I used to be a serious gardener. I worked hard, got all the right information, put in plenty of hours and had a very good garden. But the more I did, the more I realised how little I was really doing. Yes, I prepared the soil, planted seeds, watered, weeded, fertilised but the actual wonder of growth was removed from my power. I often mulled about how all I was doing was providing the conditions for growth. God did the real work.
I find the parable of the Patient Farmer the most consoling in the Gospel. We do our bit for the kingdom and it often doesn’t seem much, but it is God giving the growth, often when we are occupied with other things. The presence of Jesus in our world tells us that God is on our side, utterly committed to the growth of goodness in our lives. We make our efforts, even do our best, and yet we often doubt the results. But our faith teaches us: God is working for good in our lives and growth into his life and love is taking place, unless we actively put obstacles in God’s way.
On this coming weekend (27/28 February) the special collection will be for the LAP Group who look after children living with HIV/AIDS in the very poorest slum areas of Jakarta Indonesia. You can see in the image above some of the children in a happy mood – despite the appalling conditions in which they live. At this critical time for the LAP Team it’s worth reflecting on the challenges they face – in particular: Over the past year Indonesia has been devastated by the Corona virus, causing deaths at a rate almost three times that of Australia on a per head of population basis. This has created additional challenges for the LAP Team. For example, just in the past week we have learned that two of the LAP case managers had contracted the virus. Even worse, one of the LAP children became ill but the family were too afraid of the conditions at the hospital to take him in for treatment. Sadly, he subsequently died.
Due to the Victorian Corona restrictions, we have not been able to conduct any of the usual fundraising campaigns at Masses for the past year.
We are anxious to return our support for the children to pre-Corona levels – particularly as we understand that one of the Indonesian-based sponsors of LAP is unable to continue their financial support this year. Your generous donations go directly to providing the crucial care these children need by way of milk and multi vitamin medication which are essential to maintaining their health. Significantly, your contributions account for over 25% of the total LAP budget for this aspect of their work. THEY ARE THEREFORE AGAIN RELYING US in order to continue their work this year. If you are unable to attend Mass on the weekend and would like to assist LAP with their work you can make a donation directly to the following parish account established specifically for contributions to LAP.
ACCOUNT NAME:OLMC CHURCH ACCOUNT – LAP DONATION
Thank you for your wonderful generosity over the past seven years.
How can we tell bad from good? Too often we judge good and bad based on what is pleasant and congenial. Jesus’ time in the wilderness must make us pause. After he had received loving confirmation from the Father, the Spirit ‘drives’ ,‘casts out’ Jesus into the wilderness to be tested. Are the ‘beasts’ there good or bad? We don’t know. They could be a reminder of the idyllic time before the Fall when Adam lived in harmony with all of nature. If so, Mark is portraying Jesus as the new Adam bringing salvation. Mark could also be alluding to the image from Isaiah when all nature would be in such harmony that the lion would lie down with the lamb. But the ‘beasts’ could also be understood as friends of the demonic powers, set on terrifying Jesus. Most likely both meanings are intended.
In our lives there are many negative things we could call ‘beasts’ – chronic illness, addiction, unemployment, disability, etc. Are they good or bad? Given how they can undermine us and turn us in on ourselves, we would call them bad. Given the way grace can work through them, opening us to the love of God and others, we would call them good. Lent is a good time to let the Spirit drive us into our wilderness to meet our beasts. Only one thing we can be certain on, Jesus is with us. How will he tame our beasts? We can only wait and be ready for the time of grace.
Congratulations to Indigenous elder, artist and educator Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann AM for being named the 2021 Senior Australian of the Year. Apart from her artwork, and work in education, she is perhaps best known for her reflections on dadirri – “inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness”. Dadirri, she says, “is perhaps the greatest gift [Aboriginal Australians] can give to our fellow Australians… dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us. We call on it and it calls to us. This is the gift that Australia is thirsting for. It is something like what you call ‘contemplation’”. The following reflection on dadirri, which is a speech she gave in 2002 when she was Principal of a Catholic primary school in Daly River in the Northern Territory, also seeks to integrate dadirri with her faith as a Christian:
Freud said that despite thirty years of research into the feminine soul, he still couldn’t answer the question, what does a woman want? Maybe it is not only about women that the answer is unclear, but also for all of us. In this Sunday’s reading Jesus utters his first words in the Gospel of John: ‘What do you want?’ The verb Jesus uses is richer than our ‘want’ as it also includes the sense of ‘seek’ and ‘desire’. In other words, Jesus was asking those first two disciples, ‘What are the deepest longings of your hearts, the ones that determine the course of your life?’ Andrew and his companion found the question too difficult and deflected it with a question asking where Jesus lives!
