On the weekend of 15/16 October a special collection at all Masses will be taken up for LAP, the Indonesian-based charity that our parishioners have been supporting for the past nine years..
LAP is a small team who care for children living with HIV/AIDS in the very poorest slum areas of Jakarta. You can see in the images above some of the children in a happy mood – despite the appalling conditions in which they live, made even worse by the Corona virus pandemic. Below are some updates from the LAP Team.
Currently, LAP is caring for 113 HIV children. 91 of them live in Jakarta and greater Jakarta and receivednutritional support from us. The rest of the kids live outside Jakarta (Sumatera, West Java, East Java, Bali, and Sulawesi) and received support from our online psychosocial activities. All of our teenagers have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Some of our kids aged 6-11 already received their second dose. During this pandemic time, we monitor the condition of our children through online communication (chat, call, and video call). Home visits are only made for families who do not have a mobile phone. With health safety protocol, our case managers still stand by at the hospital to get ARV for the children and accompany several kids who need to be tested for Viral Load. They also have to distribute the nutrition support for our kids. Even though we work from home, we still hold our bi-weekly coordination online meetings to get update of our children and our online activities.
If you are unable to attend Mass on the 15/16th 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
BSB 083347, ACCOUNT NO. 546358602, ACCOUNT NAME: OLMC CHURCH ACCOUNT – LAP DONATION.
Thank you for your wonderful generosity over the past nine years.
Well, not really but now that we have your attention, Fr Kevin’s garden at the presbytery is in need of a little TLC. To this end, we are having a good old-fashioned working bee on Saturday 9 April and we would love to see you there. There’s nothing too strenuous to do and we will commence at 9:30am. Morning tea will be provided. For information, please contact Mary Macdermid (0414 241 815) or Peter Rush (0418 148 586)
On the weekend of 27/28 November a special collection at all Masses will be taken up for LAP, the Indonesian-based charity that our parishioners have been supporting for the past eight years..
LAP is a small team who care for children living with HIV/AIDS in the very poorest slum areas of Jakarta. You can see in the images above some of the children in a happy mood – despite the appalling conditions in which they live, made even worse by the Corona virus pandemic.
The recent newsletter we received from the LAP team provided some encouraging insights into how the team is providing care for the HIV children, despite the significant pandemic challenges.
LAP continues to care for 88 children, of which at least 16 are now teenagers and are Covid vaccinated. Due to the pandemic, where the family has a mobile phone, the Team monitors the condition of the children using video calls. Otherwise a visit to the home is made. Despite risk to their health, the LAP Case Managers still attend hospitals to collect anti-retroviral medication for the children and deliver nutritional supplements to their homes. LAP has launched an on-line training school to educate volunteers in HIV, child protection policies and other key topics
You may like to click on the “Dare to Dream” link below which will take you to a short LAP video illustrating the aspirations that the HIV children have when they grow up.
It’s heart-warming and inspirational and is sub-titled in English.
If you are unable to attend Mass on the 27/28th 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
BSB 083347, ACCOUNT NO. 546358602, ACCOUNT NAME: OLMC CHURCH ACCOUNT – LAP DONATION.
Thank you for your ongoing support for the HIV children, it’s even more crucial during these Covid times
Life is complex and, as Christians, we look to the Bible to give us direction on how to live. But we are going to be disappointed if we think that we are going to find easy answers to our issues. Take this Sunday’s story, commonly known as ‘The Widow’s Mite’. We may be forgiven for thinking it is about generous giving. But, considering it in its wider context, it is more a critique of nature of giving within the religious legal system of Jesus’ time. Jesus severely criticised the scribes, the judicial religious experts, for ‘devouring the estates of widows’ i.e. that is they used their legal powers to swindle the vulnerable. He then went on to attack the way money was collected for the Temple. The collection box at the treasury was a copper funnel shaped container which resounded according to how much was put it. Thus when the wealthy gave, all could hear the mighty rush of coins echoing around. The piteous ‘ping, ping’ of the widow would have sounded destitute in contrast. Such widows couldn’t win out in any way, legally vulnerable, even their generous giving was up for ridicule.
