Doing your Father’s Will

In Matthew 23:3 Jesus says to the disciples and the crowd, “Do not do as the Scribes and Pharisees do tie up heavy burdens hard to bear and lay them on the shoulders of others, but they themselves are unwilling to move them.”

 How often are we ourselves challenged with burdens that only we can take responsibility for as much as we would like to pass the onus onto some else?

Sometimes when what I face is daunting I turn over my anxiety to God and ask him to help me through the issue. Recently, I begin to pray a novena,

(A novena is a series of prayers that are said for nine straight days, usually as a prayer of petition but sometimes as a prayer of thanksgiving. The nine days recall the nine days that the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary spent in prayer between Ascension  Thursday  & Pentecost Sunday) or issues that I really needed God’s and the Saints I prayed to  help with to achieve a successful outcome.

23:5 “The Pharisee’s and Scribes do all their deeds to be seen by others.”

 I have always thought that if I needed to defer to self-praise or was entitled to praise from others then my actions were all about me and not about what I did. I have often found that I really appreciate praise for just doing things that I normally do. That is nothing out of the ordinary, waving the traffic through morning and afternoon, welcoming a new student to the school who comments on that when he or she are leaving for high school or the celebration of a mass where the person said that felt God was present.

 23:6 “They love to have the best place at synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the market places.”

 Often, I feel embarrassed if I am offered a place of honour at a celebration. I would prefer to sit inconspicuously with everyone else and treated as one of the crowd. To be honoured is not sitting at the best seat in the venue but to be acknowledged and respected by your peers for the contribution you have made in their lives.

In the end, my life will be judged on the responsible decisions I make that affect others, my ability to act humbly and the influence I had on people’s lives hopefully always acting in accordance with doing God’s will.

 

 

 

 

Jesus the Teacher Part 2

Jesus’s educational leadership inspired the faith of communities to make God’s presence visible by living the values of care, openness and respect. I believe Jesus demonstrated these values through both his words and actions.

 The story of the Blind Beggar, Bartimaeus is evidence of Jesus’ compassion and empathy towards others. (Mark:46-52) in the narrative Bartimaeus is sitting by the roadside in Jericho. So, he is visible to a large crowd with Jesus and his disciples walking towards Jerusalem.  Immediately, when he heard Jesus of Nazareth was coming, Bartimaeus shouts out “Son of David have mercy on me.” (Mark 10:48) He is rebuked by the many to stop calling out but calls out even louder. (Mark 10:49) How often because we are rebuked do we become less inclined to take risks when our voice like Bartimaeus needs to be heard? I think what this narrative points out is that Jesus always hears our voice.

 Bartimaeus is also a great example of persistence as he keeps on shouting despite the opposition from the crowd? Bartimaeus’ perseverance through his faith acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God and has the power to heal him. The healing will not only cure him from his blindness but also enhance his economic status and allow him to seek employment rather than continue to beg. Furthermore, this is why perhaps the crowd scolded Bartimaeus for asking for a healing due to his low economic and social status.

 Jesus then asks for the people to call him over and on hearing that Jesus wants to speak to him Bartimaeus springs up and comes to Jesus.

Jesus says, what do you want me to do for you? Bartimaeus replies, my teacher, let me see again. Then Jesus said, “Go your faith has made you well. Immediately, Bartimaeus regained his sight. (Mark:49-52) What I particularly like about this story is Bartimaeus’ asking for Jesus’ help. I would argue that Bartimaeus is a great inspiration to me to ask God for help as too often I try to solve issues myself. Jesus demonstrates through this narrative that no matter the circumstances his respect, care and openness to others through healing a poor, blind man illustrates that Jesus’ salvation is available to everyone.

The bottom line for me in my role as an APRIM is to imitate Jesus and follow his teachings. I believe I demonstrate this by witnessing my faith, listening to the needs of others and acting sensitively, graciously and compassionately with everyone I encounter.  Therefore, through being welcoming and inclusive of all staff, students, parents and members of the community I build relationships that are based on trust and openness. Ultimately, I make God visible within Holy Family by respecting and utilizing the gifts and talents of all and engaging each person in prayer, liturgies, masses and social justice. Thus, embracing the Gospel message of the Parable of the Sower and the narrative of Blind Bartimaeus to seek success for all seeds that fall in different areas regardless of their social and economic backgrounds and taking risks to share my faith even though I may endure hardship and failure. Isn’t that what teaching and learning is all about?

