What a week it has been, for Bishop Bill, and for us in our diocese! I trust the words Bishop Bill used to begin his Pastoral Letter are the words that bring hope and comfort to him and to us – Lead Kindly Light.

I could not help but to think of Bishop Bill, as the First Reading from the Book of Wisdom was read today (2:12, 17-20), in which reference was made to the virtuous man and how he will be tested. I hope and pray that Bishop Bill will not be tested too greatly, and that graces will continue to be bestowed on him over the coming days, weeks and months. He has been the Lord’s servant, serving God faithfully with us for 10 years as Bishop, and since being ordained on 20 August, 1977.

While viewing the online Mass from the Cathedral today (Sunday), I found myself drawn to his Chair (Cathedra) and recalled his ordination and the many times I have been part of the celebrating community, with him as principal Celebrant. I also found myself pondering on what I believe to be his fondest prayer – The Our Father. In his words to me in a recent conversation, he indicated that, “it says it all”. So, you might find yourself praying that prayer for him over these days. I am sure it is no accident that the theme of our Diocesan Synod is Building the Kingdom of God Together.

Interestingly, last week, I was going to share this reflection from Richard Rohr but ran out of room and so it seems most apt to include it in this week’s message. The title of the reflection for Saturday 11 September was Finding the Life Underneath Your Life Situation. Richard Rohr writes:

Earlier this week I shared that we only “fall into” the bigger Life and Love in which we all participate by releasing our attachment to our smaller selves. Here is a practice from Eckhart Tolle that may help us to experience this freedom to “fall.” In this passage, Tolle responds to a reader who has shared how unhappy they are with their “life”:

What you refer to as your “life” should more accurately be called your “life situation.” It is psychological time: past and future. Certain things in the past didn’t go the way you wanted them to go. You are still resisting what happened in the past, and now you are resisting what is. Hope is what keeps you going, but hope keeps you focused on the future, and this continued focus perpetuates your denial of the Now and therefore your unhappiness.

It is true that my present life situation is the result of things that happened in the past, but it is still my present situation, and being stuck in it is what makes me unhappy.

Forget about your life situation for a while and pay attention to your life.

What is the difference?

    • Your life situation exists in time.
    • Your life is now.
    • Your life situation is mind-stuff.
    • Your life is real.

Find the “narrow gate that leads to life.” It is called the Now. Narrow your life down to this moment. Your life situation may be full of problems - most life situations are - but find out if you have any problem at this moment. Not tomorrow or in ten minutes, but now. Do you have a problem now?

When you are full of problems, there is no room for anything new to enter, no room for a solution. So whenever you can, make some room, create some space, so that you can find the life underneath your life situation.

Use your senses fully. Be where you are. Look around. Just look, don’t interpret. See the light, shapes, colors, textures. Be aware of the silent presence of each thing. Be aware of the space that allows everything to be. Listen to the sounds; don’t judge them. Listen to the silence underneath the sounds. Touch something - anything - and feel and acknowledge its Being. Observe the rhythm of your breathing; feel the air flowing in and out, feel the life energy inside your body. Allow everything to be, within and without. Allow the “isness” of all things. Move deeply into the Now.

Richard again: I realize how counter-intuitive this sitting and being and noticing is for most of us, yet it is only in the “naked now” that we can participate in the fullness of life.

For Bishop Bill and for us who continue to experience lockdown and the restrictions it is placing upon us, I believe the essence of the reflection above is about what we manage to focus on, in the ‘now’. This is not easy and yet this is all we have.

In today’s reading from the Letter of St James (3:16–4:3) we are reminded:

The wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it makes for peace, and is kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it. Peacemakers, when they work for peace, sow the seed which will bear fruit in holiness.

During the past week, a number of staff from across our diocesan agencies have participated in the unit on the Theology of Childhood as part of the Graduate Certificate in Mission and Culture. Interestingly, the Gospel passage from Mark (9:30-37) was one of the passages we studied, because of how Jesus related to the children of his time. It was not lost on us that Jesus takes a child, in response to the apostles arguing about which of them is the greatest. Children had/have no power, and yet it is to these that the Kingdom belongs. I invite you to ponder what the passages of the gospels around Jesus and children might mean for you.

Our Plenary Council conversations for last week focused on the Plenary Council theme of Structures. We spoke about the equality of partnerships in our responses to the questions. One of our present Ten Theological Principles is ‘the Equality of All Believers’ with others being ‘the Diversity of Gifts’, ‘Diversity of Ministries/Unity of Purpose’ and ‘Servant Leadership’. I believe these conversations are giving us the time and space to continue our dialogue about what the Second Vatican Council is continuing to invite us to; our call to be missionary disciples, to make real God’s mission here in our diocese.

In less than two weeks, 280 Plenary Council Members will gather virtually, for the first session of the Plenary Council. They will be taking part in spiritual conversations about the many areas of concern that were raised in the listening and dialogue part of this process of deep listening, about what God is asking of us in Australia at this time. Let us pray that they will be guided by the Holy Spirit and by each other and held in prayer by those of us not attending the Plenary Council.

So much to ponder and to hold in prayer on this International Day of Peace.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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