TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: year of vision and hope

The week ahead is going to be a busy one for many in the diocese, and if you check out the diocesan calendar, which now is a regular feature in Dio Update, you will see the following events:

  • The Called to Serve Mass
  • The Ecumenical and Interfaith Council meeting
  • The Liturgy Council meeting
  • The meeting of the Diocesan Association of Pastoral Ministers
  • The Diocesan Staff Mass
  • The Annual Catechist Mass
  • The Ordinations of Deacons John Lovell and Anthony Coloma

It is through these events and experiences that we hope to give people the opportunity to encounter Jesus. I know that the Called to Serve Mass, the Catechist Mass and the Ordinations will simply be wonderful expressions of our connections with each other and with our God. Those gathered will pray with gestures, words and song and the Cathedral will be filled with the joy. On these occasions, I feel like the mortar that holds the brickwork together, as the atmosphere swells and pulsates with the people of God celebrating God’s grandeur.

You can see by the list of events for the week that this truly begins our year and the hopes we hold.

On Thursday 10 January, one of the Letters to the Editor of the Newcastle Herald captured my imagination. It was written by Paul Sutcliffe of Fern Bay. The title of the letter was, Year of vision and hope for a brighter future. Just these words spoke to me of our own desires, given all that we as a church are encountering. Here are some of the words of this letter from Paul:

I’m looking forward with guarded optimism to next year, 2020, hopefully the Year of Vision (20:20)

Last year leaders, Australian and American, drenched us in shame. They delivered scandal, deceit, backstabbing, political lunacy, eroding further the trust deficit in the political process. They have failed to understand the fragility of our country, ignored the abundant evidence presented by scientists worldwide and seemingly allowed huge corporations to ignore their social responsibility.

What would a year of vision look like?

Integrity. Compassion. Civility. Competence. Vision. Equality. Courtesy. Reconciliation and Fairness are but a few that come to mind. Where are the leaders who will restore these priceless values to our beautiful country? We each have a personal responsibility to not only choose people with such traits, but exhibit them ourselves. When was the last time you committed a random act of kindness? We need to measure our nation’s wellbeing as well as our GDP. If policies subtract from our innate joy of existence, then GDP will suffer. Please strive to hand over to the next generation a planet that is alive, vibrant and safe. It is the only one we have. It is where we keep our stuff. There is no Planet ‘B’. Clean air, abundant fresh water, and respect for all forms of living things are vital. Maybe, just maybe these things may come to be this year, 2019.

I am sure you can see the many layers of meaning I took from such a letter. I thank Paul Sutcliffe for these wise words of vision. I do not know him but I was grateful to read this letter at the beginning of the new year, realising that there are people around us who hope for something beyond their own narrow self-focus.

Paul in his letter speaks of political leaders, but my hope is for our church leaders to imagine and make real for us and with us the values which he speaks of – integrity, compassion, civility, competence, vision, equality, courtesy reconciliation and fairness. Our weekend readings remind us that we are sinners and in need of forgiveness, but Isaiah, Peter and Paul are all aware of the power of God at work in them. However, we believe that if we have faith in the grace of God working within us, we can be great missionaries.

The final words from the prophet Isaiah (6:1-8) are addressed not only to him but to each of us:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: ‘Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?’

I answered, ‘Here I am, send me.’

We must plead for God’s grace to fill us and direct us, so like Simon Peter, James and John in the gospel reading (Luke 5:1-11), we will not be afraid and will leave everything to follow Jesus.  This is what we are being continually called to.

These are some of Deacon Anthony Coloma’s words in this week’s Inner Newcastle bulletin:

The day of my ordination to the priesthood is fast approaching – barely a week to go. People approached and asked me if I feel excited about it. I must admit that excitement has not creeped into my system. It is not that I am not feeling excited; I am more at peace and in bliss than excited. I have always desired to become a priest to provide meaningful liturgies, facilitate an environment for people to encounter God and serve women and men in need.

I am at peace. I know where my heart is. And, I am willing to go wherever and to whoever our Lord sends me.

I think these words from Anthony sum up the week. People have been called, they are responding and they are being sent into the vineyard to yield a harvest of rich fruit, or like our gospel passage, a net or catch overflowing with fish.

Richard Leonard SJ wrote in his homily for this weekend the following words of hope:

May we pray in this Eucharist for the humility in the Church to accept that God can turn our judgements, laws, customs, protocols and management strategies upside down and sometimes bring forward, from the most unexpected quarters, leaders who show us new dimensions to God’s power shining through our human weakness.

And to finish this message with the words of St Margaret Mary Alacoque:

But above all preserve peace of heart. This is more valuable than any treasure. In order to preserve it there is nothing more useful than renouncing your own will and substituting for it the will of the divine heart. In this way, his will can carry out for us whatever contributes to his glory, and we will be happy to be his subjects and to trust entirely in him.

Let us keep praying for the grace of surrender and trust to God’s perfect provision.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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