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
“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
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
Jesus comes home…to us!
Last Sunday, we had a strange Gospel reading. It told the story of Jesus’ return to his home town. You would have thought they would have been delighted, ‘Local boy makes good!’ and at first it seems they were, but then they turned on him. They had heard about his teaching and miracles and they wondered and questioned where he got his power. Right question! Well, the obvious answer was from God. Oh dear, that made them uncomfortable. How could someone that they knew well- why he was a local traddie, they knew his Mum…and all his rellies- reveal God to them? And they rejected him, closed their hearts to him.
What they did reveals something about how we humans want to do religion. We want God to be ‘special’ (which God is) but we can make God special by removing him from our ordinary daily life. We can do this by excessive religious practices that neglect the people around us. Or we can do it by leaving religion for the special occasions when we go to church, e.g. Christmas, First Communion. Is that what our Christian faith is about? With the coming of God in human flesh, God tells us very clearly, “I don’t want to be out there, something special. I want to be here, now, in the midst of your ordinary life, transforming from within.” In this coming week, imagine God coming to you as a local traddie to do some maintenance. He sees your situation and offers reassurance and advice – what could he say that you need?
Loving God, with the coming of Jesus you showed how much you want to be part of lives. Show me how I keep you remote from my life. Heal my heart of its fear and embarrassment and let me be open to your Spirit’s life and grace. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
Images of Grace
I have been a nun for most of my adult life so I have mostly lived with women. Strange as it may seem, women are sometimes ‘narky’ and even difficult. At one stage in my life, I used to visit a community that had some ‘interesting’ members who would give their opinions in a free and forthright manner. A friend of mine was superior of that community and no matter how another person acted she always treated them well. A friendly, courteous, even gently humorous response would be given to words and actions that did not deserve them. I found her inspiring so one day I asked her about her behaviour. She told me that she had decided that no matter how another person acted, she would try to treat them with the respect due to a human being, and she would treat herself in the same way. She was no door mat for bad behaviour. It sometimes took great effort to do this. She had to prepare ‘good’ responses for expected bad behaviour and she had good friends to debrief with. The consequence was that she acted in a particularly graceful manner in difficult situations. She is one of my ‘pin-up nuns’.
We all know people like this- the ones who seem to be able to turn around difficult situations. They are ‘graces’ in our lives and, if it is possible, we should talk with them and ask them how they do it. It is not magic. They are wise people, who know how to access the grace of God that can transform the negative into something positive and life-giving.
Loving God, sometimes people are difficult – not only others but also us, even me. Send us your Spirit that we may gracefully turn our difficult situations and bad moods into something that gives life. We ask this in Jesus’ name, confident that you will hear us.
When we don’t respect difference…oh dear!
Last week, we reflected on loving ‘difference’. This week we’ll look at what happens when we don’t. In the Gospel there is a story of Jesus visiting his friends, Martha and Mary. Martha’s straight into the kitchen, cooking up a storm. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, listening to him. Yes, you’ve guessed what happens next…Martha creates an incident…she takes Jesus to task because Mary is just ‘sitting there’, not like her, Martha, in the kitchen working. Not content with what she was doing, she got angry and disgruntled. If she had changed her attitude and appreciated what she was doing she could have celebrated Mary enjoying the words of Jesus. She could have recognised each one’s uniqueness in the situation. Then, the meal would have gone so much more pleasantly and she might have been able to suggest nicely that they might like to do the washing up!
One of the integral factors in living a peaceful, happy life is the ability to live ‘in our own skin’, to recognise, appreciate and enjoy the life that is our own. God enjoys making each of us uniquely and we need to share in God’s joy over who we are. When we do that, we will discover the freedom of heart to celebrate the uniqueness of others.
Loving God, you have made us each so different. Send us your Spirit that we may share your delight over us and that we may have the courage, wisdom and humour of heart to delight in others. And when people try us, let us see the face of Jesus in them. We ask this in his 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
“I tell my children and I try to do it myself. Think twice about what you are doing and going to do. You can even use it in learning people’s names.” So said a neighbour while chatting recently. They are wise words, words to live by. Children can drift through situations, not noticing what is happening and then explode, overt react or get into trouble when things move beyond their control. But a little thought along the way, a little mindfulness can make their lives and ours a richer, better experience.
Jesus tried to provoke such thoughtfulness. His whole way of teaching wasn’t a series of straightforward, black and white rules. Rather his parables, his short sayings, some of which seem to contradict each other, are meant to challenge us to ask ourselves, “What does God want me to do in this situation?” We need to use thought and prayer to discern what to do in changing circumstances. Our brains are not there just to keep out ears apart. Along with our heart, we are meant to use this precious gift so that we can live as humanly as possible in the varying events of life.
Loving Father, send us your Spirit that we may know how to apply the teachings of Jesus to our lives. Filled with his Spirit may we have loving thoughts and wise hearts. We ask this in his name, confident that you will hear us.
. Sr Kym Harris osb
When Christians proclaim that Jesus has triumphed over sin, they could well be dismissed with cynicism. “Where?”, “How?” can readily be asked. After digesting the latest news feed, we have to say certainly not ‘out there’ in the world. So where is the change in which we believe? Primarily it is within our hearts. We know this not by sin being taken away but by the power we have been given to face sin.
First we must realise what sin does: it causes rupture, distress and disharmony in our relationships: between us, between God and us and even within our own selves. The first triumph of Jesus to is to make us dissatisfied with this disharmony. We don’t like it and we hope for something better. The very desire to improve our ways of loving is a triumph.
The second triumph is to offer us the grace to do things differently. The normal human reaction is to hit back when hurt. With the example and power of Jesus, we can instead offer love and forgiveness, even when seriously wronged.
The third triumph is to take sin seriously, whether it is within us or between us. Jesus’ life and death show that easy solutions often do not work. We need wisdom and patience for true change.
Jesus’ triumph begins hidden in our hearts, grows slowly out into our lives and blossoms, offering light and love to the people God has given us in relationship.
Loving Father, we suffer from the effects of sin in our relationships. Send us the Spirit of Jesus that with grace, love and wisdom we may face and heal our own frailty and that of others. We ask this in his name, confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
God loved the world so much…and so should we.
In the past week, I was thinking about a tin of salmon. From the person catching the fish in Alaska to me putting it on the bench, how many different groups of people co-operated with each other for this to happen? The number would be well in the hundreds – from the fishing crew, the boat builders, the various service agents, the label designers, the manufacturers of the printing dyes – at that doesn’t even get the tin out of North America. Hundreds of different groups of people co-operating with each other makes a miracle of social harmony symbolised in that tin of fish! And this social harmony happens every day with nearly everything we touch.
But you wouldn’t think so by following the media or listening to people. We tend to narrow our vision and focus on when the social harmony breaks down. In Lent, we are called to repent – to change our way of thinking. Recognising the co-operation that is integral to our life together as human beings is one area where we could change our thinking. The Son of God, was born, lived our life, died and rose again because God loved the world so much! God well knows the sin of human failure and dissension but continues to love the world, us, the seething mass of humanity, so much. So let us be God-like and set our minds and hearts upon appreciating the good that is around us and between us.
Loving God, send us your Spirit that we may recognise and appreciate the many, many times we work together in harmony. May we recognise the Spirit of Jesus moving through humanity teaching us to love the world as you did. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb