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My sermon for the 33th Sunday of the Ordinary Time at St Philips, Brisbane

We are coming to the end of this liturgical year and it is almost time to say goodbye to Matthew. Before we start our next liturgical journey with Mark, Matthew, whose gospel we have been reading throughout the past year, is leaving us with three great parables which help us understand what the kingdom of God is. Last week we heard the parable of the ten bridesmaids, five are prepared even for a delay, five are not. That parable taught us to always be ready, to be prepared even for a long wait for the kingdom of God. Next Sunday we’ll be celebrating Christ as the King of the universe by reading the parable of the final judgement which will tell us how we can enter the kingdom of God while the Sunday after that we will begin the Advent with the Gospel according to Mark. This Sunday we have the famous parable of the talents. I personally believe that the parable we have just heard is one of the most famous in the whole Gospel. I think even people who very rarely go to church know about this parable.

 

I don’t mean now to disappoint any followers amongst you of the prosperity Gospel, but I don’t think this parable’s meaning is a praise of the ability of making money and becoming rich, although, as you have probably heard, the word talent originally did mean a large sum of money, almost a treasure: I did some research and I found out that it is equal to the wages of a day laborer for fifteen years. In modern languages the term refers to God-given abilities “gifts, graces or skills.” But after reading the Gospel over and over again, I was not so sure that talents here stand for any specific qualities or skills that we may have and we need to develop. In my view, this would be a very limited and superficial interpretation of this parable and does not fit well with the other readings of the day. When we read Paul in 1 Th 4:13 – 5:11, we are prompted to think about the end of the times, the last things and God’s judgment.
Paul’s verses are full with apocalyptic imagery, that suggests an imminent end and final days: The proverbial “thief in the night”, the children of light and so on. Yet, Paul’s apocalyptic vision inspired hope, gave comfort, and provided challenge to the socially alienated persons of his days.
With an eye towards the future and yet with a challenge for community solidarity in the present circumstances. Paul’s apocalyptic vision reads the present reality in the light of the future expectation. And I think Matthew too wants us to think about the ultimate purpose of our life.
So, like I said I don’t think talents here mean skills or abilities that we need to use and develop. after all, the gospel says that the master gave these talents to each servant, according to his ability. So Matthew already acknowledges that the servants have different skills and abilities Some people have said that talents here might stand for gifts of another nature, maybe of a spiritual kind, maybe faith, maybe the grace from God. What if the word talent, instead of meaning this or that skill or gift, actually means THE gift we all have received, that is, life itself and what we make of it.

 

Maybe we are confused by the fact that the three servants receive different amounts of money. We might even think that the master hasn’t been fair and we might feel sorry for the servant who got only one talent. But the different quantities simply reveal that each gift is in fact a personal gift, that we all have received a life to live which no-one else can live for us. Luke in chapter 19 also tells us of a similar story in the parable of the kings and the ten servants where they all receive the same amount. In Matthew the gifts are different but again, the source is one and the aim is the same for everyone: so that we may have life, and have it to the full. And that is what the first two servants did and they receive more responsibility because they proved to be trustworthy and even access to their Master’s joy. But what about the third servant? After all, he wasn’t dishonest, just maybe a little too cautious. However, his talent was taken off him and given to the one who had already ten!
It is tipical of Matthew to use strong language. This might take people who hear his stories by surprise and sometimes leave them puzzled. But the strong language is due to the importance of the subject. Matthew seems to tell us: it is your life we are talking about here. So our focus should be on the explanation that the third servant gave to his master and not on the different gifts: it can help s to reflect on our relationship with God, our own understanding of God and the way we live our lives. He said to his master, I know you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.
The point here is that in saying this, he is passing a judgment on God, he has got an image of God that comes from his own assumptions and projections: “ I was afraid, you are a harsh man” he says “ I hid your talent in the ground. So Matthew is telling us, look what he has done: the fear of the Lord, has prevented him from living his own life and in fact he wasted it. By Burying his only talent he buried his own life instead of living it. So this negative image of God has determined the way he lived his own life: in the same gospel of Matthew we read about the parable of the hidden treasure: Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found, and hid. In his joy, he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.”
— Matthew 13:44
Here the joy of the discovery of the treasure prompted the man to sell everything, to re-position his life around than field, because the experience of finding the treasure is the experience of the love of God, so great and overwhelming that he thought I don’t need anything else now. . In today’s parable the servant is unable to do anything with the gift because he did not understand it and Matthew is telling us that is unacceptable. His master had expressed confidence in him, but he thought that his master was a harsh man. Generations and generations of Christians grew up with this idea of a rigid and judgmental God and I can still find people who think like that even among young people. But if we think of God as judgmental, hard, rigid, we will behave the same way. For some people It doesn’t matter that the God reveal to us by Christ is completely different from that image: this servant, like many of us, thought that it was better to preserve his own safety and security rather than running the risk of losing the money and angering his master. Therefore he trusted himself, his own projections onto God more than God himself. But can we play it safe all the time? Life demands risk: there is a risk of losing, yes, but also opportunity to do something great and beautiful; when we love, for instance, we take a risk, we are vulnerable, we expose our weaknesses, we suffer but we can also live an incredible joy: and God wants us to live exactly that and experience happiness, to live out our own uniqueness and humanity without being paralyzed by fears or false images of God. God has really given us something extremely precious because he trusts us and wants to make us part of his project. If we do not respond with the same trust to his calling, if we do not dare to live and love to the fullest, we run the risk of missing out the purpose of our life entirely.

