I feel very blest, for the variety of experiences my role gifts to me in any given week, and this one has certainly been no different. On Sunday afternoon, I attended the launch of World Youth Day 2023 (WYD) for our diocese. I sat in a room with about forty people, mostly young adults, who were there to learn more about WYD, in the hope that they will be able to join our diocesan pilgrimage from 21 July to 11 August next year. The first part of this pilgrimage will be to the Holy Land, before they travel to Lisbon in Portugal, for the week of WYD activities. The theme of this next WYD is, “Mary arose and went with haste” (Luke 1:39)
After this short introductory meeting, we gathered for a beautiful Mass at the Cathedral.
During this week, I have had the following encounters:
- WYD Launch
- Parish Gathering at Forster Tuncurry
- Sugarloaf Parish and Wallsend-Shortland Parish meeting
- Meeting at South Hamilton Community Centre
- The media coverage of the Essendon Football Club
- Parish Conversation with Fr John Lovell from St Benedict’s Inner Newcastle Parish
- A Communications Workshop
- A meeting with the St Vincent de Paul, Regional Director for North East NSW
- The massacre at the childcare centre in Thailand
What has been sitting with me as a result has been the importance of faith in our lives, particularly in the lives of people who wish to live life to the full and who want to make a difference for the good of humanity. I sense there is a real desire for people to be fully human and fully alive.
I am so blest to daily meet people of deep faith, who are seeking to live their baptismal call as followers of Jesus Christ, as missionary disciples.
This was revealed to me as I listened to the Reading from the letter of St Paul to the Galatians (3:22-29), which was proclaimed during Mass at Holy Name Parish, Foster. I was there, to explore with the parish, the re-imagining of their pastoral planning. Here is what I heard:
All of you are children of God through faith.
Scripture makes no exceptions when it says that sin is master everywhere. In this way the promise can only be given through faith in Jesus Christ and can only be given to those who have this faith.
Before faith came, we were allowed no freedom by the Law; we were being looked after till faith was revealed. The Law was to be our guardian until the Christ came and we could be justified by faith. Now that that time has come, we are no longer under that guardian, and you are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.
At the meeting that followed the Mass at Forster, there was a concern expressed that we are living in a time when the media, in particular, are expressing a bias against people of faith. Faith is being demonised with the intention to separate out people who hold beliefs, in a mystery beyond themselves, from mainstream society.
I share with you the words of this week’s message from Kristy Robertson, the CEO Caritas Australia
Today we had the privilege of spending an hour or more with the President of Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Tagle.
We were left amazed by his humility, his humour and his faith in the power of the Caritas confederation. He was quite emotional as he discussed the beauty of the confederation and his experience of encounters with the world’s poor.
I was left quite moved by his presence - his disarming natural ability to make everyone feel welcome - he is clearly a very special man.
A few extracts of what he had to say:
“We must retain personal encounters. To be there to feel the wind and to feel the heat together. To see and smell and hear poverty. And the dignity of the poor.”
“While the poor need our services, they give us more. They are the best teachers in being human and hopeful and strong.”
It seems to me that from St Paul, Timothy, Cardinal Tagle, Kristy Robertson, Fr Peter Street and the parishioners at Forster-Tuncurry, to those who gathered to explore the possibility of going to WYD, and to those I work with each day, faith is the sustaining force for their purpose and hope. They are living a counter-cultural life which they wish to share with others. I wonder how we can get people to listen.
One of the blessings from the Saturday gathering, was for me to meet with people from my distant past, from when I taught in schools around Penrith over 35 years ago. One was a student of mine and the other a person with whom I taught. Both were there, at the meeting sharing hope with other parishioners, attempting to re-imagine how Holy Name Parish will flourish. My teacher colleague shared with the room, that taking time to have a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ was at the heart of all change that needs to take place. He invited people to deep prayer and meditation. It was clear to me that he practises what he spoke of.
And that brings me to Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 17:11-19), in which Jesus cures ten lepers with only one, a Samaritan, returning to give thanks. And Jesus finishes with the following words, “Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.”
What a blessing is this gift of faith!! Let us take time to thank God for this gift, just as the leper did.