The Assumption

I do not claim to have much of a Marian belief and much of my faith is not tied to Mary. There are many out there who do though and I see why.

Mary was clearly a spectacular woman, no matter which way you spin it. She joyfully said yes to bearing Jesus as her son and the dedication she showed to Jesus in his life is marvelous.

Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ Figurine
Many Holy images of Mary remind us of her grace.

On this day of The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Gospel reading we got is one of the shortest you have seen.

“As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ but Jesus replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it’.”

I find it to be a strange reading to have at this time. At first, my thoughts drifted into “Is Jesus undermining the role of his mother here?” but no. In fact, his reference point highlights the happiness that comes from following the word of God.

When I was about 5 years old, I came across an extraordinary discovery…Computer games. More specifically, the Nintendo 64. You see, I had never experienced such a thing before. My TV use was restricted by my parents and they would of been far too scared to reveal something as enjoyable as a computer game to me. I remember going over to my friends house and watching them play and it just totally captured my mind like nothing else. It was all I wanted to do. Eventually, my parents caved when I was about 8 or 9 and they bought me and my brother a Playstation 2 with the game Star Wars Battlefront and I remember shouting with excitement “Oh my god, this is better than the Nintendo 64”.

Turned-on Red and Green Nintendo Switch
The latest Nintendo handheld device, much more advanced that the one I remember.

You see, the Nintendo 64 was great, but the idea of having our own and even better console was even greater and this is what I think Jesus is getting across in the reading.

Jesus doesn’t contradict the woman, for what woman wouldn’t want the Messiah for her son. Jesus reminds us that we are all capable of experiencing the happiness that Mary experienced and even greater.

Mother Holding Her Baby
No one can love like a mother and no one loved Jesus as Mary did

“Happier are those who hear the word of God and keep it”.

Mary’s greatest happiness didn’t just come from bearing and raising Jesus but from listening to the word of God in the first place and that is something that we can all take part in.

The Assumption of Mary is something that I will always struggle to understand and I do not think it’s possible that I will be assumed into heaven as Mary was, but Jesus doesn’t ask that of us. He asks us to hear the word of God and keep it.

Sure we are going to make mistakes, we are going to falter, we are going to struggle to see what the word of God is in the first place. All God asks is for us to keep on trying to do our best and let his mercy do the rest.

First Things First

In last week’s gospel reading Jesus reminds us to keep what is important at the forefront of our minds.

Selective Focus Photography of Wheat Field
What important things are we cultivating and growing in our lives?

Jesus said to his disciples:

I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat,

nor about your body and how you are to clothe it.

Surely life means more than food, and the body more than clothing!

Look at all the birds in the sky.

They do not sow or reap or gather into barns;

yet your heavenly Father feeds the,

Are you not worth much more than they are?

Can any of you, for all their worrying,

add one single cubit to their span of life?

And why worry about clothing?

Think of the flowers growing in the fields;

they never have to work or spin;

yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his regalia was robed like one of these.

Now if that is how God clothes the grass in the filed

which is there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow,

will he not much more look after you, you people of little faith?

So do not worry; do not say, “What are we going to eat?

What are we to drink? How are we to be clothed?”

It is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things.

Your heavenly Father knows you need them all.

Set you hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness,

and all these other things will be given to you as well.

So do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.

Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Couple hugging and using smartphone near sea on sunset
What material things are stopping you from keeping first things first?

The message Jesus gives is one that was counter-cultural in his time and remains so to this day. Jesus is calling people to not focus so much on their wellbeing and status but instead to focus on God and on the kingdom of heaven. This is a message we have heard before but what does it really mean, particularly for us in our Western world.

Some time ago, I was with my girlfriend. She had planned a lovely trip and a picnic that involved a bushwalk. Me being me, I was late to pick her up and I had decided to skip breakfast. As the day went on, I became hungrier and hungrier and my mood began to worsen. The walk that had been planned went on for far longer than I expected and the items my girlfriend has lovingly packed, were much smaller than I had hoped and while I was pleasant to her, I had not truly enjoyed the day spent with her.

Black Hanging Bridge Surrounded by Green Forest Trees
What your “grumbling stomach?” What keeps you from enjoying what is in front of you?

Upon reflection, due to my focus on my physical needs (that were caused by my own disorganised nature), I was unable to enjoy the day I had to its fullest. The long car trip which could of been the source of fruitful conversation was not enjoyed, the rare time I got to spend in nature was not appreciated and the effort and love my wonderful girlfriend had put in to the day was not seen or recognised.