So on one side, we have hypocritical religious experts and wealthy donors ensuring that what they do is seen by all in order to attract praise. On the other hand, we have a weak and vulnerable person pressurised by the religious system into making herself even more destitute. In this drawing by Paul Delaroche (click red text) we see a widow with two small children giving her all. It is obvious what is happening. Jesus wasn’t showing extraordinary powers of observation when he said she gave her all. Why weren’t the religious experts and the wealthy coming to her aid rather than expecting her to give? Simply because the source of their religious practice was misplaced. It was not a work of the heart, a desire to love God and neighbour but rather their practice had been distorted into a passion for self-glorification.
What a change! For once someone from the professional religious classes, a scribe, asks a genuine question: he really wants to know what Jesus thinks. And for once Jesus doesn’t answer a question with a question as he usually does with these religious ‘authorities’. He answers simply using the Schema, the daily prayer of the pious Jew based on Dt 6:3, and an edited quote from Lev 19:18. You can tell how delighted this scribe is with Jesus’ answer as he repeats it back, almost word for word, savouring the wisdom – then he adds his own wisdom which in turn delights Jesus.
Talk about heart speaking to heart. This man shares Jesus’ understanding of Law and religious tradition. These are not intended to be used to attack others, to put people down or to make one feel morally self-righteous. They are a form of discipline for body, soul and spirit that prepares a person to lead a life of worship of God and love of neighbour. People offer ‘sacrifice’ so that they can give generously in love. People conform their lives to all the ‘Thou shalt not’s of the commandments so that they can face the destructive forces of sin that undermine their desire to live rich and full lives in the love of God. Law, morality, Church practice and discipline do not exist to make us feel like failures or to make life difficult. Rather they exist to help us acquire the wisdom to live and love with the dignity of the children of God.
My father has his first, and only, heart attack in St Vincent’s Hospital as he was waiting for heart surgery. The doctors decided not to bring forward his quadruple by-pass surgery but leave it at the scheduled time. Dad said he spent the next 36 hours in intensive care, repeating a cry very like Bartimaeus’, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner’. Like Bartimaeus, he prayed fromthe depths of his need.
Desperation can be a great gift. It focuses us on reality as it truly is. In his need, Bartimaeus did not care what the crowd thought, whether they were telling him to be quiet or how to relate to Jesus. In his need, he knew who Jesus was at a level deeper than this crowd knew. In his need, he was able to state simply and starkly what he wanted from Jesus. In his need, he realised what truly mattered. Unlike James and John, in last week’s Gospel, who, when asked by Jesus what they wanted, had sought power and prestige, this man’s need was simple and basic. And when Jesus fulfilled his need, he responded in the true manner of a disciple, following Jesus along the way – the way leading to Jerusalem, to suffering, death and through to Resurrection.
Our desperate needs are to be treasured. When their time has passed and our lives have returned to what passes for normalcy, for equilibrium, we should often revisit them to recollect the wisdom they have to offer us: the clarity regarding what is truly important in life, the knowledge that we can truly open ourselves to God, the experience that God can be truly merciful and tender in our lives.
It is amazing how, in a fearful situation, people can be blinded by alternate concerns. Immediately before this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus had been clearly predicting his coming passion, death and resurrection. Hot on the heels of that momentous teaching, James and John, taking advantage of a moment alone with Jesus, try to manipulate him into giving them positions of power in the coming Kingdom. Jesus sees through them yet leads them on. With his mention of ‘cup’ and ‘baptism’ they should have realised that the game was up and they should back out now. But blindly they plough on and Jesus, taking advantage of this, promises them the ‘cup’ and ‘the baptism’ but not the power and authority they desire. Is this unfair? Not really because he, in his authority, can see the true nature of their needs and knows that the ‘cup’ and ‘baptism’ are what they will need to make them fit for authority.
