Do not take your seat in the place of honour!

This weeks gospel reading calls us to be humble in who we are.

“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. For what if someone more important comes by, you’ll be asked to move and to your embarrassment take the lowliest place. However, if you take the lowliest seat and no one more honourable arrives, you’ll be asked to move up higher and all you sit with will see you honoured”.

Wedding Venue

Thanks Jesus. Sounds like a cool social trick to ensure I never get embarrassed and that people see me be honoured.

Sadly, however, I believe Jesus is telling us more than this.

At the time of Jesus speaking this parable in Lukes gospel, Jesus is sitting with one of the leading Pharisees. Jesus is being judged by all around him, by the rich and highborn alike.

Jesus telling people to take the lowly seat would have been controversial. Sitting amongst the unclean would have been seen as foolish. If one had any sense at all, they would sit in the highest place of honour possible.

Four Rock Formation

Jesus refutes this way of thinking and tells us that people will find honour in being humble under God and for the Pharisees, what better way of being humble that sitting with the lowly and unclean!

For us though, how does this message convey?

For me personally, this message of being humble is a very simple one, yet one in which I certainly struggle. It means not bragging about my achievements to others and keeping it to myself.

For some, it might be a matter of attributing strengths to God or even ensuring that they do not flaunt riches that they may have.

How will you be humble in the eyes of God?

 

“I have come to bring fire to the earth!”

Woah, Jesus. Calm down.

In this weeks Gospel reading, Jesus is quite passionate, to say the least.

Person Performing Fire Dance at Night

“I have come to bring fire to the earth and how I wish it were blazing already! …. Do you suppose I am here to bring peace? No, I came to bring division… A household will be divided…Son against father, mother against father, daughter against son”.

Jesus is sending out a cry of anguish to us, not often seen from him. He passionately calls out against the earth, telling us all that he won’t be bringing peace like he previously said but rather division.

Woman Sitting in Grey Fur Sofa

Jesus’ message seems counter-productive to his mission. We have often heard of Jesus’ mission to bring peace but he specifically said I am NOT here to bring peace.

What does Jesus mean by this?

I don’t know but with the power of hindsight, we can see how Jesus’ mission was perceived.

Jesus’ time in this world in a human body most certainly did not cause peace. Jesus was the disrupter, the man who broke all the rules. In his day, Jesus most certainly would not have been seen as a man of peace by quite a number of people. In this, we can see Jesus most certainly did bring division.

Crowd of People Black and White Photo

Jesus saw so many things wrong with the world he was born in. He saw women being treated poorly, he saw children being thrown out on the streets, the sick battered. The injustices Jesus saw infuriated him and we can see that passion in this gospel reading.

Jesus calls us to fight these injustices in our world that still exist today and he calls us to fight them with passion! We are called not to peacefully watch on as the world around us suffers, but to instead intervene and tell the world that this isn’t on and to be the change-makers the world needs!

 

Be ready for action!

This weeks gospel calls us to action. Jesus tells his disciples to be dressed for action and to have their lanterns lit. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. If the homeowner knew what hour the burglar would break into the house, wouldn’t the homeowner be awake and ready for action?

Broken Glass

But what does this all mean? Be ready for action and defending our house against homeowners?

My father told me many years ago that this reading was about working hard all the time. Bosses would tell this to their employees to let them know that they should always be working hard whether the boss is in the room or not. But like always, Jesus is asking more of us at this time.

Two Person Shaking Each Others Hands

Jesus was a man of his time. Servants were seen as the scum of society, so a lazy servant was the scum of scums. Servants were expected to always be hardworking, but of course, often they were not. The everyday person would work hard when a boss was around and slack off when they left, much like today with many people one would assume.

Jesus poses that all of us are servants in the workforce of God and that we should always be working hard and be ready for the lord. Often times this gospel reading has been viewed evidence of the second coming of Christ, but small old me sees a different message coming through to me.

Often times after Sunday mass, I come out and go “yep, that’s prayer and Jesus time over for now. I can do what I want and forget about it for a bit”. I think this reading is calling me to remember that our faith is simply not about going to mass but more about what we do after mass.

Brown Cathedral Interior

Going to church prepares us to live our lives in the way that Jesus wants. I see this reading reminding me that yes, Church is important but just as important as the majority of time spent outside mass.

God is always in the room, not just when I am at mass. God calls us to greatness constantly, and often the obstacles posed to us appear outside mass and these are the moments that Jesus says “Be ready for action”!

Make Yourself Rich in the Eyes of God

Last weeks Gospel reading really speaks to all of us, but especially those who value material things above all else.

Jesus told us a parable of a rich man who had so much crop that was harvested that he had to pull down old barns and build up new ones to fit it all in. This rich man had so much that he would be able to live comfortably for the years to come, but Jesus scorns him and says that he shouldn’t store up treasures for himself and instead make himself rich in the eyes of God.

