Part of our challenge in life is looking to discover what we can do with our lives. In the Gospel this week we hear about how Jesus called the fishermen to follow him as his first disciples. He told them “put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch”.
Sometimes it is easy to think that this account is one step removed from us. Few us are living a simple life on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, by the lake. But the reality is that this call is directly to us – a simple message for us as normal people – “come and follow me and spread the good news”.
The challenge for us is to work out what this will mean for us now. We need to stop and think about what the call of the first disciples says to us. It is clear that at times they didn’t listen or found it difficult to do the right thing. When it came to the crunch they ran off and their faith deserted them when He needed them most. On one level for me this simply makes them human, makes them fallible. This helps us see that discipleship is not this impossible ideal but one that we can all engage with.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s listen for God’s call for us each day and simply follow in love, trust and faith to do our best to live it out in some simple way.
What will it mean for you to put out into the deep?
What will your catch be?
What will we have to sacrifice to achieve this?
So in the week ahead let’s try and be disciples, accepting in our humanity that we will fail at times, but willing to journey forwards together.
“To provide an innovative, inspirational and Christian education which challenges, nurtures and informs our students to enable them to take their place in a changing world.”
St Paul’s Catholic College Mission Statement
In November we had the opportunity to take a step back from the day to day hustle and bustle of school life. In all honesty each week flies by and I cannot believe we are almost half way through this academic year as we approach the February half-term break.
When we worked together on our INSET (training) day we reflected on our Catholic ethos and well-being for staff and students. At the start of the day we had the opportunity to be challenged to think what it meant to be living our lives within a Catholic community. This was led by James Kibble, Executive Headteacher, at Salesian School in Chertsey. I am blessed to be able to say James is one of my closest friends, adopted as an extra brother. James articulated the Catholic vision for our schools in a compelling, warm, humorous and engaging way but also posed some very real and challenging questions to us.
I have tried to do some justice in reflecting on these questions over the subsequent months and we have finally come to the last question – how will we change the world?
In our mission statement it says that we are looking to achieve some great things which include;
an innovative, inspirational and Christian education
an education that challenges, nurtures and informs
an education that enables our students to take their place in a changing world
Whenever I consider this vision and mission I always feel we should finish by putting in brackets “no pressure”, the aspiration here goes far beyond the exam results or progress of our students and put simply asks us to take a responsibility, collectively and individually, for the happiness and success of the students in our care.
This could be seen as overwhelming but I believe we are called to play our small part, alongside their families, in supporting them to flourish and grow in such a formative part of their lives. We are asked to stick by them, through happy days and challenges, to help them to feel truly “known and loved”. One thing to never forget is that we are not taking this on alone and that God walks with us too.
Nobody can doubt that it feels like a very changing and, at times, uncertain world but when I have the privilege of being with young people every day I know we have a bright future. As Nelson Mandela said “education is the most powerful weapon in the world”. So a few thoughts for the week ahead…
What can we do to change the world in a small way each day?
What are the challenges that face young people each day?
What will we do to build community and the Kingdom of God in our work?
So in short – thanks to JK for the love, support and inspiration to consider these questions. Let us all embrace the opportunities to be world-changers in some small way each day.
Some people may believe that we value the obvious things that are important to us. The roof over our heads, the warm food on the table and the clothes on our backs.
Underlying it all we may truly take for granted and not realise how precious our freedom is. But where can we see this?
Our freedom of speech and thought
Our freedom to express our beliefs
Our freedom of religious practice
Our freedom of education
Our freedom from oppression and persecution
Our freedom of movement
Our freedom to vote in a democracy
In essence it is unlikely we wake up each day being grateful for these things. Jesus says He was sent to bring Good News to the poor, set the downtrodden free and give the blind sight. We are challenged to bring this same light and hope to the world we live in today if we truly live out the Christian message.
So in this week of Holocaust Memorial we can perhaps learn from the most painful aspects of our humanity that we should not stand silent when faced by division and injustice,
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
So this week…
How can we be grateful for the freedoms we have in our lives?
What can we do to mark holocaust memorial, not as a historical event, but an ever-present risk and reality in the world?
What can we do to challenge injustice, division and hatred especially in a time of change and turmoil?
Christians are called and challenged to bring light and hope, even to a time of darkness – if we do this we can truly call ourselves disciples and be living out the message of liberation and freedom that Jesus gives.
We are challenged in the most basic way to set off on a journey in life and explore and discover the person that God has created us to be – no pressure!
I am sure that all of us over time end up with some dodgy jobs along the way. My worst one was trying to sell costume jewellery door to door, or in reality to my Mum’s friends! This didn’t last long at all…
When we discover something that has a deeper purpose and meaning to us it suddenly all clicks and makes sense of who we are to become.
