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.

Overcoming Grief

Psalm 34: 18 says:

 “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit.”

 Recently I went to the funeral of a friend who died suddenly. I got quite emotional because when someone dies without warning there is never time to say goodbye.

 At first I felt angry seeing her two young sons and husband grieving for the loss of their mother and wife. Why had this happened and what good could possibly come from it?

 For my friend who passed as the ceremony went on my anger subsided as I could see that the people who gathered wanted her memories to be a celebration of her life. A life remembered for kindness and giving which is the cornerstone of every relationship.

 Sometimes I realise it is okay to question situations but more importantly I need to come to an understanding of what actually occurred. Such a consideration helps me comprehend the difficulties I may experience in my life and assist me in focussing on the future.

 Hence it is essential that we celebrate life as I am reminded that it is a gift from God and to be cherished for every special moment and person we meet along the way. They will always continue to live in our memories.

 

 

Prioritizing

In Matthew 8:20 Jesus asks those who wish to make the commitment to follow him that: Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.

 Then a disciple asks Jesus if he can go and bury his father. However, Jesus counters in verse 22 with: “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

 The question I ask myself is does following Jesus require never having control of what lies in the future and additionally never having the time to do the things you desire? My comment on the first question is there are many situations that test us in our lives. We also are taken to places we don’t always want to go to. What is important is how we deal with those difficult situations when confronted with them.

I believe Jesus is asking us when faced with trying circumstances to act calmly and find a solution that will benefit all the people involved. Furthermore, it would be impossible to go throughout life without encountering a challenging issue at some time so you need to have patience and flexibility to cope with the problem.

The second question is that in today’s society we are so busy therefore how do we find the time to do everything? What I think Jesus is saying to us is that there is a need to prioritize what is important in our lives. Additionally, in all that we do in our lives we ensure that we live according to God’s will. Consequently, when we don’t include God in our lives we are perhaps acting in self interest. Hence, God is asking us to do his work before we pursue our own concerns.

Thus for me the Gospel message is about facing the challenges in our life. Looking for solutions that require flexibility, patience and implement God’s will. Accordingly, it necessitates us being responsible for the choices we make, confronting the issues and developing our relationships with people, the environment and God. This is how we build community.

 

 

 

 

Be Fearless

In Luke 7:36 a “sinful woman” uninvited enters a Pharisee’s House an anoints and kisses Jesus’s hair and feet with perfumed oil.

 The first question that I would ask is did the woman have any preconceived ideas about what would happen when she entered the house?

I believe should would have known that the Pharisee would have been hostile to her presence. So what could she expect?

  Firstly, she knew entering house uninvited when the Pharisee had a special guest would make him furious. Secondly, she anticipated that the Pharisee would tell Jesus that this woman was of disreputable character.

So why enter the house?

 I believe her motive for entering the house was to be forgiven for her sins and upon receiving knowledge that Jesus was going to be in that house that night nothing was going to stop her from entering.

 Furthermore, I believe Jesus is the key and the woman went into the house knowing that he had the power to forgive her sins. Regardless of what other obstacles may be in way her sole goal was to seek Jesus’ forgiveness.

 What I find intriguing is how she sought Jesus’ forgiveness. The woman did this through her actions of anointing and kissing his hair and feet. She didn’t presume that Jesus would forgive her through a request and was determined to demonstrate her contrition through her actions towards the very person she knew could forgive her.

 So what is the message for us?

 Initially if we are the Pharisee not be quick to judge but be inclusive and most importantly never presume someone’s motives.

 Primarily if we are the sinful woman we must be fearless particularly if we seek forgiveness for our past mistakes. We must look to the source, (Jesus) that can begin the healing process. A process that not only reconciles us with others but also ourselves. Thus giving us greater self worth through knowing we are forgiven.

 Finally, if we are Jesus we need to always forgive unconditionally no matter the circumstances of any hurt we may feel as been inflicted by others towards us. Furthermore, when we have wronged others we need to seek Jesus and ask forgiveness.  I believe it requires great courage to pursue forgiveness from others but we need to be fearless both in actions and words so we able to forgive ourselves.

 As Jesus said, “Her sins which were many have been forgiven: hence she has shown great love.” Luke 7:47

Thus if we are fearless in our forgiveness how great would be our love for others.