Discipleship 2 – Following Jesus

13C Discipleship 2 - Following JesusDiscipleship 2. Called to follow Jesus
Jesus sets his face resolutely towards Jerusalem (Luke 9:51)

The kingdom of God: We are called to follow
A time of Social unrest
• Violence by Roman soldiers
• High taxation
• Tensions within the Jewish community
• The Jewish people had returned from exile
God would become King
• There was only one God who was creator of all
• These were the whispers…
God at last was becoming King
Jesus preaching:
• Not be nice to each other
• Not future in heaven
• Not forgiveness for sins
But it was extraordinarily REVOLUTIONARY
• The long night of exile was coming to an end
• The great day of liberation was dawning
Jesus sets his face resolutely towards Jerusalem
There is Freedom to follow
Do not be afraid
• As St Paul tells us: “For freedom Christ has set you free…do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

Play MP3

Recorded at St Paul’s, 7.30am (12 min)

Sunday 13, Year C. Luke 9:51-62; Galatians 5:1, 13-18

For more reading: Bishop Norman Thomas (NT / Tom) Wright, Who was Jesus (1992); Following Jesus (1994); Jesus and the Victory of God (1996); The Challenge of Jesus (1999); Simply Christian (2006); Simply Jesus (2011).

Discipleship 1 – Who is Jesus?

12C Discipleship 1 - Who is JesusDiscipleship: The path to knowing and following Jesus

The question

  • Today in the Gospel (Luke 9:18-24), Jesus asks these 2 questions:
  • Who do the crowds say that I am?
  • Who do you say that I am?
  • Peter answers: The anointed of God
  • How do we answer this question?
  • How would you describe your lived relationship with God?

The situation

  • There are 6,500 people in our parish who identify as Catholic (aka ‘census Catholics’)
  • Only 440 people come to Mass on an average weekend – which is 6.7% of potential Catholics
  • During sacramental preparation, that increases to around 570 on average or 8.8%
  • At Christmas, around 23% of people attend at least one Mass; at Easter around 18%
  • Perhaps another 20% attend other services – eg, baptisms, funerals, weddings, school Masses during the year
  • So about 4,500 people who still call themselves Catholic have essentially no connection to our church / parish
  • 93% of census Catholics don’t make weekly Sunday Eucharist a priority in their lives: around 6,000 fellow Catholics
  • Some will claim to believe / pray privately
  • Some will have problems with Church teaching
  • Some will have lost trust:– sexual abuse crisis
  • Some will claim to be too busy for church
  • Surveys indicate that around 33% of Catholics only believe in God as an ‘impersonal force’
  • Only 48% of all Catholics were absolutely certain that they could have a personal relationship with God.

Three spiritual journeys

  • The personal interior journey of a lived relationship with Jesus Christ resulting in intentional discipleship.
  • The ecclesial journey into the Church through reception of the sacraments of initiation.
  • The journey of active practice – (seen in receiving the sacraments, attending Mass, and participating in the life and mission of the Church.)

Drawing near to God

  • We are a church that has settled.
  • We have settled merely with the possibility of salvation, rather than great spiritual fruitfulness.
  • The church possesses the means of grace… why settle for anything less than yearning for the fruitful manifestation of that grace?

St Thomas and the fire

“Therefore some receive a greater, some a smaller, share of the grace of newness; just as from the same fire, the one receives more heat who approaches nearest to it, although the fire, as far as it is concerned, sends forth its heat equally to all.” St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, q69, a8.

Jesus the Questioner

  • Who do you say I am? How do we desire to answer?
  • How do you hope to describe your lived relationship with God?

Play MP3

Recorded at St Paul’s, 7.30am (15mins)
Sunday 12, Year C

Video reflection: Life with God (Dan Stevers)
View Presentation Slides.

Oily Mercy – revisiting the mercy movement

11C Oily MercyWhen I read this Gospel, from Luke chapter 7, verses 36-50, of the anointing of Jesus by a sinful woman, two very vivid images come to mind, evoked by two songs. The first is the old song ‘Beautiful to Me’ by Don Francisco, which in his style is a powerful retelling of this story, told from the point-of-view of Simon the Pharisee. The song continues to repeat a refrain, which is “your sins were red as scarlet, but now they’re washed away; no matter what the world thinks, you’re beautiful to me.”

