Secular Franciscan Order

Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis

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OFS_logoPRESIDENCY OF THE OFS INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL
ONGOING FORMATION PROJECT
MONTHLY DOSSIER
MAY 2012 – YEAR 3 – No. 29

 

 

DOC)

 

EVANGELIZED TO EVANGELIZE

by Fr. Fernando Ventura, OFMCap
Dossier prepared by the CIOFS Ongoing Formation Team
Ewald Kreuzer, OFS, Coordinator
Fr. Amando Trujillo Cano, TOR
Doug Clorey, OFS


 

THE BEATITUDES:
THE MOST DANGEROUS AND REVOLUTIONARY TEXT IN HUMAN HISTORY (Part I)

In the May and June Dossier, we will reflect on the most dangerous and revolutionary text in the history of humankind. In his presentation, Fr. Fernando presents the "Constitutional Charter" of Christianity, the text that manages to explain the reason why we are here, the text where we can discover our mission, and the text without which we will never find the meaning of our lives.

Regrettably, it is possible for us to turn the text of the beatitudes into a pious exhortation to a state of resignation... a kind of anesthesia... that removes from the individual the ability to act.  He or she becomes depersonalized and everything is attributed to the will of God: what is lacking in his/her life in terms of actual needs - effective, affective, and material - and even the lack of recognition of one’s personal dignity.  The individual is left in a kind of "limbo", awaiting for a liberation that never comes, and that leads to the sin of “deferring hope”.

Danger of resignation

Are you suffering? Are your rights violated? Are you hungry? Do you have the minimum required to live with dignity?  Do you feel alone and abandoned?

Well, be patient because this is the will of God … and in eternity, you will be very happy (!)

This postponement of hope is sinful, opiate, neurotic and stupid. And, unfortunately, this is still very much the speech of some "pious minds in our squares".  Although these barbarities are not said aloud, they are thought about, and form a frame of thought and reflection that can lead to a foolish kind of charity that will never lead to the revolutionary solidarity needed in our time.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit...” (Mt 5,3)

Being the first of the Gospels, let’s examine Matthew. First of all, it is important to say that, regardless of how well we speak a foreign language, we cannot stop thinking in our own language. This is exactly what happens with Matthew. He writes his texts in Greek, but his own language is Aramaic or Hebrew. When composing this key phrase of the entire text of the beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, the first key that unlocks the main door to the hidden code of the Bible, Matthew feels that the Greek language is not able to bring to light the exact concept he is trying to get across.

A lingutisic difficulty: what does "poor" mean?

Indeed, everything plays out from the word "poor". This is really the key to reading and interpreting the whole text. In his mother tongue, Matthew has two different words to talk about the two different categories of the poor. In Hebrew,  the words Dalim and Anawim are used to talk about two different categories of people, referring not only to their social status, but, above all, to their main attitude towards life.

The Greek language, like most of the languages we use today, has few words to describe the "poor" and those words that are available always describe the poor as people who lack the minimum to live on with dignity. Take, for example, the Portuguese language:  the “poor”, “needy”, “destitute”, “homeless”, “beggars”, etc are all words that describe a certain type of people of which, objectively, we cannot say that they are “happy," and, even less so, that they are in that situation because that is the will of God for them and that they will be very happy in eternity...

With this kind of thinking, we can in fact engage in “religious terrorism” and agree with Marx and Freud if religion is used to insult God and the poor, committing that sin of “deferring hope”. We cannot be proponents of hopelessness. We cannot insult the poor in the name of God; much less so can we do it from our own abundance, describing the misery of others as God’s determination and a sine qua non condition for a future of eternal bliss. This is an insult. This is terrorism. But, unfortunately, it is done...

When does eternity begin?

