Being Ready and Proficient

In Mark 1:12-13 Jesus prepares for his ministry by going out into the desert and overcoming the temptations that were put this way. I liken it to an actor preparing for their initial grand stage performance, a musician about to play in their inaugural concert in front of a large concert or a sports star competing in a packed stadium in their first grand final. Their experiences like Jesus will be life changing not only for themselves but for those people who witnessed their craft.

So, what enabled these people to achieve their goals?  I would contend that it begins with their faith in their ability to attain their objectives. That is to know you have done all the hard work, developed the necessary skill set and are not daunted by the task that is about to be placed in front of you. Thus, they were mindful that they had the fortitude to overcome any obstacles. For Jesus it was more than that he knew that through the power of the Holy Spirit which came from God that he could remove any barriers that were blocking his path to complete his ministry.

Finally, what were the outcomes that they were hoping to deliver? For me it is how do we remember them? Is it their great work, their contribution to others as role models or that their tradition continues? For the actor it is plays in theatres throughout the globe. The musician, packed concerts listening to a variety of music from all different countries. The sport star filling stadiums to watch teams compete. While for Jesus it is that some 2021 years people are still proclaiming the message that he taught through his ministry. What great legacies they leave us by being ready and proficient.

Looking Anew

In Mark 6:1-6 Jesus returns to his home town of Nazareth. However, his teachings despite their wisdom were rejected by the local people. So, why did they take offence at Jesus?

Firstly, the people still saw him as Joseph the carpenter’s son rather than a prophet, teacher and miracle worker. “Is not this the carpenter, the Son of Mary.” Mark 6:3. I was reflecting on this situation and if Jesus suddenly produced incredible football skills would he be so unfairly maligned?  Maybe, what Jesus was offering was challenging whereas a football player doesn’t challenge someone to change their lives.

Secondly, the fact that Jesus was calling for change would mean that people would have been taken out of their comfort zone. Perhaps that was why they were riled up who is this carpenter’s son telling us how to live their lives. Additionally, people find change hard to embrace particularly if it requires self-sacrifice. I know it is a daily battle for me to try and live the Gospel values and continually do what I must do than I want to do.

Finally, was Jesus being judged for who he was rather than what he had become. I know I wouldn’t want to be judged for what I was like as a younger person compared to adulthood. Through greater life experiences you gain infinitely more wisdom than you have as a younger person. How many times does a voice in your head say if I only knew then what I know now? Thus, like Jesus we need to move on and look forward, ignoring the opinions of others as it can only cloud our judgement in doing what is right for others even if it comes at a cost.

 

Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop Part 2

I build my capacity as a religious leader at Holy Family by being inspired Mary to take up my cross with conviction when faced with adversity.

 “We feel our Crosses hard at times, but our courage should rise with them.”

 Mary MacKillop

I am reminded that throughout Christian history the Saints, like Mary placed their trust and authority in God  to overcome obstacles along the way. Mary was not exempt. In Mary’ case she spoke out about a matter of misconduct. For me in my leadership role it makes me think about always ensuring that I try to do the right thing no matter the cost. Thus, not worrying about my reputation or shifting the blame onto someone else but instead making things right and trying to achieve a positive resolution for all parties. Most importantly, I must not use the influence of my role but search for truth and accountability for my action.

One of the priests  who was implicated in the misconduct case pursued his own agenda and put pressure on the Bishop to have the Sisters of Saint Joseph under the Director of the Adelaide Archdiocese’s authority. Conversely, the Sisters of Saint Joseph rule is a centralized structure under the control of a General Superior who was drawn from their membership which Mary was determined to remain faithful to as it was integral to her calling. She then informed Bishop by letter of her refusal to comply but instead seek God’s will.  He saw it as insubordination and Mary was excommunicated from the Church on 22nd September, 1871.

I am in awe of how Mary steadfastly refused to compromise herself and her sisters core values to the Bishop’s request of continuing her mission under his authority. It made me ruminate on the times in my leadership through circumstances beyond my control, I am thrown into challenging situations with staff, parents, students and the parish community.

Mary’s response to her conflict makes me re-evaluate how I will react in the future knowing my words and actions will determine that outcome and my relationships with those involved. Am I going to act with anger and wanting revenge or like Mary that through her sacrifice she displayed her faithfulness to her community, her friends and trust in God to resolve the situation? I believe Mary had a freedom that occurred through her service to others due to her seeking to do God’s will. From her example, I need an open mindset, that will enable me to alleviate my anxieties and strive to live out what I truly want for all people, our world and myself. I would believe that it is best summed up by Paul Gardiner sj,

Mary MacKillop walked in faith and entered into the mystery of the Cross with an utter belief that enabled her to deal in an extraordinary way with oppositional people and difficult situations.”

