The Process

In Luke 9:11-17 Jesus feeds five thousand people from five loaves and two fish. What I am most intrigued about is the process that leads to this miracle.

Firstly, Jesus welcomes them, curing those who need healing and preaching about the Kingdom of God. Immediately, he is making a statement that everyone who is present in the crowd is important them.

Secondly, rather them turn them away he reinforces that he values their presence and decides to extend his hospitality by feeding them. Jesus bamboozles the disciples when he asks them to go and collect food and all they can come up with is five loaves and two fish.

Jesus doesn’t ask the disciples to find a way what he is asking them to do is find resources to make it happen.

Finally, the blessing of the loaves and fishes symbolises that God has provided for his people above and beyond what they asked for as the twelve baskets left over indicate. Jesus demonstrates to the crowd through his relationship with God that all things are possible.

 

Following Jesus

How did Jesus encourage people to follow him? I believe Jesus in his relationship with us through the power of the Holy Spirit was committed to developing shared beliefs, trust and utilising our gifts and fruits to continue his mission.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John14:15

How do we embrace Jesus’ ministry?I would define that Jesus’ miracles, healings and teachings inspired and gave hope to his believers, to adhere to his core values and demonstrated that anything was possible. Therefore, Jesus’ compassion, actions and the promise of eternal life are the shared beliefs that galvanise Christians all over the world to commit to proclaiming the Good News of God’s Kingdom.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.

“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. John 14:23-24

What are the actions that display our trust in Jesus?

We place our confidence in Christ through prayer, living his word and witnessing to others which leads to creating opportunities where we can encounter life to the full. Often, we experience obstacles as we strive to demonstrate our faith through a culture of listening and dialogue and authentic liturgy and prayer. It is then we need turn to God for guidance through prayer and scripture and trust that we will be given a sign to point the way.

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” John 14:26

So, why do we stand steadfast to our faith? I think it is because we draw on the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit to foster our connections with people and the environment and this in turn enhances our lives. If we our exhibiting the gifts of wisdom, fortitude, knowledge and counsel and the fruits, of joy, peace, kindness, generosity and self-control it will determine that we our true followers of Christ and are dedicated to continue his mission.

The Greater Vision

I often reflect on how Culture echoes a particular setting and effects the words and actions of the people who are in that environment. The question is does the Culture implement a vision of short-term fixes rather than decisions that are viewed as long-term sustainability?

In John 20:24-29, Thomas who was not with the disciples when Jesus appeared after his resurrection did not believe Jesus had risen from the dead unless he was able to see him for himself. I would argue that central to Jesus’ relationship with disciples was trust. Jesus believed that the disciples would understand that his mission was inclusive and an opportunity for everyone to embrace and live the Gospel Teachings. Thus, why did Thomas demand to see Jesus before he would believe?

I contend it is like when a sporting team is facing adversity due to through a string of poor losses, or the unavailability of key personnel either, through players wanting to leave the club as well as injury. Accordingly, the Culture is threatened as there is division as to whether the direction of the club is the way forward. Therefore, how do we overcome these challenges to our Culture amidst many opposing voices when doubt creeps in.

I believe Jesus provides the best model to sustaining a Culture where his vision for his mission can be successfully sustained. Jesus built pillars which laid a solid foundation to maintaining his mission. They were through his personal witness which extolled the values of compassion and empathy for others demonstrated by his miracles and healings. Additionally, Jesus’s Gospel teachings that challenged our relationships with others and our environment as well as how we could express God’s love through our words and actions. Moreover, these teachings offered hope and an end goal with the promise of eternal life. Consequently, these pillars exhibited, that Jesus could entrust his disciples to build a Church of believers all over the world today who have the faith to carry on his mission. As Jesus said to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:27. Many believers have taken up this call since Jesus started his mission over 2000 years ago all we are asked is to believe.

 

Pope Francis on Mothers

On Sunday we celebrated Mother’s Day, here are some of Pope Francis’s thoughts on Mothers. “So, Let’s remember with appreciation all mothers, even our mothers in heaven particularly throughout the world at this time of the [coronavirus] pandemic.”

“To be a mother is a great treasure through their sacrifices, mothers assist in helping society to overcome its self-centered tendencies, as well as its lack of openness, generosity and concern for others.”

“Mothers, are often taken advantage of because of their availability. Not even the Christian community values them properly, despite the eminent example of the Mother of Jesus.”

“All of us give credit to our mothers for life and many other things, but not always are they listened to or helped in everyday life. In this sense motherhood is more than childbearing; it is a life choice entailing sacrifice, respect for life, and commitment to passing on those human and religious values which are essential for a healthy society.”

This maternal martyrdom, consists of a mother’s ability to offer herself in silence, prayer and total surrender, “without any fanfare,” to her motherly duties. A mother’s sensitivity “to all that threatens human life and welfare is a source of enrichment for society and the Church,” observing how it is common in moments of difficulty to encounter the tenderness, dedication and moral strength of our mothers.