 

Jesus the Teacher Part 1

 

 would consider that Mark’s Gospel is a good example of Jesus as an educator and i believe this defines his mission on earth.

So, who is Jesus and what is he on about?

 In Mark 1:14 -15 I believe the writer shapes Jesus’ purpose on earth.

“Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the good news of God and saying, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good news.”

 I would argue the good news that Jesus is proclaiming is the kingdom of God and this is accessible to all of us, all we have to do is believe in the possibilities that are God offers us.

Furthermore, Jesus is saying that despite the economic and political factors that affect your way of living God is a source of hope that can overcome all obstacles. The source of hope stems from what Michael Trainor called metanoia changing the way we think.

Another important factor that influences Jesus’ teaching is his background. Jesus was a peasant who aligns himself with the oppressed against the backdrop of a 1st Century Galilee occupied by Romans and where their rule over Jewish subjects is exercised by Philip the Tetrarch, (4BCE-34BCE son of Herod the Great). Thus, Jesus’ ministry is in an economic and political world of poverty that gives rise to social and political resistance movements. Any threat to social and political resistance leads to their leaders being executed. Additionally, the Jewish Sanhedrin Religion which redefined the Torah to create a powerful religious elite. Thus, for the Jewish people it was very difficult to challenge the social, economic, political and religious rule that created the chasm between the rich and the poor at the time. Jesus through his teaching and miracles was now offering them and alternative. Therefore, both the political and religious rulers were threatened by Jesus the prophet and teacher who offered a different view of economic and political affairs. His role humanized social, economic, religious and political situations by getting involved and renewing the life of the local people through confronting the authorities by his words and actions.

 For example, the Parable of the Sower talks about the social, political, religious and economic conditions of the time. This is my interpretation, the seed that falls on the path is God’s creation that has been trampled on by the Roman Occupation of Galilee, the religious leadership of the Jewish Sanhedrin through rewriting the Torah to maintain their power of their believers and the economic hardship of taxes needed to be paid to the Romans exercised by the Governor of Judea, Philip the Tetrarch.

 Next, the seed that falls on rocky ground is the social and political resistance that tries to overcome the hardship the people face in their everyday lives. The desire to strive for social, political and economic justice is threatened with possible execution. Therefore, they face the dilemma of speaking out against their oppressors as because of their numbers against the might of the Romans their attempt for a rebellion is doomed to failure.

 The seed that falls amongst the thorns is good grain but is choked by the Roman and Jewish rulers of the time. What should happen is that the farmer should be able to keep a fair share of his profits so he can sell it at cheaper price. In turn people will be able to afford to buy it and feed their families. However, what occurs is most of their income is paid in taxes to the rulers of Palestine. In those times, the Publicans were the tax collectors. The process was that the Publicans were Jews who bought tax collection franchises from the Roman government. Though, any amount that they collected over and above what Rome required, they could keep for themselves. So, if you really owed the Roman government a thousand dollars, the publican might tell you that you owed fifteen hundred. Hence, the publican would send the thousand you really owed on to the Roman government, and keep the extra five hundred for himself. Consequently, an unfair political and economic system leads to the people of Palestine being choked by those in power and the wealthy. Jesus doesn’t require money or people to be highfliers in society to be loved he teaches that God is available to us no matter who we are.

Eventually, the seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”(Mark 4:8) These are the people that embrace the good news that Jesus is proclaiming and strive to live according to the Gospel values. Subsequently, enabling them to experience God through believing in the good news. A transformation that leads to a strong faith due to a relationship with God that can endure the difficulties of the time.

  

Building a Foundation

 

 

In Matthew 16:18-19, Jesus says, And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

 I liken this scripture to my wife and I saving up all our money to build a new house. The first part was easy with the builders you come up with ideal plan for your house. Well it is not exactly your ideal plan because that is usually dictated by what you could afford and the supplies being available. At the time, we had to compromise. For me building a house can be compared to my faith journey.  The commitment my parents made for me began with the Celebration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist. It was keeping that commitment that was difficult.