All because I was focused on food.

In this situation Jesus calls us to not focus on material things and also, things that we can not control. Focus is the key word here, Jesus knows that we have to eat and drink to sustain ourselves but that we are called to more than just to eat and drink. Jesus calls us to live and to love for that is what it means to “set our hearts on God’s Kingdom, and on his righteousness”.

Delighted female relatives sitting together on wooden bench in park and browsing mobile phone while learning using
What are some ways you can bring more joy and happiness into God’s kingdom?

It is fitting that this weeks Gospel reading lands on the feast of Mary MacKillop who said “Whatever troubles may be before you, accept them cheerfully, remembering whom you are trying to follow. Do not be afraid. Love one another, bear with one another, and let charity guide you in all your life”.

So… Go out and live! Focus on today and the most good you can give to the world.

…But if you are like me, maybe have your breakfast first so you can FOCUS on the more important things.

Jesus Feeds The World

Last Sunday’s Gospel focused on the iconic story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people from 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. This is a great story but how does it translate into the now?

Photo of Pile Of Fish
How many fish would it of taken to feed 5,000 hungry mouths?

In my time ministering to youth, the story of Jesus multiplying food that was to be the lunch of a little boy, is probably the one that garners the most amazement and disbelief (Adults tend to like the story of Jesus turning water into wine). To be honest, it’s easy to see why.

It’s a very visual story. Crowd of 5,000, each needing to be fed, 5 loaves and 2 fish are multiplied and manage to fill each of those people up!

How did it happen?

What does it look like?

These type of questions tend to pop up in relation to the story and that’s where the disbelief happens. How can one man feed so many people?

The thing we have to look at as well in relation to this story is that JESUS IS STILL FEEDING PEOPLE. In fact, Jesus feeds much more than 5,000, he feeds the whole world!

People Gathering in Concert during Night Time
Jesus still spiritually feeds crowds even bigger than 5,000 to this day

Christ tells us that by eating and drinking at his table, we will never hunger or thirst again. Jesus to this day offers us much more than sustenance to survive, he offers sustenance for the soul, sustenance to LIVE.

Jesus doesn’t call us to survive, but to live. The story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 is a source of inspiration for us, of a literal time Jesus fed people, to remind us that he is still feeding us spiritually.

What we do with that gift is up to us and Jesus gives us insight to what we should do at the end of the story “Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted!” Any piece left over can not be wasted but need to be shared with those around us who struggle to see the joy and hope that Jesus offers. Jesus calls us to share hope, joy and love with all around us, but particularly to be his hands where they can often struggle to manifest themselves without out help.

Woman Surrounded By Sunflowers
How do you show joy, hope and love to those in your life?

So don’t be scared! Share the joy of your life with others! Feed others just as Jesus did and continues to do to this day. Make known the glory of heaven here on earth where it cannot be seen without your help!

The Christ We Needed…The Christ We Didn’t Want

Easter. The glorious example of God’s love for us. God sent his own son (that was also himself) to die for us and to show us how much he truly loved us.

Person Holding Easter Egg on Palette Tray

People in the time of Jesus wanted a ‘Messiah’, a saviour who would rip back the land from the Romans by force and place it back into the hands of the faithful who had long awaited for their hero.

As we know, this did not turn out to be the case. Christ died on the cross at the hands of the Romans. Christ was thinking about a far bigger picture than just the land that the Jews resided in. Christ was referring to worldwide domination as well as his kingdom in heaven…the Jews would just have to wait a while to see it.

Knight Armor

In the Gospels we see the evidence of the early Christian community starting to change their ways of thinking. Some content from the Apostle Paul suggests that he believes Christ will return in his lifetime, but as time went on, other Apostles realised that this wouldn’t be the case.

If only these early Christians could see the world now, they could realise Christs vision. Christ didn’t just die for them, he died for EVERYONE. He didn’t just mean those who were alive at that point of Christs death, but everyone who would ever exist.

Ultimately, it isn’t Christs death that makes him special, we all die, but it’s his defeat of death and rising. Christ in his rising tells us that we are to join him in the afterlife.

Jesus Christ Statue

This type of thinking would of confused the hell out of the early Christians and the Jews who thought Jesus would rise a great kingdom and cast out the Romans. Christ was just pulling off a far bigger feat, he was playing the long game.