 

We, as disciples of Christ, are called to achieve great things, to be the light of the world but sometimes we fail to realize that and we settle for much less. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, appeared to have the same concern for widening our outlook when he wrote to the participants in a European Meeting in Geneva: “To have faith is to be willing to live so as to show that God is alive. And that means to live in ways which show that there are more possibilities than the world recognizes.” In times when we often experience the absence of God rather than his presence, it is imperative that we use the time we have to make the most of our life by working towards the common good, because the Christian life is never individualistic: its source and its purpose is to establish a communion of love with God and with one another. And today’s liturgy gives us an example of such a life if we look at the woman from the book of Proverbs. Yes, the Bible sometimes is very misogynistic which is due to the culture in which those books were written certainly not from the inspiration of God but this reading is a beautiful praise of a woman for being active, trustworthy, responsible, generous and compassionate. She also fears the Lord but this time it is not a paralyzing fear, but it is in fact “faithfulness”, devotion, love to God, that leads to action and involvement that bear fruits.
The gospel, after all, is full of a simple theology: the theology of the seed, of the yeast, of the fruits. It is up to us to be patient and intelligent co-worker in order to bring God’s creation to completion.
These last three parables invite us to evaluate our life with honesty and they contain a sense of urgency too: Matthew uses a harsh language sometimes because our human life is way too important to be wasted away: Instead of staying stuck in our fears, Christ wants us to grow in courage, love and joy certainly not in fear. In the Bible we often hear the words “don’t be afraid!” Although sometimes we have the impression that God has deserted us, we are reminded by Christ himself in the last few words of the Gospel of Matthew that “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Let us pray that we might use the gift of our life as God intended it to be and might be free from fear and darkness to be the children of light we are meant to be.

Call to be

For the first time in Christian History, a man thoroughly understood the Beatitudes, of which the first one is, quite appropriately, the following: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:3)

Without doubts, the monks had known poverty as an exercise, a sacrifice, an “asceticism”. But what was unknown to all except to Francis was that this kind of poverty simply means that the Godhead is Love.

 

The doctors of the Church, particularly St Augustine, meditated on the concept of the Godhead, on the depths of God within the image of the Trinity, but no one realized, as clearly as Francis did, what the Trinity means: God is the one who has nothing and the Godhead is the eternal light and love gushing forth from the Father into the Son, from the Son into the Father, and from the Father and the Son into the Holy Spirit.

Francis, who is not a doctor of the Church, who is not a scholar, speaks through images… He talks about the image of the Fire, an image that seizes him and runs through him, and this image seizes the Christian history allowing the Christian thought to overcome the impasse it was stuck in and move away from the Middle Age: if God is poverty, if God has nothing, if Godhead consists of a total and constant gift of itself, if this ocean of light and love is an eternal offering, a sharing among the three Persons, then God is no longer the Master, the Pantocrator, the Emperor and the King. God is simply love and love can only have a hold on love. All the tenderness of the world cannot do anything against a closed heart. All the tenderness of the world can only transform a life that is open to it; but if it is not, love is powerless.

