What is essential to my own lived faith?

What is essential to my own lived faith?

They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere heartsActs 2:46

And where there is change, there is the letting go of the old and the giving birth to the new. Sr. Ilia Delio

“Essential:” the escalation / transformation of this word’s significance all but equals that of the unheralded and scene stealing acronym – ‘COVID-19’!! Global Illusions of needs / wants have been shattered. No longer do CEO’s, entrepreneurs, media / sports stars communicate ‘desirable’ images of life’s purpose and meaning.

Lowly but ‘essential’ occupations with less earning power, fewer benefits, poorer health, education and housing are the current inspirations of resilience, courage, empathy and meaning.  These are the people Jesus generally referred to as the ‘poor’ or the ‘little ones.’ What is ‘essential’ in this Coronavirus era has challenged our beliefs in all areas of life including religion.

Yes, as St Paul reminds us, ‘the whole of creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth…’ Rom 8:22, a perception, no doubt influenced by changes in first century Jewish and Christian religious practice.

As early as 586 BCE, with the Temple’s destruction and Babylonian Exile, Jews transformed their style of worship by adopting a family centred approach, more deeply embedded with the demolition of the second Temple in 70CE. Imagine the family / neighbourly controversy when replacing the altar for the family table and animal sacrifice for communal and private prayer. Likewise, Christian belief meant they too were soon excluded from Jewish worship and forced to reconstruct ritual anew. The resultant ‘hippy’ type lifestyle has always appealed to my 1960’s romanticism!!

All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Acts 2:44

Selling their possessions and goods they gave to anyone as s/he had need.  Acts 2:45

They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Acts 2:46

The Passionist Fort Community in Oxley is my closest experience of the first century Christian church. Despite its simple ‘car shed’ structure replete with roller doors, its small but connected congregation of 100 plus parishioners and few but intimate liturgies, I willingly undertake a lengthy parish hopping weekly drive.  Friendly chatter, a good humoured priestly welcome, cheerful parishioner participation, relevant homilies, inclusive congregation lead prayers of the faithful, joyful signs of peace, verbal acknowledgement of newcomers, birthdays and anniversaries, empathy with parishioner’s health, aging and personal issues contribute to a holistic spirituality. These qualities are smoothing the transition to the new virtual sacramental reality. Seeing images of parishioners accompanying our priest through singing, reading and sharing notices from the backdrop of their homes, enlivens and boosts my faith and communal connection.

Controversy surrounds this transition to virtual sacraments, begging the question: what is essential to one’s connection with God?  For some ‘watching’ mass on line is like, ‘watching paint dry.’ For others the priestly role has been reduced to that of a ‘sacramental vending machine,’ while still others used to first world abundance, demand entitlement to sacramental access. It’s as if sacramental consumption and the accumulation of divine grace will assure eternal reward regardless of living out values opposed to one’s faith for the remainder of the week.

Essentials of faith:

Let us remember that sacraments are actions reflective of Jesus’s way, truth and life, not things done to us by others. While Jesus is the first sacrament of God, in the broad sense a sacrament is any event, person or thing, through which one comes into contact with, encounters or experiences God in a new and deeper way. First century Christians, as stated, not only gathered to re tell and live their story, overtime they ritualised their meetings to communicate the Jesus experience through signs and gestures. That was then. For now, in this age of coronavirus, Sr. Ilia Delio’s advice to ‘let go of the old and give birth to the new’ challenges us to dig deep into our souls and meditate upon the essence of connection with our God.





Steve Jorgensen

(Image by Steve Jorgensen: The Passionist Community Fort in Oxley)