JOY and love are irresistibly attractive, says Fr Ken Barker, who is founder of the Missionaries of God’s Love and author of a new book The Way of Jesus: a reflection on the Beatitudes.
In a world desperately seeking happiness, Fr Barker’s book is a great guide to experiencing lasting joy and love.
The book, launched recently in St Thomas the Apostle Parish, Camp Hill, is intended to serve as an encouragement for Catholics wanting to bear witness to an increasingly aggressive, secular world – speaking the truth in love.
Easy to read and filled with stories that speak to the heart, readers from a range of backgrounds will be touched.
While Fr Barker (pictured with his new book) is a scholar, he is a man of the people and this comes to light as he provides clarity on the often-misunderstood beatitudes.
In the chapter on Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3), he advises that this is about a condition of the heart; it is not describing a socio-economic group.
A personal encounter with Pope Francis, saints and saints’ lives, as well as Fr Barker’s experiences with people in Australia, Uganda and the Philippines inspired the book.
At the Brisbane launch, Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary vice-rector Fr Adrian Farrelly praised the book as a resource for our time.
He shared his hope for the book to be read widely and for people to know the eight beatitudes as they know the Ten Commandments.
Fr Farrelly is not alone in his praise, Canberra Archbishop Christopher Prowse says the book is inspiring as it challenges people to go beyond themselves to be a genuine disciple in an increasingly complex world.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said The Way of Jesus was both traditional and contemporary, solid and refreshing.
“In a violent world there is a need for a revolution of tenderness,” he said.
The book, Fr Barker’s eighth, was also warmly received from many attending a Missionary of God’s Love retreat day at St Thomas’, Camp Hill.
The words resonated with retreatants who serve as prison chaplains or visit the forgotten in nursing homes, as well as the ever-faithful hospitality ministers pouring tea and coffee (blessed are the merciful, Matthew 5:7).
This simple but profound book is not surprising, given Fr Barker’s background: 30 years ago he founded the contemplative and charismatic MGL order.
Fr Barker and his religious brothers and sisters are not afraid to be present to the vulnerability and brokenness of the world, whether it’s in the sanitised bubble of suburbia or people living off a rubbish dump in Manila.
They minister with loving attentiveness to people from broken homes and to people with no homes.
And while they preach, they do not “preach at” people; rather, they speak from an understanding of their own vulnerability and knowing God’s love.
Fr Barker cherishes being a priest – the Eucharist, preaching, seeing his brothers ordained, and sitting with people who trust him with their stories.
He is not afraid to weep with those who weep (blessed are those who mourn, Matthew 5:4).
Given this, it is not surprising when Fr Barker is asked what he hopes to say at the sum of his days on earth, he quotes Jesus’ words at the Last Supper: “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do (John 17:4).”
Indeed, reflecting on the beatitudes can guide all of us in our work, whether a manager, teacher, mother, father, religious, youth minister, aunty, labourer or bishop.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:3-11).”
By Clare Burns