READ THE WORD OF GOD

A copy of Choice Magazine is keeping exalted company displayed with the Bible and the Koran at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. The display is part of a section dealing with "Making Sense of the World". Choice Magazine has been included because it represents an important opportunity for people to make choices about their lifestyle.

It is easy to relate each book to its believing readers. The Bible for Judeo-Christian people, the Koran is for Islamic people, and Choice Magazine for the Consumer Society people. Each in its own way offers wisdom and truth, and is a kind of protection against unreliable voices that would lead the believers astray with false information or meaningless promises.

Perhaps, we friars should ask ourselves what reading influences our choice of lifestyle. Many of us have collections of books, sometimes including several versions of the Bible, and the Franciscan sources. Do these form part of our little Book Museum; or are they what we read regularly, with the intention of allowing them to influence our choice of lifestyle?

Community reading of the Scriptures and of the Rule and Testament seems to have ceased in most of our houses. Personal or private reading seems to be diminishing too. It is so much easier to sit before the TV every evening and drink in whatever is put before us. This must inevitably affect our thinking and conversation. We have been worrying about institutionalisation of religious life. Perhaps we should worry more about secularisation in religious life!

If daily newspapers and TV are the chief places where we look for truth and wisdom, our thinking and conversation will indeed be secular and our behaviour will often give the lie to our claim to be religious. On the other hand, if we seek truth and wisdom from the Word of God and reflect on the example of our Founder, St Francis, this will promote more sustained efforts towards gospel-inspired thinking and the adoption of a lifestyle that is genuinely Christian.

St Francis's words about correct listening to the Word of God as a pre-requisite for authentic Christian behaviour may be helpful:

"St Paul tells us, 'The letter kills but the Spirit gives life'. A man has been killed by the letter when he wants to know quotations, only so that people will think he is more learned than they, and can make money to give to his family and friends. A religious has been killed by the letter when he has no desire to follow the spirit of Sacred Scripture, but wants to know what it says, only so that he can explain it to others. On the other hand, those have received life from the spirit of Sacred Scripture who, by their words and example, refer to the Most High God, to whom belongs all good, all that they know or wish to know, and do not allow their knowledge to become a source of self- complacency" (Admonition VII).