The Hope of Change
Beginnings! They offer the hope of change. Now that the rush of organizing the new school year is over, pause before the new year’s rhythm sets is. “What do you want?” Jesus asked this question of his first disciples and it is a good one to let him ask us? “What do you hope for yourself in this coming year? What do you hope for your children?” Of course you want good things but they don’t come about by drifting. Real change needs a decision, some practical planning and the belief that God is on our side.
At times, our lives can be messy, confused and difficult and we can feel that God is remote or has abandoned us. But maybe our expectations for change may be unrealistic. God is not does not act like a fairy godmother using magic to take away our challenges but rather works through our situations with us. That is why it is important for us to think, to dream, to hope for change. When we are clearer about what we want, we can give God the room to move in our lives.
Loving God, your desire for us is the fullness of love and life. As we begin this year, may we hear Jesus ask us “What do you want?” Give us the wisdom of your Spirit as we sift the desires of our hearts. May the Spirit strengthen and guide us to changes. We ask this in Jesus name, confident that you will hear us.
Making life’s choices!
The Bible frequently offers values in black and white, even though life is lived in colour. The either/or option is a good way to teach us what effect our life choices make. However complicated the background to the civil unrest in England is, there we see clearly the difference between choosing to act selfishly and choosing to act lovingly. Smashing, stealing, even killing, come from choosing solely for oneself. Caring, defending, forgiving, having compassion, working together as a community are the result of loving others. Neither response shown was a spur of the moment decision but rather was the culmination of choices made earlier in life.
As parents and guardians we can learn from this situation in England and consider what values we are modelling to our children. They note when we are courteous, or not; forgiving, or not; courageous, or not. But we need to do more than just model; we need to actively teach them in practical ways the values of caring for others.
Helping around the house with regular chores is one way of doing this. I noticed neighbours involving their young daughter in the painting of her room. Oh, it would have been easier for an adult to do it alone but, working with others, look what she is learning: sharing, patience, resilience when work gets hard. Later in life, where she is faced with a choice, it will be her choice, but her family will have given her a good education in making choices that give life.
Loving God, Father, Son and Spirit, you are a community of love and we are made in your image. We come to a full and rich life caring for each other. Teach us to make wise choices that we may seek the good of each other in loving service. We ask this in Jesus’ name, confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Why are we allowed to do the things we shouldn’t?
Yesterday, I heard of someone who said he couldn’t believe in God, given what had happened in Norway. How could a loving God allow such a horrific killing spree to take place? The question is a valid one and one that could be made of many situations concerning suffering that is caused by people. It is also one that can be made of many situations in our life. Why are people allowed to cause us such deep suffering and why are we allowed to cause others suffering? Because God has given us free will and God respects that freedom even when we abuse it and act in ways that are profoundly inhuman, even violating the sacredness of others’ lives. This is difficult for us to comprehend.
Parents have some insight into this. You can spend yourselves giving the best example and teaching your children to make right choices but part of becoming adult is for them to make choices that differ from yours. Good parents know they have to relinquish control, usually as the children become adults, and that they are not responsible for all the choices their children make as adults. How awful the parents of mass murderers must feel. Even if they had given their children a tough childhood, that is no excuse for depravity.
In our use of free will, we can be most like God: loving, caring, creative; or most devilish: hating, vindictive, destructive. While we are horrified by what happened in Norway, this can also be a wake-up call to us: how do the choices I make each day, give life or destroy life? If we allow ourselves to just drift through life, we are not using our free will and harm can come of this. We are made to knowingly and willingly share in God’s passionate love of the world.
Loving God, at times we are horrified by the terrible actions of people. We pray for grieve the loss in recent tragedies of family or friends. May we learn to treasure those we love and carefully consider the effects that our own choices will have on their lives. We ask this in Jesus’ name, confident that you will hear us.
Making a Good Atmosphere
In the past week, the news has been dominated by the death of Osama bin Laden and whether or not his execution was the right thing but I don’t want to discuss that. What has appalled me though has been the gruesome details broadcast repeatedly and the issue of whether the photos should be displayed as well. For right or wrong, this was a violent act, and the clamour for photos says a lot about our values as a society.
