Dear Passionist Family Group members and friends,
Well I am back at it – lovely meeting on Monday night with Plimmerton Parish PFG Coordinators. Next preparing for the photo presentation for the 35th anniversary. Newsletter for my local parish and our PFG one. I am now in Christchurch catching up on the relaunch for Christchurch West and will accompany Aileen and Murray Straight for a meeting with potential leaders and members of PFG’s. They are doing a great job – a great support to the Parish and myself as are all our regional and Parish Coordinators. Also catching up for a meeting with the Ashburton team and discuss relaunch.
It was a great catch up in Kingscliff Northern NSW with seven of the eleven siblings in attendance. I had not seen a couple of my siblings for 8-10 years. So, great to have this opportunity.
The constant that I continue to reflect on is that after 50 years, PFG people at Terrey Hills and all over Australia and NZ are still supporting laughing, caring, reaching out and being family to others. While older, they are so enthusiastic about their group and community. So, lets continue to be open and invite others in – as the gospel reiterates the challenge to “Go out and make disciples..” Service, compassion and openness to others are paramount.
Kind regards and blessings,
Scripture reflection: ‘Go, make disciples of all nations!’
Gladden us with holy joys, almighty God, and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving, for the Ascension of Christ your Son is our exaltation, and, where the Head has gone before in glory, the Body is called to follow in hope.
First reading: Acts 1:1-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 47
Second reading: Ephesians 1:17-23
Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20
Link to readings – click here
Forty days after the Resurrection, Jesus ascends to heaven. He ascends triumphant to sit at the Father’s right hand. For the disciples, their time of formation with him is over. How is their relationship with him altered?
The First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles gives an account of the Ascension. Jesus promises to send his Holy Spirit to be with his disciples, to fill them with his power, so that they can witness to him ‘to the ends of the earth.’ The Psalm emphasises Jesus’s triumph in his Ascension, and the whole Church sings in praise of the Lord who reigns over all.
The Second Reading also stresses Christ’s power. His Father has ‘put all things under his feet.’ That power is exercised for us, not only in the gifts of his grace, but also in the promise of eternal glories. Matthew’s Gospel account of the Ascension focuses on Jesus’s authority and his sending forth of the disciples to witness, baptise and teach. He promises to be with them ‘to the end of time.’
I may want to pray today that those who are struggling to find peace, feel God’s presence in their heart.
Jesus’ vision and PFG’s (Part 2) – Fr Brian Traynor C.P.
Jesus pointed out that God makes the sun shine and the rain fall on the just and unjust, so he learned to love the just an d unjust, including his enemies and those who persecuted him. His experience of his ‘abba’ (Dad) included the awareness that God was a loving ‘abba’ to every human being. ‘Abba’ expresses intimacy. It is a warm, unconditional and totally dependable love with which God loves and forgives all men, women and children.
Jesus compared God’s reign to that of a loving father who forgives his prodigal (reckless) son unconditionally. There is no retribution or punishment, no concern to hear what wrong his son has done. The father simply wants to celebrate with his family that they have been reunited. Jesus’ image of God’s kingdom was a happy loving household, not a conquering empire!
For this kingdom to emerge, it needs to begin from below, with the poor, sinners, lost and outcast. They can become sisters and brothers who care for and share with one another. To be a member of this family, Jesus challenged, one has to give up preference of one’s own particular family that excludes others. An exclusive love for one’s family is a form of group selfishness. The new community, Jesus promised will be made up of those who love one another. He knew not everyone will respond, but they are always invited. This kingdom is a present reality, not something we sit back and wait for. It has arrived among us. It is like a mustard seed that will grow into something bigger.
Jesus was considered a failure by the religious leaders of his time, and no doubt by many others, but his willingness to fail revolutionised the spirituality of the time, because his failure became a triumph. He taught that ‘anyone who saves/her or life will lose it, and anyone who loses her or his life, will save it”. If we are unwilling to give up our lives for others, we are already dead to God’s dream of life. When we give up our lives for others, we are truly alive.
It is obvious why Jesus could be considered a failure. He had been rejected by his neighbours, and some of his family thought he had gone mad. His disciples never seemed to understand his message.