Hence, we learn from Mary’s awareness that God would provide, for eight months later Mary was reinstated as leader and the sisters renewed their vows under their constitution.

Finally, Mary reinforces that I build capacity as the religious leader of Holy Family by placing my trust in the providence of God.

 

Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop Part 1

When reflecting on Saint Mary of the Cross, Mackillop, I firstly, engage in learning about her story. Furthermore, looking to develop her qualities of incredible wisdom, embracing her values, dedication to work and faith, emphasised by how she placed enormous trust in listening to the whisperings of God.

For me the best way to engage in her story is to know her as a person and understand her vision. Joan Chittister puts it succinctly,

“Mary MacKillop was so possessed by an internal vision of divine goodness that she gives us a glimpse of the face of God in the centre of the human. She gives us the possibility of greatness in ourselves.”
I believe it is embodied in these words:

“That those who are the most needy, come first, shows reverence for the dignity of all people, by never rejecting anyone. “Mary MacKillop


This is evident when in March, 1866 she responded to Father Julian Tenison Wood’s invitation to move to Penola and become the first sister of Saint Joseph setting up a Catholic Primary School in a disused stable. Then in 1867, accepting Father Julian Tenison Woods, (appointed to Director of Catholic Education, South Australia) invitation to open schools and assist him with Catholic Education. From there many young women joined Mary as Sisters opening up schools throughout the state along with management of an orphanage and a women’s refuge. Thus, Mary models to me that the role of religious leadership needs to be flexible with a readiness to accept an invitation to change no matter the challenge. Also, inviting others to undertake the mission with you.

The cornerstone of that mission is like Mary to witness my faith and become a role model in my community. The intrinsic motivation for Mary came from Jesus’ mother Mary, Jesus, Joseph and John the Baptist that adorn their emblem and their Rule of Life developed by Woods and Mary. That is a personal commitment to poverty, a dependence on divine providence, no ownership of personal belongings, faith that God would provide and willingness to go where needed. Thus, they not only talked the talk but walked the walked.

The question that I reflect on is where does my intrinsic motivation come from and how do I witness my faith and Holy Family’ school’s values not only in my school community but in my everyday life? The words of Mary MacKillop I think will be a constant reminder, “We must teach more by example, than by word.” Therefore, I must challenge myself daily that through our Three Pillars, Catholic Identity, Pedagogy and Ecological Sustainability and our values of positive emotions, relationships and sharing and support  I am respecting and honouring the dignity of each person by being welcoming and inclusive in my relationships with my family, friendship group and the school and parish community.  Hence, am I continuing Christ’s mission through my personal faith, being actively involved in my faith community and through my APRIM role by promoting the gospel values in prayer, masses, liturgies, the Crossways curriculum and local and global social justice issues and ecological projects. Additionally, continuing to evolve through my life experiences and acquire greater skills and knowledge through the relationships I form with people and my environment.

I am inspired by Mary’s commitment to her dependence on divine providence and a faith that God would provide when I am feeling frustrated with certain outcomes both in my work and in my life.  She was able to bring people together from all different walks of life to contribute to her vision and ministry and this struck home as I explored the museum and through the Mary MacKillop Kensington-Norwood walk. Individuals such as Sisters Laurence O’Brien and Sister Elizabeth Etheridge, (Aged Care Nurse) who were part of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart community, Robert and Joanna Barr Smith, Emmanuel Solomon, Bert Edwards and Doctor John Benson all of them providing social emotional, financial, education and medical support. Mary with this assistance was then able with these resources to help as many people as possible particularly the poor and the marginalised.  Thus, Mary had the foresight to be able to see that utilising these people’s different gifts and ways of serving was making an immense difference to people’s lives.

Consequently, I realise I can’t live in isolation but need the encouragement of others to continue to do God’s will. Too often I can become consumed by daily activities and routines at school while God is calling me to surrender myself to greater realities, trusting my instincts and taking risks. Moreover, I know through supporting, utilising and acknowledging the gifts of my family, friends, school and parish communities I will have the courage to serve others positively to my full capacity knowing as Mary would say, “there where you are you will find God.”

