New beginnings

I’ve just had a ‘new beginning’, or rather am currently living through a new beginning. I began my new ministry as the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle on Friday, 17 March and so am still adapting. I’m getting used to: a new home, new people, new ministry, new ‘job’, new challenges, new systems, new environment, new culture – new everything! Well, almost everything.

You see, it’s still the same me (although new beginnings do inevitably produce some degree of change in our very selves too) and it’s still the same God keeping an eye on me, guiding me, loving me. How reassuring to know that wherever we are, whatever we do, whatever else changes, our God remains the same.

There are many passages in the Bible that speak of God’s constancy. My favourite is, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). And this God who never changes, what is he like? Well, in the Book of Exodus he describes himself like this, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands (of generations), and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7a).
This loving, compassionate, unchanging God is the God who has followed me to Newcastle. This is the God who walks before each of us, beside us, and behind us wherever we go in life and through every change and new beginning in life.

We recently celebrated the greatest ever of new beginnings on Easter Sunday – the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. But before this new beginning, there was despair. On the day Jesus was crucified and died, the day we now call Good Friday, his friends and disciples thought it was the end – the end of all their hopes and dreams; the end of a better world in which the love and kindness of God drew up close and got personal with them.

But it was not the end. It was just the beginning! The Gospels tell us that Jesus rose from the dead at the very first sight of dawn on the first day of the week as if to say, “Today is not the end. It’s the beginning.” It’s the beginning of a new and better life in which good triumphs over evil, grace over sin and life over death.

We all have many new beginnings in life. Some of them are beginnings we long for and some of them are beginnings thrust upon us. Some of them are beginnings made possible for us by the goodness and kindness of another person; some of them made possible by the force of our own will and effort and some of them possible only by the sheer grace of God.

Each of us will have a few particularly significant new beginnings in life as well as the new beginnings we are granted with each sunrise and new day. Through it all, God is with us. “I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” says Jesus (Revelation 22:13) and “I am with you always, even to the end of time” (Matthew 28:20).

New beginnings can be challenging. They can be joyful and they can be a mix of both, especially when we are aware of God with us.

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Bishop Michael Kennedy Image
Bishop Michael Kennedy

Bishop Michael Kennedy is the ninth Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. 

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