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Our Lenten season’s readings relates the events that lead-up to and includes the suffering and death of Christ. These readings remind me of the Catholic culture in which I was brought up. I grew up in a very devout Catholic family who strictly observed the rules of Lent. If I failed to abide by any of the Lenten rituals that my family observed, I would be punished by my parents. Moreover, we lived in a village where every household was Catholic. What this meant was that any violation of Lenten observances would result in corporal punishment and this brought great shame upon one’s whole family.
Physically and psychologically I felt an inner heaviness and dread whenever the season of Lent drew near. I felt entrapped by the season’s rules and I loathed the punishment for non-observance. This brought me unhappiness. Reflecting on these experiences I concede that we undertook “penance” for breaking our Lenten observance to appease and regain the acceptance of our family and village, rather than reflecting on the spiritual meaning of the why Lenten observances was an important part of our faith. Having a negative experience of lent meant that reflecting on Jesus’ suffering and death was for a youngster a burdensome experience.
Today’s gospel is once again about Jesus’ death: “‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.’ [Jesus] said this to show by what death he was to die (John 12:30-33).” Surprisingly in verse 28 prior to this passage, the Father speaks of Jesus’ glorification: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” and in John 12:23, Jesus states his willingness to go to the cross, as his “hour of glory” was approaching, when he would fulfill his Father’s will and accomplish the mission entrusted to him. Perhaps for some, this passage from John’s gospel might lead them to reflect on: How is that we can reconcile death with glorification? Or is God a brutal Father that demands his son be offered as an atonement for sin? Or another question could be: “did Jesus want to die?”
Reflecting on these questions, a man I find inspirational came to mind. He is Basuki Tjahaya Purnama, the current governor of Jakarta in Indonesia. He is of Chinese background and also a Christian. Prior to his election, it was hard to imagine and even impossible conceive that a person of his background (Chinese and Christian) could become governor of Jakarta. Since his election, he has been very strong in redressing corruption; trying to clear Jakarta’s government of people linked with corrupt practices.
Because of his Chinese and Christian background, he was “advised” by many prominent politicians, as well as religious leaders, not to “rock the boat” (i.e. disturb the status quo). He was also reminded of the consequences for him and his government if he persisted. But Basuki Purnama is fully aware of the consequences of his conviction to rid the government of corruption and one of them is death. In one of the interviews he quoted St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). And he would like these words put on his tombstone in Indonesian, English and Mandarin. While some people say that he is crazy, others have come to admire his faith, courage and conviction.
Jesus was aware of and accepted the consequences of his persistence and faithfulness in carrying out the Father’s will, and one of them was death. Yet even the threat of death did not deter him from faithfully doing his Father’s will. And because of that, Glorification and death could be reconciled. Our call as Christians is to do the Father’s will. Suffering and death for some may be the consequence of doing God’s will, but as God shares in their suffering, they in turn also share in the glory and glorification of God. So Lent is time to glorify God and our Lenten observances serves to remind us of God’s love for us and our duty to each other. This would mean that Lent is to be a love-filled season and not a burdensome season.
Our first reading reminds us of the Old Testament prophet’s conviction, to never cease speaking of God’s faithfulness and compassion for those who needed the humility to humble themselves and turn away from sin. Humility is what enables us return to God with repentant hearts, trust, and obedience (2 Chronicles 36:15).
A few years ago, I was made the leader of one of our MSC communities. I saw it as a great opportunity for me to put in place some of the plans I had been conceiving prior to my appointment. I said to myself: “This is the best time for me to do whatever I wish. No one would question me because I have the authority to judge and act. I can consult other people but I will have the final say.” Initially, I felt confident and comfortable with this notion of leadership. However, as I started implementing my ideas, I faced a lot of challenges and even disagreements with my own community members. Some of them did not simply strongly oppose my plans, but they also took it to a personal level. They chose to play the person instead of the ball. Undoubtedly this affected our fraternal/communal relationships.