“Mothers, often give the first roots of the faith, the ones that permeate deepest; without them not only would the faithful be lost, but also a good part of the deepest fire of our faith,”

We need to thank all mothers for what they are and for all that they give to the Church and to our world.”

Pope Francis concluded his midday address by recalling that Mother’s Day is celebrated in many countries today. “I wish to remember with gratitude and affection all mothers, and entrust them to the protection of Mary, our mother in heaven.” He remembered too “the mothers who have gone to the other life and accompany us from heaven.” Then addressing his global audience, Francis asked people to spend a moment in silence and “let each of us remember our own mother.”

A photo of my mum  below.

Being part of something Greater

In James 3;16 He states, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every sinful practice.” I thought deeply about this quote and reflected on how I would interpret it in my own context. The best way I could rationalise this scripture verse is comparing the situation of James’s community to world sports and Jesus.

James was one of the chief leaders of a Christian Community in Jerusalem. He believed that people of authentic faith are visible through their good deeds. From what I have read about the early Christian Church., “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people.”2:42-43, 45-47. Thus, the epitome of dedicating their lives to worshipping God and serving others.

In comparison, all sports seem to try to fit in players who at times play as individuals rather than be team oriented. Is it because they are driven by the money they can earn, the celebrity adulation or the desire to seek the own personal goals? I would argue that you can have all these attributes as long as put above those aspirations an unquenchable thirst for team success. Surely, reaching the pinnacle with your team members and creating a personal and club legacy is long term and assures the player of the individual accolades they crave.

Consequently, I believe Jesus is the perfect example generating a legacy through his ministry. His teachings, miracles and healing of the sick were all about proclaiming the Kingdom of God. It was by building relationships with the apostles, his followers and the people in the areas he travelled that inspired them with his personal character strengths, words and actions. His legacy became greater through his death and resurrection which offered us the hope of eternal life. No-one earthly person alive or dead can ever give us that.

Cry for the Earth, Cry for the Poor. Part 3   

  Social Justice Statement Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

We are being challenged to understand that we do not stand outside of creation but are part of it, we are in communion with all creation, the “ultimate purpose of other creatures is moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God.

We have to realise that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

The Second Vatican Council understood that, as well as teaching, the Church must continue to listen to and learn from the world. Our Catholic Social Teaching develops through dialogue with the people, places, and events of history – that is to say, with the ongoing unfolding of the creation story.

We stand with Pope Francis in acknowledging “that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system” and that “humanity is called to recognise the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or the causes which produce it”.

We also need to trust the science to respond successfully to the ecological crisis, according to Professor Shine:                                                                                                                                          “We must improve our understanding of fire behaviour and other adverse weather events, and we must continually develop new technologies, practices and behaviours to assist our nation to respond and adapt to, manage, and mitigate against such extreme events.”

When it comes to human knowledge of the lands and waters now known as Australia, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are our first teachers. “It is time that all Australians, particularly those following in the footsteps of Christ, recognise that God’s creation, needs to be loved, looked after and kept, not degraded or abused.

The call to care for creation goes to the heart of what it means to be human before God and in the world. It requires a profound conversion expressed in new ways of living, both personally and collectively.  

Pope Francis invites us to conversion saying: “Many things have to change.                                             It is not just a matter of awareness or changing our minds, but a shift at the level of the heart that will result in changed action. To achieve reconciliation with creation, “we must examine our lives and acknowledge the ways to bring about lasting change through community conversion. We are being called to a new way of thinking, feeling, understanding, and living.”

Pope Francis advocates “a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximising their efficient use, reusing and recycling them.”

Cry for the Earth, Cry for the Poor. Part 2

Social Justice Statement Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

Inspired by Scripture, Pope Francis sees the pandemic in terms of its potential for positive change.  The COVID-19 crisis can become our Noah moment.  He states that we need to find our way to the Ark and a new future if we recognise and foster the ties that bind us together. Along with the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor, we also hear a cry of the students from Holy Family.

Furthermore, every creature speaks to us of the Creator, but if are to be stewards of the Earth we need to listen. For example, the rising sea levels, bigger king tides, more frequent and severe storms, coastal erosion, coral bleaching, and decreasing fish stocks are already a daily reality throughout the world.  Moreover, some Pacific Islands are in imminent danger of disappearing and their communities facing the task of relocating.

Additionally, the First Nations people remind us of the interconnectedness of people and the rest of creation. Pat Dodson states “The Aborigines and the environment are but one, and all things on earth have a cycle, and they recycle. All rivers, trees, creatures, and plants are alive just as we are, today and in the beginning. They are part of nature as we are, and our connection to all things natural is spiritual.”.

The suffering of our rivers and waterways, our groundwater, reefs, and oceans, are clearly visible. Successive bleaching events in the Great Barrier Reef and mass fish deaths in the Menindee Lakes, caused by inadequate water flow and poor water quality, and a sudden change in temperature are destroying natural environments.   The Great Artesian Basin is at risk from over extraction of water and the potential introduction of pollutants and petro carbons from fracking.

Fr Joshtrom Kureethadam, of the Vatican Dicastery for the Promotion
of Integral Human Development says, “We need to start listening more attentively to creation.                                Our faith provides wisdom sources that can help us to take our next steps now.