Then you pay instalments as each part of the house is added. First the site preparation, foundation, framework and brickwork. For me it was my parents paying the school fees to send me to a Catholic School. At my school for 13 years I was given a grounding in the traditions of the Catholic Church through prayer, scripture and liturgy. It was where I learnt about the symbols and the rituals that are integral to celebrating our faith.

Next is the installation of windows and doors, roofing and siding. I would compare this stage of my faith journey as where I start to connect the scripture, symbols and rituals to my life experiences and how that is interwoven with my relationships with God and everyone I encounter.

The following stage is fitting the electricity, plumbing, cabinets and flooring. Instantly I am at the point where I am required to continually visit the house to ensure everything is going to plan. The link with my faith is although it is taking shape I need to constantly reflect on my life experiences to determine that challenges I face don’t consume so I don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. That is my relationships with my family, friends and God.

The final stage is lock up where you make the final payment and are given the keys. The keys that immediately, opened the door to the responsibility that went from furnishing the house to quickly becoming a larger family. Furthermore, the house is not only our home but a mixture of different personalities that share the highs and lows of each other’s lives. Like our faith journey we continually evaluate these experiences with the commitment of achieving fruitful and positive relationships that enable us to assist others and ourselves in working towards a common purpose to build on the foundation that allows us to pursue our dreams.

 

 

Walking on Water

In Matthew 14:26-30,

The disciples saw Jesus walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Taking the first step is always difficult to do particularly if the governing emotion is fear. We often defer to our comfort zone or we can revert to a state of denial.  So why do we act in this way?

I think we have a fear of the unknown when we can’t explain what is occurring. Consequently, we try to predict possible outcomes. For me it is usually the worst case scenarios because I can’t influence the outcome. Therefore, if I am not in control I have to let go. Hence, my faith needs to kick in.

The next stage is taking a leap of faith and getting out of the boat and walking on the water toward Jesus. When Peter saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” I liken Peter’s experience to being on a rollercoaster ride and then suddenly wishing I wasn’t there because the experience I was having was not quite what I envisaged. Therefore, the rollercoaster ride was not what I thought it would be although I am much wiser for the experience.  Hence, we learn from our experiences especially those that involved risk taking. On reflection, I am still glad I went on the rollercoaster as I am sure Peter is that he tried to walk on water.

The final stage is trust in the support of your family and friends. Jesus said, “You of little faith why did you doubt.” I would argue it is not only a matter of doubting my own abilities but doubting my own faith in God to reveal that he has an active role in my life. When faced with difficulties or challenging situations it is then you rely on your family and friends to keep you thinking positively that you can overcome any situation. The question is when your options run out can you put your trust in God? I believe it is then that you can truly walk on water.

 

What is Love?

In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Saint Paul says,“Love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

So, I reflected on what best symbolized love and for me. I believe love is where we meet to God. Love takes many forms.

Firstly, for me to know love I need to appreciate the beauty in the world around us. I see it in the enormity of God’s creation, the music that I listen to, the brilliant dramatic performances of actors, the creativity of painters, the intricate storytelling of authors, the artistic elegance of dancers and the laughter of children.

Secondly, I find Love in the Gospels when I read about Jesus. Jesus through the Parables speaks about a God that is merciful and forgiving especially to the poor, the sinners and those at the margins of society. Furthermore, he heals the faithful of their afflictions all they have to do is believe. Thus, Jesus through his words and actions inspires us to imitate his life. We can do this by listening and discerning what God wants for us by reading the bible, praying, appreciating creation, celebrating, loving our neighbour and accepting forgiveness and forgiving in turn.

Finally, I find Love in the people I have encountered in my life.  The relationships I form with my family, friends and work colleagues is where I find God.  It is through their encouragement, support and commitment to the relationship that allow me to be who I want to be and give me hope that my life’s journey will be a fruitful one. Just like God these people are a constant in my life whose Love fortunately for me never ends.

My Dog, Ed.

Last week my dog Ed who had been with my family for 15 years passed away.

Back in 2002 I got home from work when to my surprise I nearly tripped over a young Kelpie cross puppy sliding across the floor of our family room. My younger daughter, Natalie saw my apprehension towards having a dog and said, “Don’t worry Dad we are only trialing the dog for the next three days and if it doesn’t work out he can always go back to the farm.”

