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
The Voice! How much is conveyed by the tone of a voice. We might think that it is the words that convey the meaning but if we think about it we realise that this is often not true. Said with kindness, harsh words can convey love. Said with disinterest, the sweetest words mean nothing, at best. Jesus highlights this with the contrast between the Good Shepherd and the hireling. Imagine the difference in the tone of voice between the two. The Good Shepherd calls and the sheep follow for they hear love and care. The hireling may say the same words, but the sheep refuse to listen. They know the hireling is only there for personal benefit. Each Christian has heard the voice of Jesus calling him or her. We each need to stop and retune our lives according to this call of intimate, personal, unique love. Our name, called in love, is important to Jesus – so it should be to us. It is good to sometimes stop and listen to the tones in our own voices and to ask ourselves what they convey. Is it the tone by which Jesus calls us? The challenge the Good Shepherd gives to each of us is to convey in our voices the love we hear in his.
Uproar was the disciples’ response to the risen Jesus. Joy, terror, dismay, confusion, wonder ran riot within them. Jesus dealt with this by grounding them in a sense of his physical presence, stretching their understanding by showing how the Scriptures revealed what had happened to him. He then challenged them to share this Good News with the entire world.<br>By comparison, our experience of Resurrection seems rather thin. So maybe we should pause and seriously ask ourselves, where could we recognise and experience the Risen Jesus? Could it be in our physical world, as we go beyond ourselves in love and service, doing deeds that don’t come easily to us? Could it be in stretching our minds and hearts to appreciate the riches of the Scriptures and our religious tradition and see what they tell us about Jesus? Could it be in taking up the challenge to present the Good News to the people with whom we live? If you are like me, these questions stir up all sorts of reactions within me: terror at what it might cost, confusion as to what I could actually do, wonder at how it might turn out. But maybe the only way for us to enter into the Resurrection is to be discombobulated like those disciples at the first Easter.Uproar was the disciples’ response to the risen Jesus. Joy, terror, dismay, confusion, wonder ran riot within them. Jesus dealt with this by grounding them in a sense of his physical presence, stretching their understanding by showing how the Scriptures revealed what had happened to him. He then challenged them to share this Good News with the entire world. By comparison, our experience of Resurrection seems rather thin. So maybe we should pause and seriously ask ourselves, where could we recognise and experience the Risen Jesus? Could it be in our physical world, as we go beyond ourselves in love and service, doing deeds that don’t come easily to us? Could it be in stretching our minds and hearts to appreciate the riches of the Scriptures and our religious tradition and see what they tell us about Jesus? Could it be in taking up the challenge to present the Good News to the people with whom we live? If you are like me, these questions stir up all sorts of reactions within me: terror at what it might cost, confusion as to what I could actually do, wonder at how it might turn out. But maybe the only way for us to enter into the Resurrection is to be discombobulated like those disciples at the first Easter.
In the Gospel of John, the giving of the Holy Spirit is associated with the power to deal with sin. The power to forgive is given to all disciples and is to be the distinctive mark of Christians. This isn’t the human forgiveness that can say ‘it’s okay’ after an apology is offered and restoration is made. No, this is the power to deal with dirty, dark, raw sin. Jesus’ forgiveness leads to a profound transformation of the heart that enables us to offer peace, love and benevolence to people who have deeply wronged us, irrespective of whether they repent or not. It is loving as God loves.
Julie Morris, in her book Forgiving the Dead Man Walking recounts her journey, her long journey, of coming to forgive Robert Lee Willie, a murderer and rapist, who had abducted her, repeatedly raped her and threatened her with death. The effect of the trauma in her life is clearly told: her life was a mess. Her anger lashed out in all directions, to her parents, to herself, to Robert Willie, to her God. Only as she forgave herself and others did her life grow to some form of equanimity. The struggle to forgive Robert Willie was long and hard and, at heart, it was a struggle to understand and enter into God’s way of loving. Her forgiveness was not cheap. She carries her wounds, not as symbols of defeat, but as signs of the Spirit’s power to transform our hearts in ways beyond our imaginings. She learnt to love as God loves.
This power to forgive is Jesus’ Resurrection gift to each of us. We each have our own story, our pains, our wounds, times when we have sinned and when we have been sinned against. We know what dirty, dark, raw sin is. Still Jesus comes to us, showing us his wounds, breathing the Holy Spirit upon us and telling us that we too can love as God loves us. [The picture of “cancelled” Thomas with Jesus is at Hosios Loukas, a historic walled Byzantine monastery situated near the town of Distomo, in Boeotia, Greece. ]
In the fine biographical movie, ‘Temple Grandin’, we follow the emergence of Temple from being a child confined by her autism to her becoming a woman able to use her autism as a way to interact with and change her world. Her mother had a profound influence on her but what a journey it was for that woman. Continually her hopes for her daughter were challenged, dashed and sometimes transformed. In spite of pain and difficulty, she never gave up hope. Ultimately this hope was rewarded but never would have she dreamt that her daughter would make her name as a prominent abattoir designer! At the heart of the Easter mystery is the transformation of people’s hope in God. All the people in the Gospel story had their hope in God challenged: Pilate and the religious authorities, the soldiers, the people taunting Jesus, the disciples, the women who came to the tomb. All had certain beliefs about God and how God should act in the world. These in turn affected how they understood Jesus. Those who were rigid in how they thought God would act missed what was happening. Those prepared to be challenged through their pain and confusion came to see and recognise the risen Jesus. We, too, have our hopes and when they are challenged by reality, we need to remember that the reality of God’s love was shown in the crucified, abandoned one, who chose to rise quietly from the dead. As we seek to embrace that reality, our hopes will be transformed – into what we do not know – but we do know that we will be transfused by love.
