So what’s your cross?
Last Sunday’s Gospel is one we well may have problems with. It is the one where Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow him. No bones about it ‘the cross’ doesn’t fit comfortably on any of us. We can so easily get cross about it, especially if we are unsure just what we are supposed to be carrying and how we are supposed to be doing it. Just putting up with bad things that happen doesn’t look like being very life-giving, nor is it.
For most of us, most of the time, our cross involves people, ourselves included. St Benedict offers a piece of wisdom which I have found useful; “Always do what is best for another.” No, that does not mean lie down and be trampled on. It means using all our wit, ingenuity, creativity, love, compassion and kindness in dealing with the people we live with. Oh, and did I say courage….and imagination. Doing what is best for the ones we love is not being a submissive servant but being a lovingly engaged person who seeks to support, challenge, love…and dare we say it, confront and discipline. Aiming to live like that will bring us a rich and full life…and it will be a cross to carry.
Loving God, when Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow him, it is a call to love like him, drawing others into the fullness of love. Give me the wisdom of your Spirit that I may answer truly the needs of others. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
….and once more for the Paralympians.
This week the Church celebrates the Exaltation of the Cross. What on earth could that mean to us? One word should make it clear…Paralympians. Over the past weeks, we have seen people, whose disabilities we would dread having, inspire us with their courage, ability, pride in accomplishment and sheer joy in living and moving. Each has had to face squarely limitation and pain and overcome them. Their disabilities have not dragged them down but rather brought them to a full and rich life.
In the Church’s feast we celebrate the positive life that came through the Cross of Jesus. Our faith simply won’t let negatives be negative. We affirm that the grace of God can transform any situation. While we are still in the glow of the Paralympics, this is a great opportunity to inspire your children to learn and grow from negative experiences. One of the best ways is for you to recall when you have experienced such transformations in your life. Clarify to yourself first what you have learnt and then share the story with your children. You too can be an inspiration to your children.
Loving God, so often we fear difficulties and challenge. Give us the power of your Spirit to use these to come to a richer, fuller life. As we share our stories may we inspire each other to live by the love of Jesus. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us
How to be important and special.
I recently read QF 32 by Richard de Crespigny. It is his account of the flight from Singapore, in which one engine exploded, severely crippling the plane. It is a wonderful narrative and doubtless many Dads received a copy last Sunday. The author tells not only his personal story, beginning with the development of his piloting skills, but also recounts the work of so many other people who helped avert a terrible disaster: pilots who taught him the tricks of the trade, engineers and computer nerds who designed the safety features of the plane, his fellow pilots in the cockpit, the cabin crew, especially Michael von Klaus, the manager, who kept calm in the cabin over those terrifying hours. Richard de Crespigny was a very gifted man working in the midst of a very large gifted community – and well he knows it. As he writes the story, it is not ‘all about him.’ Yes, he had the responsibility which he took seriously, but he knew he flourished because he worked within a vast web that ensured the safety of those people that day. He was special, he was important but as he well realises so were many others who will never be named.
The need for this marvellous balance between the individual and the group holds true for our families, our communities, the Church and the wider society. We are all gifted but they will only come to their best expression when they are used in relationship with others, and most especially in service of them.
Loving God, you have given each of us with special gifts and talents. May your Spirit guide us to share them with others, knowing that in this way you bring out the best in us. We ask this in Jesus name.
Sr Kym Harris osb
There is a photo of me with my father taken when I was a small child. We are on George St. in Sydney at night, probably a Saturday. My parents had taken me into the city, I am told, because I liked the city lights. I have a vague recollection: all the brightness and bustle was somewhat overwhelming, but I was secure. Daddy had my hand.
That is something we want from ‘fathers’ – the encouragement to enter into bigger, exciting, more challenging experiences, while experiencing the support we need to face the unknown. To achieve this is one of the great balancing acts of parenting: encouraging a child (or adolescent or adult) to grow through new experiences yet offering support that does not stifle.
