TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Sharing and growing wisdom

For those who either attend daily Mass or who read and pray the daily Mass readings, you would be aware that over the past couple of weeks, the first readings have been from the Book of Wisdom.

I love the beauty and the power of this book, and so wish to begin this week’s message with the passage from Wisdom which describes the nature of wisdom (Wisdom 7:22 – 8:1):

There is in her a spirit that is intelligent, holy,
unique, manifold, subtle,
mobile, clear, unpolluted,
distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen,
irresistible, beneficent, humane,
steadfast, sure, free from anxiety,
all-powerful, overseeing all,
and penetrating through all spirits
that are intelligent, pure, and altogether subtle.
For wisdom is more mobile than any motion;
because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things.
For she is a breath of the power of God,
and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.
For she is a reflection of eternal light,
a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of God’s goodness.
Although she is but one, she can do all things,
and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God, and prophets;
for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.
She is more beautiful than the sun,
and excels every constellation of the stars.
Compared with the light she is found to be superior,
for it is succeeded by the night,
but against wisdom evil does not prevail.
She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other,
and she orders all things well.

Wisdom, Sophia, is the female expression of God’s incarnation in the person of Jesus Christ. It is expressed best in the opening of the Gospel of John where he speaks:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

I like to imagine that we give expression to Wisdom in each of our daily lives and also in the activities the diocese offers to those who choose to come. Most weeks I share some of the events of the previous week as well as those that are coming up. Last week was no different, with plenty on offer in order to share our wisdom and to grow in wisdom.

I took Fr Richard Shortall SJ to the airport last Tuesday and hugged him goodbye. As I did so he repeated the words that he spoke at his diocesan farewell on the previous Sunday saying:

It was as if God had created me, 65 years ago, with the express purpose of having me come to the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle as a Missionary of Mercy. It was God’s plan from the beginning of my life, that my whole life was a preparation to being a Missionary of Mercy at this particular point in time and in this place.

Each time I heard Richard speak these words, or I recall them, I get goose bumps, because of the conviction with which he speaks them. It certainly reminds me of today’s reading (Sunday), Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents. A couple of times during the reading the master states, “Well done, good and faithful servant”. I have a sense that God is looking upon Richard and stating those words of affirmation. Richard has given his life in growing his talents and responding to the call of God, until he heard this call to be our Missionary of Mercy.  He did not frustrate God’s plan by ignoring the voice of God, by not taking risks, but by being courageous, by stepping out of his comfort zone and giving of his whole self to be with the people and places of our diocese.

On Friday evening, I was present at the retirement function of Kathryn Fox, who will finish at the end of the year after working in education for over 36 years. She has been Head of Teaching and Learning with our Catholic Schools for the past 13 years and she is held in the highest esteem for her talents as an educator and respected for the person she is. As I listened to her farewell speeches and watched the slide show of her life as a teacher and educator, it was apparent to me that she has given generously of every bit of her God-given gifts to serve our parishes, schools, teachers and students. I loved that when she spoke, she expressed her desire to now move into exploring further the talents she had left aside while serving the school community. As she said, “I am ready to move into the next exciting chapter of my life”, and will do so surrounded by her family and many friends who have been part of her well-lived and fulfilled life.

Also during the week, John May was with us, exploring the consequences of the Reformation (500 years ago) and its impact on our ecumenical identity as well as our present day interreligious dialogue. He has spent his adult life in academic institutions around the globe exploring ‘ecumenics’ and he generously shared his deep learnings from these studies and dialogues. I was blessed to have a lunchtime conversation with him along with other Catholics, Christians, Muslims and a Jewish woman. The conversations were powerful, and people shared their journey towards a place of inner peace, a place where they found God and then their willing response to live out this faith actively, in order to make a difference in the world in which they find themselves.

In his talk John May quoted Hans Kung, who wrote in 2005,

No peace among the nations
without peace among the religions.

No peace among the religions
without dialogue between the religions

No dialogue between the religions
without investigation of the foundation of the religions.

John May spoke of the need for collaborative theology in which we as humans search co-operatively together, particularly in areas we hold in common – social justice, peace, mercy, goodwill, cultural tolerance, ecological awareness and restoration, reconciliation, forgiveness ……

Then on Saturday I attended a barbecue at Mayfield on the ‘village green’ behind CatholicCare where we have some affordable housing units. The intent of the barbecue was for those who live in our two disability houses there to meet with some from the L’Arche community. CatholicCare had also invited those who live in the units there. Our lunch had a great community feel to it, as people met each other. Those who live in this ‘village’ appreciated being invited and just speaking to their neighbours. I have no doubt this gathering began the sense of building community, which is the focus of the L’Arche movement.

I hope some of you are able to attend the next Interfaith Forum on Wednesday 22 November at the Salvation Army, 67 Clearly Street, Hamilton, commencing at 6.30pm. You are also invited to join their Sunday service at the same place at 10am. This will be the fourth session of our ecumenical and interfaith forums, in an attempt to grow in peace because of increased dialogue between and among faith communities.

On Saturday 25 November the Diocesan Pastoral Council will be holding its next meeting in the Upper Hunter Region at Aberdeen. Once again there will be two-way conversations between the DPC and the local community. These are similar to the cabinet meetings with the local community. 

I finish this week’s message with the chorus of one of the hymns we sang on Sunday, “Remembrance” by Matt Maher:

Lord, we remember You
And remembrance leads us to worship
And as we worship You
Our worship leads to communion
We respond to Your invitation, we remember You.

Blessings in this month of the Holy Souls.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is the Vice Chancellor Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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