Thanks to Jesus playing that long game, people like you and me can come to know and love Jesus rather than reading about a man in a history book who was a great conqueror and ruler in the middle east…and let’s be honest, I forget all about those great generals from the history books, I like this version of Jesus far better.

Inner Demons

Ethnic model with terrible makeup crawling at camera

In last week’s Gospel reading we hear about Jesus expelling a demon from a man’s body, an age old act of exorcism, but what message does this convey to us in the modern day?

In the Gospel, Jesus is preaching to a crowd when a man rudely interrupts him and says “What do you want with us Jesus? Have you come to destroy us?” To which Jesus responds with “Be quiet! Come out of him” and a evil spirit leaves the man and the crowd is astonished.

How many of the people in the congregation would of jumped to the conclusion that this man was rudely interrupting them and judged him accordingly? As soon as they realise what had happened though, their annoyance would of quickly turned into rejoice for the man. A similar situation happens in our everyday life.

Close-up Photography of Beige Concrete Decor

Many of us carry our own personal demons, some more than others. Some people in our community have suffered terrible upbringings and others bear the burden of pain where ever they go. Just like the man who had the demon inside of him, many people will act in a way that causes annoyance, pain and suffering to others, yet we attribute these horrible acts to the person rather than acknowledging the pain that the individual is suffering.

Jesus Christ Stained Glass

Jesus tells us that we are all loved and treasured by God, even if we do carry around demons that plague ourselves and the people around us.

How do we treat those who may be suffering? While they may cause pain to us, do we treat them like someone who is loved and deserving of our love?

Jesus calls us to love as he does, which means to love without boundaries to all, even to those who would wish us harm.

The Perfect Human Jesus

Green Dart Pointed to Dartboard

There are many areas of my life that I wish I was perfect. Sadly, like many people around the world, there are many areas of our lives we will be far less than perfect. But what about Jesus? What does he have to teach us about perfection?

One of my favorite stories in the Bible involves a pagan (non-Jew) woman who comes to Jesus and asks for his healing power. Jesus proceeds to decline her request, stating that he came for the Jews and that “You do not take the children’s bread from the table and throw it to the dogs”.

Four Assorted-color Puppies

Let’s just talk about that for a moment. This isn’t a Jesus we are used to. This is a Jesus who seems to be not so full of compassion, a Jesus unwilling to give help. A very human Jesus.

We often forget that Jesus was in fact human. A man born and raised by the people of his time, a people who held prejudices and at times were not very kind. So how can we call this imperfect man our saviour?

It is in the response we see that Jesus is indeed perfect, not perfect in the sense that he no longer had anything to learn and therefore was capable of mistakes but perfect in the sense he was able to have an open mind, despite being raised by an imperfect community to learn from his situation.

Halloween Candy Inside a Skull

After Jesus said “You do not take the children’s bread from the table and throw it to the dogs”, the woman replies by saying “But even the dogs get the scraps from the table” which Jesus is stunned by. Jesus responds with “Your faith is great! Let it be done as you desire” and Jesus heals the woman’s daughter.

How many of us change our mind when we are proven wrong? Jesus, in a position of privilege and power listened to a woman (not the done thing in the times) and quickly corrected his mistake.

There is a lot to learn from the perfect human Jesus because it is through our mistakes we grow and become better on the path to perfection, we just have to remain open to that experience as Jesus did.

“The Time Has Come!”

In this Sunday’s gospel we see Jesus make a formal announcement to the world that the time for his ministry is going to start and he does so in a very bold fashion.

Last week, Jesus met John the Baptist, a man who preached that the lamb of God would be coming soon. This week, John the Baptist is arrested. While this would normally frighten others off, Jesus decides to officially announce that his ministry would start to the world and begins to recruit many of his disciples by saying the famous line “I will make you fishers of men!”

Fish Catch

Let’s look back at the times. John the Baptist, massive supporter of Jesus, is arrested and will soon be killed. Many around Jesus spread rumours “What will Jesus do now? Surely he won’t continue on this journey!” Jesus looks at what happens and decides to do something bold. ‘THE TIME HAS COME! The Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe in the Good News!”

Jesus takes a huge risk and doubles down. Jesus backs himself because he knows what he says he true and good and people will follow him.

