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When we come together as God’s family


Family reunions and other such events gather people together. At such gatherings acquaintances are rekindled, stories are swapped, relationships are deepened, photos are taken, promises about catching up soon are given, identities are deepened.

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Some come willingly, others more reluctantly. Once people get to the gathering they often overcome the initial inertia and enjoy the experience.

Often there is a reason which occasion such events, other times it is the sheer joy of coming together that draws people together.

Food, story, connection, identity, belonging, meaning – all are essential elements which are the life blood of such gatherings.

Our third Diocesan Assembly (June 14 and 15) bore all these elements. That weekend (June 16 being the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time) at the Eucharist, we listened to two parables of the Kingdom of God. It was providential and most apt that as God’s Holy People we listened to these readings, for to me it provided a great way of reflecting on what our Archdiocesan family gathering the previous two days had been all about.

The COVID-19 pandemic has, and sadly continues to, show us how something so small that it is invisible to the eye can grow rapidly and exponentially into a destructive force that consumes all our attention and resources, as individuals, parishes, communities, schools, nations and as a world.

The Gospel from that Sunday asked the same question we asked at the Assembly, What can we say the kingdom of God is like?

The parables heard that weekend offered a counter-image to this destructive experience of COVID. The parables described how the kingdom of heaven emerges from something almost invisible to the eye and grows exponentially, offering us sustenance, a treasure worthy of all our attention and resources.

I think about the ordinariness of the task in the Gospel: a farmer going about his business of sowing. The ordinariness of the task invites us to see signs of the kingdom of heaven in our day-to-day lives; to recognise that it is emerging in our very midst. This becomes an invitation to us to cultivate the practice of seeing God’s work among us.

This was the work of the Assembly. This is the continual work of our parishes and schools, our communities and agencies, it is this that describes our mission and purpose as God’s Holy People. It is this that keeps us from becoming over ideological or overly inert. It allows us to keep God in the centre and allows us to live in communion.

A faithful life, a life of faith, cultivates in us a sense of wonder. A sense of wonder that not only looks but looks expectantly. Our Assembly challenged us to dare to see again the hand of God at work among us. It challenged us to look expectantly, for if we do not expect to see something we can surely miss it.

In the reading of the parables of that Assembly weekend a tangibleness of the kingdom of heaven is revealed where each of the parables touches on images found elsewhere in the Gospel:

The parable of the mustard seed calls to mind the parable of the sower, but rather than focus on the soil or the seed, it focuses on the shrub that emerges, sturdy enough to house the nests of birds. Birds also receive God’s care in Matthew 6:26: Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Lent, Easter and now Ordinary Time invites us to more deeply recognise that God has planted an indestructible seed of life in each one of us, and that our destiny is to live with God forever. Seeds are designed to grow. Jesus taught in the parables of the mustard seed and of the leaven that God’s Kingdom grows in a stunning, silent and significant way. Might we miss it if we don’t listen?

The Diocesan Assembly and the parables that accompanied it remind us that those seeds must grow, however they might start from humble beginnings. The call of the Assembly is to ‘Dream Big, Start Small, Build Deep’. These are wise practices that flow from principles Jesus taught in this parable.

Let us then be encouraged to journey together knowing that God is ever at our side. Let us not be afraid to start small and not be pressured to immediately produce spectacular or dramatic achievements. Let us also patiently go deep into the lives of people we serve. One day, we will all see that mustard seed of the love that we plant will blossom into fruitfulness.

During the Assembly a person gave me a copy of the following words of St Oscar Romero, which might well give us pause for reflection and encouragement as we journey together on the way.

God is good, good indeed.


We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is totally complete.
No statement says all that could be expressed.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No reconciliation brings absolute perfection.
No pastoral visit brings complete wholeness.
No program ever accomplishes the church’s mission and no set of goals and objectives include everything.

This is what we are about:
We plant the seeds that will one day grow.
We water the seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realising that, it may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, and an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders.
We are ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

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