During an MSC General Conference in Rio de Janeiro which I attended, I shared my experience of MSC communal leadership with another MSC Provincial Leader from a different country. Responding to my sharing, he said: “Sometimes we think that when we are in power, we are powerful. But when you are in power you realise that you are powerless. And being powerless is our strength”. Those words reminded me of St. Paul’s teaching on Jesus’ crucifixion: “… [the cross of Jesus] to Jews a stumbling block and Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, is the power and wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).
How do we understand the healing power of Christ’s redeeming love and victory which he won for us on the cross? My experience of leadership was an affirmation of the true meaning of the power of Jesus’ cross. Changing from being “possessive of power” to “humility” was not easy. However, because of my new understanding of the power and humility of the cross, I was very determined to change, and gradually I was able to. Jesus’ passion models for us, a leadership that is not harsh and commanding but one that is loving and redeeming.
Traditionally when Kings begun their reign, they were literally “lifted up” and enthroned above the people. A symbol of authority and supremacy, this kind of power was for governing and ruling other people. In today’s gospel, Jesus explains that the Son of Man must be “lifted up” (crucified) to show the power and authority of God’s reign. Contrary to the earthly kingdoms, this power embodied a leadership of love and service. God proved his love for us by giving us the best he had to offer – his only begotten Son. And Jesus freely gave of himself as an offering to God for our sake and as an atoning sacrifice for our sin and the sin of the world (John 3:16). And Jesus was lifted up to draw everyone to himself (“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” John 12:32).
In many ways, we have authority over our “little kingdoms”. Today, I pray for the grace that God will help us exercise our authority with service and love. For “lifted up”, the greatest virtue that Christ embodied for us is LOVE!
The periscope of Jesus driving out the cattle, sheep, and dove sellers, and the money-exchanges from the temple is the foundational reason why we respect churches and chapels, and why we consider them as sacred spaces or as God’s (and our Lord’s) dwelling place. The physical temple symbolises the presence of the Lord. However we can confidently state that the Lord’s presence cannot be fully contained within a consecrated building. Moreover the most profound dwelling place of God is the heart of the human person. The heart of a person (the person him/herself) is the temple of God. Therefore God longs to cleanse us of our sinful ways in order to make us into living temples of his Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). The fact we are temples of God and of the Holy Spirit reminds us that we are to accord one another the respect and dignity that the grace entails.
My reflection on this gospel took me back to an experience I had in Indonesia. Indonesia is a place where people have a great respect for religious and sacred places of worship such as churches, chapels, monasteries, convents, mosques, Buddhist temples, the Pura (Hindu temple) etc. If one of these places was intentionally damaged or destroyed, the perpetrators involved would be spontaneously “punished” by the community. Therefore even those religions that are part of the minority are looked after by society at large. I remember one Sunday at Mass, a Muslim gentleman came and began selling things in-front of the church, without respect or consideration for the place or for those inside worshipping. The local parishioners contacted the Muslim community in the area and immediately the Muslim community escorted the man away for further investigation. They finally “punished” him and this included the judgment that he was never to ply his trade around the church again. I deeply appreciated living in a society that practiced respect and tolerance of other faiths and in a way am very proud of that fact.
However, the news of the death penalty passed down for the drug traffickers, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran has disturbed this sense of pride. My question is: why can’t the same respect for ‘religious buildings’ be applied to ‘human life’? As Christians who believe that we are temples of the Holy Spirit and that God dwells within us, respect for sacred places of worship cannot exclude respect for human life.
This Lenten season offers us a time to get in touch with our own hearts as the dwelling place of God. Saint Augustine said: “Go back to your heart and find him”. This year, Pope Francis has asked the universal Church to gather together on the 24th of March 2015, for a twenty-four hour adoration. This is a good opportunity for us to get in-touch with our Lord through the Blessed Sacrament. In this Lenten season let us prepare the tabernacle of our hearts, for it is there where Christ meets us, and hears our prayers and our cry for the people that we love and for the problems that weigh us down. In the same vein let us continue to pray that our hearts may have a great respect for every person as God’s dwelling place.