Well the whole weekend I experienced family pressure convincing me to keep the dog and for further incentive I could even name him. So, I called him, Ed after my favourite television show at the time. However, that alone did not mean he would stay and I was still holding out because in my mind it was only a matter of time before Ed returned to the farm.

Then it happened just as I had tired of his barking, complaining neighbours, ripped mattresses and messes all over the floor and the something happened.  What I had failed to see in all my negativity was how wonderfully, Ed had bonded with my wife and children. In particular my son, Simon with special needs who he would always follow around the backyard like he was looking out for him. Unbeknown to me my wife Anne Marie entered the “Sunday Mail Dog of the Year Competition”, due to that unique relationship between Simon and Ed.  Sure, enough the day I was going to say Ed needs to go I got a phone call at work. It was Anne Marie saying Ed had won the competition now there was no way that Ed could leave seeing he was a celebrity with his photo with my son on the front page of the Sunday Mail.

Well the next 15 years went by rather quickly and last week Ed suddenly passed away. For all my grumbling I am going to miss the wagging of his tail when I came home, his ability to demand a pat whenever family and friends were nearby, his constant faithfulness and companionship, the long walks along the beach where I told all my problems but most of all I will miss his unconditional love that distracted me from the issues of everyday life.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you. Proverbs 3:4

What Does It Mean to be Welcoming?

Matthew 10: 27 Jesus says,” What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.”

 So how does this scripture relate to being welcoming?

I think Jesus is challenging us to being transparent. Hence, our transparency can resonate with other people who perceive that this is a person who they can trust because they are so open and hospitable with everyone they meet. They treat everyone that same and don’t do special favours for a chosen few.

Moreover, the scripture refers to proclaiming from the housetops rather than what you hear whispered. I believe Jesus is asking us to feel good about who we are and what we are doing and letting other people know about it, particularly when witnesses the good news of God’s Kingdom. Our own personal witness through the work we do demonstrates that we go beyond just a welcome, but we interested in building relationships with others which ultimately develops a culture of compassion and engagement.

Furthermore, welcoming means reserving judgement and always looking for the best in others. It requires us to be cautious and not regret our actions that may sabotage a positive outcome in any situation. Thus, welcoming is the starting point to creating a community that builds a community that lives the Gospel values.

 

 

Waiting is the Hardest Part

I often find it difficult waiting for anything. If I want a reply to a question, an email, a phone message or buying my food from a takeaway or order from a restaurant I want it straight away. This has led me to reflect on why is waiting so difficult?

In my case I think it is due to wanting to be straight away. I want my answer to the question, email or phone call so I can move on to my next actions to fulfil my needs. Moreover, with the food I want my hunger satiated so I can be contented. Thus, my motives are purely self-aggrandisement.

For the disciples, I have a different take. I imagine when Jesus said he would return to earth that the disciples thought he would be back in their lifetime.

So, you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Matthew 24:44

I think for the disciples the waiting for Jesus was because they needed his support but once they realized they had the ability to continue Christ’s mission without him their anxiety diminished.

Finally, I have also come to the conclusion that sometimes if we just wait for events to unfold they have a way of working themselves out. Consequently, how we need to proceed further becomes clearer and may result in a more positive outcome than if we acted.

Therefore, I believe waiting is more than just looking for a response so we can get on with the next part of our life or satisfying a need. I believe it is about reassurance which gives us hope to continue our life and faith journey.

The Spirit of Truth

In John’s Gospel 14:16 to17 Jesus says,” And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever the Spirit of truth.”

I believe that Jesus teachings are what guide us to the Spirit of truth. Moreover, when I am are able to interpret these teachings and relate them to my life it is the power of the Spirit that is revealing the words and actions to take me forward.

“The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

Furthermore, to live according Jesus’ teachings is challenging and requires me to give myself to others. Consequently, it necessitates that I make choices where I am unable to please everyone. Sometimes these choices may alienate my family and friends but if I know they contribute to positive outcomes for them or other people then I am doing God’s will.

In verses 20 and 21 Jesus goes on say that God is always is with us.

On that day, you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

What a great a feeling it is to know that God is not only present but also dwells within me. Additionally, for me realizing I am made in the image of God and therefore a visible witness of God’s presence on Earth. Thus, my role is proclaiming the Gospel and reveal the Spirit of truth to everyone I encounter. Ultimately, it is this Spirit of truth that sets us free and gives meaning and purpose to my life.