The feast of St Francis of Assisi is celebrated today, October 4. He was born towards the end of the 12th Century and lived a noble life until he heard God’s voice say to him to repair his church. At the time, Francis assumed God meant the ancient church of San Damiano. However, over time he realised that the call was about the internal workings of the church, and that God would provide.
We now know this call from God to be our vocational call, to listen to the voice of the Spirit as revealed to us in our time and place through the voice of those around us. I encounter many people who have a sense of being called by God, and who try to respond daily to that call.
This takes me to Sunday’s reading from the second letter of St Paul to Timothy (2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14)
Never be ashamed of witnessing the Lord.
I am reminding you to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God.
Keep as your pattern the sound teaching you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. You have been trusted to look after something precious; guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
This was a great reading for those of us gathered at the Cathedral on Sunday evening, when a man named Kyle was confirmed and made his first Holy Communion. As I spoke to him, his excitement of becoming a Catholic radiated from his whole being. I love meeting adults who have chosen to become Christians/Catholics. They are joy-filled and are at peace and they feel called to live the joy of the Gospel.
I don’t think, that for many of us, who were baptised as babies and received the sacraments as children, there is a deep appreciation of the gift of grace we have been granted and that is offered to us each day. We are reminded to fan into a flame the gift that God gave us when hands were laid on us.
Throughout the past week I have had a number of meetings and events, moments of encounter, with others and with God, that remind me of the gifts freely given:
- Meeting to prepare for the Diocesan Reflection Day on Saturday 12 November
- Christian Interfaith Morning Tea with the Hindu Community
- Faith Formation Council Meeting
- Hunter Community Alliance Community Assembly: Visions for the Hunter
- The Hunter Interfaith Network meeting
- The Diocesan Council for Ministry with Young People meeting
- A planning meeting for the Mental Health Breakfast on 11 October
- Reading and writing assignments for the Graduate Certificate of Mission and Culture
Some of these gatherings were small while others, like the Hunter Community Alliance Assembly, provided opportunities for about 100 people to share stories and dreams for the common good of our local community. The next step is for these people to commit to some research action teams on the following themes:
Climate - The world is shifting rapidly from fossil fuels, and that means big changes in the Hunter. This leaves many people feeling insecure and uncertain, partly because these changes are happening quickly and without an overarching transition plan. Climate change isn’t an abstract or hypothetical idea anymore. Fires, floods, heatwaves, and other weather extremes are becoming more frequent and more intense
Homelessness and Affordable Housing - Housing is a basic human right that we all deserve. Throughout HCA’s listening campaign, we connected with community members whose primary concern was access to secure and affordable housing. Across the Hunter, rents are rising sharply and there’s intense pressure for affordable housing. Homeless people face discrimination and have difficulty accessing health services and safe places to sleep.
Service Pressures – This is a feature of stories from workers, organisations and people attempting and needing to access services. It includes descriptions of fatigue, lack of training, inadequate skills, service availability and waiting lists, funding restrictions etc.
Community Exclusion - Across the stories, there were experiences of being excluded from others, disrespectful and abusive behaviours, disconnection from others, often exacerbated by, or more commonly as part of, discrimination and marginalisation of people, such as, people with disability, people experiencing mental health concerns, and older people.
I hope you can develop a sense that those of us who are privileged to be in ministry with Pastoral Ministries in the Diocese, are seeking to link up with those involved in the worshipping community as well as those who are not as connected, and those who are, in their own way, trying to make the world a better place for all.
I believe the prayer of St Francis provides us with our gospel imperative to make real God’s presence:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled but to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.
For it is giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
May this be your prayer for the week ahead.