 

This is what Francis taught us and what he lived out: the compassionate and loving God is also a God who is a victim, because God cannot do anything else but love: however, God’s love can be held in check and this check is the Cross.

“Therefore, it is true that God can die, that the creature has the power to kill God. And that’s why Francis could not stop weeping on the Passion of Jesus Christ”. He wept on his Passion until he became blind, when he sang the Canticle of Brother Sun just before he died, hardly seeing the twilight of the evening of 3 October 1226.

“Ah! He knows God is not the one who controls or overburdens us. He knows that God is the one who has given God self to us because God is nothing else but love. God cannot come back to us without our free consent, and if our heart is closed, if our soul is frozen, God is exiled, God can only die”. Thus the relationship between the humankind and God has really changed, because it is not about being ruled with a rod of iron by God but it is about working together with Love which always offers itself without imposing itself. It is about completing a creation which still remains imperfect. And, in fact, if God touches the world with God’s love, if God is the fruit of God’s tenderness, the world cannot exist in its fullness unless it offers love back and responds to God’s infinite tenderness.

Maurice Zundel ( 1897, Neuchâtel, – 1975, Ouchy, Lausanne, Switzerland, catholic priest and theologian)

Translation from the French is mine. Apologies for any mistakes.

Our Father in Heaven…

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Lk 11:1)

Although we live in a very secular culture, there is still a hunger for spirituality in many people.
Through creation, God called every being into existence. According to the Christian doctrine, men and women, made in the image of God, have an ongoing desire for their creator. This longing for God is part of human nature, because humankind has been created by God for God. Therefore, men and women feel the need of an answer in order to make sense of their life.

Many people are aware that this answer cannot be found in themselves or in their own culture, they believe they cannot be self-sufficient in their quest for meaning and truth but they need to get out of themselves towards the One who can fulfill the depths of their desire. This feeling of being incomplete, the desire for something more beyond the materialistic limits of our life is a common experience among believers and non-believers alike. Every human being is thirsty for beauty, love and truth and this desire leads them to look towards the Absolute, which Christian people call God. Christians believe that they were born with this longing for God impressed in their own flesh.

The most basic expression of this desire is prayer. It is this attraction towards God the root and source of all prayers. The prayer has been part of every human culture and religion across the centuries. From a Christian viewpoint, it is a response to God’s love and the main path to a personal relationship with God. It is the answer to the calling from God, who is revealing himself to us but also ourselves to us. When we enter in this dialogue, we are plunged into the depths of our own existence and we can get a glimpse of that absolute that we are all looking for.

However, God is not a distant deity but a living presence in our midst. If the humankind’s deepest desire is God, the Scripture teaches us that God’s desire for us is compassion, love and salvation. The rejection of God’s love from men and women is already a punishment in itself. Jeremiah says to his rebellious people that “Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me,” declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty. (Jer 2:19).
God wants to rescue the humankind from this bitterness, from this sadness, this lack of purpose, this sense of despair and failure. In order to do this, a transformation from within the human heart is necessary. However, it is necessary that this seed of good may grow and bear fruit in our own society too. Only one just person is necessary to save Jerusalem, according to Jeremiah “Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city. (jer 5:1).
But what if there is no person like this? In a world plagued by violence, corruption and poverty of any sort, where is the just one to save us from a self-destruction?
If there is no one just, then God will become one. Here we have the mystery of the incarnation. A just one will always be amongst us because God has become one for us in Jesus Christ. The Son of Man is the righteous, the perfect innocent who can forgive and intercede for us and make his own prayer to the Father our prayer too. Let us also be ready to pray and intercede for one another with faith and perseverance.

