One of the greatest joys in life is sharing passion with another – think about it. Now when you thought about it, you thought about people very close to you – spouse, partner, children, very best friend. But when you consider the words we use in English for sharing passion – ‘compassion’ (Latin background), ‘empathy’ (Greek background), we see that the relationships in which we show these feelings reach a far wider group of people – even people we have never met. Compassion and empathy stretch our minds and hearts and school us into making friends with many people in a variety of ways.
During Lent, Australian Catholics support ‘Project Compassion’. This is the fund-raising drive of Caritas, the international relief, development and social service agency. Throughout Lent your children will hear about the people helped by the projects of Caritas. As they hear they will be invited to help these people, not only through fundraising but also through prayer and interest. For you, as parents and carers, it is an opportunity to widen the horizons of their hearts and minds, to teach them to care for people beyond their own circle.
Loving God, we are each and all your children. Give us the wide deep love of your holy Spirit that we may recognise all people as brothers and sisters in Jesus. May we share in his compassionate heart. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
On a sleepy Saturday afternoon in 1998, the then head of Caritas was travelling through central NSW. His phone rang and it was confrere in Port Moresby, PNG, ringing to say that something awful had happened at Aitape in the north of his country. There had been a earthquake and the first news of a tsunami was coming through. They did not know how many had been hurt or the extent of the damage. So there on the side of the road, the Australian rang his contact at Caritas in Rome and transferred $10,000 immediately to Caritas PNG so that relief could begin as soon as possible. It is quite something to transfer money out of Italy in the middle of a weekend. Caritas can do that.
Caritas is an amalgamation of Catholic aid and development agencies from the nations of the world. It has the strengths of being national and international. Its workforce is usually local people that know their own country and how it works, but being united internationally through the Church, it can draw on the expertise and resources of other nations. While it can act quickly, it is also in for the long haul. Its work in Aitape continued for years, given the nature of the injuries sustained, particularly by the children.
During this Lent, you may hear your children talking about Project Compassion. This is a primary fundraising drive of Caritas that links the personal prayer and discipline that we are called to in Lent with a vision of service to our brothers and sisters across the world. If you want to know more about Caritas their website is www.caritas.org.au
Loving Father, you call us each by name and know us individually but you also call us to live together in communion with each other. Send us your Spirit that we may care for those beyond the circle of our family and friends, loving them as Jesus loves them. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
“I know just how you feel.”
I’ve often heard that and far too often from people who haven’t stopped to find out just how I did feel and who have gone on to tell me what I should be doing with my life. Yes, I have felt angry and hurt about their so-called ‘care’. And I’m sure many reading this can recall similar experiences. The ‘care’ we have been offered either doesn’t suit our need or is given insensitively. But then maybe I haven’t expressed my need properly. It seems we all have a lot to learn about caring – both in expressing our needs and in giving and receiving care.
In Lent one of the traditional practices is ‘almsgiving’, that is the showing of practical compassion to those in need. The word ‘compassion’ comes from the Latin meaning ‘feeling with’. With this practice we try to feel with people and offer a care that is appropriate to them – not to how we feel about their situation. It is good to send money to help those in need who are remote from us but the challenge of ‘almsgiving’ in Lent is primarily directed at us learning better ways of being compassionate to those around us who are in need….and that is pretty well everyone. We are challenged to love like God. Over these weeks, take time to really listen to those around you, and even ask questions about how they really feel, what their deepest desires are, how they feel needy. Ask yourself these questions, and if needs be, ask for care for yourself.
Loving God, you know all our needs. Send us your Spirit of compassion to care for each other with the tenderness and wisdom that Jesus shows in his care. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Would you like fries with that?
One of the traditional practices of Lent is fasting – denying ourselves some food so that we feel our hunger, feel our need. This is not dieting though the practice may look the same and physically get similar results. If we do not regularly face our neediness as human beings before God, we will eventually be consumed by greediness. If we do not recognise that we have a space in our heart that only God’s grace can fill, we will try to fill that space with all sorts of other things that can so easily become addictions.
Food isn’t the only thing we may have trouble with. There is alcoholism on both sides of my extended family and, though I like a drink, every year or two I go off alcohol for Lent to ‘test my heart.’ Some young people are so addicted to the mobile phone that they sleep with it under their pillow ‘in case’ a text comes through the night. Are they so afraid of loneliness? If a message does come, what happens to the night’s sleep? When shopping is a major form of entertainment, what happens to just spending time with family and friends?
