TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Working together for community

I wonder how we continue to choose to live in the light of Christ and to be emitters of that light.

Allen and I had the good fortune of attending Superstars: A Musical Celebration of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice at the Civic Theatre on Friday night. The program of music was sensational and the voices that accompanied this program were fabulous. The night began with the music from Jesus Christ Superstar, followed by music from Evita, Starlight Express, Aida, Chess, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Sunset Boulevard, The Phantom of the Opera and many more. It was a wonderful night with a standing ovation at the end of the night from a full Civic Theatre. How good is it to be filled with the beauty of good music, and in a community of people who appreciate it.

The finale was the song Love Changes Everything by Michael Ball. This song came back to me when I was thinking about this message. The song speaks of love changing how you live and how you die; that days are longer, words mean more; pain is deeper than before; planning future, shaping years; all our wisdom disappears; all the rules we make are broken; nothing in the world will ever be the same; and love will never let you be the same.

I don’t know about you, but my vocational call to ministry, to being a disciple of Jesus Christ must be one of love, because many of these words describe what being a follower looks like.

This is what the weekend’s reading from the Gospel of John (9:1-41), about the man born blind, was about. Because we have people at the Cathedral who will be fully initiated into the Catholic Church at Easter, we are listening to the readings from Year A. John, the gospel writer, takes moments from Jesus’ life and interprets great meaning around them. In this reading, the Pharisees try to trap Jesus and the blind man by labelling them as evil and wishing to condemn them. Jesus reaches out to the blind man, touches him, and calls him forth so that he is healed. It is the conversion brought about by the touch of love that changes everything, and people witness this love exchange.

I find it awesome when adults choose to be fully initiated into our community of faith. At this time of the year there are three scrutinies, in which their spirit is filled with Christ the Redeemer, who is the living water (gospel of the Samaritan woman in the first scrutiny), the light of the world (gospel of the man born blind in the second scrutiny), and the resurrection and the life (gospel of Lazarus in the third scrutiny). From the first to the final scrutiny, the elect are invited to progress in their perception of sin and their desire for salvation. It also serves to remind, us, the community, about our own understanding of what it means to be part of this Christian community. These are rites of self-searching and repentance; they invite the elect, and us, to conversion and to the love of God above all else.

We, the gathered community, are accompanying the elect, and in turn we are accompanied and reminded of our own journey of faith. We pray for the elect, that they may remain faithful to God and boldly give witness to the words of eternal life. During our Mass at the Cathedral, the celebrant prayed a prayer over the elect, asking God to dispel the darkness and be the light that shines in their hearts, and that they may open their hearts to God and acknowledge him as the source of light and the witness of truth. I find this to be a profound experience, as these adults are choosing to live in the light of Christ.

I wonder how we continue to choose to live in the light of Christ and to be emitters of that light. I share with you some opportunities for your consideration:

Next week, Sunday 17 March at 3pm you are invited to join Bishop Michael at Kilaben Bay for the Annual Ecumenical Way of the Cross. This Way of the Cross has been celebrated in the diocese for almost 60 years. The bush at Kilaben Bay is a perfect setting for us to gather and to be followers of the Way. Our diverse multicultural communities will be the focus for this year’s Way of the Cross.

I also hope that as part of your preparation for Easter, you have been part of the spiritual conversations around the Synthesis Report from the Synod on Synodality. So far, I have only received four submissions for our diocesan report to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference responding to the question:

How can we enhance the differentiated co-responsibility in the mission of all the members of the People of God?

I have met with a few groups who have affirmed our own diocesan processes around co-responsibility and have made suggestions as to what else might be possible. You have until the 30 March to submit this feedback to me, before I assemble a diocesan report.

Another opportunity is for you to join the Founding Assembly of the Hunter Community Alliance (HCA) which will take place on Wednesday 10 April with people gathering from 6.30pm at the Great Hall at the University of Newcastle. To find out more about this, please visit the website HCA or phone me on 4979 1157. The Diocese is a member of the HCA and we would like to have at least 120 people in attendance from the various aspects of diocesan life – Parishes, Schools, St Nicholas, CatholicCare, Shared Services, the Office of Safeguarding, Hunter Community Housing, Pastoral Ministries, the Bishop’s Office and the Catholic Community Fund. We provide many diverse services to the people of the Hunter and our voices matter in support of the common good for those we serve. Please register your attendance here (Register here). It is our hope to hold a workshop on Catholic Social Teaching beforehand, followed by a Mass, and then to walk in pilgrimage from Our Lady of Victories Church at Shortland to the Great Hall.

As I read the bulletin for St Benedict’s Inner Newcastle Parish, I am struck by the many opportunities for people to be engaged. I hope this is the case around the whole of our diocese. Last week, The Sisters of Faith dinner was a wonderful expression of women of faith coming together with enthusiasm for being able to enjoy each other’s company while knowing that our respective faiths give us purpose and hope.

On this Laetare Sunday, I hope I have left you with the image of rejoicing. We heard the organ for the first time in weeks and the sanctuary was decorated with flowers and Fr Anthony Coloma wore rose coloured vestments. We are moving ever closer to Holy Week and our diocesan gathering for the Chrism Mass before the Easter Triduum.

Our Muslim brothers and sisters have begun Ramadan, their holy season of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community. They do this to bring them closer to God. We journey through Lent with the same purpose, to draw us closer to God and in turn to each other and to all of creation.

From one who is on this Lenten journey with you.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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