Welcome back to a new school year… when we begin anything there is always a sense of anticipation of what the year may hold but we are also jolted back into the routine of our lives, both as teachers and students.
In the Gospel this week we hear of how Jesus healed a deaf man, not spectacularly as a show in front of the crowd but quietly in private telling him to say nothing to anyone about it. The Gospel says “He makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak” and our theme this week has been on equality.
We are called to hear and also to speak out in our lives individually and as part of a Christian community.
This summer I had the privilege of going with fifteen of our students to Uganda and working with two great charities in Kampala. One was Cricket Without Boundaries which uses Cricket to teach young people about HIV and AIDS awareness and health care. The other charity was Uganda Hands for Hope which is a charity that provides food, health care and education for the most vulnerable in Namuwongo slum. To see the transformational effect of the power of education is simply inspirational and I hope in some small way we contributed to their work in some small way.
Having had this experience we are compelled to speak out and strive for equality and be a voice for the most vulnerable. For the first time we have seen with our own eyes and listened with our own ears, just as we heard in the Gospel account. We need to “loosen our tongues” as the man healed did and speak out.
So at the start of our term let’s remember a few things;
- We are truly blessed to have the most basic things in our lives – a home, food and family. Let us gives thanks for this each day as we wake up in this privileged position.
- Education transforms people’s lives and having opportunities for this can help us cherish this. Working in education has a deeper moral purpose than just doing “the job at hand”. Could you be the person to make this transformation by sponsoring a child to go to school and have this opportunity?
- We are compelled to speak out and make a difference in the world in some small way.
I hope you have a year that is enriching in every way.
In the Gospel account this week Jesus gives his Jesus gives the disciples some advice about how to go about their mission in the world – in essence He tells them to travel light and trust in God.
As we approach the end of a really busy and challenging year we can take a lot from this. You could argue that our theme would be better suited for the start of the school year but perhaps it challenges us to remember that discipleship and faith don’t have time off for the school holidays!
I am sure that many people are looking forward to a well earned break. There is a deep-rooted satisfaction when we have given everything to something and I hope you can feel this in whatever you have been doing – learning, teaching or leading.
We are called and challenged to build up the “Kingdom of God” each and every day. Jesus said to his disciples “Go out and spread the Good News” and at the end of Mass we hear the priest say “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”. This should resonate as a challenge and inspiration to us to take our faith into the world.
We are really proud of our students who left for Uganda yesterday to volunteer with two great charities;
Cricket Without Boundaries
Uganda Hands for Hope
They truly will come back challenged, changed and inspired to find ways to live out their lives to benefit others.
At the end of the school year we give thanks especially for the students and staff who are leaving us and are grateful for their part of being in the St Paul’s family.
A few questions for us at the end of the year…
- How have I helped others get closer to God this year?
- What have I been most grateful for this year?
- For those who are returning: What will I strive to do better when I get back in September?
- For those who are moving on: How will I take what I have experienced at St Paul’s to do good elsewhere?
In the Gospel account this week we hear about the celebration of the birth of John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus. We know that he was to go on to prophesy the life of Jesus and “prepare the way” for his life. He was chosen in his mother’s womb for this unique ministry, life and ultimately his sacrifice.
This challenges us to reflect on what we are called “to be”.
One of the joys of life may well be discovering the person we can become – not merely the job we want to do – but the quest to find fulfilment and happiness. I have long believed that we are happiest when we do something that intrinsically benefits others.
So what can we learn from this in the coming week?
- Take the time to listen to God’s call for you.
- Reflect on the direction life takes us and how we can live out and discover our purpose.
- Look at how we can live out our faith in a meaningful way.
In the busy lives we live it is easy to miss the point or to forget the reasons we do what we do or feel the pressure to go with the crowd. We should stop and listen to God and as Saint Theresa of Calcutta says just “do it anyway”.
In the Gospel account this week we hear the parable of the Mustard Seed. In this story I can picture Jesus reaching down to pick up the tiny seed to bring His story to life and make it memorable for the people who were listening – surely He was simply doing what any great teacher would do to hold His audience and help them remember the moral of the story in a creative way.
What stands out to me is a really simple lesson about having trust, faith and belief in the power of potential. Jesus said that the mustard seed would grow into a great and strong tree and we are asked to spot this potential in those around us.
We are asked to help people to grow and flourish in their gifts, talents and faith. As teachers and educators we have the opportunity to build people up and help “find their greatness”.
As usual we are caught up in the euphoria of an England win at the World Cup. This is only the third time for the team to win the first match in history. This in turn leads us to jumping around in our sitting rooms and shouting at the TV! I listened earlier today on the radio to proud teachers speaking about the boys they had taught and what they’d given back as the “superstars” to the schools that they belonged to.
I really loved the Nike clip from the London 2012 Olympics challenging us to overcome our prejudices and see greatness as something all of us can achieve.
