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.

 

 

 

Life Balance

In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus tells a parable about the Kingdom of heaven being compared to good seed. However, while everyone was asleep, an enemy sowed some bad seed which grew amongst the good seed in the field. The householder’s solution was to let both of them grow together until the harvest where the reapers will burn the bad wheat and gather the good wheat and store it in the barn.

For me this parable is all about our life balance how do I separate what is good for me against things that only provide gratification and short-term gain? I believe it starts with my own personal well-being. That means a good night’s sleep, a balanced diet and a healthy exercise regime. I find if I sleep well it sets me up for a positive day ahead and I am less inclined to become irritated. Healthy eating habits with a combination of the five food groups ensured I am not feeling hungry throughout the day. Sometimes a lack of food can cause me to be easily aggravated. Furthermore, taking a long walk not only gets my steps up it gives me an opportunity to reflect and pray about my day. These are the three areas I need to tick off every day. Thus, allowing me to be physically, intellectually, emotionally and socially able to prepare with an open mind for the events ahead. It enables me to block out the negative thoughts I may have and focus on my day.

So, having achieved those three goals as the centre of my daily routine how do I deal with the issues that arise from the day? I strive to follow these three principles, to listen attentively, be positive in my interactions and to reserve judgement in all situations that occur. I consider that it is important for the person with whom you are conversing that they feel they are being listened to. I think to that allows for a richer conversation between myself and the person I am talking to. Moreover, that I endeavour in my discussions to have constructive interactions with others. Additionally, when challenged through differences of opinion I reflect on that viewpoint rather than attack it. Therefore, I would argue that these are crucial factors in building positive relationships with everyone.

Consequently, my life balance not only is determined by diet, sleep and exercise but by positive relationships built on attentiveness, fruitful dialogue,  fair decision making, prayer and reflection. This engenders character strengths such as empathy, understanding, self-regulation, prudence, perseverance and hope. Ultimately, by demonstrating all these features I find an equilibrium as  I  work towards being that good wheat that is stored in the barn.

Accepting the Invitation

In Matthew 22:2-3 Jesus says “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come.”  So, the question I pose is how can we partake in the Wedding Feast in the kingdom of heaven rather than declining to be part of Jesus’ mission?

Too often I can claim to have other things I need to do rather than giving up my time to proclaim the Gospel to others. That is why it is important to find a life balance.  For me it is a matter of prioritizing what is important in my life and how that affects not only my relationship with others but my relationship with God. Thus, it is essential that I make the time to fit everything in.

Moreover, I would argue that to find this equilibrium I need to be proactive in relationships. That is giving quality time to my family and friends therefore witnessing the gospel values through positive interactions. Furthermore, this is evident through my dialogue and active listening that will ensure this is an enjoyable experience for all parties. Additionally, for that life balance it is making time for my passions, that enables me to release the pressure from my study and work and is special to me. However, a word of warning it is important that my interests don’t override my relationships with God and others.

This brings me to my final point that is for my life to be productive I need to make time for reflection. This is a period where I can reflect on my experiences, relationships and devote myself to prayer, or go to a mass celebration and share my thoughts with God. I think it helps me towards a perfect life balance of spiritual, social an emotional necessity. These translate into positive relationships with God and others whom I encounter daily. Besides, it enhances my experiences and well -being which enables me to proclaim the Gospel through my personal witness. Likewise, it gives me the opportunity to ensure I am ready to accept the invitation to wedding feast in the kingdom of heaven.

The Message

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus says to his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” My question is how do the disciples and Christians today turn these words into actions?

For me I would liken it to the game plan a coach gives his team before they go out to play. The coach reiterates his game plan to the players and exhorts them to carry it out. However, what if the players fail to respond to the game plan or the game plan was flawed and the team loses. How does the coach react?

Some coaches with their assistants like to watch the game again analysing where the team went wrong.  Though, I would call this paralysis by analysis as you can have all the game plans you want but it doesn’t necessarily correlate into victory.  When Jesus told his disciples to preach the message of the Gospel, I am sure not everyone embraced them or Jesus’ teachings but what the apostles did was persist with Christianity having the world’s greatest following.

Next, I believe that all coaches should go with their gut instinct. That means relaying too much information to players gets lost in translation. I would argue a coach should welcome feedback from the players although he/she should trust in their own game plan as ultimately, they are responsible for the team’s performance. I would think that Jesus would have engaged in ongoing conversation with his disciples nevertheless, what they had to say would not have deterred him from his mission. For example, Matthew 16:21-23 “He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man”.

