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
Images of Grace
I find that the notion of grace is best expressed from experience. When I think of ‘grace’ the first image that comes to mind is the beauty of the man who built ‘on-site’ our concrete water tanks down in Victoria. Rarely have I seen a person so graceful, not a movement was wasted and everything he did, seemed without effort: spreading gravel, mixing concrete, climbing in and out of the half-finished tanks. He exhibited a level of discipline and care that one would expect of ballet artists and when he finally finished by putting his ‘signature’, his phone number on the tanks, he stepped back and said: “They are beautiful!” So like God over creation: “God saw …it was very good!” (Gen1: 31)
Why does this come to mind as an image of grace? Because this man recognised the deep dignity of his work. He did not dismiss himself as a glorified concreter but rather he understood that every action can be precious and good, no matter how humble. Was he religious? I don’t know. We only talked about his wife, whom he dearly loved, and his footy. He was over forty and still played for the local senior side. He kept on trying to retire but the team wouldn’t let him. Why would they? You don’t let spirit like that go.
In this Year of Grace, I hope to occasionally describe images of grace that have touched me: people, moments, events. I invite you to do the same and to share them with others – they can change your lives for the better.
Loving Jesus, your grace comes to us through the experiences of life. Send us your Spirit that we may realise when grace is happening and respond in love. We ask this in your name, confident that the Father will hear.
Sr Kym Harris osb
There is something to be said for doing one’s duty. We tend to think that if we can chose to do what we want to do, we will be free and have a sense of fulfilment – that can happen. Conversely, we tend to think that when we have to do something we don’t like, we will not only feel put upon but be diminished as persons – not necessarily.
In fact, if we accept what has to be done with grace and get on with it, it can be quite a liberating experience. We are freed from the tyranny of our own likes and dislikes, freed from having to make all the decisions, freed from ourselves to get on with the task at hand. This situation happens so frequently in family life: walking the floor at night with a sick child, doing the rounds of the doctors with an elderly parent, being patient when the orange juice is spilt – you can think of a dozen instances in each day. It is in these situations that we experience one of the central teachings of our Christian faith: dying to self leads to life.
In the Gospels Jesus teaches that we have to die to ourselves to rise to the fullness of life. In his own life he showed how it was done. Now he has promised us his Spirit to strengthen and guide us. When we feel challenged, we can pray for this Spirit to come and help us transform that difficult situation into a place of grace and love.
Loving God, we often feel overwhelmed by the challenges of life, as though they are killing our spirit. Send us the Spirit of Jesus to guide us through the difficult and dark moments of our lives that we may bring the love of Jesus into our families and communities. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
So Cyclone Yasi has passed with few fatalities and no serious injury but with enough destruction to let us know how lucky we were…but was it luck or good management. Perhaps both but certainly plenty of the latter. When we see seriously ill patients lined up in an orderly manner in Cairns airport, hear of hundreds of southern SES workers flying in to relieve their northern counterparts, even hear that the wheelie bins can go out in Cairns two days after the cyclone passed, we know that a lot of thought and planning has taken place. One of my brothers, a manager in a major utility, tells me they have long tedious meetings where responses to different crises are explored. How grateful we should be for that largely unknown, unsung public service.
In our daily life, we can learn from this response. So often in the Gospel, Jesus calls on us to consider the direction of our lives and the consequences of the decisions we make. God does not want us to drift through life without assessing the quality of our actions. It is no good waiting for the crisis to decide how you will respond. How we chose to live and love in ordinary circumstances will show when the crisis comes. Let us take some time this week to consider the direction of our lives, and ask God what we can do to live more fully and to love each other more dearly.
Loving God, we ask you to be close to all who have been affected by recent disasters. May your Spirit give them strength and courage and may we all be guided to live and love like Jesus our brother. We ask this in his name, confident that you will hear us.
Where is God in all this?