Person About to Catch Four Dices

How many of us are bold like this with our faith? When those around us are persecuted for their beliefs, how many of us listen to the rumours and back down?

Jesus is calling us to be bold and believe. He calls us to follow him and listen to what he has to say.

To Love and to Love Fully

One of the toughest things Jesus asks us to do is to love.

Two Hands Holding Heart Shaped Lollipops

Some might try and quote song lyrics or some poetry that says “loving is easy” but the type of love that Jesus calls us to is anything by easy.

Its not this weeks reading but the good Samaritan provides some context into the type of love calls us to.

The priest and levite that passed Jesus are often posed as some sort of villains but I see them as reflections of myself. If the priest or levite had seen a loved one or a friend laying there, I bet they would of not hesitated to help.

The priest was too concerned with his cleanliness. He made excuses to not help. “I cant be unclean” or “it wasn’t me who beat the man” or “He looks pretty dead to me already, there is nothing I can do” are all things I bet who was running through his head.

Man's Hand in Shallow Focus and Grayscale Photography

In my life I also make excuses to not love. “He wronged me first” or “They are a bad person” are things I say or think to myself when I’m called to love EVERYONE.

Jesus doesn’t call us to love those who loves us, he calls us to love EVERYONE. There are no exceptions. The murderer on the news, the friend who cheats us, the homeless man on the street, all these, Jesus calls us to love.

Jesus doesn’t call us to be walked over and to constantly exhaust ourselves being slaves to those around us but he does call us to treat people, no matter what they have done to us, with dignity and respect.

He also didn’t just love those he believed deserved to love. He loved the children who were starving and the criminal on the cross next to him equally. He understood that each and every person was worthy of love.

Monk Surrounded by Children

How do we treat the people who have wronged us? Doe we talk behind their backs? I know, I do but it’s game over for me yet.

It’s never too late to start to love others or even just take a step in that direction. What steps will you take to begin or continue to love as Jesus taught us to? How will you love fully and without discrimination going forward?

“Come and See”

Brown Human Eye

In this coming Sunday’s reading (John 1:35-42) we hear a simple, yet profound message.

In this reading, John the Baptist is standing with two of his disciples and then all of a sudden Jesus walks past. John the Baptist is shocked and says “Hey fellas, its Jesus, the lamb of God”. Everyone is amazed! The two disciples run up to Jesus and ask “Rabbi, where do you live?” to which Jesus responds with “Come and See”. They all then go be with Jesus and some others join him and become disciples of Jesus.

I liken this experience to eating a really good meal. When you have a really good meal and someone asks “Is it good?” and since you know that the food is so good, the best thing you can do is give them a taste. Jesus does something very similar. Jesus is so confident in the message that he has to share that he simply says “come and see”.

Cooked Food

All to often in our spirituality we can get caught up with trying to explain our faith to others or convince them that our faith is real, but Jesus shows us there is a far more effective way.

Come and see. How many of us with our faith would be confident enough to simply say “come and see” to those who ask about our faith? Another valid question with this would be: Do we show our faith tangibly to the world or how do we show the joy of Christ to those around us?

Christ is within each one of us. By following in Christ and showing the world who we really are, Jesus can continue to say “Come and See” to allow more and more people to experience the love of Jesus.

Are you making room?

In this Christmas season, we always find the time to see our friends and relatives (in-laws and out-laws as well). We also find the room to fit that little bit of extra Christmas lunch in, but do we find the time and room for Jesus?

White Concrete Inn Near Green Covered Mountain at Daytime

Roughly 2000 years ago, the inn keeper could not find the room for Mary, Joseph and little baby Jesus. We look back at the occasion with wonder and awe. I often hear phrases like: “If I was the innkeeper, I would of made room for them!” or “If only they knew who they were turning away”. We just think how crazy it would be to turn someone like Jesus away, but the truth is we do this all the time.

Many times we will often fail to fit Jesus into our lives. Of course there is the obvious example of missing Church but we also fail to fit Jesus in when we don’t put in the time for those struggling around us. When we look away from the homeless or we are unkind, we fail to be Christlike and in that moment, we are actively turning Jesus away from our inn.

Girl Sitting on Woman's Lap While Holding Pen and Paper

Christ always makes it clear that there is always room for each and every one of us in his inn. So maybe, in this Christmas season, we should return the favour and open our doors to Christ by opening our hearts to the people around us and caring for those it may be a bit difficult to care for.