The Bigger Picture

Sometimes, when Sports Coaches are appointed to a sporting club, reporters first question to them is what direction are you hoping to take the club and what game style will you introduce to your team. For Jesus, there were no journalists but it was preparation that was the cornerstone about to embark on his mission. This he did by walking into the wilderness for forty days and nights without food and water and rejecting the temptations of the devil. Furthermore, the real test is for the Sporting Coaches game plan and for Jesus’s mission how it was going to cope under scrutiny.

 The first step smart Sporting Coaches do and Jesus did was handpick a loyal and trustworthy group of people to support them in their quest.  The people they have chosen have to believe in the vision that has been devised otherwise if they stray from that cracks begin to appear and those opposed to those ideals will pounce. Thus, in times of adversity you will need your supporters to stay true to the game plan or the mission to prevent what you have from falling apart.

 The second step is for coaches as Jesus did clearly communicate your vision to your key stakeholders and supporters. If you are a coach by clearly articulating your team’s game plan or as Jesus did with his teachings and miracles you are sharing your vision and offering it to others to accept the opportunity to play a role in that team’s success or continue Christ’s mission.

 The final step is for the Coaches and Jesus to be a catalyst for change for their team and mission respectively. Therefore, making it clearly apparent that the Coaches game plan and Jesus’s teachings have brought new ideas and innovations to how the team plays or what we can do to bring us closer to God living in harmony with all people throughout the world. Finally, although the Coaches team and Jesus’s first followers have moved on what both the Coach and Jesus did was leave a legacy that will pass on from generation to generation.

 

 

Walking the Path of Jesus

One of my favourite passages in the Gospel, is Matthew 5:1-12, the Beatitudes it is what inspires me to walk in the path of Jesus. It is like the benchmarks that assist me in continuing Christ’s mission.

What I really like about it is it refers to the poor in spirit, those in mourning, the meek and the hungry as entering the Kingdom of Heaven. Hence, it is the people on the margins who Jesus refers to has having priority rather than those who are highly acclaimed in society. Moreover, you don’t have to do something remarkable to receive eternal life however, you must aspire to do the following standards.enceHde ce

Jesus defines these standards through these words, “Blessed are the merciful, pure in heart, persecuted and people who revile you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” Matthew 5:7-11. Thus, these are the qualities and the resilience one must have to continue Christ’s mission. The point is these are the gospel values you need witness daily without fear of reprisal or reacting angrily when someone is questioning you and your beliefs.

Jesus concludes with, “rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”Matthew 5:12. We have Jesus, Mary, the disciples and saints has great role models of how we should share our faith with others. So, the best way to emulate these people of great faith is follow their example. That is having a strong prayer life, read the scriptures and minister and proclaim the gospel to all people, particularly those at the margins. Therefore, by adhering to these three practices we become powerful witnesses walking the path of Jesus.

The Difference Maker

Sometimes in life we are asked to choose between a situation that will benefit over something we really want.  From the footballer who has the option to go for goal or pass the ball to someone in a better position. Or the defender who courageously puts their body on the line to intercept without a thought about the injury they will sustain. I believe the decision is based on a question of team success against personal glory? I would argue that the choice you make will determine your influence and standing amongst the team and its ultimate success. Thus, it highlights what is your priority your own or the team’s attainment?

Additionally, on the theme of personal gain in contradiction of selfless action for the greater good I have recently been watching the Last Kingdom. In this series it could be argued that the central character Uhtred is manipulated by the Danes and the English and Kings and Queens for their own power and riches. Often Uhtred is torn by the Danes who raised him after his English family were defeated in battle and the English Kings who give him a purpose to reclaim his family’s lands which are his birthright. Hence, he is conflicted by loyalty to the Danish who spared his life and the English royalty who by winning battles bring him closer to the prize of being the Lord of the Castle and the Lands he was born into. Unfortunately, the more battles he wins the further away he seems from achieving his goal. What drives Uhtred to continue fighting? I would argue Uhtred’s intrinsic motivation doesn’t come from winning the battles for the Lords he serves but for the people who live in those lands.

Finally, Jesus didn’t just make a personal sacrifice for a team, or a country but for the whole world. Jesus engaged people with his teachings despite opposition from the ruling power and the religious authority at the time who plotted then eventually succeeded in bringing about his death. The miracles he performed illustrated God’s power and changed people’s lives not only physically but spiritually. Therefore, people moved by his words and actions begin to the spread the good news of God’s Kingdom throughout the world by teaching and living his Gospel values.  Jesus then made a promise to all people who followed him,“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17.