Why do we give more attention to negative actions than positive? Imagine you’ve been out driving. In your trip you experienced an act of driver rudeness and three acts of courtesy and patience. What do you describe when you get home? Most people describe the bad and ignore the good. What influence does that have on our children? They learn that the bad will get attention and good will be ignored. Talking about the bad may seem interesting at the time, but the emotional effect it leaves behind is unsettling. Talking about the good leaves a sense of peace and harmony in its wake.
Children will model their behaviour on what they see and hear. If they see us noticing kindness and good service and praising it, they will realise that being kind and of service is a good way to be. Even better, if they see us being kind, patient and of service, they are more likely to live that way. And then wouldn’t that make family so much more enjoyable.
Loving God, you surround us with so much good. We recognise that there is evil and sin in our world. Send us your Spirit of Wisdom so that we may celebrate the good in our lives and work to overcome the bad. May Jesus’ example of love in the face of hatred be our model and inspiration. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Authority issues! We all have them and a lot of them come to the fore when we begin to parent. Even before the first ‘No!’ of the first child, we are confronted with the enormous challenge of how to be an authority to our precious children. This coming Sunday we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, which is a celebration of Christ’s authority. The way Jesus exercised authority is a good lesson in parenting.
Firstly, he is God-with-us. He came down very close to us. He was not a distant authority but one who has lived in our flesh and known our experience. ‘Being there’ is the first skill of parenting. Time is the most important gift we can give and it should be given generously. But sometimes it can’t. Work, illness, separation are not excuses for not being there but challenges to find other creative ways. Letters, cards, phone calls can make us present when physical presence is not possible.
Secondly, Jesus sets clear principles on behaviour. We all know the ‘Golden Rule’, that we should be compassionate, forgiving etc. Jesus does not love us and let us do what we like. We need to love like Jesus, setting clear principles that will allow our children to grow into their best selves with behaviour that makes them fully human, fully alive.
Thirdly, he sets the example. What behaviour Jesus wants us to do, he himself did first. You example is your strongest parenting.
Finally, Jesus loves us no matter what we do. He may not like or approve of our actions but still he loves. So it is with our children. We love not for what they can give us or do back for us, we love because we are created in God’s image…as they are, too.
Loving God, you author us into life. Send us your Spirit that, in following Jesus’ example, we may give loving authority to our children. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris
Remembrance and Ritual
Last week, we celebrated the Melbourne Cup. This week we have Remembrance Day. On both these days we have rituals that help us enter into the meaning of these events. Having lived in Melbourne for 18 years I can say that the Melbourne Cup is more than a horse race. It is one of the times that the serious city of Melbourne breaks out into exhilarating frivolity. Later this week we will honour our war dead by the solemn ritual of a minute’s silence. Only silence can hold together honour for the dead and the conviction that we must work for peace in their name.
Rituals are very important in helping us express and understand the movements of our heart. Our heads want stimulation but our hearts grow deeper through repetition. Routine signs of love can actually deepen our relationships if we do them attentively. As something is done over and over, the memory adds layer upon layer of significance. Our children delight in family rituals as they tell them who they are as a family. Many of your children will now be looking towards the things “we” do at Christmas.
For Catholics, ritual prayer is very important. God is so great and mysterious that we can only go deeper into our hearts little by little. Regular prayer helps us in our relationship with God. Ritual prayers, like night prayer, with your children are a wonderful way for you to help them grow in God’s love. Ritual prayer in our schools is central to our Catholic identity. But the greatest ritual of all is the Eucharist – the outstanding prayer where Jesus is present in our midst.
Loving Father, our hearts are so mysterious because they are made in your image. Send us your Spirit to appreciate the place of routine in our relationship with you and with each other. May Jesus our brother lead us into the ways of love. We ask this confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris
Growing up to Salvation.
Ask most parents what is one of the greatest challenges in parenting and they will answer: “Letting them go”. When your children, leave home, marry, make their own lives, your role as a parent does not come to an end but it does come to its fulfilment. We do not have children to have them stay as children. We have them to become adults and leave. That can be tough. Having spent so many years trying to instil in them values to live by, you worry about how they will live them out. But they will never truly live those values until they do it for themselves.
