“My child, if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal. Be sincere of heart, be steadfast, and do not be alarmed when disaster comes. Cling to him and do not leave him, so that you may be honoured at the end of your days. Whatever happens to you, accept it … be patient since gold is tested in fire… Trust him and he will uphold you…” – Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 2:1-6
THE wisdom of Sirach was prophecy of his time, and yet, appearing as it did as the First Reading on February 26, it was prophetically timely considering the shattering news that rocked our Church and nation that same day.
First and foremost, we pray for and extend love to the victims and families of the atrocities; our thoughts and prayers are with them.
Our thoughts and prayers are also with the numerous good members of the clergy and religious orders, the genuine shepherds of our parishes and dioceses who are doing their best, day in and day out to fulfil the will of God in their lives and pastor to their faith communities.
There is no doubt that our Church is in crisis and Catholics are feeling the spiritual trauma, heartbreak and grief of these shattering events.
Sadly, it is highly likely that further damaging news will be forthcoming.
There are Catholics who express that their faith is sorely tested and challenged.
Others express their dissatisfaction with the institution of the Church, stating that Church leaders are not listening to their flocks and that any trust they had in the institution has been lost.
Still others have taken steps to withdraw financial and volunteer services to the institutional Church. Yes, we are certainly being tested.
It’s not something we can ignore, nor is it something that will just go away.
It is a time for us to stand up and stand strong as Catholics.
We need to talk about these issues and others that impact on our faith; we need to have conversations, to engage with and remind our clergy that we are the Church.
We have the challenge of making the Church a home to all.
As Catholic lay leader Francis Sullivan says: It is time for a new term of engagement between Catholic laity and the institutional Church.
St Pauls says: “After all, we do share in God’s work …” (1 Corinthians 3:9)
The author of Sirach calls upon us, in this time of crisis, to be sincere, heartfelt, steadfast – it’s about commitment, faith, trust, perseverance, patience, understanding, wisdom and surrender.
The Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) tells us that serving God will involve hardship.
Yet, we are promised that the love of God will bring us through all difficulties to a share in the resurrection of Jesus, if we but surrender ourselves to the Father.
Falls are inevitable. We are flawed human beings.
Author Wayne Dyer said, “… every spiritual advance I’ve made was preceded by some sort of fall … These low points actually provide the energy needed to make a shift in direction …”
In looking back at my own life, I see where falls that occurred led to major changes, to a stripping away of the old to gain the new, resulting in a life full of purpose.
As it is for me as an individual, so too it can be for the Church.
The grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit are all we need.
“(God) gave them a heart to think with.” (Sirach 17:6)
Now there’s a teaching.
To ponder the wisdom of God in giving us a heart to think, adds weight to the concept of listening with the ears of the heart.
Jesus was fond of saying that “anyone who has ears ought to listen”.
It puts the heart at the core of our relationship with God – as not only a place of thinking, but also as a place of hearing.
Thought is the place of revelation.
As part of the Listening and Dialogue stage for the Plenary Council 2020, Australian Catholics have been urged, over recent months, to consider: What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?
It seems to me this same question could now be addressed to the current crisis.
St Paul says, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually part of it” (1 Corinthians 12: 27-28).
That tells us that we all have a role to play and now is the time to stand strong, hold fast to the faith, trust in God and buckle up.
After all, God is in the Driver’s seat.
Come Holy Spirit of this great South Land. Treasure life.