This begins with the Scriptures which exhibit the love and commitment of God to all creation.                                                         The opening chapter of the Bible sings of the goodness of creation which springs from the power of the creative Word (Gen 1-2:4). This allows us to see the Scriptures in view of the ecological crisis and the poverty it engenders. As Pope Francis points out, now we can better appreciate that we are creatures within creation, in relationship with the whole earth, plants, birds, beasts, fish, soil and gardens. We are called to be caretakers (Gen 2:15) rather than exploiters.

Pope Francis is calling us to a relationship based on love and a commitment to the common good that leads us to take action to ensure conditions in which everyone, including future generations, can meet their needs and reach their potential.

Social Justice Statement Part 1 Cry of the Earth and Cry of the Poor

In 2021 the Australian Catholic Archbishops Conference published the following statement.

I will outline the major points they made in this statement and the quotes from Pope
Francis which I believe highlight the call to action for ecological conversion.

Pope Francis challenges us to encounter, dialogue, and listening with an open heart enable God’s love to transform the world.

In the complex interrelated crises – the pandemic, the ecological and economic predicaments, see us overwhelmed by information.

Theological foundations for a Christian response to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor: is Creation in and through the Trinity that is:                                                                                                          The sacramentality of all created things.                                                                                              The wonder and beauty to the contemplative eye.                                                                                  The need for conversion and change of life.

The millennium drought, the 2019-2020 bushfire season, COVID-19, 2021 floods have raised questions for many Australians about our common home.

We know that the safety, health, and livelihoods of the poorest and most vulnerable in our communities are usually severely impacted.

That is why Pope Francis often speaks of responding to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. Social, economic, and ecological issues can only be effectively addressed in an integral way.

By listening with an open heart to those affected, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can discern the signs of the times this requires us to listen to our communities.

Humble Beginnings

Has we head towards Christmas I am reminded of Jesus’ birth in a stable. Luke 2:6-7 “While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” So, we have Jesus the Son of God, being born in a stable not in the inn or somewhere with more plush surroundings. Why, do I think that was the case?

I believe the reason was this immediately gave Jesus more commonality with the majority of people. This is never more evident than the human touch that Jesus shows through his miracles, teachings and fellowship with those at the margins. Jesus doesn ‘t discriminate he offers through his words and supported by his actions opportunities and accessibility for all to enter the Kingdom of God. However, it is up to everyone to accept that invitation.

Additionally, this was demonstrated by Jesus not succumbing to temptation in the desert. When the devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms in the world in return for bowing down and worshipping him, Jesus replied, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”       Matthew 4:8-10. Hence, Jesus’ motivation was not materialism but to store riches in the hearts of people and engage them in seeking life. I reflect now on how many times do I seek selfish short-term positive outcomes instead of pursuing long term goals that will benefit others.

Furthermore, Jesus was never about exerting power over others, instead his leadership displayed humility. Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”John 18:33

Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place. John :18-36.      So, for Jesus it is was never about being a king and ruling over his subjects but using his power to evangelise others and ultimately, lose his life so every person can receive eternal life. In other words, Jesus showed us how being a servant can empower others to live a life that embraces the Kingdom of God on earth. Consequently, Jesus showed us it is about exhibiting qualities of humility, compassion and generosity via helping others and being ecological advocates that enables us to witness God’s presence on Earth. Thus, imparting the reason why  God sent Jesus, who challenges us to continue his mission and proclaim the Kingdom of God.

Noticing the Important Things

My Priest at Mass on the weekend gave a homily about a social experiment where a world-famous violinist dressed up with a baseball cap on his head and busked in a metro station in Washington playing the first movement of Bach. Of the 1097 people that passed by only 27 gave money and stopped and listened for any length of time. This got be thinking how often do I make time to reflect and notice all the things happening around me and instead just taking it in?

My feeling is how do I become a more interactive, visible presence with the people and world around me? I wonder would I have noticed the violin player or been totally oblivious due to being caught up in my own life.  I think Jesus put it very succinctly in Luke 10:38-42 when he visited Martha and Mary. When he came, Mary was listening to Jesus while Martha was preparing in the kitchen. Martha complained to Jesus about Mary not helping her prepare and cook the food. Jesus replied, Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I believe Jesus is telling us we need to evaluate what is the most important thing at that time. For Martha in that instance, it was not preparing food in the kitchen but listening to Jesus. I then reflect on how I let the busyness in life distract me from engaging in prayer and building my relationship with God. Would I take the option of using busyness as an excuse or follow Jesus’s example, of making time before an important occasion, a difficult challenge or some time during the day to pray to God? Furthermore, I understand I need to reflect on my day and determine what changes I can make to improve my relationships.

Consequently, I consider one of the things that is really vital more than ever in today’s society is to check in with others, listen to their dialogue and observe their body language as it is a great indication of their well-being.  But if we don’t give time for pray and exchanges with others, we really don’t notice the important things going on in others lives as well as own. Hence, preventing us from making a difference and enriching our life and other people’s lives.