God as ‘Father’ is one of the primary images of our Christian faith. Too often, this image just presents God as a caring, supportive figure. But God also challenges us and often with a sharp jolt, which leads to the complaint, “Why has God done this to me?” Because God wants us to grow up. If we make the radical mental shift and start asking what is positive in the situations we perceive as negative, our lives will become richer and more loving. By asking, ‘What can I learn from this?’, we allow God to take us by the hand and help us transform the dark places of our lives with life-giving light.
Loving God, as I face the challenges that come to me, accepting your support, may I learn how to teach my child/ren to face difficulties with courage and creativity. May your Spirit inspire us to the fullness of life Jesus offers. We ask this in his name, confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Reading God in our lives.
This week is National Book Week, a time when we encourage our children to read. I would like to offer a different kind of reading this week. Christians are known as people of ‘The Book’, that is the Bible, which is really a collection of a number of different books that show how God worked in human lives. We are also known as people of ‘The Word’, that is Jesus Christ. St Augustine, one of the greatest writers in the Church, loved playing with words and ideas. One of his best was to say that when God expressed his love, spoke his Word, Jesus, he was thinking of each one of us as a syllable in that Word. Amazing! This means that each of us has something special and unique to reveal about the love of God and about the person of Jesus. This specialness is integral to how we are made, who we are. We are not used to reading ourselves and need to work at this. One way is to think of five words that you think describe who you are. (If you think of negative characteristics, name the positive side of it as well.) I sometimes even make up syllables that sound like me. Then try and think of five words that describe your family or loved ones. Make this the basis of a great family or group sharing. This is owning of our best selves and how God’s presence is revealed in our lives.
This week is also Seniors Week and offers us a great opportunity to ask our grandparents how God has written in their ‘Book of Life’. There is so much wisdom to be read there!
“Your best isn’t good enough”
I write this at a time when Australia has won a string of silver medals at the Olympics. The media reaction to the lack of gold reminds me of something that was said to me at times as a child: ‘Your best is not good enough.’ That hurt, and ended up stifling any ambition to do better, because if my best wasn’t good enough, what did it say about me? There are many ways to challenge and, for me, that wasn’t one that worked. No doubt about it, we do need challenge. I often think of challenges as the springboard from which we get the space for the most amazing gymnastics. So how are we to challenge?
The way God does. He knows what we have done, all our striving, all our failures, all our extenuating circumstances, our liabilities and the difficulties we labour under. No-one desires the best for us more than God does. But God also desires the best from us because God wants us to flourish, to live rich human lives. This best isn’t beating others. It is coming to our best selves – people who love, serve, create, enjoy in the midst of a whole range of circumstances. Imagine a difficulty you have or are facing. Now take a few moments to imagine how your best self could act. Now take a moment to ask God to grace your performance. Yes, the challenge God has given you can bring out the best in you and, be sure of this, God will cheer you all the way.
Loving God, whatever we do your love for us does not waver. Still, through all that happens you call us to the fullness of life. May we reach for the stars knowing that we are grounded in your love. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
St Mary of the Cross
By now we have had nearly two weeks of Olympic drama and we have seen varying responses to success and misfortune. We know both happen in our lives and we are all on learning curves in relation to both. This week we celebrate the Feastday of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop and certainly this woman can be a model to us regarding success and failure. One of the things I love best about this saint is the way she related to her family. It was dysfunctional yet she lived, loved and flourished within that family. She knew love from both her parents but she also knew the pain and confusion of parents who separated. She loved her father dearly and recognised the good he had given her even though, in his impracticality, he failed to provide for the family and she, at the age of 14, had to go to work to support them. She learnt early to be realistic and loving – she had a hard head and a soft heart.
