TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: New horizons for spreading joy

Once again this message is being written on a Monday. My weekend was a full one. Allen and I spent Saturday in Sydney with Allen’s dad, as we share caring for him, along with Allen’s brothers and sister. Palm Sunday was taken up with meeting the Diocesan Council for Ministry with Young People (DCMYP) at Kilaben Bay, followed by the Way of the Cross and then choir practice for this week’s Chrism Mass.

The meeting with the DCMYP was precipitated because, each year, World Youth Day falls on Palm Sunday, with the exception of the years when there is an actual WYD event. I invite you to access the 33rd World Youth Day Message of Pope Francis on the internet, if you wish to read those words of wisdom about fear, courage, vocation and grace. The theme for this year’s WYD is “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God” (Luke 1:30).

As a diocesan community, which has been gathering for more than 50 years at the Way of the Cross, we have been intentionally gathering with young people of our diocese, at Kilaben Bay, since the Journey of the Cross and Icon came to our diocese in 2007, the year before WYD in Australia in 2008. This year, in Australia, we are celebrating the Year of Youth, the theme of which is:

Open New Horizons for Spreading Joy: Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment

In his WYD message, Pope Francis asks us to seek, together with Mary, the voice of God, who inspires courage and bestows the grace needed to respond to his call.

This would certainly be my hope for all of those young people who came along to be part of the Stations of the Cross. I have spoken in my message over the past couple of weeks about our Catholic Schools and the wonderful work that takes place within them. For those of us who come along to the Stations of the Cross each year, it is a wonderful experience of prayer and the beginning of Holy Week, but also of the innocence and holiness of young people who enact the stations with care, conviction and faith. You can sense within them a connection to the person of Jesus, his disciples, Mary his mother and the women of Jerusalem. The journey of Jesus to the Cross is part of their story and ours.

This was depicted most beautifully and powerfully when we listened to Fr Rob Galea’s hymn, “At the Foot of the Cross. Here is the chorus for you to reflect upon as we journey towards Good Friday:

So come see, come rest, where ever you are. Come broken, whole, however you are. He calls your name whoever you are. There is room for you, at the foot of the cross.

Like Mary, we are called each day, and like Mary, if we truly stopped to listen to God calling us by name, we would tremble before the mystery of God’s call. Pope Francis, in his message, invites us to name our fears, for indeed Jesus also had fears and doubts. He says:

For us Christians in particular, fear must never have the last word but rather should be an occasion to make an act of faith in God….and in life! This means believing in the fundamental goodness of the existence that God has given us and trusting that he will lead us to a good end, even through circumstances and vicissitudes which often bewilder us. Yet if we harbour fears, we will become inward-looking and closed off to defend ourselves from everything and everyone, and we will remain paralyzed. We have to act! Never close yourself in! In the Sacred Scriptures, the expression “do not be afraid” is repeated 365 times with different variations, as if to tell us that the Lord wants us to be free from fear, every day of the year.

He then goes onto say:

It is important to create spaces in our cities and communities to grow, to dream and to look at new horizons! Never lose the enthusiasm of enjoying others’ company and friendship, as well as the pleasure of dreaming together, of walking together. Authentic Christians are not afraid to open themselves to others and share with them their own important spaces, making sense of fraternity (community – my word). Dear young people, do not allow the spark of youth to be extinguished in the darkness of a closed room in which the only window to the outside world is a computer and smartphone. Open wide the doors of your life! May your time and space be filled with meaningful relationships, real people, with whom to share your authentic and concrete experiences of daily life.

So with all of this in mind, I am shocked and disappointed that the news item breaking at the beginning of this Holy Week, is about the ball-tampering episode by some of the players of our Australian Cricket Team. The commentary that I heard on the way to work used terms such as shock, shocking, shame, cheating, poor leadership, disbelief, dishonesty, dark day, bad image, scandalous, disrepute, integrity, reputation, loss of trust etc. I also heard someone talk about the need to restore the moral compass of people.

This is the news we hear and to which our young people are exposed. For me, these negative words remind me of the scandals we face as a community and church, and the need that people have for other humans to live with integrity and authenticity. I hope it reminds all of us of our need to keep trying to connect people, both young, old and in between to the message of Jesus.

This is the hope and dream of the DCMYP, and their strong disappointment and feeling of discouragement when all that they try has little or no response.

I was struck by the beginning of the Passion of Our Lord from Mark’s Gospel (Mk 14:1 – 15:47) which was read on Sunday. Here, we have a woman who anoints Jesus with an expensive perfume.

When he was in Bethany reclining at table
in the house of Simon the leper,
a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil,
very costly, pure nard.
She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head.
There were some who were indignant.
"Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil?
It could have been sold for more than three hundred days' wages
and the money given to the poor."
They were infuriated with her.
Jesus said, "Let her alone.
Why do you make trouble for her?
She has done a good thing for me.
The poor you will always have with you,
and whenever you wish you can do good to them,
but you will not always have me.
She has done what she could.
She has anticipated anointing my body for burial.
Amen, I say to you,
wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world,
what she has done will be told in memory of her."

This story is captured in each of the synoptic gospels as well as in John’s Gospel. This was playing on my mind, when at the Stations of the Cross the students formed the images of the Eighth Station – Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem.

The following words were read:

How often in today’s world we see that it is women who are the shining lights of dignity and mercy. The text is clear that these women “followed” Jesus. They did not run away. They did not lose faith. They did not mock or deride him as others did. Rather, they stood their ground with him.

Likewise, today, women often step forward to work on the front lines among the poor, the sick, the dying, and the forgotten. Many have given their own lives. Many others have given up a life of comfort for the sake of this ministry. Such women are responding to Jesus’ teaching that his suffering was the avenue to new life. He is teaching the women of Jerusalem to be women of faith, even while they are full of grief. He teaches us the same lesson.

Indeed, let us weep for our own failures to carry hope to the world, even when the suffering seems impossible to overcome. We weep for the word of comfort we did not speak when we could have, or for the simple act of kindness we might have offered but failed to. (From Praying the Stations with Pope Francis by Bill Huebsch)

May the week ahead be a holy week for you, your family and for your community.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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