Across our country this month we have experienced devastating disasters – flood and fire. In the anguished grief that has engulfed our community we can well ask : Why is such suffering allowed? Where is God? To the first question I do not know the answer but the answer to the second is: God is with us. God is not some super being that takes away our pain and makes everything all right. Rather in the person of Jesus we see God coming close. Jesus lived our life, suffered our sufferings, died our death so that we may share the divine life. God shares our passion.
In Jordan Rice, of Toowoomba, who sacrificed his chance of survival that his brother might live, God is with us. In the passing rescuers who risked their lives to try to save his family, God is with us. In the police swift rescue teams who saved people foolishly playing in raging waters, God is with us. In the pharmacist at Emerald who chose to fill scripts so people had their medicines rather than work to save her house, God is with us. In the police and army personnel who sift through the houses at Grantham that all bodies may be treated with respect, God is with us. In the numerous volunteers who help with the clean up, God is with us. In our leaders, who have risen to the occasion, God is with us. Whenever we see people, move out of their self-centred concerns and care for others, we see God in our midst.
I write this in the Rockhampton region. I have been amazed at how smoothly this disaster has been managed and would like to honour the public servants and civil authorities who have drawn up the Disaster Management Plans that allowed our leaders and present authorities to respond so quickly. I think especially of the engineer (sadly unnamed) who decided to rebuild the Alligator Creek bridge, north of Rockhampton, 20 centimetres higher after the 1991 flood. Because of his foresight, our region, which has 100,000 people, always had food, fuel and medicines during this crisis. In that type of care, good ordinary work by ordinary people, God is with us.
Loving God our hearts, minds and even our bodies have been bruised by the disasters that have hit our country yet we have been inspired by the generosity and goodness of so many. Send us your Spirit that we may continue to live and love generously. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us
Sr Kym Harris osb
Joy in Goodness.
In the past week, two very different events have given much joy: the canonization of Mary MacKillop and the rescue of the Chilean miners. While they are unrelated, both show us how much joy goodness can bring, even goodness that may not directly involve us. Across Australia, the story of Mary MacKillop has been repeatedly told. While the media has mentioned the work she did for the poor, it often focused on the unjust treatment Mary experienced and acknowledged how she treated well those who treated her badly. When given lemons, she made lemonade and then shared it around. By treating all well, she began a chain of goodness that continues to this day.
With the Chilean miners, we saw a marvellous rescue effort that had people of different nations, giving their expertise to the local rescue workers. Working together, they did something that hardly seemed possible. And what a rush of joy went around the world!
Goodness brings joy. We may not be saints and we may not be able to do dramatic rescues but we can be a source of joy to our family and to our communities. The kind word, the generous act set off a chain of happiness. Try each day to praise someone outside of your usual circle, try to do an act of kindness to one who cannot pay you back. When we do such things we are like God, delighting in doing good.
Loving God, you delight in your creation and you want us to be good like you. Send us your Spirit of Joy that we may give to the world the love you showed in your Son, Jesus. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris
Wisdom to Care.
When Jesus came to visit the home of Mary and Martha, he was greeted by two loving friends in two very different ways. Martha impressively bustled about. She welcomed Jesus, cleaned and cooked for him. Mary, also welcomed him, but sat at his feet listening to his words. Jesus, tired from the challenges of his preaching life, appreciated them both and both loved him. But Martha couldn’t let Mary be, she wanted Mary to be up and about like her, showing her love by her actions. Jesus, though, was so pleased to have Mary just listening to him with her heart.
Like people everywhere in every time we can be caught up in too much busyness thinking, like Martha, that what we do is all important. We can show love by cooking meals, washing the clothes, turning up for work, paying bills. But it is also important to take time to listen to each other’s hearts, just to be gently present with each other.
Try to take some time each day, listening to the heart of another – one of your family or friends – or to the heart of God. As you listen you will find your own heart opening to even deeper love and care. Listening quietly in such a way will make you wiser in your relationships.
