Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Fire Sale of the Spirit

Arise — go! Sell all you possess. Give it directly, personally to the poor. Take up My cross (their cross) and follow Me, going to the poor, being poor, being one with them, one with Me.
Little — be always little! Be simple, poor, childlike.
Preach the Gospel with your life — without compromise! Listen to the Spirit. He will lead you.
Do little things exceedingly well for love of Me.
Love... love... love, never counting the cost.
Go into the marketplace and stay with Me. Pray, fast. Pray always, fast.
Be hidden. Be a light to your neighbour’s feet. Go without fear into the depth of men’s hearts. I shall be with you.
Pray always. I will be your rest.
The Little Mandate of Madonna House

Sell all you possess. Give it directly, personally to the poor. Tuesday is Little Mandate day at this blog, my chance to go through these essential words we believe God gave to our foundress Catherine De Hueck Doherty as the foundation of our vocation and its spirit.

Today we have what Catherine and we consider to be the very heart of the matter, the call taken directly from the Gospels to sell all we possess and give it to the poor. It was this passage from the Bible, from the story of Jesus and the rich young man (Matt 19: 17-26; Mark 10: 17-31, Luke 18: 18-30)., that pursued Catherine as a young woman in Toronto. Her Bible would fall open at that page; other bibles would open at that page; no matter how often she tried, with Bibles of all shapes and sizes, they would open at that page. She was pursued by the rich young man and Jesus’ words to him.

Finally, and only with the permission of her local bishop, she did precisely that. At the time she was a fairly successful woman with a relatively comfortable life, but within a short time she was living in a little room in a Toronto slum with not one idea in her head about what would happen next except that she was to pray ardently and serve her neighbours generously.

God had other plans, of course, and sent people to join her to form a new type of lay Catholic community—something completely unheard of in those days. And so the story began of our apostolate.

The specific literal reading of this line of the Mandate is not too important, especially to those who may love and want to live MH spirituality but are not called to join us and make the promise of poverty we make. What matters here is the giving, not the selling, if I can put it that way. What matters is that everything in our life be put at the service of Christ and the poor to whom he sends us.

In Catherine’s case, there was a Depression going on, and you didn’t have to be too bright to figure out who the poor were who needed to be given everything one had. Today that kind of poverty certainly exists, and may increase in the years ahead if economists are to be believed, but there are other poverties, too—poverties coming from the breakdown of family life, the painful confusion, divisions, and disastrous compromises and corruptions in the Church, and a general societal collapse that has deeply injured the men and women of our day.

The whole point is that whatever we have, we have to give. The ‘selling’, which may be a literal thing we do, can also be understood as taking whatever steps need to be taken so that what we have is ‘giveable’, is made into something that can be at the ready service of whatever poor God presents to us. It is a 'fire sale' - the fire of love, and everything, indeed, must go.

There is much to this line of the mandate (which is truly a line of the Gospel), much that applies to every human being, every disciple of Jesus. Jesus was ‘all given’, all in for the poor who are us. His divinity was ‘sold’ to human flesh, in a sense (we can hear these words as addressed by God the Father to God the Son before the Incarnation) so that it could be given to us in that marvellous exchange of love.

This exchange conditions the whole nature of Christian life and ethics. Everything we have is for others, everything we have is only to be seen as something to be used for loving others, even as we have to discern the wise and prudent way to do that. Sell all you possess and give it directly, personally to the poor—I will revisit those last lines next time, but it is this clarion call that continually makes us arise and go, shakes our complacency and shatters our comfort. May we have the courage and generosity to accept it as a true word from the Lord and beg his help to live it.

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