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.

 

Body of Christ

My favourite verse about the Body of Christ is in 1 Corinthians 12:26.                                                            “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.”

Just like a family, a group of friends or a sporting team if they are all united they experience the disappointments along with celebrations of others within these groups.  What Saint Paul is imploring us to do as a Church is to evangelise the world with the “Good News of Jesus Christ” modelling a united Body of Christ.

So how do we do that?                                                                                                                                                       I think what Churches need to do is ensure that throughout the world they are modelling a culture of community. A culture   where everyone builds relationships both with each other and with God.

I feel if they are to build this culture of relationships they need to be passionate about their community. They need to be inclusive of all members by being invitational providing committees and groups as well as social and parish celebrations to make connections with their own Church Community.

I think it is extremely important that everyone can find a group that they can identify with and feel they can make a contribution. Furthermore, I would argue that a goal of each of the groups would be to reach out to members of the Church to participate in their group. This not only assists the sustainability of their group but also that all members of community have been touched by the Church.

I believe Model of the Church is alive when everyone feels like they belong and work together to contribute and support the Community then we realise each part is connected to a healthy body of Christ.

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Humility and Hospitality

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 In Luke 14:7-14 Jesus’s states that when you are invited to a wedding banquet not to sit in the place of honour but to sit at the lowest table. Additionally, be inclusive of everyone not just celebrate with your family and friends.

 Last Sunday, I was invited by the Adelaide Northern Syro-Malabar Community to celebrate the Feast of Saint Euphrasia. When I arrived I was welcomed and ushered to go to the place of honour.  Immediately I felt part of their community even though I was not familiar with the story of Saint Euphrasia, did not share their cultural heritage and speak or understand their language that they spoke in the mass.

 What struck me was the Syro-Malabar Community’s transformation of our school hall with their sacred statue of Saint Euphrasia behind a glass statue with adorning lights, the sanctuary covered in red fabric, the altar decorated with an ornamental cloth and on the other side of the sanctuary a a beautiful statue of Mary. Immediately it was clearly visible that this was a mass dedicated to Feast of Saint Euphrasia.  Moreover, I felt their acceptance of me as a stranger but also of each other. For example, a baby was crying throughout the ceremony but no one frowned or commented the mass just continued as though this didn’t happen.

Furthermore, when I looked out in the assembled in the gathering I saw a sea of colour of families singing and praying. Then the mass evolved into acknowledging those who contributed to the community through gift giving, followed by a procession around the school grounds and concluded in a shared meal.

 They were just like the Early Christian Communities, Acts 2:46 “Day by day in the temple, they broke bread, ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all people. Perhaps the Adelaide Northern Syro-Malabar Community are not only a model of the Early Church but a signpost to the Church of the future.

Cause of Division

In Luke 12: 51 Jesus asks a very interesting question. “Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? No I tell you, but rather division.”

For me why would Jesus say he has come to bring division?

I often think people like to hear someone expressing an opinion they agree with however when it is contrary to their beliefs it creates conflict. Jesus challenged the authority of the leader of the synagogue. Their laws and teachings he questioned, did they truly reflect proclaiming God’s Kingdom? Sometimes I wonder if I too get caught up in enforcing the laws without allowing a broader interpretation of the rules that is inclusive of everyone.

Furthermore, do we seek to meet with as many like-minded people because it gives us a stronger voice? A voice due to it’s numbers is listened to more than a lone voice delivering a polarising opinion. Thus a decision has to be made do we state what we truly believe in or hide behind the view of the masses? A dilemma if you don’t agree with masses but maybe fear of reprisals for declaring an opposing perspective.

Likewise, do we pursue other people’s outlooks until we find someone that tells us what we want to hear. Is it because people’s words are conflicting and we want reassurance for our actions. I would rather have the courage of my own convictions and communicating what I truly believe.

Ultimately, we are called to never compromise ourselves but imitate Jesus who never lived in fear of repercussions for his words and actions but inspired communities to build a better world for everyone.