At the heart of it I found this in teaching, and more specifically living life as a teacher and leader in a Catholic community. It just simply made sense and inspired and fulfilled me to commit to something that permeates every aspect of my life.
Our challenge is to do the same thing for the students in our care and the people we meet. They too have been created for a definite purpose and sometimes our life takes a dramatic turn to find it. We only have to look at the example of St Paul whose feast we celebrate this week to see it!
A few questions to consider in the week ahead.
What do we most cherish and value in our lives?
How does this link to us living out our faith in some way?
What ways can we encourage young people to explore vocations to religious life, family life or the single life?
How can we find something that will make us truly happy and fulfilled?
I believe we are not alone on this journey, we have friends, family and loved ones around us but also have God quietly guiding us on this journey and if we stop long enough to listen we may hear amazing things.
It is easy in the modern world to think that everyone has simply “got it easy” compared to us. They may look like they find it easier to…
have lots of friends
have a great family
enjoy their job
be happy and fulfilled
But in the simplest sense of course this is an illusion. It is actually about much more than this. We have to learn, and maybe as parents and teachers, teach resilience. It can give us the fire to overcome the challenges that life will pose us with.
On a very simple level we can look at the image of Jesus to help us to do this.
We can truly learn something profound from the story of Christ. This week in the Gospels we mark Jesus’ baptism, the start of His public life and mission. In essence we already recognise that He is destined to die for us and rise again. On this journey He would face real suffering and challenge and yet He stuck with it and lifted Himself up again. Even on his final journey to crucifixion Jesus fell and Simon was pulled from the crowd to share the burden of the cross with Him.
A few questions we can take from this;
How can we try and build resilience in our lives?
What will we hold on to most when things are tough?
How we can reach out to others when they have fallen?
What can we do as parents and teachers to help young people be resilient?
What can we do to look out for those who may feel overwhelmed in some way?
If we can do some of these things the sunshine will burst through the clouds, the rain will clear and we will have a clear view ahead of us. In a small way this is what we are called to do as Christians, as disciples, as humans – simply to walk alongside one another and lift each other up.
Sometimes you just meet people who are great to be around. Someone who you want to spend more time with. They are magnetic and attractive in some way and make you feel confident and good about yourself. They “radiate” positivity, light and hope. In our heart of hearts this sounds like how we would all love to hear someone describe us.
In contrast you can at times come across people who are never content, happy or really fulfilled. They are never happier than when they get an opportunity to offload on someone else and share their woes and troubles. They may be the person you see and hope they don’t spot you or you have to try really hard to engage with or be nice to. At times there’s a risk that they simply suck the life out of people and the positivity around them.
In essence we are challenged in to ask the question “How do we share our energy?” For me this is deeper than just our relationships but actually asks us to think about where our energy, love, gifts and talents actually come from.
We are challenged as Christians to see God in one another and equally to be a reflection of God in some way as we celebrate a new year and the Feast of the Epiphany.
A few thoughts and questions for the week ahead…
What can you do to bring light, warmth, hope and faith to the people you meet today?
How can we look to inspire, engage and allow everyone to reflect God in some way, especially in education?
What can we do to catch ourselves in times we feel like we are dragging others down and in fact ask for support if we are struggling with anything rather than live our lives with a negative mindset (or heart-set!)?
So finally we ask God to bless and inspire us in 2019 to radiate faith, hope and love not just in the grand moments but in the simple day to day interactions with one another.
Have a happy, successful and fulfilling year ahead.
At the heart of what we are called to do working in education is the focus on helping people to fulfil their potential. It is always inspiring to see people flourish and find what they are truly “called to do”.
I believe that we find true happiness when we are doing something that means something to us. Some people may find this in their professional lives, their personal lives or volunteering in their local community. It is easy to fall into a trap in society by thinking that we will only be happier if we have more – the latest phone, a bigger house, a newer car, a more exotic holiday. In essence I think this may give us a temporary high but not one that is lasting in any meaningful way.
As Christians we may well talk about this as discovering our vocation or finding what God has created us to do in some way. Often this isn’t as simple as deciding in teenage life what our life’s work will be but in fact is a journey of real challenge and discovery.
As teachers, or parents too, we have a responsibility to think about how we can best support, develop and discover with young people who they have been created to be. This can be a daunting challenge and responsibility but also an amazing opportunity.
A few thoughts for the week ahead;
What can you do to encourage people to flourish, thrive and develop their potential?
How can we sometimes in fact do the opposite and without thinking set people back?
What small things can we do to show we are interested in helping people fulfil their God-given gifts and talents?
How can we take them time to help discern what we, or the young people we serve, become the person God has created them to be?
In doing these things I believe this will lead to finding deep rooted happiness and satisfaction – it sounds like a journey worth getting ready for this Christmas season.