If we look at situations too narrowly – “I must win the gold medal to be a success”; “my family should always get along,” we will be overwhelmed by failure. We need to widen our understanding so that we can learn from all that happens. An Olympian learns so much from his or her training. We learn how to truly love in the midst of family tensions. Indeed, we learn how to be a success as a person by how we handle failure.
Loving Jesus, your life here on earth looked like a failure – tortured to death, deserted by friends and followers – but God made it the way of salvation. Inspire our hearts when we feel overwhelmed by our weakness and failure and let us trust that you will work all for good. We ask this in your name, confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Well, the countdown has passed and even the most non-sportsminded amongst us is inspired. There is something within us that is stirred by excellence. How we wish we could excel at something, anything for that matter. Well, we can. We may not be the brightest, the most athletic, the most beautiful or gifted in the usual way gifts are recognised, but we can be kind and when we are kind no one is the loser but we are all winners when we act that way. Even if people don’t realise what we have done, our own hearts tell us, our lives are better for the good deed.
When we look at the Olympians in London, they look good. That discipline and hard work have made their bodies beautiful. When we become Olympians of kindness, we too will be transformed for the better. We may not become beautiful but we will be attractive. Our levels of happiness will improve and, believe it or not, that will have a positive impact across our lives and the lives of others.
So what stops us? I don’t think it is just selfishness. I think inertia and lack of imagination often stop us changing. So maybe over these days when you are inspired by athletic feats, you might like to set yourself a challenge – for each gold medal you watch, imagine a gold medal kindness you could do in your daily life.
Loving God, you desire us to be kind and compassionate as you are! What a challenge! Send us the gift of your Spirit that we may live up to the ideal Jesus has given us. We ask this in his name, confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Grandparents – Grandview
I knew three of my grandparents. My grandmothers died when I was 18, my grandfather when I was 42. Knowing them is amongst the greatest blessings of my life. In fact, I’m a strong fan of having or being a grandparent (or a significant wise older person). On Thursday we celebrate the Feast of Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ grandparents. What do we know about them? Nothing much, but we can look at the best of our experience and imagine what they could have meant to Jesus.
One of the blessings I received from my grandparents was the gift of the longer view. All of them had had tough lives and, in varying ways, made what they could of it, not necessarily successfully. But they delighted to live long enough to pass on to another generation some of their wisdom. One piece was that things do change. As bad as a situation may be, it will change, and we, somehow, have the opportunity to learn and grow from what happens to us. When young, as children, or young, as parents, there is the tendency to ‘absolutise’ our problems – they are the worst, they will not change. Dad’s Mum used to say to us when we got hurt and cried, “Don’t worry, you’ll live to be twice married.” I still use that saying.
If your children don’t have the blessing of grandparents, do try to find some wise older person, with whom they could develop a relationship. Their longer experience on life can help to gain the vision of the Grandview on Life.
Loving God, you sent your Son Jesus to live in a human family. Bless our families, especially our grandparents. Let us know that whatever the challenges we have, all will change, except the constancy of your love which enfolds us. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
If you are going to give, you’ve got to receive.
There were a couple of odd twists in last Sunday’s Gospel (Mk 6:7-13). Jesus sends out his disciples to preach, to give his Good News. But first he tells them how they are to receive. Wherever they go they are to accept the hospitality that offered them, simply and gracefully. In other words, they can’t expect people to receive from them, hear what they have to say, unless they are prepared to receive first.
Notice what they receive is different from what they give. The crucial point in appreciating what others is give me is to recognise that it is different from I have to offer. Often the complaint is made concerning a relationship, that the other is not giving like me. Yea, well, they don’t have to…because that is what ‘I’ am there to do…the other person has different things to offer, things that I cannot give.
For our relationships to flourish, especially those with adults, there has to be mutual giving and receiving. Sometimes it helps to do a stocktake, not so much on what we give, but on how we receive, what and how graciously.
Loving God, you delight in giving to us. Teach us how to receive, both from you and from those around us. May we learn how to receive graciously so that what we have to offer will be welcome. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.