Loving Father, your love watches over us at all times.. Send us your Spirit that we can learn the ways of being gently present to the hearts of those whom we love. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our brother and friend, confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
St Joseph the Worker – Feast Day – 1st of May
Work gets a bad press. All around us people make out as though working is a bad thing. If only they could win the lottery, they could get away from it all, if only they could retire early…… but would they be happy?
Jesus began his ministry at about 30 years of age. What was he doing before that? Working with his foster-father St Joseph in the family carpentry. Most likely he started helping out as a little nipper, so before he began his preaching he had probably worked for about 25 years. 25 years as a tradie, 3 years preaching. There is an important message here. In the creation stories, we are told how God delighted in making the heavens and the earth and found it all ‘very good.’
There is something inherently good about work. Not drudgery that demeans us. But good, even hard work that we can stand back from and say “It is good.” When we have completed something – be it a shift at the mines, the making of a meal, the teaching of a class, the washing of a dirty child, we need to stop for a moment and admire our work. With God, we should say ‘it is good.” Work should not be valued just by the wage it brings in but, more importantly, by the dignity it gives to us. As we work we share in God’s creative power.
Creative God, you have called us to share in your work of creation. Send us your Sprit that we may work like Jesus, delighting in the work of our hands and minds. We ask this in his name, confident that you may hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb.
Tanby via Yeppoon
When the first Anzacs floated into Gallipoli cove before dawn, they had no idea what they had let themselves in for. When they signed up months before, they probably thought this soldiering would be a good lark. The early photos and stories of their time training in Egypt bear that out. But landing at Gallipoli shattered their illusions. Horror and death and pain burst upon them. In the long months ahead they forged a type of service that has become, not only the best spirit of our armed services but also, a witness of service to the wider community.
The Anzacs survived Gallipoli and the trenches of Europe not on a ‘might warrior’ myth but by their commitment to each other and the belief they were working for a greater cause. To this day, Anzacs who receive medals for bravery always say two things: ‘My mates deserved this as much as I did,’ and ‘I was only doing my duty’. Also, to this day their former foes, the Turks hold those soldiers in esteem. In the midst of battle they recognised the spirit and goodness of their hearts.
Service is also an integral part of our nature as Christians. Often it is the most challenging part of our lives. Rarely do we serve in brutal situations but even mundane situations can call for courage. Only by supporting each other and trusting in the help of God will we persevere in strength and goodness.
Loving God, you sent you Son to live among us, to serve us. Send us his Spirit that we too may follow his example of love and service. We ask this in his name, confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb.
What is good for your soul?
A volunteer, lined up to go and help during the Brisbane floods a few years ago, was asked why he was there. He replied: “It is good for the soul.” Most of us knew exactly what he meant even though the task for him involved working in stinking conditions, for people he did not know and with no payment at all. It was good for his soul because he was giving of himself – generously. Across the country at the moment – in Tasmania, outside Melbourne and across Far North Queensland, we are hearing about many people doing good for their souls, though they probably don’t see their generosity that way.
How often do we stop and ask ourselves: what is good for my soul? What actions make me a better person for having done them? We all know what a difference healthy food makes to us, but what about life-giving, soul-fulfilling actions? We each have different things that work for us but one way that works for all is giving of ourselves (not our money) in a selfless way. Rarely will we have the chance to do a dramatic rescue or even clean up a city after a flood but we are offered many simply and ordinary opportunities: ringing an elderly relative, listening to your child’s reading when you’ve heard the story ten times before, offering to do a job your spouse usually does. These actions are good for our souls for they take us out of our own concerns and connect us with other people. We are made for this: created in God’s image we come to the fullness of life in profound passionate self-giving, even in the smallest events of life.
Loving God, we have been inspired by the many people who gave of themselves during the recent disasters. Led by your Spirit, may we follow Jesus’ example and their example in showing love, even in the ordinary events of life. We ask this in his name, confident that you will hear us.