Tuesday, 4 October 2011

how then shall we live?

Sunday's reflection at Belair was inspired by Psalm 19, Matthew 21, and the story of Clare of Assisi, and followed along the theme that's woven through most of my reflections this year - God's way of love (also known as the kingdom of God / heaven).
Clare of Assisi lived a life of radical poverty, inspired by Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan monks of his order. This was really radical poverty - Clare and her fellow nuns refused to own anything, even in common. Even the reasonably strict Benedictine order instructs people to own things in common. They only ate what the Franciscan monks would beg for them (they're in the 13th century, and it was not advisable for women to beg). Clare fought hard with the various popes to protect their rule of life, and succeeded, mostly. Within a decade of her death, though, the nuns were ordered by the church to follow a rule of life much more like the Benedictine Rule, having to give up the institutional poverty they had committed to.
I wondered in my sermon whether this radical poverty was actually untenable. I didn't focus on that question, but explored then what can we learn from Clare's story. It did force me to ask questions about how I live, and what I might do differently in order to live in solidarity with the poorest in our world, and make the small changes that will reduce my eco footprint, and that if we all made, might help to redistribute wealth around the world with greater fairness for all.
In conversation over morning tea, another person wondered if it might have been a good opportunity for discussion - and I think it would have been, staying with the question of poverty, and whether those with wealth are called to leave it all behind and embrace poverty, or whether it is more a question of to what extent we live responsibly and share what wealth we have.
What of Clare, then? Do we think she was wrong? That there was no point to her choice?
I wonder if people like Clare, Francis, and their orders, are like the Old Testament prophets whose message was given not only in the words they spoke, but through their actions. Those prophets married prostitutes and walked about naked in order to visibly and radically share the message from God calling the people to change their ways.
Does Clare's radical poverty not call all of us to radical poverty, but like the hyperbole of Jesus' parables, exaggerate the point so that we receive it and understand it?
In the radical poverty of Clare of Assisi might we hear a call to fair distribution of wealth and a reminder of the poverty that exists in the world, a challenge to mindful living with the earth and all creation ??
Jesus did come so that we might have life, in its fulness. But I think we need to realise that our fulness of life is not complete while our neighbours live in poverty.


Heather said...

"...our fulness of life is not complete while our neighbours live in poverty."
This is the interwoven fabric of our reality that MLK Jnr is quoted as referring to, among many others.
Knowing the truth of it, why is it so hard to let things go and simplify?
I actually find it really helpful to avoid more than a tiny dose of commercial TV and radio... and to buy things in op-shops.. but these are only tiny things. More seems required.

Anne Magarey (Stead) said...

Thank you for this thoughtful post, Sarah. I'm convinced that we do need to reduce our weight on the shoulders of the poor, to even get off their shoulders so that they can stand tall with us. No more us and them - all us together, sharing the resources of the world. And the love.