Question from the audience:
I am a rich Christian. What should I do?
Shane Claiborne (smiling hugely):
Ha! If only Jesus had said something about that!
Sometimes I feel that if only Jesus had left some concrete teachings, a pattern of life to follow and a community of believers to hold on to, it would all be easier. I want him to tell me what to do today in this messy life and my attempts to be a Franciscan sister in a world that feels like it is disintegrating. But the truth is that he did. Today, in the 21st century, as we look around us at problems the planet has never seen before, we see the shining witness of Jesus as lived out in surprising ways.
Last weekend I attended The Francis Factor: How St. Francis and Pope Francis are changing the world, a conference looking at the contemporary implications of St. Francis and Pope Francis. We were over 1,000 people lead in contemplative reflection by a mystic, a scientist, and an activist: Father Richard Rohr, Sister Ilia Delio, and Shane. What would the little brother from Assisi tell us today? How does Pope Francis call us to be an authentic people of mercy and love?
Shane gently suggested that Jesus gives many different models of how to live faithfully, either from privilege or without it. Jesus tells the rich young man, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor …” (Mathew 19:21). Zacchaeus, instead, gives away half of what he has and then repays those he has cheated four-fold (Luke 19:8). Mary, Joanna, Susanna and other women contributed to the support of Jesus and his disciples “out of their own means” (Luke 8:1-3). After the resurrection followers shared all in common, were of one mind in the Temple and broke bread together (Acts 2:43-47). The Bible has a plethora of practical examples of what to do—as a Christian—with access to financial resources.
As we reflected more we realized that maybe our true poverty is in the quality of our relationships. Pope Francis and St. Francis, by their examples, break us out of the same-old same-old mold of complacency and individuality. Here are some suggestions from The Francis Factor:
- Pray consciously for the gift to trust more. Let prayer fester inside of you, slowly changing all you do from the inside out.
- Surround yourself with people who change your idea of what it means to be normal. Listen to the children, the dreamers and the riskers.
- Change the patterns of your daily life so that instead of insulating from suffering, you embrace the Gospel call, cross and all.
- Start to build communities of trust. When violence in our neighborhoods is on the nightly news, how do we reach out beyond our fear to genuinely find each other?
- Become like the one we spend time with in prayer so we leave the fragrance of Jesus in the world everywhere we go.
- Fascinate the world with God’s love.
- Live from a theology of “enoughness,” where there’s enough for everybody’s need and not for everybody’s greed.
Yes, there is definitely a Francis factor going on. I can feel it in the air as the United States prepares for the pope’s visit. Something is afoot and it sure does looks like Jesus in modern clothes.