“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”
“Live simply so that others may simply live.”
This well-known quote attributed to Gandhi was a bumper sticker on the aged and worn automobile of one of my heroes whom I was privileged to know during the 1980s. Father Bond was the priest at the Episcopal Church which hosted 20 AA and NA meetings weekly. While that church social hall witnessed innumerable miracles of recovery, the sanctuary hosted a number of sober marriages. Father Bond ministered faithfully to his parish and to his wayward flock of recovering drunks.
What is it for me to live simply? For many years it meant a personal commitment to reducing material possessions to minimums. It meant being an environmentalist and a steward of God’s creation. In later years it also manifested by minimizing theology and doctrine, bringing it all back to basics.
Father Richard Rohr in today’s comment “BE PEACE AND JUSTICE” writes:
“When you agree to live simply, you do not consider the refugee, the homeless person, or the foreigner as a threat or competition. You have chosen their marginal state for yourself—freely and consciously becoming “visitors and pilgrims” in this world, as Francis put it (quoting 1 Peter 2:11). A simple lifestyle is an act of solidarity with the way most people have lived since the beginnings of humanity.”
Francis (1182-1226) and Clare (1194-1253) of Assisi lived life understanding fully what Jesus the Christ envisioned – a simple lifestyle outside the system of production and consumption (the real meaning of the vow of poverty) Therefore, assuming a vow of poverty does not mean living in filthy hovels with no running water or sewer systems. It does not necessarily mean hunger and starvation. For most of us a vow of poverty would mean a commitment to jump off the insane cycle of incessant material accumulation and depletion of the earth’s resources.
With today’s screaming calls to bring social justice to the world’s oppressed perhaps we can find guidance in these further words of Father Rohr regarding a conscious identification with the marginalized of society:
“In this position we do not do acts of peace and justice as much as our lifestyle itself is peace and justice.” (underlined emphasis are mine)
Like many of you, I would like to fix every single episode of social injustice, but in wanting to do so I will undoubtedly make myself quite insane because that fix is unattainable. Just as Father Bond walked the path of Francis and Clare, we also can be advocates of social justice through simplicity by speaking our truth kindly, by identifying with the marginalized, and by being living examples of Christ’s teachings.
Look at the world around us. Living “marginalized” is the norm, not the exception. We are all in some way a refugee, a foreigner, a visitor and a pilgrim. Our validation as a nation of ethics and values is currently under severe testing because of governmental actions regarding immigration. Our strength and our salvation rests not in our criminalization of those who are marginalized, but rather in our solidarity with them.
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19: 33-34