A Matter of Believing


How many times do we feel our relationships are going along perfectly when suddenly they turn in a way we didn’t think possible.

In Mark, chapter 14:27-31 he writes,

27 “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:                  “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’

28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

I often wonder why Peter was the disciple that Jesus points out as the person who denies him. In response,

29 Peter declares, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”

Surely if I was the person publicly accused in front of my friends as the one who denies Jesus I would doing my absolute utmost not to succumb to Jesus’ prediction.

30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today yes, tonight before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”

However, Jesus even nominates the time of each the denial.

31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.

So therefore, why does Peter despite his confident protestations surrender to denying Jesus three times.

I believe the reason Peter denied he knew Jesus was threefold. The first accusation comes from a servant girl where perhaps Peter just didn’t want to be associated with Jesus fearing for his own safety and how it might lead to his own death. Consequently, realizing his life was threatened he put it before his loyalty to Jesus. I wonder how often do I act out of self-preservation rather than support the actions of my family and friends.

However, the servant girl continues to step up the pressure by telling others that Peter was a follower of Jesus. Under pressure from many more challengers Peter denies again. Thus, it goes beyond                        self -preservation there is a need for Peter to get away from the pointed fingers.

I would argue that it may be guilt that compels him to try to get away from the scene as fast as possible. Hence, I consider how many times have I sought an escape route rather than face the problem.

Finally, Peter has bystanders confront him and retorts, “I don’t know this man your talking about.” I think by this stage Peter had reached the end of his tether and realized there was nothing he could do to help Jesus. Thus, for Peter there was no solution to Jesus’ plight it was just spiraling to an inevitable conclusion, Jesus’ death. I sometimes reflect whether I defer to there being no solution rather than looking for possible ways to come a resolution.

Surely, Jesus through his resurrection witnessed not only to Peter but the world there is always room for hope it is just a matter of believing.

 

Blind to Possibilities

Blind to Possibilities

 In John 9:1-12, A man born blind receives sight. What I find really interesting is the motivation behind Jesus’ healing. When Jesus was asked why the blind man was cured he replied,

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned, he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” (John 9:3)

Hence, Jesus’s purpose was to demonstrate that despite the severity of any illness or disability God’s power can cure all. How often do we think there is no solution to our problems? Additionally, do we take the opportunity through prayer to ask God for help in searching for an answer to the difficulties we are encountering? Too often I am fixated on quick solution rather than patiently working through a process to achieve the optimum result for everyone.

Furthermore, through the healing Jesus was giving us a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven. I imagine it would be amazing to be relieved of any burdens I carry or know so that I would never have to endure suffering again.

Moreover, the witnesses to Jesus’s healing of the “Blind Man” would pass on the story to families, friends and their local community. It was then written in the Gospel of John so God’s power is proclaimed to future generations. Thus, actions and words have the power to speak to others when we overcome problems. Therefore, building positive relationships with the people affected also has the flow down effect of developing an optimism and resilience amongst the community.  Consequently, a growth mindset when facing their next difficult situation and examining every possibility to achieve a successful outcome.

I believe solutions are achieved by not searching for a quick answer to a problembut by analysing the action I have taken in resolving the situation. In the future, I will attempt to have a clear intent in determining a solution that is sustainable and gives hope to making a difference to the lives of the people experiencing adversity. Thus, never being blind to the possibilities of a positive conclusion.

Resisting Temptation

When reading Matthew 4:1-11, “The Temptation of Jesus “I reflected on what are some of the things that tempt me and how does it relate to the scripture?

 Jesus’s first temptation after 40 days and nights in the desert was to be tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread.

Jesus replied,

“One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God

My interpretation of this scripture verse is what do I hunger for? I ask myself the question do my goals and ambitions align with the Gospel values?  When reflecting on the answer to that question I believe the key is that do they provide a catalyst for the goals and ambitions of others? Thus providing a hunger and thirst for knowledge and wisdom that affirms all people and the wider community.

Secondly, Jesus was tempted by the devil to throw himself off the pinnacle of the temple and God’s angels would save Him from getting hurt.

However, Jesus answered,

“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

My take on what Jesus said here is do I pray to God about my wants more than my needs?

I constantly think about how often do I let God into my life or do I  drive the direction my life proceeds? Additionally, do I make the time to pray and read the scriptures or consider my life too busy that in my downtime I seek to pursue my own interests rather than share my life and possessions? Hence my time sometimes seem to relate more to my wants than to my needs and often doesn’t include God or others but my own yearnings.

Finally, Jesus was offered all the kingdoms if he bowed down and worshipped the devil.

Yet Jesus responded

“Worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.”

My understanding of Jesus’ response is that in all aspects of our life we must acknowledge God has our creator.  That is building a positive relationship with God through my relationship with other people, the community and creation. Furthermore, to centre my relationships with creation, family, friends and communities on empathy and understanding not on my own self importance and prestige. Thus, continuing to develop positive relationships and that is where I see the face of God.