One of the ills that greatly afflict our thinking has to do with the fact that we are more or less convinced that our eternity begins at the time of our death.  Another big mistake! The fact is that our eternity begins at the moment of our conception. Thus, if it is so, the time, space, and earth which we live are already impregnated with eternity. If it is so, we are already experiencing eternity and the moment of death becomes the pinnacle of life. If it is so, the moment of death is the moment of the definitive encounter with God ... the moment of death is the moment of resurrection! I believe that, to this day, Francis of Assisi was the only one able to understand all of this to its logical conclusion and therefore was able to call death "sister”.

Where the revolution starts

Let’s return to the linguistic difficulty of Matthew who lacks words in Greek to say whatever he purports to cover with his Hebrew linguistic culture. Blessed are the poor in spirit ... the poor of spirit ... motivated by the spirit ... the poor led or conducted by the spirit ... all these are possible translations of this Greek expression in which Matthew is forced to add to the word "poor" in order to safeguard the dignity of the latter, as well as the dignity of the ways we speak and understand God in his "being" and "acting" with us, but especially through us. It is here that the revolution starts.

And, it is also here that the “hidden code” is articulated.  And, because it is so hidden, it is also shamelessly made manifest. It is not a “code” that hides unspeakable secrets but a “code” that discloses how to be of God and of others, or better yet, how to be of God being of others. But, it is also from here that can arise the religious terrorism that postpones hope to a beyond in temporal time. Or, it is from here that we can be thrown into the deepest dimensions of being and acting human. More than a text that speaks of the "action of God", the Beatitudes are, on the contrary, the Magna Carta of human action in the light of God, the Constitutional Charter to be followed by all those men and women who dare to be of God in the path of Jesus Christ. These are the men and women who dare to be of God and of others. This idea bears repeating... maybe, one day, it will stick.

A code for reading the Bible

From here, we can start reading the text and our own lives without fear or hindrance. It is here that we will find, in fact, a code for reading the Bible. Far from being a secret code, hidden in the innermost shelves of eternity where the mold eats away, it is a challenge that is so disquieting and disturbing that it makes me come out of myself, and thus take me out of my comfort zones and throws me into action; it does not allow me to use a cosmetic salon that hides the wrinkles of my faith, but pushes me into the open field where I can even get sunburnt, but is the only place where I can find a "lasting tan." The final challenge remains the same ... challenging, disturbing, disquieting, pushing for victory over this schizophrenia that leads us to want to be of God without being of others, to live as divorced from life, in a pseudo-marriage with God,… marked by successive and increasingly deep "stabs’ in our matrimony.

The reference to the poor

The key word, the central concept that gives meaning to the whole text, is the reference to the poor. Separating the two basic categories for which the Hebrew language allows no confusion, we find then a God who does not need a people who is miserable, ragged, snotty, waiting for a happiness that is sure to come in the afterlife, but rather a God that presents a personal and unavoidable challenge. Those who are proclaimed happy are not those who do not have the minimum to live on with dignity, but those who recognize that everything they have comes from God and, therefore, are open to others unconditionally. They are the ones who put all of their "riches", of whatever type that they are, at the service of others. To these belong the kingdom of heaven, because it is to these that is given the task of building a world in defiance of the "norm", of the "do not worry," of the image and likeness of Cain's speech, in his answer to the question of God: "Cain, what did you do to your brother?"; "I am not responsible for my brother."  How much actuality there is in a sentence with more than 2500 years of history!

The poverty that God loves

The poverty that God loves, the poverty which God challenges in the Beatitudes, is not even close to the poverty of the "not having" material goods or other materials.  The challenge of poverty, as a minimum, is for all of us to avoid the mania that we own the world, that we are the center of history, that we are the holders of the absolute truths about life, death, and eternity; these are the riches that lead so many people to live with their bellies full of God in such a way that they cannot let out more than a few mystical gases for the consumption of others, because the space for their own conversion is quite occupied, and their bellies so swollen that they cannot see the floor that they step on ...The poverty that God loves goes the other way. And it is very important to make this clear. I can be much richer by owning a car falling to pieces but that I do not put at the service of anyone, than to have a newer car that I put at the service of all and, moreover, assume to drive myself...