But, at this point in time, their blindness makes them unfit for authority. They, and the other disciples, see the prestigious position as the place where they can lord it over others, telling them what to do. Jesus, in contrast, regards authority as the position where a person, seeing the bigger picture, and having access to greater resources, can be at the service of those in his or her authority. This type of authority does not make life easy for the one wielding it. Rather it is an extraordinary challenge. Called upon to juggle the disparate needs of the group with the limited resources at hand, the person in authority actually needs to use every bit of wit, creativity and sensitivity to respond appropriately to changing situations. Ask any good parent with adolescent children, any decent parish priest, what are the questions that haunt them in the night. Invariably it will be how they can adapt themselves to serve better the people they love. Truly such people are giving their lives in ransom for the ones in their care.
‘Jesus looked at him and loved him.’ Jesus was about to make an audacious request of the wealthy man and he knew that only in the gaze of love could the man respond to this invitation to totally transform his life. Till now he had devotedly kept the Law and avoided sin: no adultery, no stealing etc. and he would have understood his wealth as God’s reward to him for such behaviour. Now Jesus challenges the ground on which he walks. No longer is his virtue to be shown by avoiding sin but by serving the poor with the very wealth his perceives as a blessing and then following Jesus. Devotion to the Law is to be superseded by love of Jesus. It is a big ask: the man had been in control of his life, he had wealth, prestige, the ability to be devout. Now he is asked to give it all away and follow the poor Jesus who we know is on his way to the cross. How could Jesus expect him to respond positively- only in the gaze of love. We, too, will find ourselves in that gaze with an audacious request asked of us- not every day, perhaps only once or twice in a lifetime. But at some stage we will be asked to move beyond everything that holds our world and our self-identity together. We will be asked to do the impossible. How can we prepare for such a moment? By allowing ourselves to bask regularly in the love of Jesus.
You are invited to join our Parish initiative – “Our Vision through the Spirit”. A journey of 3 sessions over 6 weeks where we join in prayer, scripture, reflection, discussion and personal commitment as we work together with the Holy Spirit to bring our Parish Vision to Action. Sessions will be conducted over Zoom and you have a choice of day or evening sessions. 1.30pm Wednesdays 13, 27 October, 10 November or 7.30pm Thursdays 14, 28 October and 11 November. Each session is planned for 1.5 hours.
Please let the Parish Office know which session you would like to join: firstname.lastname@example.org or 9744 1060.
This is not an easy Gospel to write on. Many hearing or reading it could think that it does not apply to them as they are widowed, unmarried, celibate, rejected, deserted or even divorced. That is quite a swathe of people. But it still does speak to us, to all of us. It tells us that long-term loving relationships are integral to our development as persons. I recently watched the movie The Way and while it received rave reviews I was profoundly disappointed with the ending. While the central character Tom did need to learn to embrace life and allow it to form him, I question whether becoming a traveller of the world would actually bring him to a rich deep life – who would he love? Who would challenge and form him radically on a daily basis? For it is in the deep bonds of love that we are formed as persons. And, as antithetical as this is to the popular notion of romance, this usually happens in ordinary mundane situations devoid of glamour or excitement. The Bridges of Madison County is a movie with a very different ending. Romance here does not trump everything. It is not the high road to self-fulfilment justifying abandonment. After her four day affair, Francesca is profoundly tempted to abandon her family and leave with Robert, the lover who has brought her so much joy. But she does not because her husband, her boring husband, is a good man and doesn’t deserve this. And what would it teach her 16 year-old daughter about love? After her death, her children discover the true stature of the woman who was their mother. Harriet Goldher Lerner in her book The Dance of Anger gives a definition of ‘intimacy’: maintaining a relationship over the long haul. As we do that, our strengths and weaknesses are revealed, as are those of the other in the relationship. In dealing with each other, we necessarily change. As we chose to grow in love, we are transformed. As we chose to remain in that delicate and difficult dance, we will discover that we have entered into the Kingdom of God.
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.