In his book Life without Limits Nick Vujicic tells the story of the most sensitive embrace he had ever experienced. Born without arms and legs, Nick had become an inspirational writer and speaker. At a social event, a small girl was introduced to him and she was encouraged to give him an embrace. She drew back in fear. Nick understood. As various other people came and greeted him, the little girl noticed how he treated each one. Eventually she decided to embrace him herself. Drawing near, she stopped, then put both arms behind her back and embraced Nick in the manner by which he embraced, putting her chin over his shoulder and she hugged him close with it. This small child understood a crucial element of the way Jesus wants us to relate. To embrace the weak and helpless, we have to become weak and helpless ourselves. We simply cannot serve from a position of power.
When we look at the person of Jesus, we see a God who chose to be born powerless and to die helpless. We see someone who could have stunned us with his wit, ingenuity and power but who didn’t. His example tells us to take on the humility and simplicity of spirit that can welcome and embrace a small child. Sadly, like the disciples on the road, we are slow learners. It may take us a lifetime to learn this wisdom but it is crucial if we wish to be embraced by God.
I find the best wisdom from the saints comes at the end of their lives. Love of Christ combined with life’s experience gives them sure insight. At the end of his life, when revising his Rule, St Benedict stated, ‘For it is by patience that we share in the Cross of Christ.’ The call of Jesus to take up our cross may inspire us to great actions. The reality, for most of us, is much more mundane – living and working for years with the same group of people, be they family, community, workmates. They don’t seem to change much, nor, we fear, do we. St Benedict lived in such a stable situation but saw that the call to follow Christ is no less real than if we went to be martyred at the ends of the earth.
Patience for him is not a ‘putting up with’ each other. The word is based on the word for ‘passion’. Patience is both a passionate love for the other and also a sharing in the Passion of Christ. How can we do this? St Benedict offers another nugget of wisdom. ‘To always do what benefits the other, not oneself’. Now think carefully on that because he is not recommending that we just patiently take whatever another dishes out, bad behaviour included. We are to actively work for ‘the good’ that others need and sometimes that is going to take wisdom and courage to enact: discipline to the adolescent, challenge to the gambling partner, whistleblowing in the workplace. Sometimes martyrdom looks easy compared to these. Even if our situation is not so traumatic, to love the other in this way makes us actively engage with them, to truly think about and ponder what their needs are and how they can best be fulfilled. When we do this, we have truly taken up our Cross and followed Christ. Even if and when we feel we may be dying in such service, we are entering into the fullness of life that Christ offers.
Have you noticed that Jesus is harsh, even savage with those who judge people according to how well they observe religious practices? In fact these people, those who lead children astray and those who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit are the only groups that he attacks and condemns. In all four Gospels we see him confronting them in the most hostile language. They are called hypocrites, whitewashed tombs, blind guides. Note that is was these ‘religious people’ that worked for his downfall and manipulated his death.
Jesus attacked them vigorously because they were idolaters of the worst sort. Instead of using their religious practices to foster love of God and compassion for others, they used their practices for self-glorification and condemnation of people. “God” was simply the background light to show off their glory.
All who practice their faith, regularly and religiously, should take pause when we hear a Gospel like this Sunday’s. Our religious practices can do us so much good, that we can easily be tempted to think that we are good because of them. All our goodness comes from the grace of God. Our religious practices are like fragile vessels. We are to hold them gently not taking them too seriously. Then they will help us deepen our love of God and lead us into the ways of compassion. But if we hold them harshly, glorifying ourselves, they will break and be a curse upon us.
Is Jesus trying to mess with these people’s heads? Yes. Over the past Sundays we have heard him outrage the crowd with his demand that, if they want eternal life, they have to eat his flesh and drink his blood. They revolt at the cannibalistic overtones of this and the implied assertion of being able to offer divine life. Now he takes both to different levels. In predicting his ascension he asserts a union with God. But he then states that the ‘flesh’ has nothing to offer. Well, what of his flesh that he was offering for eternal life? It doesn’t make sense.
St Thomas Aquinas and the best of the Christian theological tradition have held that what we can say and know about God is always more unlike God than like God. The best of Christian mystical tradition has held that we have to go through a Dark Night of the Spirit, a Cloud of Unknowing to recognise the presence of God in our lives. At Bath Abbey, there is a remarkable stature, Christ ascending. https://revdocgeek.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/ascension-bath-abbey.jpg . Notice how the burial bands around Christ are ripped asunder and fall away at his ascending. If Christ is to ascend in our lives, if we are to surrender to the mystery as Peter, we must be prepared to have our heads messed with, to have our images and ideas on God challenged, to move beyond a faith that is safe and predictable into the wild places of the Spirit.