After his Resurrection, Jesus showed himself to the disciples and then left them. He ascended into heaven. Wouldn’t the logical thing have been for him to stay around and keep the disciples, and us, on the right track? No, because he didn’t want us to be childish in our faith but to own it and live it for ourselves. God wants us to own the life of Jesus, but to express it in our lives according to our own unique personalities. As followers of Jesus, we are not clones of him. Of course we need guidance. Instead of Jesus being physically present among us we, have the Holy Spirit to guide us in our lives. In our lives, especially in times of chaos, we can turn within to hear the still small voice of the Spirit guiding us into the ways of God.
Loving God, you want us to grow up to salvation. May your Spirit move over our lives, especially when we are fearful, overwhelmed or in pain. May that Spirit remind us of the love of Jesus and guide us into his peace. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb.
Acquiring our own house, whether we build, buy or rent it, is a big challenge. We need at least money, some expertise and an idea of what we want. But making a home – now that’s the great challenge. It is a work of the heart and while it can begin in a moment, it goes on all our life. Our homes have personalities. Every home is forged from the different people within – even a new born baby changes the dynamic.
Homemaking requires listening – to our own hearts and its needs, and to the hearts and needs of others. At times, this requires self-discipline and self-sacrifice. But the joy and contentment of being in our own home, when things are going well, is one of the deepest human pleasures.
God, too, is a home maker and desires to make his home in each of our hearts. In fact, God is already at work there now! Maybe we realise this, maybe not – that doesn’t change the passion of God’s love. But God is ever respectful of who we are and wants us to join with him in creating a home within us. Can you imagine what type of home you would like your heart to be? What would God like your heart to be like? Working together, you and God, what type of home are you creating?
Creative Father, loving Jesus, ever present Sprit, come make your home in me and in my family. As we rest in your love, may we grow into our truest selves, loving you and each other. We ask this in Jesus’ name, confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb.
A different kind of educational funding
A major issue in this election is school funding. It is important. Indeed, education is probably the most important investment we make in our nation’s future. That said, there is a different kind of funding we need to seriously consider: time and interest. One experienced teacher said that the two most effective things you can do for your child/ren’s education is to read to them and to listen to their reading. You might say ‘That’s okay when they are little but what about when they grow older?’ The commitment is still as important. Reading to and listening to reading with little children involves both, adult and child, speaking and listening. This is a commitment of time and attention through a neutral thing, a book, and the common experience can lead to communion. Children love this not just because their reading improves but because we are made for communion. Our God is a community, Father, Son and Spirit. Being made in the image of God, the desire to be with each other is wired into our heart’s DNA. We have a deep desire to be with each other. As children morph into adolescents the desire is still there but we, as adults, have to be more sensitive and creative in finding a ‘neutral’ thing, a hobby or interest, where we can be in communion with our child/ren. As we work to make connections, to find things that foster communion, we become more loving, more Godlike. It is not only our child/ren that are transformed. Our own hearts too are fulfilled.
Loving God, send me the wisdom of your Spirit so that I make find the best ways to spend time and show interest in my child/ren. Let our time together lead us into love and a richer life. I ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear me.
What do you want to hear in five years time?
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” So ran the children’s taunt. Christians don’t believe that. In fact we have a belief in the great power of words. One of the primary images used to describe the coming of God in Jesus is “The Word (of God) was made flesh.” This gives us a clue to the impact that words can have in our lives. Loving words can be better than a caress, harsh words worse than a blow and inspiring words can change the direction of a person’s life.
What would you like your children’s words to sound like in five or ten years time? Watch how you speak now. Yes, they will be influenced by their peers but your words will have more power in the long run. Listening to you they could learn that people can be funny, witty, honest, forthright, assertive even passionate without vulgarity, bullying, ridicule or harshness. Much is being said at present at the lowering of the standard of public discourse- but it can also be raised, one word, one person, one family, one school at a time. It will take some effort. The cheap vulgar words come out so easily and it takes some thought to be witty, but in the long run it is much more fun. Instead of being weapons of attack, our words can be a source of joy and delight.
Loving God, help me to watch what I say and give an example to my child/ren. In years to come, may I hear my language echoed back to me and may I delight in what I hear. I ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear me.
Sr Kym Harris osb