To those who were devout he was irreligious; to the learned he was untrained; to the revolutionary zealots he was too idealistic and not anti-Roman. To the priests he was an interfering layman who threatened their authority; to the Romans he was a cause of unrest. In the world of that time, (not so different from the Middle East today) full of faction and intrigues, he eventually disappointed every group. He promised a great deal but he could not fulfil it in the way people expected. He had shown a glimpse of living another way, but with his death, it was finished. He was betrayed, abandoned, condemned, humiliated and defeated. He suffered the horrible death of crucifixion.
Throughout it all he virtually remained silent. He had said all there was to be said! His followers gathered in fear and remembered what Jesus had said and done. They could only be consoled by the fact that his dream could never have worked anyway. They talked of their former lives. Peter said “I’m going fishing”. He was going back to his old life.
What happened then? We can never know, but it transformed them. They knew that Jesus lived – that His promise was true. He was alive. Jesus told Peter that he was finished with fishing; now he was to be a shepherd (John 21:17).
Who is Jesus for us today ? Anyone today who hears Jesus’ voice hears the same invitation as those early disciples. It is a call to ‘Follow Me’. Our question is not ‘What are we looking for, but whom?’ Like Peter, once you believe in that call, you can never return to what you were doing before! For many people this has been their experience since belonging to a Passionist Family Group. They can never belong to the church in the same way they did before
Passionist Family Groups fit in clearly with Jesus’ vision. He dreamed of people belonging together. He dreamed of there being no outsiders . His vision was that God was like the parent of a family that included everyone. Living that vision is not just about monthly outings. It is about who we are and everything we do. It even includes issues such as climate change. We have a responsibility to take care of others and that includes ‘their’ planet. We have an opportunity to ‘make a difference’ and we have to think broadly about the implication of Jesus’ vision of a ‘family for all’. Where does this family live?
Matthew’s gospel sums up Jesus’ teaching of our love of God and neighbour with a drama much like a courtroom. The criterion of judgement for those who appear, is how they have treated their fellow human beings. There are no questions asked about their attitude to God, their faithfulness to Sabbath laws or any other laws or customs. They are asked ‘did you feed the hungry’, ‘did you welcome the stranger’, ‘did you visit the lonely’, ‘did you care for the sick’, ‘did you visit those in prison’?
This is how a person proves their love of neighbour. When a person has done these things… fed the hungry, welcomed the stranger, visited the lonely, nursed the sick, visited those in prison, clothed the naked, Jesus said “you did this to God”. He did say “it’s like you did it to God”. When a person has neglected to do these things, they have neglected to do them to God! St Paul was later to experience this when, in the midst of his persecution of early Christians he heard the voice ‘Saul. Saul, why are you persecuting Me’?
In the courtroom drama, the judge identifies with the victims who are helped or not helped. ‘Whatever you do to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do to me’! Jesus invites us to take on the identity of the great self of the human family. God is one with every human being and we are one with each other, whether we are aware of it or not. Members of an extended family feel the solidarity of kinship. Jesus extended this kinship beyond any limits. “You have heard that you must love your neighbour and ‘hate your enemy, but I say…”
We are one family, sharing one planet. Our ancestry is common. We belong together. If we see people as Jesus did, sisters and brothers, then we belong to each other. Jesus promoted the spirit of sharing by forming small communities who shared what they had in common. Judas held the common purse of Jesus’ community with ‘the twelve’. The rich young man was invited into this community, but he was not ready to share his wealth. The early Christian community got the ideas they had about sharing, from Jesus.
“All those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he/she possessed was their own, but they had everything in common.
There were no needy persons among them. From time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need.” (Acts 4:32-35).
We need one another. We need to help meet each other’s basic needs of belonging, love and friendship. If there is no one to share with and no one to help us, our growth will be stunted. That is why Jesus visited small town communities and called people to be family to one another. These communities were the local seeds of the emerging kingdom. It was in these communities that his followers discovered their solidarity with one another.
We will best come to know what it is to be treated with dignity, expect and appreciation if we treat others in the same way in small family communities. Then we can reach out more broadly in solidarity and love. It may seem that what we are doing in Passionist Family Groups is small, and some people can’t see we are doing anything significant at all. But we are building the kingdom, and the kingdom is like a mustard seed!