No Greatest Love

I got back from Christchurch just three days ago. I went there with the Society of Saint Vincent of Paul, a catholic organization which is very active in helping people on the margins of the society. I have been one of their volunteers for a while here in Hamilton, I know their standard of service and care and when I was asked whether I would like to join them in the mission to Christchurch I didn’t hesitate to answer yes. We stayed in Christchurch for a week and we spent every day preparing and delivering food to the people in the poorest neighbourhoods but also listening to their stories, concerns and fears. The aftershocks that keep shaking the city are a constant reminder of the double tragedy that hit Christchurch in September and February.
Many houses have been evacuated by people in search of a safer place to stay for a while o for good. We came across many dogs and cats roaming the streets seeking food and shelter.
We literally had to go from door to door seeking out anyone who wanted our help. I remember the shocked faces of the children we met and the people who still sleep in their clothes, and jump when the van door closes.
I think we all were deeply disturbed by all of this and our main concern was how to bring relief and hope to them all. We wanted them to feel hugged by the whole country. We meant to be a sign of God’s love in the midst of that devastation.
When they have to deal with a situation like this, all the believers are confronted and challenged in their faith by the question: where was God in all of this? Or, why does God allow so much suffering and pain? Questions of this kind have been haunting christian believers since the very beginning of the Church. Although I don’t believe we can have a definitive answer to these deep theological issues, maybe a look at the paschal mysteries that we have just celebrated may help us to shed some light on our human condition. God has created the world out of love and freedom. Creation, however, was just the beginning. The universe and the planet we live in are in constant change. In a sense, we might say that creation is still happening right now. The same dynamic forces that govern our planet and allow the life to flourish have also a destructive aspect which we experience from time to time.

However, God is not indifferent to our suffering and the message of Easter is affirming just that: God in Christ has won the power of death. At the very heart of the Christian faith lies the belief that God through Jesus Christ has taken on to God self all the trials and hardships of humankind and has returned a new creation and life through the resurrection. This is probably the greatest mystery of all, the strangest paradox: Christ, the archetypical representative of our humanity has shown us that love can conquer death; he embraced his fate which involved radical injustice and suffering which were overcome by God by raising him from death. The same love the Jesus showed throughout his life and ministry finds here its deepest fulfillment through forgiveness, love for the enemy, compassion for all the creatures and the gift of his own life for us all. We are now in a new day after Easter, we are the community he has established but we can be his disciples only if we are able to love God and one another the way he loved us.

Choosing hope

We live in a tired Church, says Enzo Bianchi, prior of the Bose Monastic community in Italy: more and more people are leaving the organized churches for a more spontaneous and private spirituality: they just don’t see the point in belonging to some church communities whose language, practice and culture they don’t understand anymore.

Lent can be a time to pause and reflect to where we are going as a Christian community. Natural disasters such as the earthquakes in Christchurch and Japan can shake the foundations of our faith. Where was God when disasters stroke those people? Much has been said and done regarding the theological responses to these kinds of disruptive events, therefore it is not necessary to repeat arguments and viewpoints which, I am sure, many of us are quite familiar with by now.

However, I would like to point out that the confusion reigning amongst the churches right now is not a product of our contemporary world, although we have to deal today with values that are the opposite of what the Gospel demands from us: individualism, narcissism, the pursuit of pleasure, the exploitation of the environment, the economic inequalities, the social injustice and so on… Also, living in the scientific era with its great emphasis on its technological achievements can give us the impression that we are in charge of our destiny and fully capable of directing our lives to where we want them to be. Recent events, however, have shown us we aren’t exactly in control of our lives. So, It is the way we respond to these new challenge that will define us as Christians. The New Testament teaches us that God sent Christ to free, liberate, redeem and save humanity from powers beyond its control. Like many before us, we can never fully grasp the extent of God’s creative plan and sometimes when we are hit by personal or collective tragedies, we are left shattered, confused, desperate or angry. Like the ancient Israelite in the desert we are tempted to turn our back on God, who seems distant and inaccessible, towards more approachable idols that can give us instant gratification.

But we don’t have to dwell in the desert forever. As Christians, we can be part of God’s creativity and life-affirming plan by choosing hope. As Bishop Victoria Matthews wrote, we choose this day to live a life of hope, sometimes in the midst of the greatest tragedies. We might struggle to make sense of our suffering and feel there is no tomorrow but in fact the resurrection of Easter has marked a new beginning for us,  not just on Easter day but every day of our life. It takes patience, courage and prayer to see the light of this new day when it is still dark all around us and the temptation of giving up is so strong but  we needn’t be afraid: by becoming disciples of  Christ,  we have chosen hope over fear.

Lent 2011 – Fear not the conflict!

I have come across this spiritual reading by Gregory of Nazianzus (329–January 25, 389 C.E.) who, along with Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, is known as one of the Cappadocian Fathers. It made me think about the spiritual struggle we have to endure every day. Thought it might be quite appropriate for Lent.