God doesn’t think like we do. The Assumption (just up there ^) by Francesco Botticini, an 15th century altarpiece painted for a Florentine church, shows two levels of ‘reality’. On the lower level, in a vast landscape, the disciples gather round a stone tomb, sturdily rectangular. Where the body of Mary should be there is an abundance of flowers. The disciples either stare into this tomb, empty of a body, or discuss with each other their mystification. But above them within a luminous circular dome (and remember at this time the circle represented completion in art) a vast throng circle around Jesus, Lord of Heaven and Earth, as he greets his mother, Mary, coming into heaven. Three circles make up this exultant crowd. Angels, saints and putti (baby angels) surround Jesus and Mary. If one looks closely one can see that these choirs are about to break into a lively, joyful and stylised Renaissance dance. In heaven there is no time, so, to Botticini, there is no incongruity that at Mary’s Assumption, the saints down through the ages would be there. In his mind’s eye, we too could be there – we have yet to break our confinement to our bodies and finally come to our destiny in the fullness of God’s life and love. This is where we are meant to be. God’s destiny for us is to join these choirs in their lively joyful dance celebrating the mercies shown to Mary and to all the saints. Mary’s life, in a real sense, has been defined by this moment (for Heaven is but a moment so full we never come to the end of it). When we read today’s Gospel, we hear in the Magnificant, a woman who not only recognises God’s presence in the history of her people but one who looks to God’s mercy reaching through the generations for all ages to come, ‘for ever’. As we celebrate this Feast, we should also celebrate this mystery of our own lives within the reality of eternity and our destiny to be enfolded in God’s love.
For a few years, I used to swim at Lammermoor Beach each morning. I would swim down the beach and then walk back. I was amazed by how many people commented on how brave I was. As I am one to loath an adrenaline rush, this mystified me. What was I to fear? Sharks? They rarely attack humans in this area. Crocodiles? They are only about after the Fitzroy River floods? Jellyfish and stingers? Well, I would never swim when the current that brings them is flowing. Strangely to me, nobody, and I mean nobody, ever told me I was brave as I got into the car to drive home. Yet there was the greater danger of death or accident.
I believe, that to a large extent, we choose what stresses us and this is what Jesus is telling us to consider in this part of the Gospel. The poetry of his call inspires us to consider the true nature of our lives. Practical concerns are a reality but they are to serve our lives as sons and daughters of God. If we allow our fears to dominate us, we will miss out on much of life’s richness and we will not live by our right to radiate the glory of God to our world.
A seal in the Jewish understanding of Jesus’ time was the sign by which something was attested to be authentic. That God had sealed the Son of Man meant that he, Jesus, was the one who truly revealed God.
In our experience, a person who is authentic lives from their deepest self and doesn’t allow transitory desires and whims to dominate their lives. We all know how difficult it is to attain some degree of authenticity. We experience ourselves as a bundle of contradictory, and often base, desires. But perhaps we start at the wrong place: we try to do it ourselves. Like the crowd, asking what they needed to do, to do the works of God, we place the emphasis on our own abilities. Rather, the journey to authenticity, in the Christian faith, is one of uncovering our deepest desires and bringing them to the person of Jesus for him to fulfil. We are to allow our hunger and thirst to emerge, to recognise our helplessness in the face of such need, and to bring ourselves to Jesus. Then will our hunger and thirst be quenched; then will we live from him; then will God set his seal upon us.
LAP – The Harrowing Story of the Challenges Faced by Team Members Caring for HIV Children.
We strongly urge you to read the summary below which we recently received from Nita Anggriawan (the Program Coordinator at LAP in Jakarta). It not only describes the challenges faced by individual case workers in their tireless efforts to care for the children, but it also highlights the risk to the viability of some of LAP’s key support programs as it confronts a loss of around 2/3 of its sponsorship funding.
This is a story about a group of remarkable, strong women who are devoting their lives to humanity. Their lives have not been easy as they have been infected with HIV from their husbands, marking the most impactful events of their lives. The second most impactful event for them is unknowingly passing the HIV to their children—something that is extremely hard to accept. Furthermore, some of these strong women end up raising their children alone as their husbands have already passed on.