In the simplest way I believe that God makes us all great – the journey in life is discovering the depths of these gifts and talents and how we can use them in some way.
A few reflections for the week ahead;
- How do we build people up to reach their potential rather thank knocking them down?
- What can we do to inspire, support and nourish people to find their greatness?
- How can we plant the seed of faith in our lives, and in those we meet, to allow it to grow into something great?
There is a great joy in spotting potential and seeing it flourish… so let us all this week rejoice in planting the seed and having faith in God’s plan for us to fulfil all we have been given. We too can build people up to doing great things and making a real difference to the world we live in, this in itself gives great fulfilment. Enjoy the journey!
Over the last two weeks we have been reflecting on the feast of Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ) and a focus on the theme of division. In the Gospel account we hear of how Jesus was accused of having an “unclean spirit in him”. At the time of Jesus’ life there was a belief that physical suffering was due to sin or wrong-doing and often in the healing miracles of Jesus we hear about him saying “your sins have been forgiven”. But what does this mean today?
Jesus challenges us to show healing in our relationships and with God. We are called to help people become “whole again”. It may recognise that we have spiritual, physical and psychological needs and aspects to our personality, happiness and welfare. This is most highlighted to me when we think of the importance of us understanding and supporting those who face issues of mental illness, mental health and well-being.
On another level we sometimes face division in the world and feel overwhelmed by it but in reality we may need to look closer to home. We can find opportunities to heal our relationships personally and professionally even when it is challenging to do so. Taking the first step to mend a broken relationship is challenging but worth the risk and that first step.
If we are to be “one body” as a school, or Christian community, we need to invest time in ensuring we find ways to be people of faith. Living out faith in a meaningful way makes sense of Jesus’ challenge for us to live out faith in action.
So let us this week make a renewed promise to do this and accept the challenge to be the “body of Christ” in the world today and also create faith, justice and peace. A few questions worth considering…
- How can we offer love and forgiveness to those around us?
- What can we do to build unity and understanding in our relationships?
- How can we put Jesus at the centre of our lives and community?
I hope in the week ahead you get the opportunity to bring Christ back to the centre of our lives and also feel whole again.
I am very tempted to be lured into a full focus and reflection on religion, film and the media. Whether we talk about Yoda challenging Luke to “feel the force” or Neo breaking out of the Matrix…
There is however something amazing about the last few weeks of our journey in the Christian year. We celebrate two events in quick succession that challenge us to think about what it means to be a disciple in the modern world.
Firstly we mark Jesus’ Ascension – essentially following the resurrection we hear of His return to God with a few simple messages left for us. I believe two of these are prominent in my mind;
- “Go and spread the Good News (Gospel) throughout the world.”
- “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Maybe these are simple messages but living them out is where the challenge lies.
- What does it truly mean to bear witness as a disciple in 2018?
- How can we learn to love one another as Jesus or God loves us?
We need to take time to think about what the “good news” means for us. How can we express and live out our faith in a way that shines the light of Christ on each part of our lives and is witnessed those we meet, not in our words bit our actions. Even in our most cherished personal relationships it is difficult to keep on simply loving one another when things get tough so we need to work really hard to love all those we meet, even those who are strangers to us, in some way.
So where can we start?
This weekend we marked the feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is often represented in powerful ways including the symbols of wind and fire, in some way uncontrollable forces to us. The story of Jesus’ disciples being inspired by the Holy Spirit and given the talents to preach His message is a great one for us. With God with us, the Holy Spirit beside us, we can achieve anything. People will hear and understand the message in a new and meaningful way.
So put simply my prayer is that we can set off on this journey of faith knowing that God inspires and guides us with the Holy Spirit. With this confidence and faith there is nothing we cannot achieve.
Let’s “feel the force” and be guided in all we do to commit to being disciples in any way we can, large or small.
And finally for those in need for their Star Wars or Matrix fix I have included a few clips below!!
Last week the theme of the week was “fruitfulness” in which we were challenged to remember to bind ourselves to our faith and do good work – ironically I didn’t manage to write a reflection so wasn’t very fruitful in that department so will try and incorporate the reflections this week instead.
Sometimes we may feel it is really challenging to love as a friend, parent, husband or wife. It is not the media image of “Valentines love” or a goodnight scene from the Waltons in family life but actually rolling our sleeves up and getting our hands dirty. Loving is most challenging when we have to do difficult things, when we have to forgive or do really difficult things.
The message in the Gospel this week is really simple – “Love one another as I have loved you”. Jesus teaches and shows us what this really means in His words and his actions. You can see this in His teaching, healing and ultimately His sacrifice for us on the cross.
What can we do to live this out?
- Show patience, love and forgiveness to those we meet.
- Never give up on someone who needs your love and support.
- Look for good in those around us rather than pointing out faults.
- Try and be an example of love in the world in our personal lives or professionally
So in the week ahead when we are challenged by something or given an opportunity simply look to love someone as God loves us – if we can do this imagine how much better and “fruitful” life can be.