Wooden Barn

What does this really mean though, make yourself rich in the eyes of God?

Rich, to be wealthy, to own lots, however, Jesus tells us to not hoard everything. Jesus goes on to tell us to not build more barns to house all our belongings. Jesus is asking us to be rich, but not materially. But what does this mean and where do we draw the line?

In our capitalist world, our society values ‘things’. We value nice cars, big houses, fancy dinners and all that jazz. We compliment those who get that fancy promotion, we throw extravagant parties throwing all the money we can to impress our friends and we job hunt based on how much we are going to be paid.

Red Alfa Romeo C4 on Road Near Trees

Jesus’ message seems to almost counter this belief entirely. However, I think Jesus speaks to us a little more deeply than we first see.

I think a fantastic example of this is Christmas. Often times at Christmas, we are constantly rushing around, what presents do we buy, how are we going to feed everyone coming over, busy busy busy!

Christmas Tree With Baubles

Our intentions are pure. We want to make sure people are fed and that we get gifts for those that we love. However, in the rush of it all, we forget the true meaning of Christmas. We forget the joy of the birth of Jesus, we forget to tell those around us that we love them and we forget to slow down and take it all in.

Our sin isn’t hoarding too many treasures, it is placing the importance of ‘things’ above the most important things of all: Love, family, friendship and God.

Jesus tells us that we will never be happy if we keep chasing material goods and we need to chase the important things in our lives.

So rather than fill up your life with material treasures, what can you do to fill yourself up with the most important things in your life?

 

“Ask and it will be given to you”

But will it?

When I was a kid and I heard God was a magical man in the sky that I could pray for anything I wanted, I decided I liked this Jesus business. I started enjoying going to Church and got very excited for the short time after communion. I was told by my father that this was “prayer time”.

Brown Book Page

I was very excited! I got on my knees and naturally, prayed for all the important things in life. I prayed for a Nintendo 64, a pet dragon, all the Lego I could carry and donuts for breakfast the next morning. As could be expected, 6 year old Thomas was quite disappointed the next morning when there was no baby dragon waiting for him. “Not even the donuts!” I said “Surely, donuts aren’t that hard to create God!” I thought to myself.

Gray and Teal Animal Skeleton Wall Decor

I was convinced that the reason I didn’t get these things was because I didn’t pray hard enough. So the next week I prayed and concentrated with all my might, but alas, once again, not a donut or dragon in sight. I asked and it was not given to me.

Over time I have come to realize that God doesn’t work like my 6 year old self thought. So then, when we are reading Luke’s gospel this week, how does Jesus saying “Ask and you shall receive” make any sense in our lives.

My 6 year old self found this out the hard way as many of us do. When we ask for things from the spirit, often times it seems like it isn’t answered.

Person Playing Brown Guitar

One time I was hanging out with my good friend Tim. He was playing the guitar and I was watching on, admiring his playing and I said “Man, I wish I could play guitar”. Tim laughed and responded by saying “Sure mate, if you really wanted to, you would have picked up a guitar and started practicing”.

Tim was right. I had every chance to learn to play, but never tried to pick it up. The next day I prayed that God give me persistence and strength, I went out and bought a guitar and have started practicing.

I had all the tools there to do what I wanted, yet I wasn’t willing to go and do the hard yards myself. Often times as well, asking someone for something can be hard, particularly for those of us who are quite introverted. When was the last time we were vulnerable enough to ask the people around us for something we really needed, but we were too proud or scared to ask?

Two Men Running On Concrete Road

God gives us all the tools around us to receive what ever we want (Cept for dragons probably). Sure, some of us have to work harder than others to get there, sometimes we get lucky and sometimes we don’t. Its up to us to be vulnerable and ask for what we need from God, the people around us and then put in the hard yards to get there.

God is always more than happy to open the door for us, all we have to do is walk through. Sometimes that walk is tough but then again, anything worthwhile is going to be that way and God will always be there to give us that helping hand.

A pet dragon would still be pretty cool though.

 

YOUTHINK Whats going on with the youth!

