So what’s your cross?
Last Sunday’s Gospel is one we well may have problems with. It is the one where Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow him. No bones about it ‘the cross’ doesn’t fit comfortably on any of us. We can so easily get cross about it, especially if we are unsure just what we are supposed to be carrying and how we are supposed to be doing it. Just putting up with bad things that happen doesn’t look like being very life-giving, nor is it.
For most of us, most of the time, our cross involves people, ourselves included. St Benedict offers a piece of wisdom which I have found useful; “Always do what is best for another.” No, that does not mean lie down and be trampled on. It means using all our wit, ingenuity, creativity, love, compassion and kindness in dealing with the people we live with. Oh, and did I say courage….and imagination. Doing what is best for the ones we love is not being a submissive servant but being a lovingly engaged person who seeks to support, challenge, love…and dare we say it, confront and discipline. Aiming to live like that will bring us a rich and full life…and it will be a cross to carry.
Loving God, when Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow him, it is a call to love like him, drawing others into the fullness of love. Give me the wisdom of your Spirit that I may answer truly the needs of others. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
….and once more for the Paralympians.
This week the Church celebrates the Exaltation of the Cross. What on earth could that mean to us? One word should make it clear…Paralympians. Over the past weeks, we have seen people, whose disabilities we would dread having, inspire us with their courage, ability, pride in accomplishment and sheer joy in living and moving. Each has had to face squarely limitation and pain and overcome them. Their disabilities have not dragged them down but rather brought them to a full and rich life.
In the Church’s feast we celebrate the positive life that came through the Cross of Jesus. Our faith simply won’t let negatives be negative. We affirm that the grace of God can transform any situation. While we are still in the glow of the Paralympics, this is a great opportunity to inspire your children to learn and grow from negative experiences. One of the best ways is for you to recall when you have experienced such transformations in your life. Clarify to yourself first what you have learnt and then share the story with your children. You too can be an inspiration to your children.
Loving God, so often we fear difficulties and challenge. Give us the power of your Spirit to use these to come to a richer, fuller life. As we share our stories may we inspire each other to live by the love of Jesus. 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
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
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.
For most of Australia winter has now come and many of us are not enjoying it. Some places are having really sharp cold weather. Before we get too chilled it is worth remembering just how much good this cold can bring. I live on the Capricorn Coast and last summer we had no mangoes on our trees. I don’t mean few, I mean none, not one. One theory about the cause is because last winter was so mild, the trees didn’t switch into fruiting mode. The way of nature is often ‘no pain, no gain’.
We can find a parallel in our own lives as well. It is often by set-backs, difficulties, failures, that we learn who we really are and what our capabilities are. As parents and teachers, we want to protect the children in our care from these things but we have to ask: are we really serving them for rich and fulfilling lives by protecting them from all that is hard. This is not about being hard so your child feels put down but rather using difficulties to help them grow. How do you tell the difference? Look back over your own life and recognise the challenges in your childhood that helped you grow and those that undermined your growth. There should be a different ‘feel’ between them. When your child struggles in a situation, use that feeling to determine whether this situation is something they can grow through or whether you need to intervene for their care. Ask for the wisdom of God’s Spirit to help you make wise decisions as you try to nurture them into the fullness of life that both you and God desire for them.
Loving God, life can be difficult and hard at times, both for us individually and as a family. Send us the your wise Spirit to guide us into the ways of Jesus. Let his love and peace guide our decisions, especially in hard and painful times. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Well, it has been a long term and now the Easter holidays with the children begins. Given the public holidays, this means, for many, plenty of time together as a family. This can be a time of real joy and contentment. It can also be a time of challenge and difficulty. Our greatest joys are in relationship with people…our greatest challenges are living with other people. And don’t children just know how to push our buttons at times. We can react badly to their behaviour and then feel like we have been children ourselves or we can respond and model to them the way we would like them to grow.
Through the Gospels we see Jesus respond to a number of difficult people. Especially in the story of his Passion and Death, we see him treat people with respect, even when they are plotting to kill him, even when they are attacking him and spreading lies. This doesn’t mean he ‘just takes it’ – he is not a wimp. He never puts himself down and is not afraid of straight-talking. While treating people with respect, he is in control of himself and he serves with love, even when rejected. At heart, he can do this because he knows he is loved by God his Father – that is the ground on which he walks. We, too, can draw our strength from that love. Over these holidays, when things get a little challenging, take a few moments and acknowledge to yourself that God loves you and ask for wisdom and grace in that situation.
Loving Father, as we have time together with our families over these holidays send us you Spirit of love and peace. May we find joy in each other and love as Jesus’ loved us. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Being like God.
Over the past months we have seen very different sides to our character as a nation. We have been inspired by the extraordinary generosity towards those who have suffered natural disasters. As a nation we were united in our care. On the other hand how different are the feelings concerning the grieving asylum seekers. While their sorrow is recognised, our leaders don’t know how to act. Where should the funerals be? Who should pay? Who should be allowed to stay?….and how will the voters react? The situation is difficult, confusing and confronting.
While we each will have little influence, except at voting time, on that situation, it does provide us with a lesson for our own lives. Helping people we get along with is relatively easy. For good family and neighbours, we will do almost anything. But when we have to deal with people we don’t understand, people different from us, people tricky, demanding or unpleasant, we become confused and don’t know what to do. We can try to ignore them or blame them for their situation – anything but face the challenge Jesus gives us. He calls us to be like God and act in a loving manner towards them even if they don’t deserve it. This is a big ask, usually expressed in small actions: saying hello to the grumpy neighbour, helping out the selfish relative, welcoming the new people in the street who are different to us. Even if our good actions bring about no change we will have grown into our calling to be daughters and sons of our loving God.
Heavenly Father, you call us to love like you even when we find it difficult. Give us the wisdom of your Spirit that we may love as Jesus loves and show your love to our family and community. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will here 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.
Love Changes Everything
What do we tell out children about the awful things that happen in this world? The reports about Sri Lanka flood our scenes with the people in that country fearful of a descent back into civil war. We don’t want them to learn from that. But when we look beyond the traumatic event, we can hear of other stories – people who chose to go back into the bombed places to aid others, the people of every religion that gave blood to help the victims. They are the people who chose to respond with love in the face of hatred. We have to take extra effort to find those stories but they are there.
Those who respond with love in the face of hatred are the people of the Resurrection. No matter how much pain and rejection Jesus had thrown at him, he responded with love. So how do we teach this to our children? By responding with love and goodness when we are neglected, used, and even abused. No, Jesus did not lie down and take it. He came back transformed. Children can so easily press out negative buttons and it often takes real grace and the wisdom of God to respond positively.
How we celebrate Anzac Day is another example of how Love can change everything. On the surface, the day could be seen as a celebration of war but listen to where the majority of people choose to look. Not at the ‘glory’ of war but at the courage, sacrifice and care that was shown by so many of those who served. We look to these that we might be inspired to do the same in our own lives.
Loving Father, let me know how to show my children how to be positive and creative in negative situations. May they learn how to draw on the loving strength of Jesus to respond to all with love. I ask this in his name, confident that you will hear me.
Sr Kym Harris osb