The key to the reading of the Beatitudes

This is the key to reading the Beatitudes. As we said, it is the most dangerous, and revolutionary text in human history; far from being a text which speaks of God, it is, above all, a text in which God speaks for us. The difficulty is precisely here… to accept that God speaks... furthermore, to accept that God pushes me to be different, to put at risk all my comforts, my securities, my preconceived ideas, my ways of "not thinking" because all this is difficult, because all of this hurts, because all of this makes me concerned, because it stirs all the chicken coops where I move; hopefully at least Jonathan Livingston Seagull learned the joy of flying ...

But it is precisely here that the strength of a religion is at stake; it is here that one can evaluate the degree of commitment of someone with their way of reading life and understanding God. A religion is exactly this ... a challenge to freedom, a "punch in the stomach" of laziness that makes me not even think, because everything is already said and thought by others... and I have nothing more than to conform myself with what was "always taught me" because it is so and that’s it. How boring! This kind of religion is opium and neurosis in the words of Marx and Freud respectively. In this respect we should hear Professor Agostinho da Silva’s words “I do not have a religion; there is a religion that has me.”

To live with dignity

Now, we can read without fear the rest of the text. The poor and suffering will no longer feel insulted in their dignity and, even those who do not have even the minimum to live with dignity (the poor Dalim in Hebrew), already can finally feel happy.  This is so, not because after death they would be able to enjoy all that was denied them in life, but because increasingly, there will be more anawim, those people that meddle in the lives of others so that these may have the right to be people and to have life, and the dalim, those without the right to live the life of people, will cease to exist.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION IN FRATERNITY

1. Why are the Beatitudes such a dangerous and revolutionary text?

2. Which kind of poverty does God love?

3. What is the key to reading the Beatitudes?

OFS_logoPRESIDENCY OF THE OFS INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL
ONGOING FORMATION PROJECT
MONTHLY DOSSIER
APRIL 2012 – YEAR 3 – No. 28

 

 

 

DOC)

 

EVANGELIZED TO EVANGELIZE

by Fr. Fernando Ventura, OFMCap
Dossier prepared by the CIOFS Ongoing Formation Team
Ewald Kreuzer, OFS, Coordinator
Fr. Amando Trujillo Cano, TOR
Doug Clorey, OFS


 

THE EXODUS IS A KEY READING

In this dossier, Fr. Fernando reminds us that "Exodus is the founding experience of Israel". Even though hope seemed to be under the desert sand, the people of Israel discovered God.  And, so, the Exodus story becomes of key importance in discovering that God creates memories in history and that the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, and Father of Jesus Christ, is not a God of a distant heaven, but a God of the here and now.

Discovering the God of Israel

The Book of Exodus is key to discovering that God creates memories in history. We can see this from the very beginning of Exodus. The whole narrative of the disaster begins with the persecution in Egypt and states that “Then there came to power in Egypt a new king who had never heard of Joseph” (Exodus 1: 8). Another way of saying this is that a man came to power without having any memory of the past; that is, he comes to power without the backdrop of history. This is where it seems that everything has gone … where hope has been buried under the desert sand. However, it is precisely here that God is discovered. For this reason, Exodus is the founding experience of Israel.  The text carries the whole symbolic load of time and of memory.  We have been able to survive for two thousand years only because, from the year 70 to 1946, we have kept saying every year - next year in Jerusalem. This is our point of departure and it is here that we are.  God is the national hero of Israel.  And, we owe this brilliant intuition to the Jews, and to the people of the Old Testament, who brought the God of heaven down to earth.

