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40 Days: Community


Welcome to 40 Days, a reflective journey for Eureka Street subscribers beginning Ash Wednesday and running through until Easter. Each week we’ll bring you a reflection on a theme, followed by some reading from our archives to help you reflect more deeply throughout the week. You might read them all at once, or sample one each day of Lent. Our second reflection is from Andrew Hamilton SJ, and explores the theme of ‘Community’,and in particular what it means to serve the common good.

Improvement is often seen as a personal pursuit. We pray, deny ourselves and work at our faults in the silence of our room. That element of Lent is certainly important. In the passage from Matthew’s Gospel on Ash Wednesday Jesus tells people to do avoid fasting, praying and giving alms in public. His world, however, was different from ours. Its weakness lay in the conformity and competition it could encourage in the observance of high public standards. In our culture, however, a weakness may lie in its emphasis on individual choice to the exclusion of communal links. We can shape ourselves to be what we want without reference to others and regardless of communal standards.

In such a culture, Lent could be seen as an individual practice of self-betterment. Historically, however, it was a communal activity designed to make the community more attentive in their faith and in their awareness of those around them and of their world. Like Ramadan still, it involved a rigorous fast, long public prayers and a focus on alms-giving that paid attention to the needs of people who were neglected both in the Christian community and the wider society. In our terms today, it looked not only to the inner life of Christians but to the common good of society.

In practice, almsgiving today involves awareness of the lives of people who are doing it hard in our society, the desire to help them change their lives, and a practical commitment both to them and to make our world more welcoming of them. You can find these themes explored richly in these articles from our archives.

If they appeal to you, here are some articles from our archives that seem to exemplify that sense of groundedness. 




Distinguishing communities

Julian Butler SJ writes, ‘Part of what makes community is what distinguishes community, what sets it apart. It might be an interest in music, or sport, a neighbourhood or a set of values or practices. Initially, at least, the extent to which we identify with the community will depend upon the extent to which those things that define or characterise it are important to us. In time, as we spend time with people, the personal connections we form will become equally if not more significant.’ (From 2022)

Read more here. 


Cities are people too

David Ishaya Osu writes, ‘This idea of cities as people is simply to widen development and its control into a participatory process, where every member of a city feels a sense of belonging. It is the creation of a lively, safe, sustainable and inclusive society — a society where bridges and buildings, closed and open spaces, goods and services altogether cater to all classes of flora and fauna.’ (From 2018)

Read more here. 


Commission flats fable

Virginia Millen writes, ‘I have passed that man and woman many times in the three years since. Sometimes she sits out the front of the supermarket begging for money from locals carrying tubs of olives and Maggie Beer's verjuice. Her voice is soft, not aggressive like when she fights. And in daylight her face looks younger. She's probably younger than me.’ (From 2011)

Read more here. 


Journalist learns the power of accompanying

Julie Perrin writes, ‘When I was a chaplain, I stumbled on a prayer fragment in some all-age worship resources. I learnt it by heart before I recorded its source, but it has come back to me often. It encapsulates those moments when we are moved by the grace of bearing witness to one another's lives: “You made each of us to take you as a gift to others.”’ (From 2019)

Read more here. 


We are all in this together

Cristy Clark writes, ‘When society is organised around the idea that everyone must look after themselves or suffer the consequences, then the logical outcome is for people to focus on their own self-interest. Driven by fear and a system that not only rewards selfishness but, most importantly, actively punishes the opposite, people behave accordingly.’ (From 2020)

Read more here. 



Catholic and Aboriginal listening revolutions

Evan Ellis writes, ‘With each monastery [Benedict] founded, he essentially planted a new, stable community into the dead tree of Imperial Rome. In an era characterised by rupture and division, between Byzantine and the West, Romans and Ostrogoths, the old order and the new political vacuum, Benedict was knitting disparate individuals into communities, making things whole.’ (From 2012)

Read more here. 





Andrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street, and writer at Jesuit Social Services.

Main image: (Getty images)

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, 40 Days, Lent, Community



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