I love listening to elderly happily-married people talk about their spouses – with the evident love, the delight in the other and the wry humour at the characteristics of the other that after 50, 60 or even more years still annoy them, sometimes intensely. No matter how happy the couple, there are still differences – it seems to be part of the nature of loving another.
This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Trinity – that is we recognise and celebrate that our God is a community – Three Persons, Father, Son and Spirit, equal, holding all in common except in their differing relationships to each other. This is hard for us to get our minds around but our hearts know what it is about. We are made in the image of God and relationship is at the core of our being, relationship that involves both loving union and difference. Loving union we can cope with, dealing with difference is more of a challenge. To appreciate it we need to recognise what good ‘differences’ can bring to a relationship. The attraction of love can be so strong at times that one can run the risk of ‘falling into’ the other – becoming a clone or a slave. Our differences protect us from that. Differences also help us define our individuality. This is important because it is only as free individuals that we can truly love. So perhaps this Sunday you could name and celebrate the differences in your relationships – with your spouse or partner, your children, your parents – and realise that these, if used rightly, can enhance your loving.
Loving God, help us to love each other as you love each other within the Trinity, celebrating both what we have in common and the differences between us. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
“Games we play”
“Just what is it about games that draw us in?” A friend was recounting the trials of Killer Sudoku, when another asked, “But do you enjoy it?” She paused, “It’s so frustrating but I do.” We like to be challenged, to grow, to improve ourselves. That is human. In good games we can both learn skills for life and relax. We enjoy the flow, the frustration, the success and we like to win! But, like all good things, games can get out of hand. They can become a substitute for that area of life where we have our greatest challenge and frustration, our relationships with each other.
Trying to keep Jesus’ command to ‘love one another” is challenging in so many ways, but mostly because people, including us, keep changing. We never can ‘win’, but neither are we meant to. We are meant to love and to serve, most often in the most mundane events: getting the kids to eat their vegetables, talking with the family grumps, dealing with difficult neighbours. When family life gets sticky, there is a real temptation, both for us and for our children, to withdraw into cyberspace or wherever and neglect the reality of the world. But that is not the way to true happiness. The frustrations of dealing with people must be faced and carefully worked through with all the wit, wisdom and humour we can muster. And if at times it feels that you really are on a loosing streak, then ask for the grace of God and hang on.
Loving God, we all need wisdom in how we love and play. Send us your Spirit of freedom and joy that we may learn to love like Jesus loves in the challenges and frustrations of family life. We ask this in his name, confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
All for one and one for all.
A priest once told the boys of a large country college Jesus’ parable of the Good Shepherd. Many of the boys came off sheep stations. They were to imagine a little sheep lost out in the scrub, and then were asked, what would your father do? From the back of the room came the answer. Let it die. Of course he would. Why would he risk himself and his horse and waste his time on a stupid sheep. That is the scenario that Jesus set up in his story: what shepherd among you would not leave 99 sheep on the mountain and go after the missing one? None. A sane farmer sacrifices the individual to the group.
But that is not how God works, how Jesus works, how many parents work. The Gospel teaches us that each of us is precious and no matter what challenges a person presents each of us is worth the trouble. For parents, especially those who have aging or ill parents, trying to met the needs of everyone in the family is a difficult juggling act. Feeling overwhelmed, tired, inadequate is such situations is normal. Being misunderstood is normal. But we cannot do it alone. We need support and care ourselves. The best care of an individual comes from a group of caring persons. As parents and as a school we need to look out for each other and even join or form community groups that support those in need
Loving God, you give us the image of the Good Shepherd searching the windswept mountain for the lost one. Send us your loving Sprit that we may follow Jesus in his care for each one. Give us wisdom that we may support each other in their caring roles. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
‘Just think what they are going through.’
I am currently travelling through New Zealand at the end of a mild wet winter. In this landscape vibrant with green, inundated with showers, it is hard to imagine what drought would be like. Yet I must do that. Central Queensland is where I have come from and to where I will return and I am part of what happens to the people that form my larger community. Recognising what happens to those outside my personal circle is essential if I want to be a true compassionate human being, if I want to call myself Christian.
As God became human in Jesus, we can know that he knows what we go through, what we experience. But for us to appreciate what happens to others, we have to find out what is happening to them and to use our imagination to feel for them. When this is done, our help to others can be practical and sensitive. The project in our schools to help the farming community out west is an excellent example of this compassion at work. Drought doesn’t just affect the farmers, it also impacts on the town communities. The decision to give vouchers that can be used by local businesses helps not just individuals and families but the wider community.