However, living with HIV is not the end of the road. These women choose to live on for the sake of their children. Their tenacious will to live have brought them to LAP, Lentera Anak Pelangi. LAP has become their new family, where they can share their life stories, support their children and each other.
Their resilience is manifested in their willingness to support Lentera Anak Pelangi’s mentoring program by becoming case managers Ms. Nur started as an assistant case manager and is now participating in the children’s house visit in North Jakarta. Ms. Nur feels that her background as a mother of a child with HIV is an advantage that empowers other mothers who also have HIV children. Ms. Itok, Ms. Siti, and Ms. Titin share similar stories. They feel that their role as a mother absolutely helps the caregivers of the children with HIV, the very children who are accompanied by Lentera Anak Pelangi.
Even though they are not that young anymore, they do not hesitate to explore Jakarta with all its traffic jams to visit the children whom they accompany. In addition, some days, they can spend more than half a day in the hospital to accompany the children for their ARV monthly checkups. They treat the children with HIV like their own children.
Becoming a part of Lentera Anak Pelangi changes their lives significantly. They have learnt basic counselling techniques, how to use a laptop, how to write and present reports. They have become confident to talk to the doctors about the children’s complaints, to tell life stories through mass and social media, and even to express their own opinions to a government minister during one of the gathering events.
Nonetheless, since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic, they have become really worried about the continuation of their work at Lentera Anak Pelangi. So many people have lost their jobs during the pandemic. Sad news arrived in the beginning of this year where Lantern Anak Pelangi lost 2/3 of its operational budget because of the pandemic. Several regular donors who have been supporting Lentera Anak Pelangi had to cut down their donations to the point where the Lentera Anak Pelangi’s mentoring program may no longer be sustainable.
Besides Ms. Nur, Ms. Itok, Ms. Siti, and Ms. Titin, there are also those who participate in their daily work through psychosocial support and advocacy at Lentera Anak Pelangi such as Ms. Wulan, Adit, Henri, Wardiman, Riama, and Natasya, who are just equally impacted by this situation.
We can only hope that the light of the lantern does not dim out halfway. Over the past 12 years, our tiny lantern has been able to bring rainbows to the lives of more than 150 children living with HIV in Jakarta. We believe that there are good people who will join us to ensure that we keep our lantern going by keeping the fire and the oil.
Please support us to keep our lantern alight, to colour the lives of children with HIV in Jakarta.
Our next fundraising collection at Masses will be in November. However, in the meantime if you would like to assist LAP in meeting their financial challenges, please contact the parish office. Alternatively, you can donate directly to the following parish account established specifically for contributions to LAP.
“Do you not care?” That was an unfair question for the disciples to have asked Jesus. Why he had been asleep, in a very heavy sleep, and wouldn’t have known what was happening. But that question is often hurled against God! The community for whom Mark was writing was experiencing bitter persecution under Nero. Did not Jesus and God care? When Jesus rebukes the storm, the verb Mark uses was used earlier to cast out a demon. In other words, Jesus, in rebuking the storm, confronts evil on the disciples’ behalf and defeats it. This confrontation with evil continues through the Gospel till the final confrontation at Calvary where Jesus dupes the Evil One and defeats him…but it doesn’t look much like success to those watching, who could well have asked “Did not God care?” It doesn’t look much like success, unless…one had the eyes of faith, like the centurion. When the storm subsided, the disciples were filled with awe – that crucial component of faith. (You can hear it in the centurion’s response to Jesus’ death.) They were beginning to have a new way of seeing Jesus. Slowly, slowly he will teach them that God does care but in a way that does not take suffering, pain and evil away. God does not save by taking away evil and suffering but rather invites us to join with him in the drama of salvation. As for the church under persecution, so to for us, we must face the question “Does not God care?” and realise that it can only be answered with the response of faith. Image is of a stained glass window from Covington Cathedral, Kentucky.
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.
‘Go preach the Gospel to all nations!’ That directive is given to you and to me as much as it was to those disciples standing on the mountain in Galilee. Personally, the directive worries me, and I’m fairly sure it worries you as well. How are we, in a society cynical of religion, to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ? How are we to preach Good News to people who seem to enjoy bad behaviour? How are we to preach life to a ‘culture of death’?
