At the start of 2022, the celebration of the feast of the Epiphany (the manifestation of God made man to the World) has coincided with the first anniversary of our arrival in Brighton. It is surely a good moment to reflect on, and recommit ourselves to, manifesting the Good News, through our monastic and community way of living.
The pandemic is challenging us all to ask what is more important – individualism or community mindedness? Is life basically about ‘Me?’ or is it about ‘Us?’ I recently attended an event inspired and supported by the Camerados Movement. This is a non-religious movement that facilitates the creation of safe spaces where people can respectfully look out for each other without judging or trying to fix each other’s problems. It encourages participants to accept others who think differently from themselves.
Expressing his views in the book ‘Let us Dream’, Pope Francis has recently emphasised the need that exists for us to rediscover our shared identity as ‘a People’, and to look out for others who may be quite different from ourselves. His recent initiation of a Global Synodal Process within the Church (to which ordinary Catholics are being encouraged to contribute), is founded on the intuition that God not only speaks to us when we listen well to those different from ourselves, but that real community is formed through this kind of brave and authentic conversation in which diversity is accepted. One might say that where such diversity is present and accepted – there is God. Diversity is of course the hallmark of creation and integral to every healthy eco-system (ecological community)!
We see in Mathew’s account of the visit of the Magi (Mt 2:1-12) how some very diverse individuals came together to share a common journey in a search for the Christ Child. It must have been quite a journey with plenty of challenges, sharing and discoveries along the way. We learn from Mathew’s account that these truth seekers had familiarised themselves with the Jewish scriptures, for they had read that the Christ child would be born in Bethlehem. This willingness of theirs to be open to other faiths and to each other, can teach us how to build trust and understanding in today’s world. This year perhaps we could each start a journey with others who are different from us, searching for Christ, building a culture of care for them and with them, and for our environment? We could choose one new thing to do on a weekly basis for a neighbour (near or far) and one new thing to better our local or wider environment.