I hope many of you log onto the Caritas website to check-out the six weekly Lenten stories and resources capturing the theme, Love Your Neighbour. Each week, there is a new story from around the globe, capturing the change in people’s lives because of the responsive work of Caritas through Project Compassion. I hope you are aware that we need to keep those who serve us in government accountable for the money which they commit to spending overseas for aid and development. Over the past few years, there has been a real reduction in the funds that the Australian Government commits to relieve the lives of the poorest of the poor, many of whom are our neighbours across South East Asia. Last year Caritas raised over $11million dollars to assist individuals and communities in becoming self-sufficient as well as emergency relief. These are hand-ups, not hand-outs.
In the multi-layered crisis facing the institutionalised church we must hold onto the good that is done by people of faith for so many. In the reading from Isaiah (49:14-15) we are reminded that God does not abandon us with these words, “does a woman forget her baby at the breast?...I will not forget you.”
Once a year, Allen and I share our home with members of our own family as well as my Mum and Dad’s families. This is a special time of connecting with and remembering our roots and who we are. I like the way we come together and just accept each other and the deep innate trust we have for each other. This year our daughter Angela joined us with her husband Sam and children Ezekiel (3) and Spencer (5 months). They stayed with us, and once again I was drawn not only by the absolute gaze of love between mother and baby, but also between the baby and us. This absolute expression of trust is beyond words. We are made for so much meaning and connection, and this begins before our birth and then is cemented in the love of a nurturing family.
I think Psalm 61 from Sunday captures this beautifully:
Rest in God alone, my soul
In God alone is my soul at rest;
my help comes from him.
He is my rock, my stronghold.
my fortress: I stand firm.
In God alone be at rest my soul;
for my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock, my stronghold.
my fortress: I stand firm.
In God is my safety and glory,
the rock of my strength,
take refuge in God all you people,
Trust him at all times
Pour out your hearts before him.
In the reading from Corinthians (4:1-5), we are reminded to be Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God. What is expected of stewards is that each one should be found worthy of God’s trust. The Gospel continues in this theme by inviting us to live in the present, not to think about tomorrow, not to waste time on worrying. I must admit that having a baby and toddler in the house ensures that you focus on the present. They are ‘time-wasters’(!!!!); as you just zoom into their world and entertain them, while teaching them the lessons of life. Spencer, at five months, is learning the art of communicating by way of facial expression, sound and touch. His expressions of making sounds and delighting in our response to his efforts can only be captured in your soul. I imagine that this shared delight can only be a fraction of the delight God has for us as we attempt to imitate him. Our role-modelling for this imitation comes in the person of Jesus, the person who is presently speaking to us through our Sunday readings of the Sermon on the Mount.
I must admit that I think I would find it really difficult not to worry about what I would have to eat, drink or wear if I did not have the luxury of being able to provide for these needs. The message is to trust in God and to set our hearts on God’s kingdom first and on his righteousness. The invitation for me is to be more contemplative and trusting, being attentive to the now while being mindful of the future.
Put God first and all will be well! I wonder what this looks like individually, at the parish level, in our schools, with CatholicCare, in Early Childhood, in the community, as a nation, as part of the global village and in the Vatican. Centring ourselves on the key message, the person of Jesus, must be our focus and purpose.
I came across this prayer during the week in an ecumenical e-news I receive from South Australia and it spoke to me about where we may be finding ourselves:
Healing Spirit set us free
From wearisome pain… healing spirit, set us free.
From the sharp sword of agony… healing spirit, set us free.
From burdens too great to bear in love for others… healing spirit, set us free.
From guilt and regret about times past… healing spirit, set us free.
From fearful memories and fear for the future… healing spirit, set us free.
From the grip of compulsions… healing spirit, set us free.
From the pride, greed, and bitterness… healing spirit, set us free.
From illusion, lying, and pretence… healing spirit, set us free.
From the depths of despair… healing spirit, set us free.
May our Lenten Season begin well and may we, the church in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, set our hearts on God’s Kingdom first and foremost.