I love ‘ensemble stories’ – you know books, plays, films where we see a number of different characters reacting within a story. When we look at the Passion Narratives, especially Mark’s, we miss the point if we focus solely on Jesus’ suffering and death. In fact, the Narratives make little of Jesus’ physical suffering. More emphasis is placed on how people react to Jesus. This is an especial feature of Mark’s account.
His Passion account proper begins with the unnamed woman, lavishly pouring costly ointment over Jesus’ head. Somehow, she has recognised what all the other disciples have missed: Jesus is going to his death. She gives a most precious gift is response to his most precious gift. At the end of Mark’s account stands the Centurion, also unnamed, who is the ultimate witness to Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. This man of violence, who probably supervised the scourging, the ridicule, as well as the crucifixion proper sees ‘the Son of God’ in the ignominious failure and death. These two people stand as models of discipleship: one the faithful follower who risks ridicule to show love to Jesus; the other, a hard person transformed, converted to believer.
In between these two figures of faith, we have all sorts of other characters: scheming self-serving priests, a weak politician, frightened disciples, a cocksure Peter shamed at the crow of a cock. These people are written into the story that we might see ourselves there. We know our weakness and failures of character. As we see ourselves echoed in the Passion Narrative, we can remind ourselves that Jesus loved these, all these, and us, to the end.
A few years ago, I read an account of a Syrian man who had been arrested and tortured four times by the Syrian authorities. Each time his family has paid for his release. Finally, he fled Syria with this family. In telling his horrific story, he said that he no longer believed in God, asking ‘How could a God allow such a person as Bashir Al-Assad to exist and to control a regime such as that operating within his country.’ It is a fair question and one that many of us have faced at times in our lives. I do not know the full answer but, in my groping, I believe that the Christian response has something to do with God’s respect for human free will and his horror at some of the choices that we make. Rather than override our choices, God, in the person of Jesus, enters into our suffering, transforming it into his life. The question and response that Jesus poses in this Gospel show the two alternatives he faced him in his coming Passion. He says ‘Should I say, Father save me from this hour. But for this very hour, have I come.’ The God who would save Jesus out of this hour is one remote from human suffering and one who must override human free will when it does not conform to his plan. The God who allows Jesus to enter into human suffering, experiencing the consequences of the choices of evil men, yet still loving to the end is a God who respects our humanity and free will – even though, at times, we baulk and reject such respect. As I said, that is what I have come to in my groping, and I realise it is inadequate. To hold together, the mysteries of God’s love and human iniquity, we have to look at the Cross till it reveals to us its Glory.
‘Well that gave me a lift!’ A lift is often what is needed when we are in dark, difficult places in our lives, needed when we are suffering, grumpy, overcome by being our small-mindedness or small heartedness, or even when we are just overwhelmed by our own selves. So what is the lift Jesus offers us? The glory of the Cross. Oh! That’s not quite what we want. We want ‘out, elsewhere, to something easier’. Jesus offers ‘through and up’ with him. Jesus challenges us with the vision that what we see as negative, simply isn’t only that. There is more in the situation we judge negatively because God is within that situation. If we believe that there is more to our difficulties, suffering, grumpiness, pettiness, ordinary situations, we will see more – we will see the light. If we are not open to the possibility of more, we will not be able to see – to be lifted up by the grace of God. The trick is to be open. The challenge is to see greater possibilities within the situation as it is now. One way of doing this is trying to imagine how aspects of the situation could work for good in our lives. Another is to ask what is positive in the situation. Another is to ask Jesus how he sees the situation. What we are looking for are the cracks that let in the light of Grace.
If God put on a better show in church, the ratings would go through the roof. Imagine if at every Eucharist, our experience was like the Transfiguration – all of us stunned with the glory, filled with the most awesome fear, an experience so rich and wonderful that, like Peter, we want to stay permanently. Well, maybe not every week. With the assurance that it would happen once a year, many, many people would turn up each and every week. So why doesn’t God put on a better show? Why are those insights into the reality of God’s love so rare?
I don’t know. I do know that if I, and many of us, were running a religion we would make it much more attractive than what it mostly is. Much as we tend to blame the preaching, the translation, the choice of hymns or whatever, God could still put on a fireworks display… and doesn’t. What I’ve come to in my understanding is this. God wants us to: Come freely offering the love of our hearts, Come freely, even in the midst of ordinary life, Come freely, in the midst of suffering, Come freely, even when the shadows of this world fall away and we see the true reality of God’s love underpinning all reality. True love is given freely and God treasures the true love of our hearts so much that he will not coerce our response in love.