By Lara Pickford-Gordon, firstname.lastname@example.org
The individualistic culture prevalent today has caused a “leave-me-alone spirituality” to develop, which is a mutation of the Christian faith.
“The self is placed above and beyond everything; the self becomes the heart and centre of our lives…that individualistic culture we have created is one in which we have lost consciousness of other people in our presence,” said Fr Jason Boatswain.
A priest in the Maloney/Arouca cluster, lecturer at the seminary and president of the Catholic Religious Education Development Institute, Fr Boatswain was speaking on ‘A call to love one another’ at the Catholic Charismatic Renewal 43rd annual rally May 22 at the Centre of Excellence, Tunapuna. The rally theme was A Call to Love (Deut 15:11; Mt 26:11).
Too much focus on self can cause people to ultimately become numb to the sufferings and experiences of others, Fr Boatswain said: “This has created Christians being very comfortable in their discipleship without being vulnerable to one another, without loving one another.”
He drew attention to Christians who think “my Christianity is about me and God”. They go to Mass, receive Holy Communion and leave, and their attitude is, ‘Please don’t ask me to socialise… I leaving before the priest give the final blessing…I don’t want to talk to nobody’.
Some people, he continued, kept to themselves because ‘church people like too much bacchanal’ while there were persons who think they can stay at home and pray.
He asked the audience, “Do you think Jesus loves us as we are—gossiping, bad-talking, backstabbing, betraying, adulterous, cuss buds… homosexuals, Venezuelans?…Do you think Jesus loves us?”
Fr Boatswain responded citing John 13:34–35 in which Jesus gave a new commandment, “Love one another just as I have loved you”. Christians are recognised as disciples of Christ by the way they love: “My dear friends, you will be a stranger to Jesus if you only love your God and not your brothers and sisters.”
Jesus also told his disciples (Jn 15:12–13) there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend. Fr Boatswain said Jesus showed what this entailed by laying down His life.
Jesus did not classify whom to love nor provided an explanation of ‘the other’ people should love. When asked ‘who is my neighbour?’, He gave the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25–37); Jews and Samaritans “did not get along”.
Fr Boatswain said, “Jesus opens the concept of the other—the other is anybody and everybody; the other is the person in need…Herein lies the challenge today: this invitation to love one another”. Although this can be difficult, through the grace of God and power of the Holy Spirit people receive what they need.
He commented that hell was the only place where people were cut off from each other and the presence of God. Warning against “pretend spirituality” masked as contemplation, he instructed the audience to seek love in community.
“To be a disciple you must be in community: that is where you will be able to love. Unfortunately, the self-centred spirituality has dulled our senses,” Fr Boatswain said. When self-centredness occurs, the Christian no longer feels compassion and empathy for others; their needs are not seen or cries heard.
Fr Boatswain related that he challenged himself and his spirituality by looking at the quality of his relationships. For those who call themselves spiritual but cannot get along with anyone, he advised them to do an “update”. “Your spiritual life, as internal as it may be, must reflect in it John 15—the fruits. If that is not happening check your spiritual life.”
Asserting the poor are given primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, Fr Boatswain said the call to love one another took on its deepest experience in the way we love the poor and less fortunate.
The Bible mentions God favours widows and orphans because they represent the poor and have no one else to depend on. He explained when Jesus told the disciples there will always be the poor, He was saying ‘I will be with you always in the poor’ and “whatsoever you do for the least of my brother you do unto me” (Mt 25:40).
Fr Boatswain said, “We have to open our eyes to be able to see the presence of Jesus in the mystery of compassion as we minister to the poor” .