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Hi Everyone! It seems like term 2 just started but we

have already had such a loaded time within our youth
ministry!
For our first Friday Night Live of the term, we had Trish
from Footsie Photos come out and tell us her amazing
story of perseverance and how she managed to get
through her life being born with no arms. Her inspiring
story will continue to be an enlightening experience for
us!
Our second Friday Night Live that just went by was also
very exciting! We had an amazing time playing games and
eating great food. Our younger group (Grades 6-8) did
some really fun teamwork activities, while our older
group (Grades 9-12) did some awesome and insightful
stuff with our amazing leader Ben. Our next Friday Night
Live is on the 24th of May and the one after that will be at
Lazer Zone on the 14th of June!
Our young adult program (18+) is going really well this
year! We have had some great sessions, particularly our
last session with Ray Sanchez who talked about who
Jesus was and how we can be Jesus to those around us.
Our next Vivo will be on the 19th of May.
We are starting up a new ministry, Brawn! It is for
anyone aged 16 to 30 and is a fitness-focused faith group
that looks at the readings for the week before doing
some sort of fitness activity ranging from beach trips,
park runs and sports!
Our leadership team with people from grade 10 all the
way up to 25 years old has also had a wide range of social
activities ranging from seeing Avengers Endgame to
going to Flip out!
If any of this interests you and you want to be a part of
our youth ministry in any way, please don’t hesitate to
contact us through email, phone or our facebook!

The Prodigal Son: A message of love and understanding

Last week we heard the reading of the Prodigal Son, which is perhaps my favourite reading in the Bible. It is a story that is stuck in the traditions of the time, yet to this day we can draw so much out of the story.

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The story basically goes like this: A son says to his father “Dad, I want my inheritance now before you die”. The father says “So be it” and gives his son half of what he owns. The son goes and spends his money recklessly, going out on the town, hosting parties, impressing women and so on. Eventually, his money runs out and is desperate. He ends up working for a pig farmer and one day is feeding the pigs and thinks to himself “Wow, these pigs eat better than I do, I wish I was one of my father’s servants, for they eat better than me”. So the son then sets off to go back to his father, and to beg his forgiveness and prays that his father will allow him to be a servant for him. When the son is very close to his home, the father runs out to the son and kisses him. The son says “Father, please let me be your servant, I have wronged you and do not deserve to be your son, let me serve you”. The father dismisses this and says “Nonsense, you are my son and I love you, welcome home!” The father then directs his servants to fetch his son clothes and to slaughter the cow they had been fattening, there was to be a feast.

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Now the father’s other son, who had been working tirelessly and been supportive of his father was very angry. He couldn’t understand why his father would allow his son who took half of what he owned back into his house. He said to his father “Father, why would you allow him back after all he has done to you, send him back out!” but the father said, “Your brother had died, but now he has been reborn”.

The story itself is rooted in old Jewish ways of thinking. The idea of asking for your inheritance before your father had passed was a great dishonour, you were basically saying, “I can’t wait for you to die” or “I wish you were dead”. The son who left showed great dishonour in this way and then furthered it by wasting his money on sinful things such as prostitutes and excessive gluttony.

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The Father also goes against tradition. The idea of the father running out to greet his son would have been shocking. People of importance didn’t run, they walked, slowly, people run to them to show respect. The act of the father running out to his disgraced son showed that his father didn’t care about his status or pride. The father disregarded tradition, with only joy in his heart.

The idea of the son coming back to God and being accepted translates into Non-Jews coming to God and being accepted. The ‘good son’ who stayed with his father, is the Jew who doesn’t understand why God is accepting the non-Jew. The cow being killed symbolises Jesus Christ being sacrificed for all, including the non-Jews of the world and in a time where the divide between the Jews and Non-Jews was an issue, this story showed the world that God loves ALL of us and that Jesus died for ALL of us, not just the Jews.

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Nowadays I like to think that the same message holds true but in a different context. I like to look at the example of someone coming in late to mass. Often times we look at someone come in late and think poorly of them when in reality, just like those who are there early or there on time for mass, we are coming to God and he loves us all just as much.

For the youth of today, sometimes many youths miss mass or may not even come to mass. They do, however, pray, come to worship events or youth groups, do good things in the community, they come towards God, but not in the way that might be in a traditional Catholic sense. The story of the Prodigal Son shows us that God loves each and every one of us and that no matter what we have done, there is ALWAYS a place in his house for each and every one of us because God loves us all so much that he gave his son for ALL of us.

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The story calls for us to act with unconditional love in our lives. God is asking us to love openly and freely, to run out into the field without hesitation when someone wrongs us, to forgive them and to celebrate their return to us. While we can all often be the son who holds back their love and holds grudges against those who have wronged us, we are called to a deeper understanding of all those around us and to be the one who runs out into the field, unrelentingly and to love ALL those around us.

Image result for son returns home

Turn the Other Cheek

The reading this week is one of the most quoted of all time. Turn the other cheek it says, implying that if someone strikes us, we should turn our cheeks and let them strike the other one and this always confused me. My brother and I would often get into fights and I sure as hell wasn’t going to turn the other cheek, I liked the older Hebrew saying “an eye for an eye”, if he hit me, I was going to try hit him harder. As human beings, we need to feel a sense of justice, we want to feel things are fair.

