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?’
How people make decisions is a popular theme for current psychological research. For anyone who thinks they make wise decisions based on reason, the results are not looking good. We are more likely to be influenced by prejudice, emotion and impulse than we would like to admit. One way to counter our biases is by developing good habits of mind and heart.
So what has that got to do with the Annunciation? Many paintings, especially from the Renaissance period, show Mary not only at prayer but more especially reading the scripture at the time of the Angel’s greeting. What is implied is that the woman who said, ‘Be it done unto me according to your Word,’ had been trying to live according to the Word of God before she was faced with the momentous decision to become Mother of God. A lifetime, true a young person’s lifetime, of trying to see God at work in her ordinary life made her heart capable of making a decision that was beyond credulity. In the history of Israel that she had pondered, she saw God’s almighty love working in the most unlikely of places. Well she regarded herself as an unlikely person for God to work through but she trusted God’s power and love to do the impossible within her.
And what about us? If we are having trouble trying to find God’s Word for our lives, maybe we need to regularly try to find God’s Word in the small events of life. That is, we need to discipline our hearts in small things so that when big decisions come we are attuned to the heart of God. Morning offering, grace before and after meals, prayer for those we journey with to and from work – there are a multitude of ways we can be open to the Word of God spoken in the ordinary events of life. As we build the habit of shaping our lives according to the Word, we make ourselves ready for the times when God will call us beyond what we believe humanly possible but which we discover is more than possible for God.
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.
MASSES GOING TO 100 PARISHIONERS. THANKS FOR ALL THE PRAYERS
The 4 square metre rule stops us from going to higher numbers
The fine print will be sorted on Monday between the DHHS and the Archdiocese and we will know any details shortly afterwards. Meanwhile the following instructions will need to be adhered to: ……
There will be NO bookings for Masses and 100 will be the limit. The church will be open half an hour before Mass, and all Registrars and Ushers must be there when the church opens. All participants must be at the church at least 10 minutes prior to Mass starting. Parishioners will need to be registered by name and contact phone number. Sanitiser and Masks will be mandatory. An usher will seat each person/family who must remain in that seat until receiving Eucharist. Then return to that seat after Communion. In receiving Eucharist, please extend your arms as far as possible to allow for correct social distancing. Communion will only be in the hand. We will need to clear the church immediately after Mass. Each Mass will require the correct number of volunteers, if not Mass cannot go ahead. Please consider what role you can play in the celebration and phone the Parish Office with your offer.
Volunteers needed are: Set-Up, Lector, Musician, Singer, Registrars x2, Minister of Communion, Ushers x 4-5, Cleaners x 4
Our parish community has been extremely generous in supporting the LAP team but unfortunately, due to the pandemic restrictions, we will not be able to hold our planned fundraising collection at Masses in November. If you are in a position to make a once-off donation to enable the LAP team to continue their work, If you can help, could we please encourage you to make an electronic contribution using the following parish bank details:
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
Regrettably, we have been unable to return to parish life with any sort of normality and at the time of writing this, it is difficult to imagine when we will be able to do so. However, the Finance and Development Committee (FDC) has continued to go about its business as best we can and we thought you might be interested in an update of our activities.
From the time of our stage 4 lockdown, the Parish Office has been closed and all staff commenced working from home for their normal activities. As much as possible, our dedicated staff have continued to conduct all the normal operational matters of the parish with minimal disruption. Day-to-day matters have been managed well, although, obviously, some activities have had to be temporarily curtailed. The parish office will be reopened as soon as possible but, of course, in line with government requirements and practical measures in place. I would like to thank our staff for their commitment, dedication and flexibility in difficult circumstances.
While the FDC expected that the finances of the parish would be affected by Covid 19 and the restrictions imposed, we are pleased that the effect has not been as great as we has initially imagined.
Understandably, our weekly collections have reduced but many parishioners have opted to use electronic means of transferring funds to the parish and we are very grateful for this. It remains an available option and if you would like information on how it’s done, please leave a message on the parish office’s line and someone will return to you. Alternatively, if you would like to make an electronic contribution to our accounts directly, the relevant BSB & Account numbers are:
Church A/c-2nd Collection BSB: 083 347 Account: 546358602
Importantly, the parish qualified for the federal government’s JobKeeper program, the first phase of which ended on 30 September. Likewise, we qualify for the second phase, although the financial contribution from the government will reduce and at this stage, it will cease on 31 December. This initiative has been an enormous advantage to the parish as it relieved the financial impact of staff salaries on the parish.
Our income and expenditure continues to be closely monitored and where possible, we have deferred costs to a later date and have scaled back on non-essential items, including some general maintenance matters. As is our routine, the FDC formally reviews our financial position monthly, while expenses are managed on a day-to-day basis.
Fr Kevin continues to live-stream Mass and I know many parishioners use this service.
Parish ministries are connected by Zoom technology, which has enabled many of these groups and the parish generally to continue to function, albeit with some difficulty and restrictions.
Of course, when we are able to attend Mass again remains unclear but the Liturgy Committee will ensure we are able to do so safely and in accordance with requirements when it does happen.
The dangers and restrictions imposed due to Covid 19 have enabled the FDC to implement a risk management strategy, for which we have utilised a risk management ‘tool’ developed by our insurer, CCI. This period has provided an excellent opportunity to ‘road test’ our recently developed risk management strategy and over time, you will see this in operation in the parish more frequently. The aim of the FDC is to ensure that appropriate risk management techniques are implemented in all ministries within the parish. Glenn Morris is leading this work and progress is encouraging.
The FDC has also used the additional time due to restricted activities to commence work on the parish strategic plan and while there remains much to be done, FDC members are pleased with progress. The plan is very much in its construction and draft stages and it will be released to all parishioners for comment and feedback in due course. We are fortunate to have the expertise of Michael McConville for this project.
On behalf of Fr Kevin and the FDC, I hope you continue to stay safe and well. Like all of us, I am keen to have life back to ‘normal’, although I can barely remember what that looked like. Please continue to look after yourself and to pray for each other that we will be able to gather again as a community in the not-too-distant future.