From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth; and not only creation, but all of us who possess the first-fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free.
You might wonder why these words spoke strongly to me. What came to me was our diocesan synod and the Australian Plenary Council – it is as if those of us engaged in these synodal processes are groaning in the act of giving birth, to new life as yet unknown. We have the hope of giving birth, even though we are aware of the pain and struggle involved.
Over the months of COVID–19, many people have been working hard as members of either the Synod Working Party or as members of the four Focus Groups:
- Foundational Documents
- Discernment of Data
- Diocesan Directory
- Governance Guiding Principles and Documentation
I feel we have been very blest to have had this time to ‘beaver away’, in the hope that towards the end of the year, we will be in a position to take the work of the Focus Groups, and now the five focus teams, and share it with the wider community via a dialogical process of collaboration, consensus and discernment, in preparation for our second session of Synod.
And while listening to the Gospel about the sower, the seed and the soil, I was wondering what sort of soil I am, and I invite you to consider this question for yourself as well. Jesus in the parable gives us four types of soil:
- The shallow soil by the edge of the path
- The soil between patches of rock
- The soil among the thorns
- The rich, fertile soil
The next question to emerge for me is about my capacity or willingness to really listen to the Word of God – do I allow it to take root in my heart and yield a rich harvest? I have been given a grave responsibility to listen to the ‘mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven’, to really hear, to really see and to really feel. What an enormous obligation!
During the week, while reading and researching for the Foundational Documents Focus Group, I once again came across the resource Baptised and Sent which was prepared for the Extraordinary Mission Month in October 2019. In this parish resource, there is a section on Becoming a Missionary Disciple. I realise that I shared this with you last year, but I think it is timely to share it again, as we find ourselves pondering what being missionary, what being rich soil, might look like during this pandemic. There are four elements to being a missionary disciple, to being rich and fertile soil in which the seed that is scattered might take root.
‘I invite Christians, everywhere, at this very moment to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of your do to this unfailingly each day.’ —Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, §3
- How can I accept this invitation to encounter Jesus in my daily life of faith?
If we are to share our lives with others and generously give of ourselves, we also have to realise that every person is worthy of our giving. —Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, §274
- How will I accompany others this week?
The Church which ‘goes forth’ is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. —Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, §24
- How will I encourage others in my community to go forth this week in a missionary spirit?
Today, as the Church seeks to experience a profound missionary renewal, there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility. —Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, §127
- How will I accept the challenge of preaching the Good News in word and action this week to people and communities on the margins, locally and globally?
This missionary mandate touches us personally: I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptised man and woman is a mission. People in love never stand still: they are drawn out of themselves; they are attracted and attract others in turn; they give themselves to others and build relationships that are life-giving. As far as God’s love is concerned, no one is useless or insignificant. Each of us is a mission to the world, for each of us is the fruit of God’s love. (Pope Francis, Message for Mission Sunday, 2019)
I have no doubt that as the farmer, as the soil, as the seed, we are being invited to encounter, accompany, be community and go forth.
I invite you to read your church bulletins to look for opportunities to be that rich soil. The harvest is rich, but the labourers are few (Matthew 9:37). God continues to call us and we need to have ears to listen, eyes to see, and a heart to respond.
I hope some of you have explored the possibility of volunteering for the Hello Hunter Project which helps people who are feeling isolated, lonely or anxious. Volunteers are being sought to make a friendly call, deliver essentials, assist in finding specialised help or, on request, pray with the person. Hello Hunter has a call centre, which takes requests for assistance; the neighbourhood hubs, made up of people from the local Christian churches mobilise their volunteers. Hubs are formed according to suburb and postcode. The goal is to have the person in need assisted by their nearest neighbour.
Please check out the amazing Hello Hunter website – www.hellohunter.org.au to find out more, and to register.
I recognise that some of you are already stretched in being that rich soil, and I thank you for that.