*              *               *

If after baptism the persecutor and tempter of the light assails you (for he assailed even the Word my God through the veil, the hidden Light through that which was manifested), you have the means to conquer him. Fear not the conflict! Defend yourself with the Water; defend yourself with the Spirit, by Which all the fiery darts of the wicked shall be quenched. It is Spirit, but That Spirit which rent the Mountains ( PS 97,5). It is Water, but that which quenches fire. If he assails you by your want (as he dared to assail Christ), and asks that stones should be made bread, do not be ignorant of his devices. Teach him what he has not learnt.

Defend yourself with the Word of life, Who is the Bread sent down from heaven, and giving life to the world ( Jn 6,33).  If he plots against you with vain glory (as he did against Christ when he led Him up to the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, Cast Thyself down (Mt 4,6) as a proof of Thy Godhead), be not overborne by elation. If you are taken by this he will not stop here. For he is insatiable, he grasps at every thing. He fawns upon you with fair pretences, but he ends in evil; this is the manner of his fighting.

Yes, and the robber is skilled in Scripture. On the one side was that It is written about the Bread, and on the other that it Is written about the Angels. It is written, quoth he, He shall give His Angels charge concerning thee, and they shall bear thee in their hands.(Ps 91, 11-12; Mt 4,6) O vile sophist! how was it that thou didst suppress the words that follow, for I know it well, even if thou passest it by in silence? I will make thee to go upon the asp and basilisk, and I will tread upon serpents and scorpions, being fenced by the Trinity. If he wrestles against thee to a fall through avarice, shewing thee all the Kingdoms at one instant and in the twinkling of an eye, as belonging to himself, and demands thy worship, despise him as a beggar. Say to him relying on the Seal, “I am myself the Image of God; I have not yet been east down from the heavenly Glory, as thou wast through thy pride; I have put on Christ; I have been transformed into Christ by Baptism; worship thou me.” Well do I know that he will depart, defeated and put to shame by this; as he did from Christ the first Light, so he will from those who are illumined by Christ.

Gregory of Nazianzus, Orations, 40,10

Christchurch Quake

The earthquake that hit Christchurch and the surrounding region Tuesday 22 February 2011 was even more devastating than the one in September last year in terms of loss of human lives.

People from New Zealand and the rest of the world have been watching the images of the city in ruin with presumably a wide range of emotions: unbelief, fear, pain, compassion… Many have been trying to get hold of the people they know who live in the area hoping to get a reassurance they are all right.

The response from the rest of the country since the quake has been amazing. Offerings of help and assistance of any kind have been pouring from every corner of New Zealand and beyond.
Hopefully this tidal wave of solidarity will help bring fresh hope into the lives of the people of Chistchurch and alleviate some of their anguish.

In the aftermath of their and our darkest day, a good piece of news has been reported by some media: Emma Howard and Chris Greenslade ( see photo) got married today at the Christ the King Catholic Church in Burnside, after Emma was rescued from ruins of the Pyne Gould building on Tuesday. Her husband was reportedly in the team of volunteers who managed to rescue her.

This marriage, a celebration of love just three days after the quake, brought to my mind the words of Enzo Bianchi, prior of the monastic community of Bose in Italy, who spoke after the quake that hit the Abruzzo region just days before Easter in 2009. The pain of the victims’ families and friends, he said, tells us of the mystery of the human suffering and, at the same time, of the suffering of Christ himself. “Behold the man”, Pontius Pilate said when he was about to condemn this Rabbi from Nazareth. Here comes the man, here comes the whole humankind with its burden of pain and death, with all its frailty and weakness.

The funeral service for the victims of the earthquake in Italy was held on Good Friday and included the Eucharist. This is the only day of the year the Church doesn’t celebrate the Eucharist.  An exception was made on that occasion because the Church deemed appropriate to link the funeral with Good Friday in the light of the Resurrection, the day when the power of the love of God will prevail on everything else, “He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness or pain. The world of past has gone.” (Rv 21:4), only love will remain on that day, the same love we can live out every day our life despite and through all the pain.

For both believers and unbelievers the mystery of evil still remains unsolved but to see the love and the solidarity among human beings may give us some meaning and hope that there is something more powerful than death. Because this is the Easter message, something that we Christians nowadays seem unable to communicate to the others with strength and conviction: Christ is risen because he loved us till the end and to the point of accepting a violent death.

