A life-changing fellowship

Daily Reading for January 30 • Juan Bosco (John Bosco), Priest, 1888, and Samuel Shoemaker, Priest and Evangelist, 1963 (transferred)

The second thing the Church needs to learn from AA is that men are redeemed in a life-changing fellowship. AA does not expect to let anybody who comes in stay as he is. They know he is in need and must have help. They live for nothing else but to extend and keep extending that help. Like the Church, they did not begin in glorious Gothic structures, but in houses or caves in the earth,—wherever they could get a foot-hold, meet people, and gather. It never occurs to an AA that it is enough for him to sit down and polish his spiritual nails all by himself, or dust off his soul all by himself, or spend a couple of minutes praying each day all by himself. His soul gets kept in order by trying to help other people get their souls in order, with the help of God. At once a new person takes his place in this redeeming, life-changing fellowship. He may be changed today, and out working tomorrow—no long, senseless delays about giving away what he has got. He’s ready to give the little he has the moment it comes to him. The fellowship that redeemed him will wither and die unless he and others like him get in and keep that fellowship moving and growing by reaching others. Recently I heard an AA say that he could stay away from his Veteran’s meeting, his Legion, or his Church, and nobody would notice it. But if he stayed away from his AA meeting, his telephone would begin to ring the next day! . . .

The third thing the Church needs to learn from AA is the necessity for definite personal dealing with people. A.A.’s know all the stock excuses—they’ve used them themselves and heard them a hundred times. All the blame put on someone else—my temperament is different—I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work for me—I’m not really so bad, I just slip a little sometimes. They’ve heard them all, and know them for the rationalized pack of lies they are. They constitute, taken together, the Gospel of Hell and Failure. I’ve heard them laboring with one another, now patient as a mother, now savage as a prize-fighter, now careful in explanation, now pounding in a heavy personal challenge, but always knowing the desperate need and the sure answer.

Are we in the Church like that? Have you ever been drastically dealt with by anybody? Have you ever dared to be drastic in love with anybody? We are so official, so polite, so ready to accept ourselves and each other at face value. I went for years before ever I met a man that dared get at my real needs, create a situation in which I could be honest with him, and hold me to a specific Christian commitment and decision. One can find kindness and even good advice in the Church. That is not all men need. They need to be helped to face themselves as they really are. The AA people see themselves just as they are. I think many of us in the Church see ourselves as we should like to appear to others, not as we are before God. We need drastic personal dealing and challenge. Who is ready and trained to give it to us? How many of us have ever taken a “fearless moral inventory” of ourselves, and dared make the depth of our need known to any other human being? This gets at the pride which is the hindrance and sticking-point for so many of us, and which, for most of us in the Church, has never even been recognized, let alone faced or dealt with.

From “What the Church Has to Learn from Alcoholics Anonymous” by Samuel M. Shoemaker; found at http://westbalto.a-1associates.com/LETTERS%20ETC/WhatChurches.htm.

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