TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: The pressures of Society

Allen and I have just returned home from another trip to the Gold Coast. This time we were present for the Confirmation of one of our granddaughters on Thursday evening, at Mary Mother of Mercy Church, Burleigh Parish.

She had asked me to be her sponsor and she took as her confirmation name, Teresa, after Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and of course, after me as well. She and her cousin, of the same age, were mindful of and fully engaged with the ritual.

There were about ninety children confirmed on that night, so the church was very full of children and their families. The parish had worked hard to connect with the families in the preparation for this sacrament, and yet the responses from those who gathered was minimal. It was a respectful gathering but lacked the engagement I would have hoped for. The parish priest, Fr Morgan Batt, who conferred the sacrament upon the children, worked hard to engage with those who gathered, and certainly made the environment a welcoming one for all, especially the children.

As I looked around, I could see that people had a desire for their children to receive something of the spiritual or the mystery, but were not sure what that might be, even for themselves. Somehow, I can sense the hunger and yet we are struggling with how to bridge this gap.

Over the weekend, we also attended several junior AFL games, in which different grandchildren were playing. There were huge numbers of children and parents at these matches, with a significant number of volunteers required for each game. Not only are these children playing sport, but they are also involved in other after school activities such as music, dance, karate, swimming etc. Allen and I were busy driving children to these events, and as I stood on the sideline to observe, not only the game, but the lives of the parents, I recognised that fitting church into their schedules was a stretch too far for many of them. They are trying to be the best parents they can possibly be, and are exhausted with working full-time and attempting to do the best by their children in our Australian context. Not only are the parents exhausted, but so are the children.

I am left wondering, when do they take time just to be quiet and still. I wonder when time is given to be reflective and to make sense of the meaning of life. It seems to me that the pace of life and the expense that comes with this may not be overly fulfilling. 

And in this context, over the past three weeks we have been listening to Chapter 13 of Matthew’s gospel. We have heard seven parables in succession about what Matthew calls “the kingdom of heaven”, mostly taken from the Gospel of Mark, where they are referred to as the “Kingdom of God”.

What were the images/parables which Jesus used to describe the kingdom of heaven?

  1. The sower
  2. The weeds and the wheat
  3. The mustard seed
  4. The yeast
  5. The hidden treasure
  6. The merchant in search of fine pearls
  7. A net thrown into the sea

Jesus finishes his teachings with the words, “Have you understood this?” to which they answer, “Yes”. Jesus then goes onto say, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of the household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

The entire chapter seeks to paint metaphoric images of the kingdom. Woven through these images is a suggestion that the kingdom is open to all – all are presented with the invitation – but not everyone will accept that invitation or respond to it in the same way. It is up to us to attempt to make the connections between these readings and today’s world in which we and our children and grandchildren are living.

And yet as I proclaimed the first reading on the weekend from the first book of the Kings (3:5, 7-12), I was struck by Solomon’s response to God’s request to ‘ask what you would like me to give you.’ Solomon, who could have requested anything, asks for the following, “Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil, for who could govern this people of yours that is so great?” God’s response follows, “I give you a heart wise and shrewd as none before you has had and none will have after you.”

This is my prayer at the end of a big weekend. A prayer to be present, so that those who encounter me will know my discerning heart for them and our world. Please keep in your prayers our World Youth Day Pilgrims, including our Bishop. May they be discerning their call to the kingdom of heaven we are participating in. Let us pray for wisdom, to have a strong and intimate relationship with God, so that we are attuned to living life fully, according to God’s wishes.

And just as a side note, today, 1 August, I am remembering the 18th anniversary of my beginning in my role in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. The journey has been both challenging and rewarding. Please continue to hold me and the Diocese in your prayers. I am eighteen years older and hopefully wiser!!!

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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