By Rollie Ona, BCBP Makati
Sometimes we may get so caught up in the many activities of the Brotherhood – outreach, mission, chapter life, assemblies, action group meetings, etc. – that we may forget that conversion is an on-going process. Bro Rollie, BCBP Makati’s 1st Chapter Head, reminds us that a community is only as strong as its individual members. He identifies the virtues of Humility, Obedience, Simplicity, and Truth as the foundation for a vibrant community. This article first appeared in the KAPATIRAN Magazine Sept-Dec 1998 issue but its content remains very relevant to us today.
Periodically we need to sit down and take stock of what we are doing in the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals. Many times we speak of ourselves as a “community”, without really dissecting what we mean by the now popular catchword “community”. In brief, the word “community” comes from the Greek word koinonia that means unity of heart and mind in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In the BCBP we clearly see that we are different people with different backgrounds. Yet because of our common foundation in the Lord and our belief in the BCBP’s mission and vision of bringing Christ into the marketplace, we become united as a community.
When like-minded people band together for a common purpose, there results a sharing of values that we have articulated as the BCBP’s Core Values: Love for God, Love for Others, and Commitment to the the Lord’s Work. We are able to draw on the strengths of each member and we learn to benefit from one another’s unique gifts and talents, even as we nourish and are nourished by the care and concern of brothers and sisters in Christ.
Being members of the BCBP we can experience different communities within communities – from our families to the action group to the chapter to the BCBP as a whole. And then we find that the BCBP is connected to a larger network of communities, the Federation of Transparochial Charismatic Communities.
This is all as it should be; we should never become so enamored with our own mission and vision and what we are doing that we ignore other Christians, their respective mission thrusts and what they are doing. On the other hand we must not be so caught up in community activities that we neglect the interior aspect of being Christian. It is so easy to get involved with BCBP life to the point of just legalistically following the community norms – coming to meetings on time and regularly, tithing and doing everything that community says we ought to do. We can get so caught up in “doing” that we sort of forget about the first “C”, Conversion, in terms of our personal interior change. We begin to think that the Conversion part of the BCBP’s three “C”s – Conversion, Commitment, Commissioning – is only for those participants we bring into the Brotherhood through the Brotherhood’s Christian Life Program, the BCLP. We begin to think in terms of others to the exclusion of ourselves!
We need a right focus
One thing we often take for granted is right focus in community life. By this I mean having an internal change and commitment rather than mere external conformity to the community’s norms. Jean Vanier, founder of the French community L’Arche, in some of his writings discusses several criteria for the building of a good community. He believes “Community is a communion of heart and spirit, a network of personal relationships.”
This places a demand on our sense of responsibility because, as Vanier says, “it is very easy to replace relationships and the demands they bring with laws, rules and administrative devices. It is easier to obey a law than to love.”
We can see this is true in the BCBP. As businessmen and professionals our schedules are usually tight and there are many demands on our time. So it becomes easier to give a donation, attend for others to go on mission and outreach activities, then for us to really love our brothers and sisters. Let’s face it, there are some brothers and sisters who are not easy to love. And maybe we ourselves are not easy for others to love.
But God has put us together and He demands that we develop personal relationships, that we love and serve one another. We find it necessary to come up with our BCBP Commitment, our formal organization structure and some rules and policy directives so that we may have order in our organization. But these should never replace the demand to love one another, to show brotherly and sisterly love and concern for not only the spiritual needs, but also the emotional and physical needs of others. These rules and regulations are only meant to help us love one another in a better, more orderly, peaceful and harmonious way.
Vanier puts this very nicely when he says: “Each member of a community who grows in love and wisdom helps the growth of the whole community. Each person who refuses to grow, or is afraid to go forward, inhibits the community’s growth and that of the community as a whole.”
I believe that sometimes we focus more on the growth of the community in terms of mission activities, adding outreaches and holding more BCLPs than we focus on our own personal, individual growth. We must never neglect one for the other. As a community we need a good balance of mission activities, chapter life activities, and personal spiritual growth activities.
We need to remember that as we grow individually as Christians, as we allow the Spirit to form us in holiness, then we are making our significant contribution to the development of the BCBP and to the Church as a whole. A wise saying declares that “The whole is only as good as the integrity of each of its parts.” And this is certainly true in the context of a Christian community.
A HOST for holiness
Personal growth often translates into personal holiness. Let me share four areas of holiness which I feel are essential for members of a community. They are summarized in the acronym HOST. These four virtues are: Humility, Obedience, Simplicity, and Truth.
Humility vs. pride
St. Bernard of Claivaux defined humility as “the ability of a person to see himself as he really is and so discover his own unworthiness.” It is not shyness or social fear. It is not in being soft-spoken or as we say, “Napaka-humble.” And we all know of others, perhaps even ourselves, at some time or another who have begun a talk or a sharing by saying, “In all humility…”
Humility is a condition of the heart. Someone may be shy and soft-spoken but in his heart he is a very proud person. St. Bernard described the proud man as a man “who prides himself on being better than others”, one who “has to do something that they cannot do, just to make his superiority clear for all to see. … He does not actually want to be better, he just wants to be seen to be better. He does not want to lead a better life; but he wants it to be seen that he is better than they are. Then he will be able to say, ‘I am not like all other men.’”