OLR Lenten Lecture Series
Fridays, 7-9:30 pm | March 6, 13, 20 | Parish Hall
A dynamic and visually rich presentation by acclaimed international scholar Br Gerard Rummery, with opportunities for general discussion and dialogue with the presenter.
- 6th March: A major change in the attitude of the Catholic Church to other churches and other forms of religion took place during and subsequent to the Vatican Council 1962-1965. The implications of this change of attitude are being lived out in our Australian community every day. The document Nostro Aetate(Our Age) will be outlined and distributed as the basis for up to date considerations of how we need to think along with the Catholic Church today.
- 13th March: The key word that sums up the changed attitude of the Catholic Church to its relationship with the modern world is that of dialogue. What does the word mean in practice? What are the four forms of dialogue which we are challenged to practise today? What can we do, what do we do, to think along with the Church in this regard? Printed material will be distributed so as to explore the practical importance of dialogue in our lives as Catholic Christians today.
- 20th March: Saint Matthew’s Gospel concludes with the apostles being sent to preach the Good News to the World and baptising all those who so wish. But in the mystery of our present-day pluralist world, it is not evident that all our fellow-citizens will be religious or will one day become Christians. What is our role as bearers of the Good News in this time of ‘incompleteness’? Select documentation will be available.
Donation at the door (suggested donation $10 pp). Includes supper and print materials.
Come to one, come to all three.
Meet our speaker
Brother Gerard Rummery is an Australian member of the De La Salle Brothers. Following his years as a high school teacher in Melbourne, he completed post-graduate studies first at London University and then doctoral studies at Lancaster University which specialised in the study of world religions. His doctoral thesis, looking at the development of catechetical and religious education in Europe following the Second World War, was published as a book in 1975.
Fluent in French, Spanish, Italian and German, he served (1973; 1977-1982) on the staff of the International Lasallian Centre in Rome which he directed from 1983-1986. He worked with displaced members of his congregation behind the Iron Curtain in Czech, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania from 1969-1989. Twice elected to the General Council of the De La Salle Brothers (1986-1993 and 1993-2000), he was named by Pope John Paul II in 1993 to the international commission which prepared the Synod on Consecrated Life in Rome in 1994.
Since his return to Australia in 2000, he has worked mainly with educators as a presenter for Lasallian Education Services and as an Adjunct-Professor of the Australian Catholic University.
Watch Br Gerard present below. This is a wonderful reflection about St. John Baptist de La Salle and the Brothers that follow his charism. Br. Gerard is answering the question: What would you say to a group of people who didn’t know anything about De La Salle Brothers and who were sitting around casually asking you to help them understand who the De La Salle were.
It must have been a very painful experience for Abraham when God asked him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Abraham had obeyed God many times in his walk with Him, but no test could have been more severe than the one in the first reading today (Genesis 22). God commanded, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:2a).
This command sounds contrary to the nature of God, who is compassionate and merciful. Moreover, this is a surprising command since Isaac was the son of promise. However, Abraham responded to God’s command with immediate obedience.
How could Abraham obey such a “brutal” command? This is an extraordinary obedience that very few could offer. Later, for such obedience, Abraham was crowned with God’s great glory: “By myself I have sworn, says the LORD: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Gen 22:17-18). His obedience and sacrifice merited him God’s glory.
Paul in the second reading of this Sunday mentioned similar thing: “He who did not spare even his own Son, but handed him over for the sake of us all, how could he not also, with him, have given us all things?” (Rom 8:32).
God is willing to share his glory with us – as reflected in today’s gospel when Jesus’ face is transfigured in the mountain before his disciples. In this incident Jesus appears in glory with Moses, the great lawgiver of Israel, and with Elijah, the greatest of the prophets, in the presence of three of his beloved apostles. It symbolizes a continuation of God’s saving plan for the world from one generation to the other. Also proclamation of Jesus as the beloved symbolizes the culmination of God’s glorious plan in Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
God’s glorious plan did not exclude Jesus from being a special sacrifice for the Father and the world. His suffering and death that we are contemplating during the Lenten Season is the way he had chosen for saving the world. And Jesus’ obedience and sacrifice is crowned with glorious resurrection. Jesus is an example of those who trust in total obedience to the Father. Therefore we are asked to listen to him: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (Mark 9:7), meaning to follow his footsteps.