 

Love your Enemies

In Matthew 5: 43 Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

 I think Jesus is asking us to act with patience and gentleness when we hurt by people or situations in our lives. How often do I focus on our anger rather than opening our hearts to a different option?

 Hence, I react without thinking about the consequences instead of stopping to reflect about our words and actions. Many times I have wished that I could have responded more positively if only I had paused, taken a few breaths and thought about how I was going to proceed I am sure the outcome may have been different.

 Furthermore, Jesus implores us to strive first for the Kingdom of God, then all things would be made possible for us. Regularly I can fall for the trap of wanting things to happen for my own selfish gain rather than showing kindness and generosity to others.

I am reminded of Jesus’s words may we not be troubled by worldly concerns but store our faith in the richness of the Gospel. Additionally, everyday attempt to heed the words of Pope Francis not to fight for the small things but instead search God’s kingdom and its justice, the rest comes afterwards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People who have shaped your life.

My Baptism Photo

Let your light shine before others. Matthew 5:16

There are people who have a strong influence in your life and sometimes when in reflection you realise the effect they have.

Furthermore, you can see the face of God in them and one of those people was my Grandmother.

My Grandmother lived in the house behind us and always made me feel welcome. She strongly I believe lived our 3 pillars, core values.

 

Firstly, Catholic Identity which goes beyond faith and started with her personal witness which for me was our relationship.

This stemmed from her always providing an environment that was safe & comfortable.

Her relationship with God was exhibited through her religious symbols of crosses, holy pictures, statues, rosary beads and dedication to Mary.

If she ever dropped one she would pick it up and kiss it. Something I still do to this day.

She inspired me with her strong prayer life and was always the first one in the car to Sunday mass usually half and hour before.

Her other passions were sport and music, these are also mine & by the way she had a state of the art record player.

In sport she would pray to God to help her team and her favourite music was Arabic, Dusty Springfield & the Beatles. I did try to interest in the Rolling Stones but they just were not her cup of tea.

 

Secondly, Ecological Sustainability, my grandmother lived through the depression and always maintained the stewardship of God’s creation would provide. Hence our backyard consisted of 4 apricot, a plum, nectarine, peach, lemon, almond & walnut trees, eggplants, Lebanese cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley, mint and chickens.

Although I can distinctly remember her armed with a tomahawk and a chicken and asking what she was doing? Stupid question, it was no fun being chased by a headless chook.

Hence, you never saw me near the chicken coop when it was at Holy Family.

2 years ago, our backyard was the subject of a migrant museum exhibition possibly thanks to my sister’s ability to sell it as a market garden, but to me it was just a backyard however my grandma would have been proud.

 

Finally, Evolving Pedagogy my Grandma’s favourite thing in life was cooking.

One day I was eating a pasty which she referred to as a mystery bag and said she would cook me something better. Immediately her learning intention was to expose me to a different cultural tasting experience that was Kibbeh my favourite food. So she took me into her house and engaged me in the process by taking me through the steps of grinding the wheat, tenderising the meat, and adding the different herbs and spices and most importantly allowed me to enjoy the fruits of her labour. The interesting thing was she never made it the same way she was always looking for the perfect recipe and she never wrote it down. I have never found Kibbeh that ever tasted so good. Little did  she know that  she created a lifelong legacy which shows how profound a learning intention with a multi layered pedagogical approach that can have great influence on one’s life and we can pass that learning onto others.

The final point I would like to make is something my grandma said to me. She believed that everyone has a gift and it is important that you share it with everyone.

Christmas is a time of Reflection,

In Luke 2:8-12 the angel tells the shepherds, “Do not be afraid, for see I am bringing you the news of great joy for all the people to you born this day in the city of David a Saviour who is the Messiah the Lord. This will be a sign for you and you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

This scripture passage resonates with me for two reasons. Firstly, the theme of Luke’s gospel is that the Messiah came for the poor symbolised by the shepherds. Moreover, I believe that the announcement to the shepherds was because they were a group of people that were faithful to the message of the prophets that a Saviour would be born amongst them. Hence they would go and proclaim the good news to others after visiting Jesus.  For me it makes me realise how excited we all should be when sharing the good things happen in our lives.

Secondly, the manger continues Luke’s theme of Jesus being born in extremely humble surroundings illustrating that his lowly birthplace placed him above no one else but demonstrated his desire to live amongst humanity. Jesus’ circumstances showed that despite his birthplace he was special and those who witnessed it immediately recognised that he was the Messiah. I often believe regardless of the place and the events it is what you make of the situation and the relationships that can make you rise above it to make any event worthwhile.

Consequently, at Christmas time I reflect on the following points initially, sharing positively with others and growing and maintaining those relationships by appreciating the value and specialness they add to my life. Additionally, no matter the difficulties I have faced during the year I believe it is a good time to dwell on the positives and how I have grown as a person through undertaking those responsibilities. Hopefully it enables me to build greater empathy and understanding when encountering the next challenge. Besides, underpinning all of these factors is the faith of Mary, Joseph and the Shepherds that the wait is over and we can all share the joy of Jesus being born on Christmas Day with our families and friends

Necessity of Watchfulness

This Sunday marks the first Sunday of Advent and the Gospel of Matthew continues on from 24:35 that refers to Heaven and Earth passing away. Then Matthew elaborates in 24:36 that begins with the verse, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son but only the Father.” So the question is what does that all mean?

