Trusting in the Faith Journey

In Mark 5:24-34 Jesus heals a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for 12 years. She had endured much under many physicians but instead of getting better had become worse. Then when she heard about Jesus she believed if she just touched his cloak, she would be healed. So, my initial thought is what inner belief drove the woman to deem that Jesus could heal her?

 I would consider as we know she had tried different physicians and that had not proved successful in fact her debilitating illness had deteriorated. Therefore, she surmised that Jesus was her last chance having heard stories from people that he cured several sick people through his ministry. Hence, it was now a matter of backing her belief and trusting that Jesus could heal her. Furthermore, this was no easy task. She had to battle through a large crowd and also, saw that Jesus was preoccupied with a man called Jairus pleading for him to heal his little daughter. Thus, she had to have the courage to persist and overcome these obstacles when she could have easily walked away and given up. So, her solution was to come up behind him in the crowd and feel his clothes. I wonder how often I fail to persist when there are barriers in my way. Moreover, I need to follow the woman’s lead and put my trust in Jesus.

 Consequently, the woman’s faith was rewarded. “Immediately, aware that the power had gone from him Jesus turned around and said, “Who touched his clothes.? But the woman knowing what had happened to her, came in fear, fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. Jesus, said daughter your faith has made you well go in peace.” Mark 5:33-34 I think this gospel passage is particularly powerful in inviting us to trust in Jesus and turn to him when we are facing difficult challenges in our lives. Additionally, there is the offer that this faith will be rewarded if we continue to acknowledge Jesus’ presence in our lives.

Calming the Storm

On the weekend my AFL football team, Saint Kilda lost a game from a seemingly winning position. After the game there was the usual recriminations for the club, coach and players. The question I ask who ultimately is responsible for the defeat?

I think a little perspective is needed here. It is one loss amongst other losses that have happened over this season. I would argue that in today’s world where performances are forensically analysed by the mainstream media and fans forums on social media the responsibility is divided where the blame lies. I believe you have to understand what were the actions that caused St Kilda’s demise.

I consider the Scriptural context through the Jesus calming the storm best mirrors the defeat St Kilda suffered. In Mark 4: 37-38 the disciples are in a boat with Jesus. Suddenly, the boat is under attack from a storm.  The disciples, wake up Jesus who is asleep saying to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’  Hence, the disciples are shifting the onus of accountability from them to do something about the storm to Jesus. Consequently, in the case of the disciples it is not about liability but responsibility. There is no reason to point fingers or make accusations that exude negativity and is the road to nowhere but embrace the challenge. Additionally, the reaction to panic means no logical action is going to take place it is only going to inflame the situation. I liked how Jesus asked the hard questions of the disciples, as he calmed the sea, ‘why are you afraid have you still no faith?’ Mark 4:40 I would argue that if the emphasis is on Jesus to solve the problem, then what happens if another problem arises and Jesus is not around?

All problems and issues can not just be attributable to one person or one factor either instigating them or providing a positive outcome. Everyone involved in the situation must also be part of the solution, reliance on a few is not sustainable. For the disciples it is believing they have the necessary gifts from God to create favourable conclusions. While for St Kilda it is everyone taking ownership of the issues and placing their trust in their team mates and coach to produce successful results.

Furthermore, both the disciples and the St Kilda players should be appreciative of the opportunities they have been given. The disciples continuing Christ’s mission and the St Kilda team to play AFL football. Moreover, they need to acknowledge their followers and fanbase by leaving a legacy that ensures the future of the Church and the football club for generations to come. I am a great believer that everything happens for a reason it is learnings that motivates change and a willingness to overcome adversity that builds dynasties.

Celebrating a Wonderful Life

Last week my Auntie passed away Mary. Yesterday we celebrated her life with a Mass followed by a gathering of my auntie, uncle, cousins and friends. There many stories were told about her rich and fulfilling life.

 The stories I liked best were the tales of self- sacrifice, for her parents, her husband, her children, grandchildren and her family business. Mary from a young age was committed to helping her parents in the family market garden doing whatever was necessary to ensure the produce was ready to sell so, they could put food on the table. It would not have been easy long days outside in glasshouses overcoming what ever the weather had in store. The fact that Mary chose what her parents had asked of her, depicted Mary’s resilience and desire to work hard.

 This was exemplified in setting up a family-owned petrol station with her husband, son and daughter. She would operate the cash register and sort out the accounts with her daughter while her husband and son would attend to the mechanical repairs. In other words, she was the face of the service station and therefore, it was vital that through her friendly service and meeting the needs of customers, she guaranteed that the business would be successful.

