The women’s Focolare in Birmingham share their experience of doing things with the presence of Jesus in their midst.

[New City Magazine – July 2024, page 14]

Chris: There are four of us living in the women’s Focolare house in Birmingham: Anja from Germany, Marigia from Portugal, Talita from Brazil and me, English. Many – if not all – Movements in the Church have a ‘rule’. We have one too, it is the size of a small book. The very first page recalls the Gospel of Matthew, ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ with this phrase, called the premise: ‘before anything else, members of the Movement must live mutual and continual charity, that makes unity possible and gives rise to the presence of Jesus.’

Mutual love is giving, and receiving

This is what I ‘signed up’ to; this is how I feel called to try to live my life. But what does it mean in practice? It means continually trying to go towards the others I live with, to understand what they need, how they are feeling, and to let them come towards me – love is mutual. I normally find it much easier to give than to receive, but if I am not ready to receive, love cannot be mutual. Sometimes I feel that we don’t quite understand one another. We come from different cultures and have had different experiences. Sometimes I feel my love needs to be bigger. If I really want to love, I have to be more inclusive, more questioning, make more effort in trying to understand and ultimately trust the other.
Just before Easter, Talita, with some of her friends, had the idea of making sandwiches and taking them to the homeless in the city centre. My initial reaction was not positive, based on experiences I had in the past, but l tried to listen more, to move towards the idea, not against it. That let Jesus in, and he took over…

A new horizon

Talita: Yes. He really took over. As Chris said, some of my friends had the idea of doing a social action for the homeless in Birmingham. So I tried to support them and prepare everything together with them. At the same time, I felt a certain resistance or barrier to this idea at home. It wasn’t very explicit, but at a certain point I had doubts and asked myself: ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ On the other hand, I said to Jesus, OK. It can really go very wrong. So if it’s not your will, please, show us.’ It was a little step for me to be open to where he would direct us (and not do just what I would like to do).
In the end, ten young people came together to build, pray and seek to meet and share their love with others. We prepared 15 packs of sandwiches and bags with fruit, sweets, water and we also offered hot drinks for the homeless. We got to know them by name and for the young people this was a very powerful experience. They felt that ‘each one has a warm helping heart’, that ‘there are people suffering, asking for our help!’ For some this was ‘the best way to be with Jesus at the beginning of Holy Week.’
At the same time, all of us at home were very happy about this experience. For us, this joy that we all felt was a sign of Jesus’ presence amongst us. He had taken over and opened up a new horizon for us all.

Photo: ©Courtesy of the women’s Focolare Birmingham

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