So, although unselfish acts by sports people can lead to victory, or a warrior fighting to win a battle the true difference maker is Jesus’ whose death and resurrection generated millions of followers throughout the world today aspire to living his Gospel values.

My Father

Just recently we celebrated Father’s Day. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to celebrate Father’s Day with my dad/Chris as he has passed on however, I would like to share some special moments I spent with him.

One of the activities that we did together was go to the Australian Football games together. My dad and supported a local suburban team called Norwood each season for about 25 years we went to nearly every game. We shared in the highs and lows of our teams wins and losses. We talked over the phone nearly every day about our teams and the opposition’s players, coaches and the past and upcoming games. Also, we would always go out and celebrate after a win or commiserate after a loss. It was a common interest that sealed a special bond between us with my dad inviting me to engage in his passion.

Another event where I would like being with my dad was family events. My dad was extremely popular amongst his and my mum’s family whether it be sporting activities with our extended families or eating and drinking around a barbecue.  I always remember my father playing tennis against my uncle who was very competitive. My father would play a trick shot, where he could get a drop volley just over the net and then it would spin back over his side of the net.  This would rile my uncle throwing his racquet much to the amusement of everyone watching.  My dad really loved spending time with his family he was a great relationship builder.

Furthermore, one of dad’s keen hobbies was gardening. We lived on a double block with a nice green lawn, hydrangeas, agapanthus, daisies and daffodils in the front yard and almond, walnut, apricot, plum, peach and lemon trees and rows of tomatoes, cucumber and tomatoes in the backyard. My father seemed to have like a semi market garden flourishing in the back of his block. In fact, he featured in a display for suburban market gardeners at the Migration Museum. I particularly enjoyed the fruits of his labour and nature’s bounty from our fruit and nut trees and plants.

Finally, my dad had great belief in God. He celebrated Mass regularly and prayed every day. His faith was passed onto to my family who are all regular churchgoers thanks to his powerful witness. Consequently, my Father influenced me in my faith, passions, utilising my talents to develop and appreciate relationships with everyone I encounter and valuing the gift of creation that can be reaped from working with nature. All aspects that embrace proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom.

My Dad is on the right at my  Baptism.

Symbols of Jesus

When I reflect about the major symbols of Jesus I think about the Holy Spirit, the Bread and Wine and the Cross that all have a powerful meaning in my own life.

 In Luke 3:22, The Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.” The symbol of the Holy Spirit is represented by a dove. Water, fire and wind also feature as symbols of the Holy Spirit the latter two at Pentecost. I would maintain this is where Christianity originated and continues today. It is through the gifts and fruits of the Spirit that we are able to proclaim Jesus’ gospel message.

 Additionally, in John 6:35, Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” I would contend Jesus goes beyond the bread and wine it underpins what I do in my life. I believe when I receive the bread and wine at Eucharist, I am committing myself to sharing and building relationships with others and Christ. That is demonstrated in my desire to do God’s will and being a positive influence in everyone I encounter.

 Finally, in Matthew 6: 24 Jesus says to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” I believe in this instance it is sacrificing your own life to continue Jesus’ mission. The cross can also be seen as a symbol of forgiveness, suffering and hope. However, for me it is living my faith that may inspire others to take up Christ’s mission that gives my life a meaning and purpose.  Therefore, my cross is filled with the Holy Spirit and nourished by the bread and the wine this enables me to undertake it every day.

Asking for a Prediction

When the disciples asked what will be the sign of the coming of age, Jesus said,But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” Matthew 24:36

 There are numerous times over the years where I have been asked for a prediction be it the outcome of a sporting fixture or the ending of a television series. I often feel that predictions are fraught with danger and it never resembles the result I forecast. I would consider that for me knowing the future would change my whole dynamic about what I do in the present. Moreover, it is not something I would like to do.

 So, by knowing my future it takes the away the element of surprise. There are situations that have evolved in my life that I would never have thought would happen. Personally, I am glad I never knew.

 Contrastingly, there are circumstances that have arisen that I have found extremely difficult to deal with. Thus, I was happy that I didn’t know about them beforehand. I am of the belief if I had of known about the future, I would not have coped as well as I was able to when they did occur.

 Finally, why did the disciples want to know about the coming of age? Although, it might not be directed about the end times there is an argument they are still asking about future destruction of the temple. The point for me is why do we desire certain conclusions in the future.  My answer is regardless of predictions we always have to wait for the outcome.