In this weeks Gospel account we hear about how we are known and loved as individuals by God. Jesus tells us about the love of the shepherd for his sheep. The sheep would listen to the voice of the shepherd and follow him, they will never be lost and never stolen.
Maybe we learn something about the simple life of the shepherds and their sheep, ironically in Luke’s Gospel they were the first who had the birth of Jesus revealed to them. What can we take from these accounts?
The sheep were loved and cared for by the Shepherd. Someone who would be with them and care for their needs.
The Shepherd would look after their sheep and guide them in the right direction.
The sheep at times may wander off and get distracted and lost but would listen to the voice of the Shepherd.
A few things strike me in this reflection.
To stay safe we need to listen for the voice of the Shepherd, living a life close to God.
We need to trust in the Shepherd and listen for His voice – even when we stray God wants the best for all of us and will seek us out.
We can be like the shepherd to those around us. As teachers and parents we have the opportunity to simply look out for our sons, daughters and students.
So let us all know, love and cherish those around us so that they live secure in God’s love.
This weekend I think I have found my favourite reading in the Bible in the Parable of the Lost or Prodigal Son. It is probably one of the best known stories that Jesus told but one that teaches us so much about God’s love for us and how to love one another.
In essence we can all relate to the story’s main characters…
The younger son – at times we can become too focussed on ourselves and our own very basic needs. We can at time lose sight of anything beyond our own wants. We manage to convince ourselves that we need to be richer, more attractive, more popular. We can lose sight of getting the right balance in life and stray far from what God wants for us.
The longing Father – as parents especially we can share the pain of separation experienced by the loving father. When our children make mistakes or find it difficult to accept our guidance or love we can struggle to bring them close to us. Ultimately we try to offer our children unconditional love and forgiveness but in reality it is challenging to live this out. God is this loving father waiting for our return.
The jealous brother – we can sometimes feel resentful of the celebrations happening on the return of our brother. We can feel frustrated that there is a celebration when we have been loyal for all of the time. The father reassures us that we will always be close to him – God tells us simply that we must celebrate the return and forgiveness of others.
So a few questions for the week ahead.
If you took some time to think about it which of the characters would you be?
What can we learn from this account about how to love and forgive one another?
How can we ask God, and one another, for forgiveness when things go wrong?
Jesus’ teaching in its simplest forms can be summarised by two words – love and forgiveness. It is this which teaches us how to live and love one another just as God loves us.
Have a good week ahead and journey this Lent as we prepare for the Easter season.
So how is Lent going for you so far? Has it been a journey of change or challenged you to think in new ways or find time for one another or a space for prayer and God in your life?
Already I have to seek forgiveness as last week I failed in finding the time to write a short reflection on transformation following us marking the Transfiguration. Jesus was revealed as the longed for Messiah – a link to the past and a glimpse of the future.
This week we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation where Mary showed the purest discipleship and faith in simply saying yes to God’s call and plan for her. However daunting or challenging this would be she trusted God’s plan for her. At times people believe that Catholics are worshipping Mary as a god. In essence the reality is that we are asking Mary to pray, or intercede, on our behalf.
In the psalm this week we hear “Hear I am, Lord! I come to do your will.” What will this mean for you each day? Mary’s response was “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me.” This continued from the moment she heard of God’s call for her to standing at the foot of the cross in Jesus’ suffering and death.
Jesus’ teaching can be summarised with two words – love and forgiveness. If we want to be closer to God we need to show this love and forgiveness each day as friends, teachers or parents. In doing this we can live a life of faith and grow closer to one another and God. As we learn in the parable of the Lost Son the first step on the long walk home is simply to say sorry, to recognise how we can be more loving and more forgiving.
So what can you do this week?
How can we say “YES” to faith in our lives?
What can we do to be more loving and forgiving to one another?
How can we ask for forgiveness from one another and God?
Can you go to reconciliation as a sacrament to show this commitment and “walk lighter” experiencing God’s love and forgiveness?
We are challenged in the world we live in to meet hate with hate, force with force, division with division… in the Gospel account this week we can hear a very different message.
All of my great heroes teach the same thing – the only force that can defeat hate is simply love. I look to Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Jesus to show us the true power of love.
We can see that even those who have suffered greatly find a new freedom and liberation in being able to love and forgive – in some way it sets them free from this persecution or suffering.
We as teachers, leaders, parents and simply humans, are called to act with compassion in all we do. We can make or break someone’s day by simple words and actions.
A few thoughts for the week ahead…
What do we find challenging about the challenge to love?
Is it sometimes difficult to love others or even ourselves?
What are the benefits of living out Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness in the modern world?
I hope in small ways we can transform our lives by acting with love one small step at a time.
“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.
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.