A God of the here and now

The God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, and Father of Jesus Christ is not a God of a distant heaven, but a God of the here and now ... a gypsy God, a God of the road, of the dust, and of the wind.  This God is addressed as “you” (familiar).  This is significant because, in Greek and Hebrew, there is no formal form of "you”. “Blessed are you (familiar), Lord God of Israel, the eternal King.”  This is how all the Jewish prayer formulas begin. We talk with God in familiar language, (like the Spanish or French form of “Tu”), not out of disrespect but because our relationship with him is close; the message is that God ‘converted’ to us.  And, in fact, my “I” can only grow in light of a “You” (familiar)” that is in the relationship. Any one of us, in the presence of an Excellency, bows.  My “I” can only grow in the presence of a relationship with a “Tu”, a familiar “you”. This is the message of the Bible; this is the message of Francis. This is the cry of the universal fraternity, without masters or slaves ... a society of brothers and sisters.

But look how far we are from this reality!  In our own native cultures, we often live in our fraternities with the same lack of respect as our society lives.  We keep living based on our titles … based on our "gold" (possessions) … based on our caste.... at all levels and in all cultures.  And, often we continue to have a caste mentality in our fraternities, in our convents, and in our monasteries.  This is wrong.  This is not the road on which we are meant to travel.  Our ultimate goal cannot be about power.  The ultimate goal cannot be becoming a member of an organization in order to fix my life and the life of those who are mine ... to serve myself with the structure in which I have put myself.  And this is what we have ... people coming to suck as parasites – parasites of the Church, parasites of the Order, parasites of fraternities, convents and monasteries. We are fed up with these people!

A God who sees, who knows, and who comes down

Let us go back to the dialogue between God and Moses at Horeb (Exodus 3: 7-10) and pay attention to the verbs used in the text. Clearly, this is not about a God from a distant heaven. It is about a God who sees, who knows, and who comes down to set free.  This is kenos, or self-emptying.  Often, however, ours is not a kenosis (self-emptying), but rather an anastasis (resurrection).  As we become priests, nuns and friars (and even Secular Franciscans), we do not come down to the level of anyone, but rather we go up the social scale. This is shame for the Order in the world, and is observed on every continent.  We continue to have many vocations where being a priest, a nun or a monk is still considered to be a social promotion; where it is not, things get ugly. But, this situation challenges us to reflection. Have we come for a kenosis (self-emptying), or for an anastasis (resurrection)? They say in my country that the only people who can live without working are priests and members of the military.... perhaps they are right. This God ‘converts’ to us and brings himself down to be with us, so that we can also rise with him.  This is the God, who comes down to my world, and who ‘converts’ to me so that my history can be transformed into eternity ... so that my immanence can be transformed into transcendence. This is the way.

God´s message and plan

And this is the message: “On this mountain* the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations. He will destroy death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces; the reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 25: 6-8). This is the Eucharistic text of the Old Testament.  And this is the challenge of intimacy of which we dream. This is Isaiah. What is the theme behind the text?  It's a meal. Who is the cook?  God!  Who invites to the meal?  God!  Who are the guests? All the people, including Catholics. And what is the menu? Rich foods and choice wines. Consider the menu with the idea of time: a cow needs time to fatten … to age, wine also needs time. This is a plan, a life project that is open to all, without exception, without exclusion.

Unfortunately, our Church continues to have people who are marked and excluded because they are outside ... because we, the saints, cannot live with the sinners.  But, at this feast, all are welcomed! The feast is prepared with time and for all … from this life lived together … from this experience of communion and fraternity. And, what about the veil that covers the people? What is going to happen with this veil? In fact, what is this veil of mourning? This veil is a cloth that keeps us from seeing, and thus impedes communication … not because of our differences, but WITH our differences. What will God do with the tears? Where do I have to be to wipe the tears of another? Where is God? He is not a God in a distant heaven. No, He is a God who is not afraid to say, “I love you!”

It is this God before whom we too can say with Isaiah, "the spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me." Who was anointed? We are all anointed! And for what purpose are we anointed? It is only good for one thing … for the mission. The rest is pure folklore … the rest is to desire to continue discussing nonsense!

