franciscan - May 1998
© Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 1998
The Ministers of the European Province of the First and Third Orders and the Abbess of the Second Order at Freeland, write:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We are writing to you very conscious that January 1st, 2000, is now less than two years away. It is our hope that this letter will contribute towards our preparation as the Society of Saint Francis for the Millennium.
Much is being written about this. The popular press wish to focus our attention on human achievement or marking the date with a new local project: and so we read endlessly about the problems over the Dome at Greenwich or the crisis in the computer industry, and other ways technology is dominating our modern way of life. Meanwhile, every reception room in every decent club or pub, hotel or conference room, has been booked to binge our way into the twenty-first century. It is clear that our preparations need to be carefully followed through. After all, we are used to giving adequate time to prepare for a parish mission.
And so we make a plea to the Franciscan family that our own values are fully upheld and that we do make a worthy effort towards the celebration of the Millennium, using our time deliberately and carefully to prepare for it. This is a time for us to be aware and active, and such action should have a clear bearing on the Jubilee, when which we wish to commemorate and celebrate God’s action and grace, because ‘the word was made flesh’, because the coming of Jesus Christ into the world is the single most important event in our own lives.
As members of SSF, we should like to suggest that we give thought to this at four levels: First, individually: to read and become familiar with the established Biblical under-standing of Jubilee, and then to consider at what levels this might be applied in this fortieth celebration of Jubilee since the birth of Christ: forty sets of fifty years. By all means let us put candles onto the windowsills of our homes, but we should like to make some further suggestions.
Are there opportunities at our disposal to follow the principle of Jubilee?: to enter into the spirit of freeing the enslaved; to give good news to someone who is poverty-stricken; to join the campaign for the banning of landmines (for every one defused, more than twenty are being laid in someone’s path today); to work with Jubilee 2000 for the reducing or cancelling of the Third World Debt, where at present Western economies are receiving three times more in interest than we offer in aid.
Sometimes, it is necessary to state our position and find a place to be heard. How best can a Franciscan do this? CAFOD suggests we consider making a new covenant with the poor. Surely it is our hope to change the balance from how things are at present.
Second, small group opportunities: thinking collectively, many of us are already committed to regular meetings for study and prayer. Is it pertinent within those groups to raise the question of preparing with them for the Christian observance of the Millennium? The challenges of facing poverty and human need are often a little more manageable when taken up together. Does the idea of covenanting with the poor suggest any practical responses from the group as a whole?
Third, the whole family: SSF is not intending to have its own independent celebration as such. However, an SSF leaflet is being prepared for the Society by Brother Colin Wilfred in New Zealand and will be available in September. The 1999 Third Order General Chapter, to be held in York, will no doubt be planning workshops with all this in mind. There is also planned a meeting, in Brisbane in September 1999, of representatives from the three Orders, as well as a Religious Life Conference, organised by the Anglican Communities, at Swanwick in September 2000. There is the ecumenical calendar project with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, which will hopefully provide a focus for a corporate countdown within the family of Franciscans.
Four, nationally: who knows how the Spirit of God will use our work? However, by taking up the biblical theme of Jubilee as our preparation, rather than just regretting the otherwise overwhelming succession of secular sound-bites, we will have entered more fully into the opportunity God has provided. By doing nothing, we simply leave matters of justice to others; and so we would reflect little of the hope that the coming of Jesus Christ promises to a world in need of a radical reappraisal of what it means to be brothers and sisters in our one world.
We believe that there is something to celebrate: two thousand years of the reign of Jesus, our Lord. It would be so good to have something with the Jubilee mark on it to contribute to the new Millennium. §
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