Above all, and most importantly, were her relationships with her family and friends. This was underpinned by Mary’s faith demonstrated by her praying of the rosary daily. She was able to provide wisdom and display generosity to those who required her guidance as they journeyed through life’s complex issues. She always made time for me and for that I am truly grateful.

Continuing Christ’s Mission

“Jesus showed himself to the Eleven, and said to them,                                                           “Go out to the whole world, proclaim the Good News to all creation.”  Mark 16:15                               Thus, Jesus was commissioning the disciples to continue his ministry. So, what did that entail?

Consequently, the disciples would now have to proclaim Jesus’ teachings to all nations so that all people would know that Jesus through his death and resurrection had come to give everyone the opportunity to gain eternal life. The question is how did the disciples   encourage people from different cultures and beliefs to embrace the Gospel values and the promise of salvation?  Accordingly, God sent the Holy Spirit to give the disciples the necessary tools as they embarked on their mission. They were the gift of tongues which enabled them to speak in the languages of all nations and the fruits and gifts of the spirit which could assist them in overcoming the many obstacles they faced along the way.

Subsequently, the disciples became very authoritative witnesses of the Gospel which was sustained through the power of the Holy Spirit. That enabled them to perform miracles as well as offering fellowship to those wishing to become Christians while supporting them on their faith journey. Nevertheless, despite their great work many of them were martyred for their beliefs however, their legacy inspired a hard core of believers to continue Christ’s mission which continues on today.

Hence, as Christians how do we inspire people to be instrumental in what Jesus started 2021 years ago? I believe that for me it begins and ends with our personal relationship with Jesus. My faith is centred on Jesus and I believe he is the great model for all teachers the greatest teacher of all who in proclaiming the reign of God through his ministry lived these words: ‘What can I do to help?” For me this begins through being welcoming and being inclusive of all staff, parents, students and members of the local community, witnessing my faith and acknowledging that each person and living thing is made in the image of God. express these qualities through my commitment to the Christian faith, and modelling respect, compassion and faith in the community.  This will be evident in my response to each person or situation I encounter and my profession of faith which I celebrate by using my gifts in the assembled community at Mass, in the sacraments, in daily prayer, reflection, and pastoral care of Church and School Community members. Thus, inspired by Jesus, the disciples and those Christians throughout the years I feel my faith asks of me to continue to proclaim the good news of Christ’s mission. Therefore, hopefully people will still know about Jesus in 2021 years time.

I am the Vine

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2       This was one of Mary of the Cross MacKillop’s favourite scripture passages.  As we approach Mother’s Day, I am reminded of the inspiration Mary MacKillop had on my Mother’s life and how this scripture applied to her own life.

My mum was like the gardener who takes care of all the plants in the same way she looked after me and my three sisters. In our childhood it was starting our day with breakfast, sending us off  in our uniforms to our respective Catholic schools (ensuring we were educated in the Catholic faith) and then listening to the stories of the day at night. I often reflect when she heard our stories this was when she did the pruning. So, how did this pruning occur?

I think one of my mum’s clever ploys was to allow us to have freedom of speech when it came to talk to her about day without interruption. Her only requirement was that we did not speak negatively about anybody (a Mary of the Cross, MacKillop edict) and our recollections weren’t just idle gossip. As my mother would always remind me, “a still tongue makes a wise head.” Now as I reflect on those words, I realise nothing is to be gained from such diatribes. Thus, I acknowledge that living according to that idiom is a powerful weapon when dealing with challenging situations.

Another aspect of my Mother’s pruning was being an exceptional, faith role model in our lives. Mary of the Cross MacKillop wrote, “We teach more by example than words”.  My mum exemplified this through her commitment to prayer, Sunday Mass and paying for our education at Catholic schools helping us understand our own faith and building our relationship with God. Hence, she recognised that God could be a strong influence in our lives, particularly someone we can turn to in times of triumph and adversity while appreciating what we have in our lives.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. John 15:16 When I think about this scripture, I consider my mum’s character strengths just like Mary of the Cross MacKillops of faith, judgement, wisdom and perseverance. I believe they have shaped my sisters and I in building relationships with God, our own families and friends and hopefully we will continue to inspire others to bear fruit just like my mother and Mary of the Cross MacKillop did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Empty Tomb

In John 20: 1 Mary Magdalene discovers that the stone had been removed from the empty tomb. I often wonder what I would do if I was Mary Magdalene and found that Jesus was no longer in the place where he was buried? Would I panic and think of the worst-case scenario or keep calm and search for a possible explanation?

