The Chapter Acts invite us to an ever growing conversion to the feeling of benevolence, which builds and fortifies our community life. We will offer a few points to help us evaluate our life in common.
(Chapter Acts 2003, 69-89)
True community is born of benevolence towards it. It means to love the community, to have a sense of belonging, to recognize it as one’s own family, to love not only the community in general, but the confreres who belong to it. No one is excluded. It is not possible to support those or what we do not love.
Even though it is not always possible to expect immediate and spontaneous human affection to and from all, nonetheless there must always be supernatural love, which is true affection… capable of expressing itself and touch the hearts of others.
The Chapter Acts invite us to an ever growing conversion to this feeling of benevolence, which builds and fortifies our community life. We will offer a few points to help us evaluate our life in common.
1. The feeling for others (CA ’03, 70.1): The community – the new family that God gives us – is the place where we live the giving of ourselves and receive the gift of others. Here we enter a relationship with the others as members of an authentic family, aware that – in sharing our lives together – we belong to one another.
This feeling for others is a fundamental element of the relationship. Even more, the fundamental choice that a person can make in his life is the one that says: “I want to live for others.”
It is this feeling for others that leads us to place our duties first rather than our rights, to begin the journey of our own conversion first without waiting for our brothers to do it.
The love of God and love of neighbor are one and the same commandment which leads us to pour out on our brothers the love by which God loves us. We are the objects of infinite love, and we must allow ourselves to be loved and pass this love on to our brothers. We must pour out our love on others with the same intensity with which we experience God’s love for us. To love as God loves. We could say: We are loved, let us love.
2. In communion of prayer (CA ’03, 79): The community celebration of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation brings us to share our deepest experiences of God. They strengthen our bonds of fraternity and they make us rediscover the joy of proclaiming the Gospel.
It is of the highest priority to review our style of life in order to give to prayer a fundamental role and the necessary time. Prayer is the oxygen “we need in order to breath and to live.” Without prayer, community and consecrated life become just another structure to be kept up, another organization to be managed. “Experience teaches that when the things to do, the meetings, the planning sessions, the activities the deadlines multiply, it is a must to give more time to prayer.”
3. Mercy and Reconciliation (CA ’03, 78): We need, especially in the hardest times, experienced communities where mercy and pardon are found, able to offer a welcoming and healing space to confreres who have been battered by life.
Forgive and forget. If we do not forget, forgiveness is not complete. In the writings of the fathers of the desert we find this beautiful expression: “Cover the faults of your brothers with the cloak of forgiveness and charity.” Forgiveness is not optional, but fundamental to our Christian life. “Let us be reconciled before sunset,” says St. Paul (Eph 4,26).
4. Fraternal correction (CA ’03, 80): The experience of fraternal correction not only makes us aware of our fragility, but assures us of fraternal support in our personal and community journey.
We build community when, moved by the love we bear for a confrere, in a climate of sincere charity, at the proper time and with the proper words, we help him understand that he made a mistake and that a certain defect can be corrected. Correction is fraternal only when it is guided by truth in a spirit of charity.
Communitarian charity leads us to accept the fact that in life not everything turns out perfect. Even God accepts this.
5. Communication and Sharing (CA ’03, 73.1/2): There are communities in which the time given to listening, to communication and personal sharing is seen as secondary, as though it were precious time taken away from work. Verification and programming as a community is often reduced just to a sharing out of commitments.
It is easy to come together without really meeting each other. And it is easy to meet each other without ever getting to know each other. Often, in our community meetings we get together but do not actually meet. We have meetings to set and reset programs, to take decisions and to plan. We get together to talk of what we have done of or what needs to be done. Rarely do we speak of who we are. “In some communities we lament the poor quality of the fundamental sharing of spiritual goods: we share marginal problems and topics, but rarely do we share what is vital and central to our process of consecration. The consequences can be painful, because imperceptibly the spiritual experience takes an individualistic character. Furthermore, it favors a mentality of self management and of insensitivity to others, while slowly we look for significant relationships outside the community.” (Fraternal Life in Community, 32). To communicate means to give ourselves over. It is a revelation of self. It is the will to walk together.
6. Together for Mission (CA ’03, 85): Comboni was the first to want mission to be carried out by a cenacle of apostles (W 2648) where diverse persons would be brought together for the one common project.
Comboni wanted that his disciples form and live as the cenacle of Jesus. His missionaries, Comboni teaches, must become “a small cenacle of apostles for mission.”
“To shine together, to spread warmth together, to reveal together,” Comboni insisted. In his thinking, to be missionaries together is the ultimate goal.
To be together does not mean just to make up a group, but to be “brothers with one heart.” It means to live with one heart, to love the same love: the Mission. The cenacle, therefore, is not a group that is always and necessarily physically together, but an apostolic family that loves the mission with the same heart and the same passion.
To be together, in Comboni’s mind, means also and above all to dwell in the heart of Christ: “To love – all – tenderly the Heart of Christ.” It is from the Heart of Jesus that every missionary draws the strength to persevere and be faithful.
For the community meeting
The Word of God
Jn 15:9-17 To remain in the true love
Lk 6:12-83 Love always
Lk 18:9-14 I am not like the others
Rom 12:1-21 To have a profound respect for each other
The teaching of Comboni
S 2647 – 2649 In a cenacle for mission
S 2507 - 2510 Communion of diversity. Attention to the person
S 2722 United by Christ
S 6111 + 6851 + 5566 Meekness, love and forgiveness.
Questions for reflection
What richness and gifts do you appreciate in you community?
What aspects of community life need to be improved?
Suggestions for a community program of ongoing formation?
How to help the community to be ever more missionary and a center of mission promotion?
Commission for Ongoing Formation