TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?

I recognised during this past week that it would be difficult for me to put thoughts to paper because of our local news headlines coupled with those national headlines of family violence, the rescue of the young boys in Thailand and some personal family matters. These have left me feeling flat and sad, without words, really. I imagine many of you are able to identify with what I am trying to say and I had contemplated just using the word ‘silence’ for the message.

Yet during the past week I have been involved in:

  • Speaking with the diocesan Operations Management Group about the Bishop’s Structures of Participation in Pastoral Ministry document which is available on our website.
  • Participating in the Priests/Principals Day where the processes around the Plenary Council of 2020 were broken open.
  • Having a significant discussion with the Diocesan Council for Ministry with Young People around its future and the future of this ministry in our diocese.
  • Attending the Hunter L’Arche Community Day.
  • Being at the celebration for the commencement of NAIDOC Week at Christ Church Cathedral.
  • Caring for my 100-year-old father-in-law.

So as I listened to the readings at Mass on Sunday night the following words from each of the readings resounded loudly in my mind and spirit:

  • I am sending you to them to say, “The Lord says this.” ‘Whether they listen or not, this set of rebels shall know there is a prophet among them.’ (Ezekiel 2:2-5)
  • Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy. (Psalm 122, v2)
  • I am quite content with my weaknesses, and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and the agonies I go through for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong. (Second Letter of St Paul to the Corinthians 12:7-10)
  • He was amazed at their lack of faith. (Mark 6:1-6)

In many ways these words and the text surrounding them put light on the week that was and probably on the week that will unfold. You have read from me previously that there is a beauty in our celebration of Mass with both the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Paschal mystery of dying and rising is lived out daily, celebrated in community at the table of the Lord and proclaimed through God’s Word. It is within community at this celebration that we seek to be nourished in order to continue on the path of discipleship.

With all this in mind, I wish to just take time to honour the many First Nations women – the mothers, sisters, aunties, grandmothers and daughters who continue to be the thread which holds the Aboriginal community together. It was wonderful to read the stories of several women in Saturday’s Newcastle Herald and to watch the images of the Aboriginal women on the screen at Christ Church Cathedral. These images and stories depicted women as role models, elders and leaders who proclaimed the need for family, community support, education and good health care. It was obvious to me that they are the ones who continue to fight for justice, reconciliation and social change. I am hoping that you are conscious of the theme of NAIDOC Week – Because of her, we can!

I am conscious of the wounds, pain, grief, despair and loss at so many levels in our society and within our church, and yet the theme for NAIDOC Week provides me with the hope that ‘we can’. So much has been taken from our First Australians and yet many of them stand tall and strong with hope and work for a better future, not only for their people but for all who have come to this great land.

I think the invitation to participate in the Australian Plenary Council of 2020 is inviting us to have the courage to take part while carrying our wounds, pain, grief, despair and loss. When we are weak we are strong. God is calling us, like Ezekiel, to be prophetic, to hear the voice of the Spirit and to respond with humility, patience, hope, faith and love. It is a response from the heart that is being sought to the question:

What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?

This question invites us into contemplation, deep listening and prayer. Please take time to visit and explore the website.

I finish this week’s message with the following Aboriginal Thanksgiving Prayer:

God of Holy Dreaming, Great Creator Spirit, from the dawn of creation you have given your children the good things of Mother Earth.

You spoke and the gum tree grew.

In the vast desert and the dense forest, and in the cities and at the water’s edge, creation sings your praise.

Your presence endures at the rock at the heart of our Land.

When Jesus hung on the tree you heard the cries of all your people and became one with your wounded ones: the convicts, the hunted, the dispossessed.

The sunrise of your Son coloured the earth anew, and bathed it in glorious hope.

In Jesus we have been reconciled to you, to each other and to your whole creation.

Lead us on, Great Spirit, as we gather from the four corners of the earth; enable us to walk together in trust from the hurt and shame of the past into the full day which has dawned in Jesus Christ.

Amen.

[Permission to use this prayer was given by Lenore Parker.]

I hope you are able to take some time during the week to sit in contemplative silence and sense God dwelling in you.

Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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