St. Paul wrote about humility to the Romans: “I warn each of you not to think more highly of himself than he ought. Let him estimate himself soberly in keeping with the measure of faith that God has apportioned him.” Then to the Philippians he said: “Never act out of rivalry or conceit; rather let all parties think humbly of others as superior to themselves, each of you looking to others’ interests rather than to his own.”
If you find yourself often criticizing others, even in your own heart, maybe you are developing an attitude of superiority or pride. Or if you find nothing acceptable in community or in a committee except your own ideas, maybe you should examine yourself closely. If a subdivision guard asks for your license when entering the subdivision, and you get very irritated or angry, maybe you still have room for growing in humility.
As businessmen, professionals, men and women of influence, and as community leaders, we are the ones who are in the greatest danger of losing humility. When we give talks, people listen; people with problems come to us for help. Our opinions seem to be important to many. So it is easy for us to falter in humility. I ask all of you, every member of the BCBP, to please pray for your leaders and for all leaders that they may keep Christian humility well-rooted in their hearts.
Obedience or spiritual stardom?
Now let us talk about obedience. The word obedience comes from a Latin word that means “to listen”. It applies generally to all of us. It is not just from superior to subordinate, from leader to member, from parent to child. And sometimes listening is not really listening for direction, but listening to understand what is not being said as well as listening to understand what is being said. Listening also requires feedback.
Richard Foster is his book, The Challenge of the Disciplined Life, believes that “Service severed from obedience degenerates into spiritual stardom. Service devoid of obedience says, ‘Look at how wonderful I am, doing all these kind and self-sacrificing things! Look at how much good I am accomplishing.’”
I am sure you can see the direct connection here between humility and obedience. Scripture in 1 Sam. 15:22 says: Obedience is better than sacrifice. When we become content and successful in our service, we need to check the condition of our heart in the areas of obedience and humility. How easy is it for you to accept evaluation and criticism? How open are you to others’ opinions? Do you actively seek input, advice and feedback from your leader regarding your spiritual life and adherence to the BCBP Commitment Card? Do you willingly accept service assignments even when you really don’t want to do it?
Simplicity gives us freedom
The third virtue is simplicity. Again this is not a matter of the externals. True simplicity is a matter of the heart, a kind of inner transformation and transparency that strips our life of non-essentials to give us greater freedom to serve and to please God.
This does not mean that we need to divest ourselves of what we have honestly earned or acquired; rather this virtue asks us to focus our attention on God without being distracted by our worldly goods. We need to live in a way that shows where our joy and security comes from. Many times the more money or possessions or public recognition we acquire, the more we strive to obtain. And before we know it, we have entered an endless spiral of desire and greed. No end to it!
Simplicity is not just a matter of practicing a simple lifestyle. Are you simpler in your thinking? Are you simpler in ways of relating to others and with the world’s goods? Where/what is your treasure? Where is your heart?
Truth in all things
The last letter of the acronym HOST is “T” which stands for Truth. Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Thus if you say you are living in truth, you are living in Christ. If you are living in a lie, it is the opposite. Very simple, and yet so many versions of the truth abound today. We have the white lie, the gray areas, the half-truths, the lie by omission of the truth, the social lie. We say “Yes” when actually we mean else. How very devious the devil is in convincing us that there are so many “acceptable” ways to tell the “truth”!
St. Paul spoke to the community in Ephesus. He said: “Put a stop to lying, speak the truth to one another.” And he found it necessary that people speak the truth to one another so that relationships could grow and develop. If we lie to one another, if we cannot keep our word or trust in each other’s word, we can never be a people united. Unity and harmony have their foundation in trust and honesty.
What kind of example do we show our children when we ask them to say we’re not at home to the telephone caller when actually we just don’t want to be disturbed?
Repeated lying is a serious distortion of character. We are supposed to be formed in the image of God but we are being distorted into the image of the father of lies, Satan, when we resort to lying, especially to habitually telling “little white lies.
Being part of the community network
As we grow in personal holiness in the BCBP, in community with others who are growing spiritually, we form a network of personal relationships. If we are not growing, if we let ourselves become distracted from our on-going conversion experience, if our life journey becomes distorted along the way – then the network is weakened and our community becomes less strong.
We need to love and serve one another in community. I believe it is equally important to allow ourselves to be loved and to be served. There is a time to be a member as well as a time to be a leader.
How many significant and lasting friendships have you developed and nurtured in your years in the Brotherhood? We need to take time out to do what Our Lord commands us to do: “Love one another as I love you.” When this happens then we can all say that truly the Brotherhood is ‘community’ and that we are united and bonded together in its network of harmony and peace.