We strengthen community by sharing our gifts in such a way that the needs of every member of the community are met.
“Each person should be given what he personally needs” (The Rule, I, 4)
When common resources are joyfully shared among members of a community in such a way that the needs of all members of that community are met, relationships are strengthened and unity and harmony are achieved. The community itself is therefore strengthened. However, community is threatened whenever a spirit of possessiveness or pride exist, especially when some members of the community have unmet needs.
We can see the effects of pride and possessiveness in our own society, where some enjoy a rich surplus of material comforts while so many go without. We can see this even within parishes across many dioceses. Augustine saw this in his own time as well and taught that we are all beggars before God:
We brought nothing into this world. You have come into the world, you have found a full table spread for you. But the Lord’s is the earth and its fullness. God bestows the world on the poor, he bestows it on the rich.” (Sermon 29, 2)
The core teaching of the Gospel and the first principle of social justice is that every human person is a child of God and therefore possesses the dignity and respect inherent with being made in the image and likeness of God. Not everyone in a community has the same gifts to share, and not everyone has the same needs. Thus, the principle of unity in diversity is achieved when there exists good stewardship in which all the members of the community generously share their time, talent, and treasures for the benefit of all.
Such a communal life imitates God’s own generosity and reflects the loving unity of our trinitarian God.
The Augustinian way of life encourages each person to be open to the needs of others and willingly share their God-given time, talent, and treasures with others. For example, some of the younger Friars possess great technical skills that can be helpful to older Friars who are less accustomed to utilizing technology in ministry. Other Friars may possess great public speaking skills from a prior career and can help younger Friars become better preachers. Whatever the gifts and needs, the Rule necessarily demands not only an openness among the Friars to the unique differences of each person, but also a recognition of the the respective strengths those differences provide to community as a whole. When this happens, care and respect are achieved which strengthens the stewardship and unity within the community.
This same principle can be applied to communities outside the Augustinian Order. It can apply to parish communities, family life, work life, etc. A public recognition of the unique gifts of each member and a sharing of those gifts for the benefit of all can go a long way in strengthening a family, strengthening a team at work, and helping a parish to reach a new population of people in their own backyard.
Suggested Next Topic
Principle #4: Worship
Reflection written by Jeremy Hiers, O.S.A.
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