“A Christian is: a mind through which Christ thinks, a heart through which Christ loves, a voice through which Christ speaks, and a hand through which Christ helps.”

Saint Augustine

Thursday, 29 October 2020

The second ministry that Bonhoeffer recommends to us when trying to love a neighbour or person who is difficult to love is to practice a ministry of meekness. This means simply remembering that we too are sinners and that we have failed to love God and neighbour as we should have. Recognising our faults before judging others is a help to holiness. The sacrament of reconciliation, where we can confess our sins, can also become a time of confessing our faith in the good God.

St Augustine is famous for his book, Confessions. At one level St Augustine writes the work to confess his many sins. In particular, his youthful sins where he ran riot chasing everything and went down all sorts of wrong paths, often wronging people in quite serious ways. Here we find his memorable prayer, “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.” Yet, as he rehearses this litany of sin, the reader may believe that Augustine is burdened by guilt. However, on closer reading, we realise that he’s also confessing where God has been at work in his life and not just listing the things that make him awful. He’s saying ‘I’ve realised that these actions were less than they ought to have been because I now realise that God was calling me in these situations to something more.’

So his confession of sin becomes a confession of God’s closeness in his life. And that becomes a true confession, a true proclamation of the Christian faith. He ends up confessing his faith in Jesus Christ and God. This should be a reminder to us that regular self-examination, taking time to honestly reflect upon where we have been less than loving, especially towards our neighbour, is not at its deepest level, a morbid, pathological obsession. It is instead a liberating way in which we discover God’s invitation and grace to grow in love and patience, in love for others.

Lord,

In my worst moments, help me to see how you have been close and near to me. For all the sin in my life, I regret, and I give thanks that you have remained close to me, and invite me to come close to you again. Give me the courage to allow you to be the God of love and let me experience your mercy.

Amen.

 
Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 and underwent the usual course of studies in his formation, which took him to such varied places as Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Matthew manages the background technical aspects of much of the Institute's work and is involved in the Spirituality work whilst completing the Advanced Spiritual Directors Training Course and Spiritual Exercises Training run by the Institute. He is a member of Spiritual Directors International and is also a part-time lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St Augustine College of South Africa.

m.charlesworth@jesuitinstitute.org.za @mcharlesworth
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