SPIRITUALITY AND DEVELOPMENT FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM
By Mike O'Kane
Jubilee 2000... How do we celebrate a new era of justice and development in the life of humanity? How do we recapture for our Christian mission, the spiritual dimension of Jubilee according to our biblical tradition and understanding?
With these objectives in mind, the planning committee of the Central Mission Conference held its annual weekend seminars for 1999 and 2000. Would the weekends be an energizing source of spiritual growth and renewal? Would our goals meet the expectations of the participants? Each year, the Central Mission Conference brings together participants from varied walks of life, many involved in justice and development work. These annual conferences, held in November, are partially sponsored by the Mission Office of the Canadian Bishops and are designed to help Catholics better understand and live their mission vocation.
For this special two-part conference spanning 1999 and 2000, our facilitators were Fr. Michel Coté a Dominican Friar, and Greg de Groot-Maggetti, Co-ordinator for Citizens for Public Justice. They brought the conference objectives to life and guided participants through weekends that were challenging, deeply spiritual and powerfully motivating. Michel, a Scripture scholar, helped us to better understand the vision and dreams of our Creator in making the profound message of Jubilee and the Sabbath (weekly Jubilee) come alive.
Greg, with his involvement and commitment to social justice, helped us to look at the partial and imperfect vision that we dream for our world, and the vision of others-especially the architects of globalization. Together, Michel and Greg allowed God's vision to take form and new life and energy in the hearts of all participants.
For both weekends the conference room at the Scarboro Mission Centre was transformed into a holy place for prayer, reflection and quiet participation. We gathered around the Paschal Candle, a sign of the Risen Christ's presence. The candle was adorned with a tapestry of rainbow colours, God's sign of hope; the holiness of creation was present in a creative display of plants, flowers and earth. Small vigil lights lit from the Paschal Candle were interspersed in the display of plants and flowers, reminders that we as creatures of a loving Creator, are also co-creators with Christ in the building of God's Reign.
All of our sessions began with communal prayer, liturgical hymns and music. Prayer in this sacred place helped us to dream and envision our role in the Divine plan for the world: "There must be always remaining in everyone's life, some place for the singing of angels...The commonplace is shot through with new glory...Despite all the harsh discord of life, life is saved by the singing of angels." (Howard Thurman)
OBSERVING THE SABBATH
Both weekends placed special emphasis on the observance of the Sabbath. Michel recounted the Genesis creation story: that God worked six days, but rested on the Sabbath to look at what had been accomplished. We, too, must observe the Sabbath and rest. Rest produces shalom, peace, blessedness, renewal. It is through rest-through the Sabbath-that we take time to reflect on the wonder and beauty of God's creation. It is through the Sabbath that we begin to see ourselves as co-creators and are reminded that we bear God's image, one dependent on God as Sustainer. God's power and presence in our personal and group lives are what sustain us.
The Sabbath teaches us the value of simply being. This value challenges the prevalent models of success and worthiness. Sabbath keeps the profound meaning and sense of Jubilee ever before us.
GOD'S VISION FOR US
"What vision does the Biblical Jubilee help us create for the world?" With this theme of the 1999 weekend, we examined our partial or imperfect vision and dreams for the world, and looked at alternate ones.
Michel helped us to embrace God's vision for the human family as laid out in Scripture. We saw that the vision and dreams of the prophets and apostles came out of God's embracing love and compassion for all of creation; that the true dreamer must be deeply anchored in God. God's peace must be at the heart of all visions and dreams.
We learned that God's Jubilee vision for us is a constant process of forgiveness, nonviolence and ongoing renewal. Using the biblical themes of release from bondage, freedom from debt and renewal of the Earth, participants crafted their vision for the future. It would include:
- recognizing and connecting with the Divine in all people and all of creation. We must be open to seeing the face of God in all people and God's presence in all of creation
- a just sharing of the fruits of the Earth
- acting with compassion
- living as Jubilee people filled with Gospel hope
- contributing to the Reign of God by specific actions for justice and peace, actions that will transform society.
We resolved to take small steps to make this vision and dream a reality, including:
- deepening our spirituality
- living more simply
- allowing the poor to touch us
- being aware of the gifts of others
- acknowledging God in our community.
"Weaving global perspectives into the immediacy of our lives." The theme of the 2000 weekend led us to reflect on what Jubilee means for us, and on our shared experiences of Jubilee.
We took time to rekindle our Christian memory and tradition. We reviewed good and bad globalization and how others have responded to globalization. We assessed the potential and the limitations of these responses for transforming our world. We explored favourite biblical texts that inspire us to tell the story of transformation. Finally, through a prayer and celebration process we attempted to weave our discussion and learning into the immediacy of our lives so as to live Jubilee daily in our communities as the millennium unfolds.