We all have wants like these that we need to face and Lent is a good time to do it because we are looking towards to the source of all true joy: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Anything that seems to put our lives out of balance can be a sign of the space God is meant to fill in our lives. This Lent consider what may be putting your life off balance, cut back on it for awhile and see what effect this has on you. If you experience a ‘hunger’, indeed a ‘craving’, pray for the Spirit’s guidance to how you should deal with this.
Loving God, you know the desires of our hearts and the weaknesses that can cause so much sorrow and grief. Send us the wisdom of your Spirit to guide us in facing our weakness. Lead us to the fullness of life that Jesus offers. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Shops have stocktaking, businesses have audits, employees have job reviews, people have medical check-ups and Christians have Lent. For the next 6 weeks, we consider the quality of our life. We take up Jesus’ first challenge: “Repent” – which comes from a Greek word meaning ‘having another think.’ Jesus doesn’t want us to just drift through life, as this so often leads to unhappiness and poor relationships.
There are three areas that are recommended that we check up on. Traditionally, they are called fasting, alms-giving and prayer. What these mean realistically is that we look at personal discipline, compassion for others and our relationship with God. Over the next few weeks, we will explore how we can do a stock-take on each of these areas. But for now, let us just consider what in means to ‘have another think’.
Too often we just make decisions on the basis of what others think or because we react impulsively to a crisis. Rarely do we take a stocktake of
1. the gifts that we have been given by God
2. the demands we need to meet
3. the desires of our heart.
Take some time this week to really ponder each of these areas, even take a pen in hand and write down what comes to mind. Now ask God for inspiration regarding the things on the list. Write down what comes to mind. Now mull over these things in the coming week.
Loving God, we rush, rush, rush through so much of life, not taking time to be with you and with those we love. Give us your Spirit of Wisdom that we may embrace the fullness of life that Jesus wants for us. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Lent or Owned?
Have you noticed how many people don’t take care of other people’s property as well as they do their own? Whether it is public property or that of a friend’s, what is ‘lent’ is often not treated well.
Last week, we began the Church’s season of Lent. Yes, this Lent has a different meaning but ‘lending’ and ‘owning’ can be a way into the challenge of Lent. We often lead our lives as though we don’t really own them, as though they have been lent to us. We allow fashion, the prejudices of others, what everyone else is doing to dictate our lives rather than listen to the deepest needs of our hearts. If we find ourselves indulging in excessive use of food, alcohol or gambling, in abuse of drugs, mindless TV or internet surfing, we need to seriously ask ourselves: what desires, what needs of the heart are we trying to dull? It is as though we are trashing our own lives, rather than living them to the full. This Lent, take time to reflect on who God has made you to be, so that you are no longer lent but rather come to own your own self, precious in the eyes of God.
Loving God, each year you invite us to reflect on the quality of our lives. Give us the wisdom of your Spirit that we may know and follow the way that leads to fullness of life. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
The Golden Rule
Lent is coming, as you are probably aware from the requests regarding Pancake Tuesday next week. By now, the New Year has well passed, and quite likely so have your New Year’s Resolutions. Lucky for you the Church offers us Lent as a time of renewal. Many of you would remember the ‘older’ practices that we took up, for example giving up something nice. I would like to suggest something a little different.
Recently in the Gospel we heard Jesus recommending to us all the Golden Rule: do to others as you would like them to treat you. What a good practice for Lent…if we get it right. Too often we can interpret this as being nice to people. I think this is a mistake and we make this because we give little thought to how we really want other people to treat us. Oh yes, we would like them to be kind, to be generous, to be easy on us. But is that all we want?
We all labour under certain failings, even sins, that we wish we could face and deal with. Maybe it is not will power that we lack but rather a realistic programme for dealing with them. We could find we watch too much media, eat, drink, smoke too much. We could be getting angry with our children too readily. You know your weaknesses as I know mine. Now sit down, take a little time with yourself and imagine how you would like a loving person to treat you with regards to these failings. What would a truly caring person recommend to you? Be prepared to be surprised. We could well find that the cause of our failings comes from something different, a pain within ourselves that needs to be lovingly dealt with. When we discover how to offer ourselves compassion, we will find we have compassion for others.
Loving Jesus, in this coming time of Lent, let me face the failings that undermine the happiness of my life and make me difficult for other people. Give me your wise Spirit to teach me with a deep and genuine love. I ask this in your name confident that you will hear me.
Sr Kym Harris osb