So congratulations Emma and Chris, your love helps to remind us that love can really conquer death and we have seen it today in the City of the Church of Christ.

To the Egyptian People

A great part of humanity live in poverty, injustice and oppression; therefore, people of good will from everywhere should commit themselves in renewing the society towards justice, liberation and peace in the risen Lord Jesus, analysing the individual reasons and participating in suitable actions of love, justice and international solidarity.

(General Constitutions of the Order Friars Minor Art 96.2)

I have come to bring you peace

Not the peace of the season, for it is too fleeting.

Not the peace of the carol, for it is nostalgic.

Not the peace of the greeting card, for it is too slick.

Not the peace of the crib, for it is too wistful.

I have come to bring you peace.

Peace of the ordinary, the daily, the homely,

Peace for the worker, the driver, the student,

Peace in the office, the kitchen, the farm.

I have come to bring you peace.

The peace of accepting yourself as I fashioned you,

The peace of knowing yourself as I know you,

The peace of loving yourself as I love you,

The peace of being yourself as I am who I am.

I have come to bring you peace.

The peace that warms you at the completion of a task,

The peace that invades you at the close of the day,

The peace that sustains you at the beginning of the day,

The peace that reinforces you when you reconcile with another,

The peace that touches you when your family is in order.

Without peace, my coming is unfulfilled.

Without peace, my birth is forgettable.

Without peace, Christmas is a contradiction.

 

I have come to bring you peace.”

Advent 2010

Years later, John the Baptist started preaching in the desert of Judea. He said, “Turn back
to God! The kingdom of heaven will soon be here.” (Mt 3:1-2)

Conversion might well be one of the most familiar words for Christians, yet one of the most misunderstood. What does it tell us today? What is conversion?
I know some people who associate this word with the gloomy and terrifying image of a fundamentalist preacher who threatens humankind with all sorts of divine punishment, should they fail to comply with the divine law. Even John the Baptist uses stern words towards certain groups of people like the Pharisees and the Sadducees! However, I believe the Gospel is trying to teach us an important lesson about God and about our human condition. How many times have we felt stuck in a situation, hopeless and unable to move on? How many times have we thought there was no way out, like we had to fulfill a destiny that could not be changed?

When John proclaims “Turn back!”, it reveals one important truth: we are free. The essence of our human condition is precisely the freedom that allows us to be and to live our life. In every instant of our life we can turn back to God. Even when we feel there’s no hope, that it is too late to change, God opens us for us a new set of possibilities. How we use this freedom and the possibilities that come with it, it is up to us. Sometimes – maybe too many times – we abuse it in an very self-destructive way. But even then, it is never to late, no matter how far we are, no matter who we are, where we are from or what we have done, there is always a chance to turn back. The good news of the Gospel is always about hope and freedom, never about oppression or fear. This is why we need to be aware of our christian witness: are we a force for good in the world?

There is here an important point that needs to be emphasized; many religious groups around the world claim to be wanting a change for the better. Some of their fervor and zeal come from the desire to get people to change into something they reckon it is the best for them. I believe no one can know the inner thoughts and feelings of another human being, not even the ones of those who live closest to us. In my view, it is an act of arrogance and disrespect, and therefore very unchristian,  to decide unilaterally what it is best for someone else. How can we presume to know the heart of another human being? Who gives us the right to judge the way of life of our neighbour? The conversion we are talking about only happens when someone realizes by him/herself how important and beautiful he or she is for God and starts living in a way the reflects their own intrinsic value as children of God. This can only happen in the freedom of a personal choice and realization and it is never forced on anyone. An authentic christian church should be a place where people feel free and confident enough to develop their own unique relationship with God within a community that supports and loves them for who they are and respect their freedom, their uniqueness and their dignity.

But this is not happening very often and people note instead an ever increasing gap between what it is preached from the pulpit and what it is really lived out in the community. How can the Church demand conversion if it is not able to unify its preaching and its actions, if it doesn’t become the visible sign of the kingdom of God? The hypocrisy of our own behaviour is the root of our present weakness as disciples of Christ. We preach but we do not practise (Mt 23:3)
Let’s hope this new century will bring a new way of being church. I think the following link can give us some clues for the future:

What is a church?

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