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  • Gosford Anglican Blog

Clare of Assisi and the Workers in the Vineyard:A reminder about our prophetic heritage

I missed Clare of Assisi last week, and that’s a pity. She is a reminder that Jesus draws us to a bigger life, and better way of being, and of being together. She was a woman to inspire all of us, especially in these difficult times. Clare grew up in a well-to-do family, played music and was the life of her social circle. She was influenced by her mother, who was a person of faith. Clare’s greatest influence, however, was Francis and his preaching about Jesus of the poor. In response to God’s call on her life, Clare refused to marry and exchanged her fine clothes for a rough woollen habit, cut her long flowing hair and joined a convent. (Her faither was not pleased!) Clare was soon joined by her sister Agnes along with many other young women. At the age of 21 Clare became Abbess and the ‘rule’ (we might say the daily spiritual practice) by which they lived drew on the gospel and its focus on care for the sick and the poor. For the majority of us, this kind of monastic life with its the rigour of ministry is beyond what is realistic and possible. And yet, we cannot dismiss these Christ-values of Clare: care for others, open-handedness, generosity and simplicity of life. One of the positives emerging out of the coronavirus pandemic has been the possibility rediscovering a life that is slower and simpler. We intentionally care for others wearing masks, keeping social distance and so on. Our own discomfort should remind us that two-thirds of the human population in this world live with even greater insecurities in relation to health, income and general well-being. Matthew’s mid-week Gospel reading of the parable of the workers in the vineyard reveals God’s generosity in a world where human social equity holds little value. In the story, the hired workers are all paid the same wage no matter the time of day they commenced their work. ‘Are you envious because I am generous?’ responds the owner when questioned by the labourers who had worked all day. This is not the usual way to run a business, but the parable is really about Jesus ‘agape’ (self-denying love) ethic. Clare’s life and ministry and Jesus’ parable remind us that the ways of the Kingdom of God are not always our ways, the ways of economics in our world. They also remind us that our spiritual health as individuals, communities and nations, can be measured by how we treat those who are socially, economically, spiritually or relationally poor. This Gospel ethic will not allow us to link virtue and prosperity. Such a correlation only leads to a preoccupation with the material circumstances in life and an emptiness of heart and spirit. What then can we take from Clare and the mid-week parable? We could explore ways to live out this gospel equality. I note, for example, Laurence Freeman’s comment on the World Community for Christian Mediation thought for the day, which links to Jesus parable: ‘[We] could reimagine a society in which we saw the value of caring, and see caring itself as having a value even at the economic level and that would be respected in the way the wealth of society was redistributed. Instead the caring professions always being undervalued, they would receive their true value, in recognition of what they are doing. In our daily life, I imagine we might reach out to neighbours at street level, or support agencies or community groups already doing this ministry, or we could simply look to starting conversations with strangers, or practice generosity. We also need to badger local parliamentarians and governments about the just connection between good business, social well-being and environmental change. By drawing from the ‘rule’ of Clare we not only live the generosity of God in our world, but also connect to our prophetic heritage. Fr Don

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