That seed was planted in St Anthony in the Fields’ Terrey Hills, fifty years ago. We salute Peter McGrath CP and his co-founders and all those from this small parish who gave witness to his vision and enabled it to spread so far, allowing people to discover a whole new meaning to their faith and spirituality.
Today many individual Passionist Family groups are filled with aged members who have been family to one another for over thirty years – some, for fifty years! Families do not abandon each other because of ageing. At such a time belonging and connecting is vital. We are also seeing an increasing number of migrant families wanting to belong. If we recognise that in helping others to belong, other important aspects of faith, ‘behaving’ and ‘believing’ will grow stronger. If we try to do this in the reverse order, the belonging will rarely happen.
For all the belonging in hundreds of Passionist Family Groups, we give thanks that the original vision has grown from that small seed to a large tree, that has given new life to so many people and to their parishes, enriched their faith and helped them see the simplicity and beauty of Jesus’ message.
Also, I wish to advise that on June 10, 2023 we celebrate 35 years of Passionist Family Groups in Paeroa 6pm Eucharist followed by Pot Luck dinner and on June 17 we celebrate 35 years for East Coast Bays. We believe this is a significant milestone that we commit to celebrating in June. My brother, Fr Brian Traynor has been invited out for these celebrations. He was there to begin these parishes 35 years ago along with Lynn and Rob Hill and many others who will be invited to join in on these celebrations.
Reminder: 5 Aims and Goals
- share & celebrate life & faith
- support one another (especially in need)
- reaching out to & include others
- build community/extended family
- show example to children
Jesus’ Vision & PFG’s (Part 1) Written by Brian Traynor C.P.
It is common to hear a person comment, “That wasn’t very Christian!” Normally this means something they did or said ‘wasn’t very nice.’ We often equate being like Jesus with being polite, not disturbing the peace, etc. There used to be talk of Jesus being ‘little Jesus meek and mild!’. What does it fact mean to ‘be like Jesus’? If we include some criteria from Jesus’ own challenge: ‘Love your enemies’, ‘turn the other cheek’, ‘welcome the stranger’, ‘forgive seventy times seven’. Jesus saw God present in the ‘little’ people, those who were maginalised and he called us to do the same. So what does it really mean to say “that wasn’t very Christian?’
When Jesus appears in John’s gospel, the first question he asks is ‘What are you looking for?’ This is in response to his finding two disciples of John the Baptist following him. When he finds Temple priests and other officials in Gethsemane about to arrest him, he asked them ‘Who you looking for?’ When he appears after his resurrection he asks this question again, ‘Who are you looking for?’ The progression of questions and their meaning is significant, and is an invitation to us, to search not for ‘something’ but for someone – Jesus.
Jesus grew up on the edge of an international city with people of different cultures and languages. Sepphoris was less than an hour’s walk from Nazareth. Because it was being rebuilt, it would have attracted tradesmen from a variety of places. Joseph and Jesus would have found plenty of opportunity to find carpentry work there. We note in the gospel that Peter is identified as being from Galilee because of his distinctive accent which was influenced by Greek speakers. Jesus would have spoken Aramaic, some Hebrew law and scripture, and probably a lot of Greek. At least some of his disciples (such as Simon, Andrew and Philip) would have been ‘Greek speakers’.
Jesus was baptised by and became an assistant to John the Baptist. After John was arrested, Jesus left the desert, gave up baptising and started a new ministry of preaching and healing in Galilee. He focused on the poor, the sinners, the sick; ‘the lost sheep’ of Israel. This was the result of contemplation and reading the signs of the times. Possibly Jesus had not preached in Galilee before because it was his own territory ( “prophets are not accepted”).