I believe my own starting point in relation to this scripture is putting the verse into the context of my own faith. When I reflect on the meaning and purpose the scripture has for my own life I think of Jesus’ words, “But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming he would have stayed awake and would not have let this house be broken into.”

My interpretation of what Jesus is saying is that if you knew a thief was coming you would protect your house accordingly therefore why aren’t we living our faith in the same way? I wonder if Jesus was clearly stating that we may take too much for granted and we should be treating each day as though it was our last.

Hence, what would I do if I knew Jesus was coming again within a very short time?I think I would like to spend as much time as possible with my family, friends and the people in my workplace to build up relationships that were positive and fruitful and enhance their lives as well as my own.

Additionally, I would like to believe that I would continue to witness the Gospel by using my gifts and talents to support others in being successful in their own lives. I often feel great when see people whom I know be successful and I like to consider I have contributed in some small way.

Finally, I would reflect on the many things I have to grateful in my life. My family, friends, my job where I meet lots of wonderful people, that I have a roof over my head and food to eat. These things I take perhaps for granted when I know there are people who have lost their families, no food to eat or home to go to and most sobering is that they fear for their lives because of war or government policy in the countries they live.

So for me to Jesus is saying be watchful not for protection but for appreciation of what we have.

 

What if Jesus was running for President?

In view of the upcoming US Presidential Election I have reflected on what would be Jesus’ platform if he was a candidate? I believe that Jesus would have delivered the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-12 as the cornerstone that underpinned his campaign.

He would have opened with “Blessed are the poor in spirit promising them with salvation not due to clever economic strategy but being rewarded into the kingdom of heaven.

For persons who mourn they will not be ignored but comforted by those who recognise their grief.

Jesus will assure the meek that they will no longer be taken advantage of for being gentle and kind but instead inherit the earth.

To campaigners who hunger and thirst for truth their views will be listened to and have laws instituted on the principles of social justice.

If you seek mercy for past hurts, you will not be vilified but forgiven.

To the people who act with honesty and integrity you are not naïve but will see God.

All who make time to create peace rather than conflict you will be called the children of God.

Finally, those who are persecuted for fairness and equality or falsely accused through someone deliberately undermining you or for religious beliefs rejoice and be glad for the greatest reward anyone can receive is in heaven.

So when Jesus argues these points in the great debate against other leaders how would he go? Would he be ridiculed and face trial by media declaring he is making promises that cannot be guaranteed? Or imagine if people voted Jesus and were willing to live according to his ideals it would be possible to glimpse heaven on earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making the Right Response

In Luke 19: 1-10, Zacchaeus is asked by Jesus to come down from the sycamore tree so he can stay at his house that night.   I find it extremely interesting how Zacchaeus responds.

Firstly, Zacchaeus hurry’s down from the tree and was happy to welcome him. I would argue that sounds like Zacchaeus was thrilled to be invited to extend his hospitality to Jesus in his home. The question is why would this be?

I think a major reason would be that Jesus did not present a threat to him. Zacchaeus by acknowledging Jesus knew here was a person that was willing to give him a chance to begin again. He would accept Zacchaeus in a non judgemental manner and allow him to make amends for his previous actions in the future.

Zacchaeus then acknowledged Jesus’ personal touch by offering to give half of their possessions to the poor and those he defrauded to pay them back four times the amount. Thus because Jesus wanted to visit with Zacchaeus and show he respected him as much as anybody else Zacchaeus responded in kind.

I believe that when people take time and show they value somebody by engaging in conversation and spontaneously displaying an act of kindness that appreciation will be returned. Furthermore, judgement leads to conflict while kindness leads to peace and harmony. In other words the right response.

 

 

 

 

Jesus is Uncompromising

In Luke 17:1 Jesus says to his disciples,

“Occasions for stumbling are bound to come but woe to anyone by whom they come.

 My interpretation of this scripture is underpinned by two points.The first point is to forgive those people who I believe have undermined by ability to achieve my goals along the way. Too often I can fall into the trap of pointing the finger for my failings on others or circumstances instead of reflecting on my role in the situation.

 The second point is not to blame anyone or any circumstance for the challenges I face.I think sometimes it is too easy to believe my lack of opportunities are caused by people or circumstances, rather than the role I may play in that situation. It calls perhaps for me to have a rethink and focus on how I could have made the opportunity a success rather than a challenge.

 Hence we are responsible for what we do in our lives. When circumstances don’t favour us we need to be resilient and rise to the next challenge. Furthermore, I can’t afford to play the blame game but try to forgive those who I perceive to have put obstacles in my way so I couldn’t maximise my opportunities. Thus, ultimately, the message I take from the scripture is that I don’t sit in judgement of anyone, only myself.