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Posted October 25, 2014

Book: One in the Lord: Living Our Call to Christian Community
Author: Susan Muto
New City Press of the Focolare. Hyde Park, New York. 2014. Pp 111

An Excerpt from the Introduction:

The concerns expressed by laity, clergy and religious in regard to faith formation and its everyday application are as universal as they are unique. I have written these reflections on Christian community from the perspective of "people in the pew" eager to pursue their commitment to the gospel in today's world. For example, a young professional I know holds a leading position in the research laboratory of prestigious medical center in Pittsburgh. She and her colleagues experience the same tensions pertaining to community life that might occur in a monastic setting. How can they balance working so hard and having a decent home life? What is the bridge between solitary labor and loving service to others? All of us share the same concerns. We need to listen to the demands of our everyday world without neglecting the wisdom of our faith traditions. I hope that these reflections on living our call to community will teach us more about who we are and what we must do to fulfill our destiny from here to eternity.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Seeking Peace amid Conflict

How can we feel inner peace when we hear the pleas of the poor and know that our efforts to help them are inadequate? The more we think about it, the more this realization torments us. we long to find "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding," not only in contemplative moments but in restless times of inner and outer disruption.

To be at peace with ourselves, we need to admit candidly that we may desire to do good for less than altruistic motives. This conflict may stem from a need to be needed, from a secret wish to receive commendation, or from a desire for promotion. Genuine giving may mask a vain desire for self-fulfillment.

But we cannot stand still until our motives to help the poor become perfectly pure. We do not act alone. The Lord can relieve our inner and outer feelings of inadequacy. We can never be completely certain about discerning which demands to meet and which to relinquish. A caring heart is oriented not toward static immobility but "restful restlessness" that sparks creativity.

In the chaos of conflict, to find peace we may have to relinquish our idealistic efforts to cure every ill and carefully select goals that we can actually reach. The catalogue of our shortcomings could fill volumes. We could be kinder, work harder, waste less time. Focusing on our failure produces unrest. Living in fidelity to our day-to-day challenges lets us serve others more effectively. Obsession with "what I could have done but didn't" generates an "if only" attitude that distracts us from what the mystery asks of us in the routine reality of life.

It is true that we must give to others what God has bestowed on us. It is also true that God has lavished upon us more blessings than we could ever count. We fulfill God's will for us not only by doing for others but also by being together, by walking alongside one another. Often, our presence is more valuable than our projects. Sometimes we should give others a helping hand; at other times all they need is a warm holding of theirs. A fulfilled life does not consist in a "to do" list executed as perfectly as possible; rather it is an ongoing expression of our participation in God's providential plan. This seems to be what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, "Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."

As followers of Christ, we strive to accept the surprises that he wills or permits. By busying ourselves from morning to night with our own works, we may miss the Master and the task he wants us to perform. Those who live a God-centered life recognize that they have received undeserved gifts, gifts intended to be passed on to others. Acknowledging God's will releases us from entrapment in our own pursuits and reunites us with God and neighbor. Living this way, we maintain a balance between external activity and internal peace.

Success consists not in solving every problem but in recognizing that without God we can do nothing.

Conflict resolution works best when we seek a quiet place where we can pray and reflect on where we are and how we got there. Such reassessment assures us that we do not walk alone. Our Divine Companion is with us in "war and peace" and will be with us in unknown land that lies ahead. Stepping back to see the whole picture picks up threads of meaning that we missed in trying to solve our problem all alone.

Table of Contents:

Part One: Celebrating Community
Caring for self and others in Christ
1. Changing our hearts
2. Speaking from our hearts
3. Fostering compassionate relationships
4. Communicating in uncomfortable situations
5. Pursuing spiritual direction
6. Refilling our reservoir
7. Endings as new beginnings
8. Finding our center in the Spirit
9. The foundations of Gospel living
10. The blessings of discipleship

Part Two: Preparing for Community
Obstacle to overcome
Conditions for engagement

11. Testing idealized self-image
12. Moving from egocentric to other-centered concerns
13. Dealing with guilt
14. Seeking peace and conflict
15. Expressing love in a loveless world
16. Balancing functionality and spirituality
17. Accepting ourselves and others in Christ
18. Returning to the source of our worth
19. Committing ourselves to loving service
20. Discovering the joy of life together in Christ
21. Attending to Divine directives
22. Learning to live appreciatively

Part Three: Building Community
With the help of grace
23. Cultivating a rhythm of recollection and participation
24. Practicing the art of listening with other-centered love
25. Responding to our own and others' emotions
26. Maintaining a sense of humor
27. Manifesting Christ-Likeness in everyday life
28. Deepening our love for God's Word in community

Part Four: Living Community
In communion with the Trinity
29. Moved by the Spirit to love one another
30. Living the New Commandment in all our relationships
31. Following Christ's call to friendship
32. Modeling our communion on the Trinity