TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Seeking wisdom

Trinity Sunday draws us in to the mystery of God and our desire as humans to explain and control all things and the need to accept that life and God are beyond the rational, and so we sit patiently and courageously in a contemplative place we call the soul.

Simply, the Trinity calls us into relationship with God, with each other and with all of creation. God’s incarnation in the person of Jesus was simply to show us that self-giving love, unconditional love is at the heart of what it means to be human.

The Collect for Trinity Sunday was simply a great prayer:

God our Father, who by sending into the world the Word of truth and the Spirit of sanctification, made known to the human race your wondrous mystery, grant us, we pray, that in professing the true faith, we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory and adore your Unity, powerful in majesty. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

We then listened to a reading from the book of Proverbs about Wisdom (8:22-31). I love readings about Wisdom, as they foretell of the mystery of God’s incarnation, and yet Wisdom was recorded more than 2500 years ago. Proverbs is a book of instructions on how to live a life pleasing to God, and how to be more peaceful with all of creation. Of wisdom it is written:

From everlasting, I was firmly set, from the beginning, before earth came into being….. I was by his side, a master craftsman, delighting him day after day, ever at play in his presence, at play everywhere in his world, delighting in the human race.

The reading from Romans (5:1-5) reminds us of what happens when we have the gift of faith; we have peace, grace, endurance, character, hope:

Brothers and sisters:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith
to this grace in which we stand,
and we boast in hope of the glory of God.
Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions,
knowing that affliction produces endurance,
and endurance, proven character,
and proven character, hope,
and hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Some weeks, I find it necessary to begin my message with the profound reminders, from the Word, of what it looks like for those of us who accept that we are graced with the gift of faith. I believe that this gift is now being called upon, as we move to the next phase of the Plenary Council process – the Listening and Discernment phase.

Last weekend, Pentecost Sunday, the six themes that emerged from the Listening and Dialogue phase were released. Each of these themes embraces a large number of topics which emerged from the 222,000 people who contributed to the 17,457 submissions.

In the coming months, through the discernment process and drawing on these Six National Themes for Discernment, the agenda for the Plenary Council will be developed. The discernment process will involve establishing Working groups for each Theme, as well as calling upon people in faith communities across Australia to participate locally, in their own communal Listening and Discernment encounters, and to feed their responses back to the Working Groups.

The six themes are:

  1. How is God calling us to be a Christ-centred Church in Australia that is missionary and evangelising?
  2. How is God calling us to be a Christ-centred Church in Australia that is Inclusive, Participatory and Synodal?
  3. How is God calling us to be a Christ-centred Church in Australia that is Prayerful and Eucharistic?
  4. How is God calling us to be a Christ-centred Church in Australia that is Humble, Healing and Merciful?
  5. How is God calling us to be a Christ-centred Church in Australia that is A Joyful, Hope-Filled and Servant Community?
  6. How is God calling us to be a Christ-centred Church in Australia that is Open to Conversion, Renewal and Reform?

The Bishops of Australia are presently in Rome for their Ad Limina visit with Pope Francis and the Vatican Dicastaries (the Departments of the Roman Curia). The Australian Bishops will be on retreat at Casa Divin Maestro from 17 to 21 June, the purpose of which is to contemplate these six themes. I believe we need to fervently pray that they will be filled with the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit over these days. When I look at the themes I see the need for courageous and bold leadership.

Each week for the next six weeks one of each of the themes will be explored a little more deeply. I will include some of this in my message for you to read, reflect upon, pray about and possibly chat to others about. The Diocesan Synod Working Party will also be meeting to discuss ways in which we, as a diocesan community, will participate in the Plenary Council process and our own Diocesan Synod process.

Missionary and Evangelising

This National Theme for Discernment is inspired by the voices of the People of God who shared a passion for participating in the missionary nature of the Church and who desire stronger support, involvement and formation among all the baptised who make up the Church. The data also identified the need to reach out and communicate more effectively, and to find new ways of living and proclaiming the Gospel in Australia today. There was a call for the strengthening of leadership and ministries in parishes and schools, training to equip leaders for ministry, pastoral support for various groups within parish and faith communities, and a desire for a unified voice in engaging social issues such as life and religious freedom.

Below are some of the topics that informed this particular theme, which was created through a combination of analysis, discernment and prayer.

  • Affordable adult faith formation courses
  • Authentic faith teaching in Catholic schools
  • Be a witness in society
  • Better communication of what the Church does
  • Better faith formation
  • Better formation for liturgical ministries and sacramental programs
  • Better homilies
  • Better preparation and support for married couples
  • Better selection and formation of candidates to priesthood
  • Better teachers in Catholic schools
  • Better training and support for youth leaders
  • Better youth faith formation
  • Church should adapt to multicultural reality
  • Church to act as a guide for Australian society
  • Concerns for diminishing parish communities
  • Defend religious freedom
  • Defend right-to-life issues
  • Encourage vocations
  • End celibacy, allow priests to be married
  • Establish more youth programs
  • Evangelisation in and of the family
  • Faith formation for parents
  • Fight for human rights issues
  • Focus on mission, being missionary disciples
  • Focus on the new evangelisation
  • Greater connection with and inclusion of Indigenous Australians
  • Greater focus on Jesus Christ
  • Greater focus on permanent deacons
  • Greater focus on the Word of God
  • Greater leadership from Bishops
  • Greater leadership from priests
  • Greater role for women
  • Greater support for RCIA
  • Greater trust, faith and hope in God
  • Keep the commandments
  • Keep the faith
  • Listen to one another more
  • Listen to the Holy Spirit
  • More chaplains, youth ministers in Catholic schools
  • More formation for priests
  • Outreach to all the baptised
  • Outreach to the wider community
  • Putting Gospel values in action

  • Remain faithful to Church teaching
  • Remain faithful to Church teaching on marriage
  • Share the faith with others
  • Use social media to engage people
  • Welcome back priests who have left to marry

I invite you to sit with this theme over the next week, to listen to the voice of the Spirit and each other in discerning what we are being asked to do:

  • In our parish
  • In our Diocese
  • Within the National Church, and
  • Throughout the Universal Church

I will try to keep you informed and updated over the coming weeks.

This is a blessed time for us to seize, reimagine and recreate.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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