When I’m working as youth coordinator here, I see this all the time with the kids we work with. “He has the ball, he won’t share it”, “She got more food than me” “they got coke, I only got Fanta”, and sometimes I think, just take what you’re given! But then I remember myself saying those same things to my Dad when it looked like my brother got more ice cream.

From a little kids perspective, when someone gets a little more ice-cream, instantly they know it’s not fair, it’s ingrained that things have to be fair. Kids see a very surface level of what’s fair and what’s not fair.

In the youths Vinnies program, there was a little boy whose father had left him and his mother was in a really poor financial situation, so much so, that all he got for his birthday was a single $2 sundae from Maccas. Now I heard about this while we were on our Vinnies camp, so I decided to give the boy my plate of desert because I knew how much he appreciated it. Now when I did that, the girl beside him launched into a rage “Why didn’t you give it to me” she screamed! “That’s not fair”.

I guess it wasn’t fair, but as we go through life, I think we all come to a realisation that life isn’t fair. Sometimes we are dealt a poor hand, whereas others get the full house. So when I hear Jesus say “Turn the other cheek,” I think he is trying to tell us this.

When someone is trying to cut me off on the road, I could refuse to let them in, slam my horn and hurl abuse at them. Or I could turn the other cheek, perhaps they are really late for work and need the money, whereas I’m just too proud to let them in.

When Jesus calls us to turn the other cheek, I don’t think he is saying we should let ourselves be beaten up by our brothers and enemies. I think Jesus is calling us to be more understanding, to be kinder people, with compassionate hearts who do our best to understand and help not just our friends, but ALL people around us!

 

New year, new me?

New year, new me, you hear people say. “Last year, I drunk too much”, “Last year, I didn’t do enough exercise”, the list goes on. We have this idea that as the new year passes, we have a new opportunity to begin our lives anew and start again. We clean out our cupboards, we sign up for that gym membership and we might even promise to pray more, but why?

As an occasional gym goer, I always refuse to go to the gym at the start of the year. Why you may ask? Its because of all those people who tell themselves they are going to get fitter and completely change their bodies to be a new healthy version of themselves. Within a week, I am back into the gym with all of the regulars who have signed up for some time, with none of the newcomers around. The people who stick around are not looking for dramatic change, but instead, opt for slow constant improvement.

If we look towards Jesus and his stories in the Bible we can see this idea of being reborn and being born anew. Jesus would ask rich men to give away all their wealth in a bid to be one with him, at which they would hang their heads low and run back to their mansions. We do, however, see big changes occur in those who take the simplest of actions. For example; the woman who touched the cloak of Jesus, the disciples choosing to listen to Jesus and the washing of feet. We see people who make these small improvements, receive the praise of Jesus.

So what would Jesus say to people who say “new year, new me?” Who knows, but I think he might say something like good luck and then letting out a wry chuckle, how about, new year, better me? We know that Jesus made us, and that often time our actions take us further away from Jesus, so why would we want to become something new, when what we ask for is right there? The closer we come to Jesus, the closer we come to ourselves and we can do this all the time by opting for slow, constant improvement.

The insignificance of the birth of Jesus, what does it mean for us?

Nowadays, we remember Jesus as the pinnacle of what human beings can be at there best. But if we look back at the time of Jesus, we can see a very different story.

For any fans of Monty Python, there is a scene in The Life of Brian, which for those of you who don’t know, is a bit of satirical look at the life of Jesus, and there is a scene where this huge crowd of people are asking to see the Messiah and Brian’s mother says “He’s not the messiah, he’s just a naughty boy!”.

We don’t often think about it, but Jesus was baby at some point, he wasn’t always a wise man who went around the place healing everyone and doing his party trick of turning water into wine. Jesus was very special but also fully human.

Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger and while we all know he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, there is nothing extravagant about his birth. Yes, there were Angels and in some other gospels some other things happen such as the great star and the wise men, but overall a lot of what is said in this story really isn’t that exciting. But still, every year we have nativity scenes. So, why do we do this?

Its because we know what Jesus will become. The story of Jesus birth at Jesus’ time I assure you would not have been a sell out at all! We know what will happen, the little boy who is Jesus rises from the bottom and saves humanity. The ultimate underdog, the real O.G.

When we think about it, the majority of us also have had seemingly insignificant births. We go to the hospital, or we are born at home, just like Jesus, none of our births would be top sellers at the box office. But also like Jesus, we have the potential to rise up and be truly amazing. Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, but that’s just the start of the journey, without everything else that followed, Jesus’ birthday would have been forgotten a long time ago.

Just like Jesus, the important part about us is not where we come from, but what we can become. Christmas and the birth of Jesus’ remind us of this and how no matter how insignificant we may seem, just like Jesus we can rise up and change the world for the better, each of us can be an every day Jesus with our actions.