This is what we heard at the conclusion of the reading from Isaiah on Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent. I find this to be a most amazing image - a potter, the clay and hands.
December 3, which marks the first Sunday of Advent, is also International Day of People with a Disability. It commences the Year of Youth and the Chaplains of the diocese were commissioned for their ministry in the community for the year ahead. I love the first day of our liturgical year and season because we are invited to renew our own commitment to a way of life of following Jesus. We leave behind what has been and look forward expectantly. The invitation is to stay awake, stay alert, be on watch for the promptings of the Spirit, but be active and vigilant for the Kingdom.
On the website, and in Dio News, you are being invited to pray the Examen daily.
Pope Francis is constantly nudging us to live discerning lives. To be discerning is essential if we are to be missionary disciples, if we are to be a missionary Church, if we are to read the signs of the times and respond with the mind and heart of Christ, if we are to be a listening Church -a synodal Church, a collaborative and co-responsible Church.
We live in a world and a Church that need us all to be the best disciples we can possibly be – as individuals and as a community.
One ancient practice that can help us develop the art of discernment is the Examen. So this Advent you are invited to pray the Examen daily. Advent is a time to wake up, to watch, to listen, to discern the Word of God. Hopefully praying the Examen daily will help us do just that! Imagine who we might be by Christmas and in 2018 if we pray the Examen every day during Advent?
I hope you engage with this invitation for I know that all of us will be more alive to the Spirit acting in our lives, parishes, the diocese and the wider community.
The theme for 2017 International Day of People with Disability(IDPwD) is “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all”. The overarching principle of this theme is to ‘leave no one behind’ and it empowers people with disabilities to be active contributors of society. It is based on transformative changes envisaged in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals which I have referred to in previous messages.
This global framework aims to strengthen the resilience of people with disabilities by providing full access to justice, health care services, infrastructure and accessible communities. It focuses on inclusive education, lifelong learning, and sustainable economic growth through employment. In Australia, the National Disability Insurance Scheme is an attempt by our Governments, and indeed all of us, to seek a sustainable and resilient society for everyone. I know that our schools, as well as CatholicCare, are very actively engaged in supporting people who have disabilities as well as their families.
I have also written previously about the L’Arche Community which is part of the Hunter support for people with intellectual disabilities.
The Australian Bishops have identified the liturgical year of 2018, beginning on the first Sunday of Advent (3rd December 2017), as a national Year of Youth.
The Year of Youth invites the church into dialogue about the importance and life-giving presence of young people in the Church and society. It calls for dialogue and active engagement, focused on the reconnection and renewal of a new generation of young people in the life of the Church. The Year of Youth is focused on local renewal and engagement. I wonder how parishes marked the commencement of the Year of Youth and what plans are in place for this local renewal and engagement with young people. The Diocesan Council for Ministry with Young People is presently planning a number of events for the 2018 calendar. Keep watch and alert!
The theme for the Year of Youth is; Open New Horizons for Spreading Joy: Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment.
During the week (December 7-10), young people from across our diocese will be attending the Australian Catholic Youth Festival in Sydney. Please pray for the experience of our young people as well as other young people from across Australia and New Zealand. 2008 marks 10 years since we hosted World Youth Day in Australia. Some of you may even make your way down to the Domain in Sydney for the final Mass of the Festival. Our diocese has opted to walk from Milsons Point across the Harbour Bridge to the Domain.
I have spent time during the week sharing meals of thanks and gratitude with those who assist, at diocesan level, with our various councils. I am grateful for the generosity and the wisdom of these people. They continue to discern the voice of God in their lives and in the life of our diocese, so that all may participate in the missionary discipleship of Jesus Christ, and so it is good to share a meal with them as we await the re-birthing of Jesus, God-made flesh, God coming amongst us, and God being with us.
I cannot let this message conclude without acknowledging the biggest news item for our diocese this week. Father Brian Mascord has been chosen by Pope Francis and the Church of Australia to be the next bishop of the Diocese of Wollongong. We, at the diocesan offices have mixed feelings about this appointment – joy, grief, sadness, fear, anticipation, pride, hope and gratitude. I am sure you realise the enormity of Fr Brian’s “yes” to this position of responsibility. The overwhelming statement from people is that he will definitely be a pastoral bishop. As their chief shepherd, he will care for the people of Wollongong and will pray with them. I know his experiences, as our Vicar-General, will provide him with the background that is required to lead a diocese at this time in our history. I pray that he will be supported, cared for and loved by the people of Wollongong. It can be a lonely place as Bishop so he, as Bishop of Wollongong and as one of the Bishops of Australia, will need our constant prayers.
I finish this message with a sense of joy stemming from Allen and I attending the Cat Stevens Concert in the Vineyards over the weekend. Even though it poured with rain, I did not hear a negative statement among the thousands of people who were there. People, in all sorts of wet weather gear, were cheerful, polite, smiled and just enjoyed the spirit of happiness in being with a man who acknowledged his own journey of seeking a higher good for all humanity. The concert reached its crescendo with his famous hit, Peace Train. At that point I recognised that those who had come to this concert in their thousands were on the same peace journey as me, and as Cat Stevens. The singing of this song was indeed a sacred moment for all of us standing in the rain and who were moved by the choir of voices who joined in this song, dare I call it, this hymn of peace. This was followed by Morning Has Broken. We live in great times.