There are several unusual things this week that I could focus on in this post, including a visit to Birmingham Oratory with a tour of JH Newman’s rooms and library; the University of Birmingham Carol Concert; Mass with a gathering of several thousand Syro-Malabar Catholics (http://bhx.smcbirmingham.org.uk/index.html); Mass with the Vietnamese community in Handsworth; my first official meeting with our new Provincial Superior. I’ve decided to focus on the course Brian Grogan did with us novices last week. You may have come across Brian in various guises, including his biography of Ignatius of Loyola, Alone and On Foot (http://www.veritasbooksonline.com/alone-and-on-foot-ignatius-of-loyola-1.html). Our course last week, however, was based on Meetings Matter! (http://www.veritasbooksonline.com/meetings-matter.html), a book that he co-authored a couple of years ago.
The fundamental questions he asks, seem to me to be: Have all things in heaven and earth been created in Christ (Col.1:16)? Is the whole creation waiting with eagerness for the children of God to be revealed? Has the whole creation been groaning in labour pains (Rm.8:19,22)? Do our decisions and actions matter – do what we bind and loose have repercussions in heaven and on earth (Mt.18:18)? If the answer is “yes” to the above, and Brian does say “yes” our lives should reflect this.
On Sunday morning our novice master, in his homily at the parish of St Francis, Handsworth (http://www.birminghamdiocese.org.uk/parish_directory_detail.asp?parish=33), asked us to imagine the disruptive effect John the Baptist would have if he burst in through the church door and began his preaching. Then he lulled us into a false sense of security by saying how fortunate it is that we follow the more socially acceptable and better presented, Jesus. But then he reminded us that in the gospel of Luke Jesus begins his public ministry by declaring his mission to be inspired by the first reading (Is.61:1-2). Isaiah says that the spirit of the Lord has anointed him to bring good news to the poor, bind up broken hearts and free those in prison. Paul told the Thessalonians in the second reading (1Th.5:16-24) never “to suppress the Spirit or treat the gift of prophecy with contempt”. Jesus appears not to have done either and it caused him quite a lot of trouble and as his followers and those who have also been anointed by the spirit of the Lord makes demands on us too.
The Spiritual Exercises that I did in January this year (Tim Byron has been blogging about them: http://sjsa.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/gratitude-happiness-doubled-by-wonder/) left me with similar questions that still challenge me. Brian argues that meetings make decisions that have repercussions beyond the time, place and people at the meeting. They are, therefore, privileged occasions when we can co-operate with God; to help build the Kingdom of God or frustrate the Kingdom.
Now I dislike meetings more than the next person. Framing them in the context of the labour pains through which the whole creation is going through so that everything in heaven and earth might be reconciled in Christ (Col.1:19-20) makes me think that I should try to promote this agenda at meetings that I attend. The message isn’t new but it’s presented in a way that seems fresh and as challenging as the Baptist disturbing Mass.