Our longings and desires! They can be the energy that powers our lives along, and the force that derails us. We can ride on their strength and they can undermine our dreams. So how do we deal with these forces? If we peel back the layers of our longings and desires, even the ones that we call ‘bad’, even ‘evil’, we will eventually come to something good. Having been made in the image and likeness of God, our deepest desires bear the trace of grace. It is when our good desires become disordered that destruction takes place. For example, I have noticed that some people get caught in bad relationships, not out of desire for sex, but rather out of fear of loneliness…and what is loneliness but the desire for communion. How much suffering would have been averted if those people had known the skills of friendship? When we are being tossed by our desires, it is a good time to stop and ask, ‘Where is the face of God in this desire and how can this desire foster life?’
Rarely has someone in the spotlight worked so effectively to deflect attention from himself. The opening words of this Gospel describe John as a ‘witness’ and the series of responses that he gives to the questions of the Jews show the depth to which he sees his identity in relation to the person to whom he is to give witness. What is extraordinary is that, at this time, John didn’t know who the Christ would be, how he would act or even what type of Kingdom he would inaugurate. In all his responses he shows that he is capable of living a vocation which was largely undefined. But what he did know he was utterly faithful to. He knew a Messiah was coming who was greater, far greater, than himself and that the proper response to coming Messiah was to prepare – to make straight the way of the Lord.
Many of us have times when the calling of God within our lives can be unclear: times of transition, crisis or illness. The diminishments of age can bring this about. Until God makes things clearer there is nothing we can do…except be faithful to what we know we should do. Sometimes that can seem to amount to little. John the Baptist, in such a time, saw himself simply as a voice, a voice crying in the wilderness, a voice that was passed over once the Christ had come. But John needed nothing more: that was his fulfilment. He was the voice preparing for the Bridegroom, the one prepared to diminish, so that the Christ could increase, the one who could see that ‘it was all about Christ’.
Your own John the Baptists… Why John the Baptist? All the Gospels give great importance to the person and preaching of John the Baptist. In the iconography (religious paintings) of the early Church he held a prominent position. But did Jesus really need him? John the Baptist represents the culmination of the Old Testament. In him all the hopes and dreams of the Jewish people across the centuries find expression. But did God really need the Old Testament and Jewish history in order to offer salvation? No, God didn’t need any of this. God could offer salvation personally and individually to any one of us. But God’s plan of salvation involves not merely the supreme human mediation given through Jesus but all the many other people through whom God choses to bring to us grace and love. A prayer of thanksgiving often said in my community is for those who have brought our faith to where we are today. As a way of preparation for the coming of the Lord we would do well to recall the people who have formed our faith to what it is today. Perhaps it was grandparents, parents, teachers, the atheist who challenges or the friend who dies tragically – there are many different ways, both positive and negative, that God has used these people as channels of grace into our lives. As we recognise who they are and give thanks we make ourselves even more open to the coming of God in our lives.
Steve Jobs, soon before he died, said that one of the determining practices of his life was to live each day as if it were the last. That practice has had a significant place in Christian spirituality. St Benedict exhorted his followers ‘to keep death daily before one’s eyes.’ This was not to be an exercise in morbidity but rather a liberation from entanglement in all the lesser passions of life and it has the ability to transform the quality of our lives. A story was told of St Francis de Sales. Someone was surprised to find this holy bishop playing cards and asked him: ‘What would you do if you knew that you were to die and face God’s judgement in 15 minutes.” “I’d tell them to hurry up and deal the next round,” he replied. Living with God’s presence before him, he was able to enter fully into each moment.
Life is not meant to be a filling in of time before we shuffle off this mortal coil. If it is that, we will alternate between boredom and distraction. Given the quality and type of much that passes for ‘entertainment’ nowadays, we could well be forgiven for thinking that our society lives in fear of a death it cannot face. That death will surely come – but it need not be dreaded. It can be the companion of our lives teaching us to enter fully into all the partial moments of living so that we can be ready to enter fully into the great moment of God’s embrace.
While our Faith hasn’t changed, the world in which we express our Faith has. Our Parish of twelve months ago has gone. We are moving into unknown territory but we still have Jesus to walk beside us. Fr Kevin is calling for people who are walking with Jesus to come forward and help plan and manage how we face this new world.
PARISH COORDINATING TEAM PCT: Are you an active member of our Parish community who has reached the age of eighteen (18) years? Do you have an interest in, and a commitment to the welfare of all parishioners? Do you have a desire to be of service to the Parish community? Do you have a keenness to promote the teachings of the Gospel Values and ongoing Mission? Do you have an ability to work cooperatively and constructively with all other members of the PCT? And sufficiency of time (around 7 meetings per year, personal preparation and any allocated action items) to devote to PCT duties? If this is you and you would like to make a commitment as a Parish Leader, please send a note to Fr Kevin telling us: Why you would like to nominate for the PCT and what you can offer in helping our Parish achieve its Vision “Christlike relationships of friendship and faith, valuing one another and sharing our gifts for the good of all.” Nominations can be by Mail to the Parish Office or email to email@example.com Nominations should be sent by 18 November. …. Fr Kevin McIntosh