As this project has been begun in our schools, what has happened is that the students themselves are coming up with creative initiatives to help raise funds. This is the marvel of good compassion. It not only stretches our hearts, minds and imaginations, it makes us into creative people. As we reach out to help, we become Godlike. Entering into the life and struggles of others, we become like Jesus and his life and love can flow through us.
Loving God, give me a wide heart and a good imagination and mind to enter into the suffering of others and to help them in sensitive and loving ways. We pray for those suffering from the drought, that they may have rain. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Looking out for the other.
It looked impossible. Even the experts involved doubted that they would be able to bring out of the cave all the Thai soccer players and their coach alive. But they did. The rescuers were a diverse group separated by language and culture who joined together and achieved the impossible. The Thais welcomed the international help because the boys needed it. The Brits asked for the Australian, Dr Richard Harris, because the boys needed it. He asked for his diving partner, Craig Challen, because he needed him to be able to help the boys in their need. This whole group of people sunk their own needs in service of a group of boys they did not know. This selflessness has continued after the rescue when they seem to be vying to give the praise for the success to others. The amazing event happened because all worked together to care for others.
One of the last pieces of advice St Benedict gave his followers is that everyone should look out and work for the good of another. ‘What about me?’ our culture screams. But what do we get when we only look after Number 1? Too often a group of individuals who in working to get attention for themselves end up at loggerheads with each other. But what happens when we look out for each other? We form a community that in turn looks out for us, cares for us. We become part of a web of relationships that nurture and challenge us. Caring for others also sustains our heart as it is more important to our well-being to love than to be loved.
‘How good and how pleasant it is when people live in unity’, we pray in the Psalms. In Thailand, we have seen this. Now this day we can make it real in our families, our communities and our workplaces by looking out for each other.
Loving God, give me the wisdom to see the needs of others and the courage and strength to serve them in love. I ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear me.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Generosity of Sprit
I belong to the Emu Park Art Society, a small cooperative of artists who run a gallery in the township. How do we survive? By working together and manning the Gallery ourselves. Also, we offer workshops on our various skills to the wider public at relatively low cost. Currently, we rent the premises from the family of the founder for a very low rent. They have been generous but now we have to move on. The local Council is building a new Gallery, funded by the Queensland Government – which really means the people of Queensland. If you asked a hard-headed business person to rate the chances of our society surviving, they would put them at close to zero. But we have, for many years. How? By pooling our gifts and talents. We survive, indeed flourish because we share.
And this is what we are made for. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about life within God – life between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. None of them ‘possess’ anything for themselves. Rather, all they have, they share. One could say that the essence of God is to give in love. We have an understanding of this because we know that is how good families operate, even if we sometimes fall short of the ideal. We also see it when school communities rally around families in need.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, the word ‘mine’ is repeatedly used- not as a way of saying ‘I hold this for myself’ but rather as, ‘I am a conduit for passing this on.’ We also appreciate what a person with a generous spirit is like: open, vibrant and a sense of freedom. We want to be like that. In this coming week, think of one gift or talent you have and work out a way to give it away, in joy and generosity.
Loving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, your life is one of giving in love. In this coming week, may we reflect your life and love in our generosity to each other. We aks this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Ritual and Community
I was in Africa recently and was struck by how integral dance was to their society. Dance wasn’t primarily for entertainment, nor for self-expression, nor for show – rather it was a ritual by which they made community. Whether an event was the opening of the Sunday Mass, the greeting of guests or a presentation of gifts, the celebration would begin with a small group dancing. The steps were usually simple with the rhythm inviting all the onlookers to join in at the very least by clapping in time. In a very real sense, we joined in the dance coming together as one community.
Ritual always had an important place in the practice of our Catholic faith – it is integral to the way we pray together as a community. Simple gestures done together, like standing or blessing, let others see that we are joined together in this faith. Simple things like water, wine, bread are used to reveal the presence of God in ways that are too deep for words. They may mean different things to different people at different times, but the simple symbolic rituals can hold us together as a community. Held together by ritual and symbols our differences, instead of being divisive, can be a source of richness.
Next time you are at Eucharist, ponder the simple rituals and symbols used and wonder how they bring you together, into communion, with the other people present.
Loving God, forming a community of love is often difficult. Send us the wisdom of your Spirit that we may appreciate the role ritual plays in holding us together in love in spite of our differences. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb