We have begun the fourth week of Lent with Laetare Sunday, coming from the first words of the Entrance Antiphon:

Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. 
Be joyful, all who were in mourning;
exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast.

We are being invited to be joyful. Why, you may ask, when so much around us appears to be working to make us feel anything but joyful?

The readings for the weekend invite us to recognise the joy of forgiveness. The story of the prodigal son and prodigal father confirms Jesus’ words that there is great rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner. This is an invitation for us to know the joy of being forgiven and the joy of forgiving.

The mood was sombre, as I stood with hundreds of others on the lawn and roadway outside St Francis Xavier’s High School, the old Marist Brothers, at Hamilton on Wednesday evening. The reason for our gathering was to dedicate a memorial to those who were abused while attending school there. So many brothers responsible for the abuse, and so many young boys and men abused and harmed, their lives forever harmed, and their families left wondering about the cause of so much destructive behaviour.

The words of the song, We Sing for Those whose Song is Silent, by John Bell, were sung by Catherine Mahony at the end of the service.

I found the words of the song to be incredibly powerful as we stood in silence, lost for words and deep in the pain of shame and sorrow, that I needed to include them in this week’s message.   

I believe, we must keep reminding ourselves about what it means to follow Jesus Christ. I share with you, some of the words from the reading from the second letter of St Paul to the Corinthians (5:17-21):

For anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation, the old creation has gone, and the new one is here. It is all God’s work……….God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, not holding men’s faults against them, and he entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled. So we are ambassadors for Christ…….be reconciled to God.

‘We are ambassadors’ are the words that rang out for me as I listened to this Sunday reading. Our time of Lent reminds us to seek the higher things, God’s mission as realised in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Our prayers, fasting and alms-giving are for that purpose alone – to continue the mission of Jesus Christ, proclaiming the mystery of the kingdom of God and witnessing to its presence in our midst.

What does that new world look like? I provide you with some words I read during the week in an article written by Edmund Gordon, Adult Faith Formation: A Catholic Vision:

The more one truly understands the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven; the more one fully enters into, comprehends and is captured by worship and liturgy.
The more one experiences the challenge of attempting to bring about the kingdom of God here on earth, the more one enters into prayer and a spirit of dependence on the Holy Spirit.
The more one captures glimpses of the kingdom of God, the more one lives a life of gratitude.
The more one appreciates that bringing about the kingdom is God’s work, the more we can allow the power of God to flow through us,
and the more we will live as sons and daughters of God, as true disciples.

I trust that a number of you reduced your power consumption on Saturday night for Earth Hour for the future of our planet. I think it is important for us to consider this reduction daily.

I hope that you are considering joining us at Kilaben Bay next Sunday, 7 April for the annual Ecumenical Way of the Cross commencing at 3pm. The bush setting provides a great backdrop for this pilgrimage of journeying with Jesus to Calvary and standing with other Christians at the foot of the Cross.

On the following weekend, some of you may even wish to consider attending the Palm Sunday Refugee Rally at Foreshore Park in Newcastle, which will be held from midday to 2pm.

Of course, many of you will also be in attendance at the Chrism Mass, on Tuesday 16 April at 7pm at the Cathedral, during Holy Week. I am convinced that we are at our best when we gather as a diocesan community, in the good times and the bad. I know it takes a great deal of effort, but I know it improves and grows our sense of unity and identity.

I am looking forward to seeing you over these coming weeks. 

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.