These lyrics certainly capture the heart of this strange but beautiful story. The contrast between the knowing arrogance of Simon and the simplicity and humility of the uninvited woman is palpable. But so also is the outrageous adoration of the woman, expressed in the abundant flow of her tears, wiped away with her indecently let-down hair, her kisses of his feet, and the anointing of the feet of Jesus by the perfumed oil from the alabaster jar. The focus and the action moves smoothly and masterfully between these three main characters, as Jesus, Simon and the woman of the alabaster jar each take centre stage and then move into the background.

For this is what happens when the love of God impacts upon an ordinary human life. Whatever our expectations of what it might look like when the kingdom of God broke into our world, what this Gospel scene portrays is a time of abundant generosity, surprising grace and yet the fierce opposition from the established order. For what we see in this story is that both Simon and the woman are revealed not as society and social conventions will portray them – but as both are seen in the eyes of God’s love and mercy. Unfortunately for Simon, he had never come to terms with his own heart, so he is not able to recognise or appreciate the depths of God’s mercy when he sits in person at his own table.

Which is what the second song tries to capture. It is ‘Alabaster’, by Rend Collective. It is an invitation to worship, lost in the depths of God’s love. I first heard the song a couple of years ago at a wedding I was celebrating on the mid-north coast. During the service, the bride left her seat to join the musicians, and sang this song of offering of their lives and marriage to the Lord. It was a most precious reminder of the depths of our need to receive God’s mercy each day. Nothing that we do will ever be a true offering of our love, until that glorious moment when we discover the absolute possibility of mercy without price. The only sign and proof of this is love.

Sunday 11, Year C, Season of Growth.
Luke 7:36-50

The above text is from the Journey Radio program podcast. Listen here or here

Compassion raises the dead

10C Widow of NainThis seventh chapter of the Gospel of Luke begins with two stories of healing: the first is the healing of the Centurion’s slave; the second is our gospel story today – the raising from the dead of the son of a widow in the town of Nain. In the first story the healing comes at the very specific request of the Centurion who implores Jesus to heal his servant. But when Jesus makes his way across the Valley of Jezreel to Nain, there is no obvious candidate whose faith Jesus is responding to. The dead son cannot be the candidate, but nor is there any reference to his mother making a request to heal her dead son.

When Jesus comes across the scene, the whole town is involved. Although death is common enough, everyone would be touched in such a small community. Unlike in our sanitised and overly formal Western experience of death, there are professional wailers and mourners whose loud cries provide the permission for those who are closest to the deceased person to mourn and weep in whatever way they wish. There would be tears streaming down the cheeks of everyone in the crowd. Others would have spices prepared to anoint the body and prepare him for burial by wrapping the spices into the burial clothes, to offset the smells of decomposition.

It seems that it is simply the compassionate heart of Jesus that is stirred into a response so that he goes to the bier upon which the young man is being carried and commands the young fellow to get up. Jesus doesn’t even seem to be afraid to make himself ritually unclean by touching the body of the deceased lad. The account of the story is stark and honest, describing the raising to new life in very simple terms. The town of Nain is just across the valley from his own village of Nazareth, so it is not too hard to imagine that Jesus had visited the town before, since it was only an hour or so’s walk away. Perhaps the woman and her son were already known to Jesus.

Another possibility is the fact that at this stage of his life, it seems that his adoptive father Joseph is already dead. So Jesus is the only son of a widowed mother, so he would certainly have known exactly what the woman in the story was going through, and her social and economic destitution that would be the result of the death of her son. Whatever the motivations of Jesus to bring new life to this young man and his mother, the crowd recognises the power of this moment in a flash. They erupt with joy and delight and perhaps disbelief that one like the great prophets of old is now in their midst, doing these great and mighty works. They knew that in this scene, ‘God had visited his people’ – he has drawn near to them to save and rescue them. Many in the crowd would have longed to see the signs and wonders like their ancestors had seen, and now their wildest dreams were being fulfilled before their eyes.

The same is true for us. Whatever the week ahead holds for us, God will again draw near to us to bring his love and salvation for us. He will draw near in the person of Jesus to provide the one thing that you most desperately need, even if it is not the first thing that you seem to want. The fact that Jesus will draw close is always enough. That he is here means that we also will be able to make our way through the darkest of nights to see the light of his dawn again.

Play MP3

Recorded at St Paul’s, 9.30am (one of three first Holy Communion Masses this weekend; 8 mins 30)
Sunday 10, Year C. Luke 7:11-17

View the PowerPoint slides
Watch the Video Reflection

Above text is from the Journey Radio Program version, available here.