us. Like Proust in Search of Lost Times, we can tell a very different story from that of our age. However, instead of a psychological past, we can ‘arrive at a separate world, a descent into the abyss of the self, in which the ego’s boundaries dissolve and are lost. Like a hallucination empty of objects and people, enveloping the sleeper as he floats in a state of phychic quasi-death.’ Here we arrive to ‘the edge of the unsayable.’ (The Philosophy of Julia Kristeva, Open Court Puplishing Company, Chicago, Illinois 2020, p.99)
As mentioned, for the members of the Covenant (old and new), it is not a retreat into the past, but an insight into the Kingdom of God, the World to come. Our dream eruptions - reveal a depth. Though things are fragmentary and can fall apart, as ‘the centers no longer hold’, but not in this under-surface realm. Our church buildings, icons, and doctrine, the Creed - with their order, and contra-movement to the ephemeral nature of the age - have never spoken so eloquently of the firm roots which we have or can develop. These roots are the guarantees that we can become interpreters of dreams instead of being entrapped in a dream-like state, without a real voice to awaken ourselves.
So, this ability to ‘root’, to understand, and interpret is the moment equal to the Catholic sacrament of transubstantiation of the Eucharist. When we celebrate the mass and receive in the communion Christ himself and his story, we can freely access the Kingdom of God, its life-giving depths. The sings of the bread and wine, which belong to this world, as the Body and Blood of Christ, also belong to the world to come! (The world, in, and beyond our world.) In the communion, we understand that our age, with its powers, is not rock-solid at all. Actually, it is in a fluid state, regardless of the empires that are being built at the moment. The transubstantiation, the miracle of change and the manifestation of divine Presence, is our hidden and joyful ability to break free from the constraints (the mindset) of this world. Christians are free; our daily transubstantiation makes us free. The ability to read all the changes around us en Christo, in the freedom of the risen Lord. So, dear king Nebuchadnezzar (Zuckenberg-Musk), it is not the Lord, which is a dream like message. On the contrary, his resurrection is the real. And compared with him, everything what we judge to be real and rock-solid, your ‘meta-verses’ and extra-terrestrial expeditions, are put into question.
As silence and careful listening disappear, replaced by a frenzy of texting, this basic structure of sage human communication is at risk. A new lifestyle is emerging, where we create only what we want and exclude all that we cannot control or know instantly and superficially. This process, by its intrinsic logic, blocks the kind of serene reflection that could lead us to a shared wisdom.
Together, we can seek the truth in dialogue, in relaxed conversation or in passionate debate. To do so calls for perseverance; it entails moments of silence and suffering, yet it can patiently embrace the broader experience of individuals and peoples. The flood of information at our fingertips does not make for greater wisdom. Wisdom is not born of quick searches on the internet nor is it a mass of unverified data. That is not the way to mature in the encounter with truth. Conversations revolve only around the latest data; they become merely horizontal and cumulative. We fail to keep our attention focused, to penetrate to the heart of matters, and to recognize what is essential to give meaning to our lives. Freedom thus becomes an illusion that we are peddled, easily confused with the ability to navigate the internet. The process of building fraternity, be it local or universal, can only be undertaken by spirits that are free and open to authentic encounters.
Easter Is Our Ability to Listen to Others', A homily on articles 47-48, 'Information Without Wisdom' from Pope Francis's Fratelli Tutti, his letter on fraternity and social friendship
True wisdom demands an encounter with reality. Today, however, everything can be created, disguised and altered. A direct encounter even with the fringes of reality can thus prove intolerable. A mechanism of selection then comes into play, whereby I can immediately separate likes from dislikes, what I consider attractive from what I deem distasteful. In the same way, we can choose the people with whom we wish to share our world. Persons or situations we find unpleasant or disagreeable are simply deleted in today’s virtual networks; a virtual circle is then created, isolating us from the real world in which we are living.
The ability to sit down and listen to others, typical of interpersonal encounters, is paradigmatic of the welcoming attitude shown by those who transcend narcissism and accept others, caring for them and welcoming them into their lives. Yet “today’s world is largely a deaf world… At times, the frantic pace of the modern world prevents us from listening attentively to what another person is saying. Halfway through, we interrupt him and want to contradict what he has not even finished saying. We must not lose our ability to listen”. Saint Francis “heard the voice of God, he heard the voice of the poor, he heard the voice of the infirm and he heard the voice of nature. He made of them a way of life. My desire is that the seed that Saint Francis planted may grow in the hearts of many”.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..