Do we desire to have a share in God’s glory? Obedience which means “listening” (to God) is the way to share His glory. The Lenten Season is a great time for forming and shaping lives to become obedient people of God. Don’t let the clouds of prejudice, shame, low self-esteem, self-blaming, sorrow, and other negative feeling hinder us from seeing and enjoying God’s glory.
Youth Ministry Coordinator
Casual, 10 hours/wk, award rates.
Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Kensington is seeking a vibrant youth worker to join the parish staff. The successful applicant would be required to work with the Parish Evangelisation Team to support the establishment and day to day running of youth activities in the parish.
Experience in youth ministry and/or parish youth groups is desirable.
The full job advertisement and a role description are available from the parish website. www.olrkensington.org.au
To submit your CV with a cover letter and 2 referees including a parish priest.
Phone: 9663 1070 | Email: email@example.com
Applications close Friday 27 March 2015 or when a suitable candidate is found.
Job Description: here
We are pleased to announce the OLR Building Management Committee has now been established by Fr Alo.
We have identified our first priority project based on Parish feedback. The Kids Church (the one room on the side of the main church), will undergo a mild refurbishment to better service the Kids Church, but will also be suitable for various Parish uses by booking. The space will be refreshed and offer a comfortable multipurpose meeting space with Air Con, AV and tea facilities.
We are calling on building and renovation project specialists, including electricians and air-conditioning installers, to donate time and/or material. We will need white paint, new carpet, shelving and a TV screen. Please call Claude Khoury on 0419 216 416 to discuss your contribution as soon as possible
Three evangelists (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) tell that Jesus was brought by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. Reflecting on this, I wondered ‘why would the Holy Spirit lead Jesus to the wilderness?’ The gospel of Mark puts it most emphatically, placing this story straight after the Baptism of Jesus (Mark 1: 9-11): “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12). Remembering that the mystery of the Trinity, three persons united in one, it might help to think of the Spirit that led Jesusas his own spirit, choosing to seek solitude for purification as well as for preparation for his mission. Just like other human beings test themselves before they take up a mission – think of pilots being tested to ensure that they are fit to fly – Jesus would submit himself to be tested too. Through this story, Jesus shows us that in the wilderness – a solitude place – we cannot rely on the material senses of comfort. It is a place that we can know who we are and who God is.
Jesus won the test and resisted the bad spirit’s temptation because he was confident in his identity and who God (the Father) is. Indeed there are lots of Scripture passages that indicate Jesus’ experience of God as the one he calls Abba or Father. The baptism is the convincing moment for Jesus to call God as his own Father. It was a public announcement that Jesus is the Son of God. It is not about a status proclamation but simply a proclamation of “relationship” between the Father and the Son based on love. “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). This experience gives Jesus great confidence and assurance of his Father’s love. This is enough for Jesus to resist the temptation of evil and perform his ministry. And since this is enough for Jesus he does not have to please anyone for acceptance or to prove himself. Henry Nouwen said:
“Jesus refused to be a stunt man. He did not come to prove himself. He did not come towalk on hot coals, swallow fire, or put his hand in a lion’s mouth to demonstrate thathe had something worthwhile to say”.
(In the Name of Jesus, Reflection on Christian Leadership, (London: Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd, 1989, 38)
Jesus comes to the world to be like us and to enjoy his identity as the beloved. We have begun our forty days of solitude – Lenten season – to prepare ourselves for Easter. It is a time to develop our intimacy with God by recalling our own experience of baptism and enjoy our identity. Knowing and enjoying ourselves as the “beloved ones” would allow us to resist any temptation as well as to perform our ministry in bringing God’s love to the world. We often do many things to prove our identity: this Lent, let us do things in our life as a consequence of being the beloved ones. Enjoy the Lenten season, time of solitude.