Allen and I spent two weeks with our family on the Gold Coast, enjoying the Christmas season, before I returned to work and then we had another week in Sydney, catching up with friends, going to the theatre, visiting the art gallery, Hyde Park, St Mary’s Cathedral, and the Botanical Gardens. I certainly enjoyed the slower pace that this time of the year affords us, as did many of the Pastoral Ministries’ staff.
So, February heralds the beginning of the year in earnest, and we have begun well with the announcement of the appointment of a new Bishop. This heralds a new chapter, not only for us, but for Bishop Michael Kennedy. Plans have begun for his installation as the ninth Bishop of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, as well as our introduction of him to the people of our diocese. People have expressed both excitement and anxiety.
Fr Greg Barker, our Diocesan Administrator, has worked diligently and pastorally over the past 14 months as custodian of our local church. Presently, he is in Suva, at the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania.
The Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania is the regional grouping that comprises the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands and the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific (CEPAC) – which includes Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, New Caledonia, Northern Mariana Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna.
The bishops of those four conferences gather every four years for a continental gathering. Part of this year’s gathering is to discuss the Synod on Synodality which will have its first session in Rome in October of this year. Another serious issue on their agenda is the effect of climate change on these island nations.
Currently, we are listening to the scriptures being proclaimed in our Sunday Masses from Year A, which means the Gospel readings are from Matthew’s Gospel. Last week, Jesus goes up a hill, and begins what we have come to call the Sermon on the Mount. He opens with teaching his disciples the beatitudes (blessings). Chapters 5 through to 10 provide us with Jesus as teacher, interpreter, healer, and reconciler. These are the lessons for his apostles and for us, to prepare us for mission.
This week, on Word of God Sunday, we hear that great reading in Matthew 5:13-16 about saltiness and light. I was aware of this reading for this weekend, and last night (Saturday) when I woke through the night, I was conscious of the light of the full moon shining through our bedroom window. It spoke to me of this reading, because the moon reflects the light of the sun, making the moon appear bright in our sky. This is our call, to be God’s light to the world. Last night’s night sky was really spectacular as was the setting sun over the lake, where we live. The golden glow of the sun was stunningly beautiful.
The moon does not produce its own light, but it is the sunlight that shines on the moon and bounces off. I hope that image helps us to comprehend what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is he who gives us the light, a light that shines in the darkness for all to see and witness.
In the same way your light must shine in the sight of all, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven.
When I stirred at another time during the night and went to the bathroom, the moon shone ever so brightly that the image through the gauze on the window, produced the effect of a bright circle with rays of light emanating from it, some of them forming a cross.
So, it is the first reading from Isaiah (58:7-10) that instructs us how to be a light:
Thus says the Lord:
Share your bread with the hungry,
and shelter the homeless poor,
clothe the man you see to be naked
and turn not from your own kin.
Then will your light shine like the dawn
and your wound be quickly healed over.
Your integrity will go before you
and the glory of the Lord behind you.
Cry, and the Lord will answer;
call, and he will say, ‘I am here.’
If you do away with the yoke,
the clenched fist, the wicked word,
if you give your bread to the hungry,
and relief to the oppressed,
your light will rise in the darkness,
and your shadows become like noon.
No small task for those of us who live in a first world country with all its amazing gifts and complexities. What a blessing it is to have the Word of God to show us the way to be fully human.
I hope that you were able to enjoy the Christmas season and that the year has begun well for you and your family.
Until next week, may God’s peace and light dwell in your heart.
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