It is clear from Matthew 11 that Jesus was not doing what John had expected of him. Jesus began to criticise the law and associate with tax collectors and well known sinners. Proclaiming that such people were good in God’s eyes, went totally against Jewish teaching. Jesus refers to himself being derided as a ‘drunkard and glutton’ (Mt 11:19). This was a technical term used in Deut 21:21. It means rebellious and disobedient. Such a person was to be taken outside the city and put to death by stoning! Overly serious Christians seem to overlook this caricature of Jesus
The global Roman Empire and Greek culture influenced the rich and powerful, and many of them lived lives of luxury and decadence. Carpenters and fishermen were poor, exploited and oppressed by the Romans, by the Jewish leaders and by rich landowners. Their increasing debt led to a spiral of violence as they sought unsuccessfully to overcome their oppression. This is why there was a Roman presence in Galilee. Owners had to contribute labour and provide seed, food, and fodder for next year’s crop. They needed reserve money for births, death and marriage parties, for the purchase of new farm equipment and had to pay taxes which were sometimes 40% and 60%. If a land owner had a bad harvest and was forced of his land, sometimes he had no choice but turn to trades that were forbidden to Jews.
A Jew was not as helpful an employee as others because he was forbidden to work on the Sabbath. Many were forced to disobey this law in order to gain employment. These people were victims, not criminals, and that’s how Jesus accepted them. By doing so, he was in opposition to the law. John had been calling people back to ‘authentic Jewish life’. Jesus saw a deeper need. Jesus knew people’s basic goodness and the burdens they were under. He was moved with compassion for them, He knew his Father God was too.
The priests controlled temple worship. They insisted on animals being sacrificed. People had to purchase these animals to fulfil their legal obligations, so the Temple was a place of flourishing trade from which the priests profited. Jesus challenged the corruption of the priests. He was more impressed by a poor widow putting a small coin in the treasury box than with the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem.
Jesus became proactive. He chose synagogues and the Sabbath day, to publicly challenge the teaching of the elders. In a synagogue he called out a man with the withered arm. Jewish law permitted an action to save life on the Sabbath, but only if necessary. Jesus said ‘No’. There is no waiting with God. God heals every day. For Jesus. personal virtue, social position or possessions did not matter. Faith (trust in God’s goodness) mattered.
Jesus rarely asked people to change and then follow: He just said ‘Follow me’. People of religion were scandalized by his free mixing with sinners, his apparent disregard of the seriousness of sin, his permissiveness towards tradition and his free and easy way of treating God. He did not make authority his truth, he made truth his authority! He was driven by a profound experience of compassion and he developed a solidarity with people from every walk of life. Even his enemies admitted about him, “we know that the rank of a person means nothing to you”.
In Jesus’ world, a Samaritan and a shepherd could be good; a shepherd could even leave 99 sheep to look for 1 that was lost; a father could make himself stupid by partying on the return of a worthless son. Precious seed could be thrown carelessly among thorns, on rocky ground and on pathways. It went against everything the elders believed, and it sounded foolish – but that is what Jesus implied God was like.
Jesus was passionate that all humans are equal in dignity and worth. He treated beggars, the lame and crippled, with as much respect as those given high rank or status. He ignored the custom that considered women and children as inferior. He encouraged people not to seek status but to ‘go down the ladder’ by seeking the lowest place, and advised his disciples to be like a child who has no rank or status. Jesus spoke of a justice born of generosity. He told the story of the vineyard workers who received a generous day’s pay despite many of them working entirely different hours. While the pay was generous, some were envious that others received greater generosity.
The late workers had been unable to find employment and presumably their family needs would have been greater. Just as the early workers could not rejoice that these more needy workers had been paid, the elder brother in the prodigal son story could not be generous. He would have preferred to see his brother punished than to be forgiven. Could those in the crowd listening to the story; can we, hear the challenge to forgive?
Jesus spoke of turning the other cheek instead of seeking revenge, of loving one’s enemies, of doing good to those who hate you, blessing those who curse you, and forgiving others seventy times seven. More challenging were his words about the rich and poor. He proclaimed the opposite to popular belief. “Blessed are the poor”, he said. How fortunate they were, not to be among the rich and wealthy. The rich will find it hard to live in the kingdom where everything will be shared. Visit any poor village in the world and you will see a level of sharing never experienced by the rich.
The rich, Jesus said, will be like camels trying to get through the eye of a needl!. The poor will share gladly, they already do! He allowed God to break out of the captivity of tradition and institution. He said God isn’t impressed by personal virtue or status, (not even by being a priest) nor put off by our sins. All God wants is faith and then God can act! Jesus said, “If you ask you will receive, if you seek you will find and if you knock, the door will be opened for you”. Being anxious about yourself blinds you to the abundance that the kingdom offers. Faith leads to truth, and truth sets you free.