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION IN FRATERNITY

1. Why is the story of the Exodus so important for us to understand?

2. How can we, as fraternities, live in solidarity with all humankind irrespective of our position in society, of our possessions or of any power that we may think that we have?

3. In what ways do we as Secular Franciscans exclude others in our daily living?  In what practical ways can we become people that include rather than exclude?


OFS_logoPRESIDENCY OF THE OFS INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL
ONGOING FORMATION PROJECT
MONTHLY DOSSIER
FEBRUARY 2012 – YEAR 3 – No. 26

 

EVANGELIZED TO EVANGELIZE

DOC)

by Fr. Fernando Ventura, OFMCap
Dossier prepared by the CIOFS Ongoing Formation Team
Ewald Kreuzer, OFS, Coordinator
Fr. Amando Trujillo Cano, TOR
Doug Clorey, OFS

 

IT IS TIME FOR EMMAUS

 

The XIII General Chapter of the Secular Franciscan Order, held in Sao Paolo, Brazil, from October 22-29, 2011, chose “Evangelized to Evangelize” as its theme. Fr. Fernando Ventura OFMCap was the keynote speaker. "This is the time to hear thousands and thousands, millions of our brothers and sisters, walking toward Emmaus", said Fr. Fernando. He knows the global situation very well from his own experiences and travels around the world. In this part of his lecture, he explains why this is the time for us to go back to Emmaus and to rediscover the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and to reflect on their experience of leaving behind the centrality of faith and hope as they walked towards the periphery of despair. We encourage you to read, to study and to discuss the contents of this February Dossier with your brothers and sisters in your fraternity.

 

OFS_logoPRESIDENCY OF THE OFS INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL
ONGOING FORMATION PROJECT
MONTHLY DOSSIER
MARCH 2012 – YEAR 3 – No. 27

 

EVANGELIZED TO EVANGELIZE

DOC)

by Fr. Fernando Ventura, OFMCap
Dossier prepared by the CIOFS Ongoing Formation Team
Ewald Kreuzer, OFS, Coordinator
Fr. Amando Trujillo Cano, TOR
Doug Clorey, OFS

WHAT IS GOD’S RELIGION?

This dossier continues with the presentation of Fr. Fernando Ventura, OFM Cap, delivered during the 2011 General Chapter in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In this text, Fr. Fernando begins by posing some provocative questions about our notions of God and religion. He goes on to remind us that the challenge of the Gospel is the building of a "common home", a place where finally "Love can be loved". He concludes that we can only have a relationship with God when we have a relationship with others, and that we must go from being people of religion to being people of faith.

What is God’s religion? In whom does God believe? Do we have a God who is an atheist? 

 We have a God who believes in us. I am God’s religion. We are God’s religion. This is a punch in the stomach, but we still don’t have it clear. Catholics have the crazy idea that God is Catholic … Protestants, that God is Protestant ... Muslims, that God is Muslim ... Jews that God is Jewish. And, it is for this reason that we have been killing each other for centuries. This is why all religions have their hands stained with blood … without exception!

A common home

The challenge of the Gospel is this, Francis' challenge is this: a common home … a place where finally "Love can be loved" … without fear of words, without fear of emotions. Because this house sometimes becomes the mother-in-law’s house, it becomes a "sick" home because we are all "fed up" with each other.  And there is no one who will put up with us!

Let us be aware of our place in the universe: the third rock from the sun ... Mercury, Venus, Earth … a small dot in the universe … a grain of sand. But we are, and we have our place, and we need to change this piece of the earth where we live.  It is up to us to touch, and it is up to us to discover that the new name for ecology might be “solidarity”, and that the new name for ethics might be “fraternity”.

A phrase can change many lives. What is the phrase that can change many lives? Could it be “I love you”? It sounds easy, but it's not at all. However, it’s clear that a little sugar can change everything. Often, we live as Narcissus, one who lived in love with his own self alone. So many people in the world … in love with ourselves, with our religions, with our philosophies, with our neuroses.

 

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