My initial reaction would be surveying the tomb for any possible clues of what may have occurred. “Mary Magdalene ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple. Simon Peter went into the tomb and saw linen wrappings lying there and a cloth that had been on Jesus’ head rolled up in a place by itself. John 20 :6-7.”  Immediately, in this situation is how and why could this have happened? There was a large rock rolled against the tomb entrance to prevent people from coming in or out and also guards posted outside the tomb emphasised in Matthew’s resurrection account. So, what would be my reaction to Jesus’ body removed?

I think once I got over the bewilderment of seeing cloth wrappings strewn around the tomb, I would hope my logical rational processes would kick in. Thus, putting myself in Mary Magdalene’s, Simon Peter’s and the other disciple’s position and having no prior knowledge of the Gospel accounts I would have to deduce from Jesus’ words and actions some reference to this moment. For example, Jesus 16:21, “From that time on, (Peter’s reference to Jesus being the Messiah), Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders, chief priests and scribes, be killed and on the third day rise.” Therefore, the evidence was always in Jesus’ teachings.

The proof is in when the other disciple entered the tomb and believed. John 20:9. Therefore, the  onus on all of us is not to see the clothing scattered in the tomb but to truly believe that Jesus has risen.

 

Being a Dad

In Luke 2: 41- 51 Joseph, Mary and Jesus went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. However, when the festival ended unbeknown to his parents Jesus stayed behind whereas they thought he was travelling with the group. Luke 2:44 As a dad of three children a priority for me is that my children feel safe. Nevertheless, over the years I have learnt you can’t be hovering over them all the time and more importantly you can never assume anything. Thus, you have to trust them that they are doing the right thing. Unfortunately, this is not always easy as I say to myself when they tell me they are going to do something how I wish I knew the outcome beforehand.

 Next, I try to be positive and listen without judgement in my interactions with my children even when their activities severely test my patience. For example, Joseph and Mary were tested when they were unable to find Jesus and start searching for him. “After three days they found him in the temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” Luke 2:47 When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and Mary said, “Child, why have you treated us like this. Look, your Father and I have been searching for you with great anxiety.” Luke 2:49. My first reaction when my children have done something that has caused me anxiety is to try and remain cool, calm and collected when I asked them about the situation. I know this is the best approach to gaining a response from them. Additionally, I don’t give an opinion on what they have done I just ask them to keep me in the loop. Hence, like Joseph and Mary I might not understand what my children might do but it is vital to open a strong line of communication between us.

 Ultimately, I imagine similarly to Joseph and Mary I would like them to be happy in whatever endeavour they wish to follow. Sometimes, it might be a change of studies or a job but I believe what it gets down to is finding something meaningful they can pursue in their lives that gives them a sense of meaning and purpose. Whether that be in their relationships with others or their work I would hope they know that I am there to support them. Just like Jesus was by his Father.

Lifegiving Water

Often, I find it is easy to react when you are feeling yourself under pressure or expected to give a quick response to a situation that requires immediate action.  I really like how Jesus reacts in John 4:5-15, Jesus and the Woman of Samaria are a blueprint to responding to challenging circumstances.

Jesus asks the Samaritan woman who came to draw water from the well is asked by Jesus for a drink. The Samaritan woman replies, “How is it that you, a Jew ask a drink of me a woman of Samaria? John 4:7 So, Jesus directly is speaking to a woman who normally you would not see an interaction between those two races as they did not share things in common. Thus, I was thinking how many times do I avoid coming into contact with people I find difficult to relate to or have had testing experiences with in the past. Therefore, by not engaging is not really solving the issues it’s allowing them to linger.

Additionally, Jesus, offers the Samaritan woman something in return if she gives him a drink. “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is, that is saying to you, give me a drink, you would have asked him and he would give you living water.” John 4:11 Hence, the key is how you approach people it might be with a wave, a smile or a simple hello acting as a catalyst to a way forward for future communication.

Furthermore, what was the gift Jesus was offering the woman and to us? “The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. John 4:14 What I really like about the gift that Jesus is suggesting is that it is not just a gift for the Samaritan woman but is freely given to all of us. The gift of living with Jesus in eternity that provides us with the courage and motivation to build relationships with all people and God knowing that if we need to, we can drink from that water anytime.

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.