He used his meals with people to speak of the future in terms of the joy of a great banquet to which all are invited, all made welcome and no one felt excluded. In Judaism sinners were outsiders and forbidden to share meals with faithful Jews. For Jesus there were no outsiders. The feeding of the 5000 is a reminder that God can and does feed all of his people. Those people were not asked to declare their moral status before they could share the meal. This was Jesus’ dream; ‘a kingdom of universal fellowship’.
Pease remember in your thoughts and prayer:
- Please keep in your prayer Elaine Hallam whose husband of 55 years, Ted, died after a long painful and stressful illness. Thank God he is now at peace. We remember Elaine, her children and both families.
- Please remember Aileen and Murray Straight’s daughter, Nicola whose husband Dave Kempton died tragically as part of a work related accident. Please remember their children Olivia & Shaun as well Aileen, Murray and their family and of course the extended family
- Please remember Sally van der Wetering whose dad died this week. We offer our prayer and support to Sally, Martin and her family and extended family.
- Please remember Joseph Nguyen Bao Toan. He recently decided to leave the Passionist after 6 years. He returned home two weeks ago. Toan had been working this computer when a sudden stroke occurred, where he was
found by his Dad. We remember his family at this sad and distressing time.
- Please remember Phil Drew a former Passionist who has had a massive stroke. Please remember his wife Anne and family
- Please remember Irene Maguire who is recovering from knee surgery
- Please remember Bronwyn Hallot whose brother is in palliative care. Keep Bronwyn and her family in your prayer.
- Please remember Frances Bleaken’s mother who recently. Our love and thoughts to Frances, Clive, and family.
- Please remember Simon Langley whose mum died recently. We remember Simon, Anne-Marie and their family at this sad time
- Please remember Phil Drew and ex Passionist who I worked and lived with. Phil is in critical care due to a massive stroke. Please remember him, his wife Anne and children, and extended family.
- Please remember Rosie Crawford who is recovering after a knee operation.
- Please remember Fr Peter Gaughan CP, A Kiwi Passionist who died recently. We remember his family and friends and his Passionist brothers and sisters.
- Please keep in your prayers those who continue to deal with the after effects of Cyclone Gabrielle and other weather events.
- Keep in prayer the people of Turkey and Syria and all who are assisting and supporting their efforts in dealing with the aftermath of earthquakes.
- Please keep Somalia and the surrounding countries dealing with their sixth year in a row of drought.
- Remember our people suffering from the intolerance of difference. May we be open to listen respectfully and not move to violence because we don’t agree.
- Please keep Nick and Leah and daughter Heidi Darbyshire whose 21 week old George Darbyshire died – Still born. Please keep Linda and Paul, Nick Leah and Heidi and the Leah’s family in your thoughts and prayer
- Remember Passionists: Fr Chris Mithen and Fr Brian Glesson
- Please pray for Dot and Neill Wilson (Invercargill) – their son-in-law Mark married to Dot’s daughter Anita has been diagnosed with aggressive brain tumour, Please keep in mind their daughter Bailey and son Taylor.
- Keep in your prayer Anne & Peter Green who have lost another daughter recently in the UK. Our hearts go out to them.
- Remember Pat and Rod Carson
- Remember a friend whose sister’s son is awaiting trial.
- Aidan son of Josie and Phil McIntyre – he is very sick and his parents are his caregivers.
- John Arthurs – brother of Bob. We remember John’s wife Valerie and Bob & Pamela’s family
- Paul Darbyshire (Linda and family)
- Gerard and Linda Daly – tragic loss of their son, Brett. Keep the family in your prayer..
- Remember Fr Ray Sanchez CP – for his health concern
- Your own intentions
- “Why are elevator jokes so classic and good? They work on many levels.”
- “Why do bees have sticky hair? Because they use a honeycomb.”
- “What do you call a fake noodle? An impasta.”
- “Which state has the most streets? Rhode Island.”
- “What did the coffee report to the police? A mugging.”
- “What did the fish say when he hit the wall? Dam.”
- “Is this pool safe for diving? It deep ends.”
- “If you see a crime happen at the Apple store, what does it make you?” “An I Witness.