The clue to how we are to do this comes when Jesus tells us to base all we do on him, his preaching, commands, authority and presence, and to baptise in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is not our work but how we work that reveals what animates us. Quite simply we have to regularly enter into ourselves and ask: how central Jesus is to our lives? There, we must be honest, for dishonesty in the heart is the worst dishonesty of all. Jesus himself will not force change. But if we are truly focused on him, we will then allow his teaching to shine in the ways we relate. Jesus’ ways of relating will led us into the life of God, the loving community of the Trinity. There is an integral resonance between how we relate to each other and to God. On these relationships lies our ability to preach the Gospel to the people we meet.
In the novel Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, the elderly pastor, John Ames, in musing over his life, notices how the word ‘just’ can mean something depreciative or something affirmative – depending on how one views the situation. ‘There I was, with just you!’ Here ‘just you’ can mean ‘only you and what good was that to me?’ Not nice. Or ‘just you’ can mean ‘what more could I have wanted, you and you alone fill me with joy!’ In the first stance, the speaker betrays begrudging acceptance, the second, openness to mystery, joy, abundance.In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus states that the Spirit will teach us ‘everything’. This is an extraordinary statement. I am very conscious of what I don’t know, about the world, about people…and especially about God. And I’m sure you feel the same way too. Does this mean that the Spirit isn’t teaching me or you? This is how I get my mind around this conundrum: sometimes I wonder about how the ants in our garden view us. If one of us tried to teach an ant and the ant was just interested in its own anty world, it isn’t going to learn anything. But if the ant is interested in more, then it will find what little it learns ¬would be just marvellous. The Spirit is trying to teach us. But if we try to conform the Spirit to just what we want, we will be disappointed – the Spirit will not be tamed. But if we are open to what the Spirit wants, we will be just surprised by joy, time and time again.
A new hi-tech cashless “First Collection”.The next time you come to St Anne’s church you will be faced with a new hi-tech device. The purpose is to give parishioners a way to donate to the upkeep of our parish priest and to help pay for our retired priests. You will be aware that we can no longer pass the plate around at Mass so we rely on our parishioners to donate to the parish via automatic payment systems, envelopes (they’re still a thing), or putting something into the collection boxes in the foyer. The problem is that as no-one much carries any cash anymore, the “First Collection” for our priests, retired or otherwise is not doing so well.To try to fix this we have invested in a “Tap and Go” machine we call “Tap and Give”. You simply tap the machine with a credit card or a smartphone setup for the purpose, and $5 is deducted from your account and it will show as a deduction on your bank account as a donation to “Sunbury Catholic Parish”.If you already pay by bank deductions to the parish first collection account as well as the parish second collection account, or you use envelopes, feel free to continue. If the machine is busy one your way in, use it on your way out. If you want to put in $10, tap for $5 going in and do it again leaving. Any questions, ask one of our Mass Registrars, or Coordinators.
A reflection on this Sunday’s Mass by Sr Kym Harris osb and also very apt for Mothers Day. As is the image by Arthur Poulin. Downloaded from http://www.prayasyoucan.com.au
Soaking up being loved by God isn’t easy. We want to justify our existence therefore, before God, we focus on our concerns in a myriad of ways. We want to be busy about our own anxieties, even if they are our own sins, or worse the sins of others. But over and over, Jesus commands us, even pleads with us: ‘Remain, abide in my love!’ Yes, all our concerns do need to be dealt with but if we think we can do them by ourselves or with even a little help from God, we are crazy. We have to ask ourselves whether our ways of praying and doing aren’t paying lip service to the reality of our utter dependence upon God’s love. The true way to love ourselves and each other is to abide, remain in God. It is a good practice to begin each day, resting, abiding, remaining in the love of God for just a few minutes. The radio can wait, as can the TV and internet. The troubles of the world will still be there. But resting in the love of God for those few moments can be a source of the richest grace to live and love throughout the coming day.
Sunbury Neighbourhood Kitchen will be restarting in the next couple of months. Do you want to join our team of volunteers???? We need friendly, active and motivated people who want to make a difference and help others in need. 18 years and over. Volunteers required on Mondays 9am to 8pm Thursdays 9am to 1pm Do you have interest in any of the duties below, if so, we need you to volunteer. Cooks, front of house, back of house, setting up the dining room, drivers with current drivers license, for collection of food supplies (usually on Thursdays), fundraising, committee management roles, promotions, website and social media. Some criteria required:
Must be 18 years and over
Must have a current Working With Children Check Registration night** Monday 10th May at 7pm Ball Court, Macedon Street, Sunbury. Please email your RSVP is by 6th May 2021, due to COVID requirements. firstname.lastname@example.org