Finally, a coach needs to fix his eyes on the prize and cut him/herself off from mass and social media. For media sometimes does not promote team harmony and can create disunity within the team organisation and the fanbase. Thus, it is not going to be a fight that a coach can win and distracts him/her from what is important his /her own appraisal about the team both on and off the field.  For Jesus it was the Pharisees that tried to bring him undone and eventually their planning led to Jesus’ death. However, Jesus was strong in his own convictions rebuking them when they tried to undermine his mission. For Jesus as it should be for a coach, “Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14.

The Art of Forgiveness

In John 22-23, Jesus says to his disciples,  if you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

I would suggest that Jesus believed that when confronted by a dilemma, that requires contrition, to achieve a positive resolution, forgiveness needs to occur. Why is this so?

I would argue that disagreements when both people do not actively seek to resolve the issue will see the problem continue to linger and sometimes even spiral out of control. That is why the first step in any conflict that is starting to escalate is to remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible. This I consider assists in creating an opportunity for a successful outcome.

The second step once you have detached yourself from the scene is to reflect on the circumstances, owning your contribution to the problem and formulating strategies that will help you move forward with the other person. Until you begin to do this you can’t even contemplate reaching a solution.

The final step is to set up a meeting with the person to reconcile your differences over the dispute which escalated and now requires both people to forgive one another. This I feel necessitates both parties to strive for a compromise where both their needs can be met otherwise you are back to square one. Jesus offered the best solution that is forgiveness of one another for failing to reach an agreement in the first place.

Seeking Compromise

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6: 37

In Luke 6:37-42 Jesus tells a parable about people judging others with the emphasis on your actions rather than your neighbours when faced with challenging situations where you feel angry and annoyed. So, Jesus is asking us to think carefully about what were my actions in the situation that led to me to being despondent and disappointed.

I often think the immediate reason is usually the reaction of the person or people involved in the situation. The words or actions on both sides might be considered harmful on how we can try to resolve the situation. Therefore, the onus is on the two parties to listen to each other’s points of view to achieve a fruitful outcome.

The next damaging factor to achieving a resolution is both parties holding steadfast to their position. If the other party and I approach the challenge facing us with a fixed mindset then we deny ourselves the opportunity to solve the problem. Thus, we need to be open and engage in dialogue that will present us with possibilities to determine a positive result.

Jesus, however gives us the message in Luke 6:37 to remain level headed and if we feel slighted to forgive that person rather than hold a grudge the next time, we encounter that person. Most importantly, reflect on how we can work through this issue successfully in the future.

My Mum

This Sunday, May 10th, all over Australia we celebrate Mother’s Day. This had me thinking about what kind of influence my Mum had on me. Firstly, she was always welcoming, providing relatives, friends and my own family hospitality without requiring notice. Thus, no need for invitation at our house as visitors were always warmly accepted.

Secondly, my mum from a young age was always there to lay down the foundation for my future by enrolling me in a Catholic School something that resonated with her own faith. She worked hard to provide me with an education that would assist me in my learning, gaining valuable life experiences and developing faith and beliefs that enabled me to form strong relationships with both God and people. It taught me to look beyond the inner bubble of family and friends as the importance of socialising with others ensured my knowledge and experiences would enable me to grow as a person.

Thirdly, my mum and I also shared some of the same interests, predominantly reading, having a perspective of world events and the need for a sense of humour, evident by the tv comedies she watched and stage plays she attended. I consider that it is meaningful for my mother and I to engage in dialogue about our passions as it created more stimulating conversations for both of us.

Finally, my mum has imparted on me pearls of wisdom from which I draw on throughout my life. One that particularly sticks in my mind is “a still tongue is a wise head.” Which to this day I interpret as only giving your opinion when it is relevant and informative, not just idle gossip and ensure you listen to what others have to say. Hence, when I have taken this advice on board it has helped me to make worthwhile and, in some cases, valuable contributions to discussions both privately and professionally.

Therefore, I am extremely grateful to my mum and how she has shaped my life. The significance of being hospitable, educated, sharing your common interests and being engaging and interactive in your dialogue with others has enabled me to build positive relationships with other people and grateful for what I have experienced throughout my life. I thank God for my Mum.