Blessings and Woes (Luke 6:17, 20-26)
A reflection on the Gospel from the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)
Written by Mr Casimir Douglas
In Chapter 6 of Luke’s Gospel, Christ having now gathered His twelve Disciples, begins his ministry of teaching and healing. Whilst the location is not identified by Luke in which Jesus delivers the early stanzas of the Sermon on the Plain, what is made evident is the diversity of peoples to whom he teaches and heals; people from Judea, Jerusalem and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. The message is clear, Jesus’ ministry is open to all, and all are welcome; Christ’s mission is inclusive. It is not just for His Disciples and insiders, but for those outside Christ’s newly established community.
Christ’s words and authority in the Sermon on the Plain evoke the Hebrew prophets as he thunders truth, wisdom, challenge, judgement and blessing:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.”
The four blessings are followed by four parallel woes. Christ does not see things as we do. When Jesus speaks of the poor or rich, he is not making carte blanche statements about people with a certain social or economic standing. He looks at the heart, not at the externals. Jesus is not advocating a political or social philosophy, he is calling people into a spiritual relationship with God. This challenge to move beyond the dualistic thinking of rich and poor, weeping and laughing, is at the centre of Christ’s message. This is captured in the writings of great Christian author, Fr Richard Rohr, in his book: The Naked Now. The faith journey is not about we as human beings becoming more spiritual; as by God’s grace we are inherently spiritual beings. Indeed, the spiritual journey is about the faithful learning how to be human. The example of a fully integrated humanness and spirituality is found in the person of Jesus. A truth laid bare in Christ’s self-referential use of the phrase ‘Son of Man’. God became man not to teach us how to be spiritual, but how to be human. A reminder that Christ’s mission, through his ministry, is to teach us what it means to be human.
And ‘what it means to be human’ is captured in the words of Pope Francis (2016) in his homily on the ‘Sermon on the Plain’:
“This call is accompanied by four commands or exhortations, which the Lord gives as a way of moulding the Disciples' vocation through real, everyday situations. They are four actions that will shape, embody and make tangible the path of discipleship. We could say that they represent four stages of a mystagogy of mercy: love, do good, bless and pray. I think we can all agree on these, and see them as something reasonable. They are four things we can easily do for our friends and for those more or less close to us, people we like, people whose tastes and habits are similar to our own.”
I pray that our school community, through God’s grace, will continue Christ's mission to teach, to heal, to welcome all, to include all, to be open to the journey of faith, and to grow into the fullness of human life.
Friday 11th February, 2022
The Sermon of the Beatitudes
James Tissot, French, 1896
Dear Parents and Carers,
Grace to you and peace.
“As leaders, it is our sole responsibility to protect our people and, in turn, our people will protect each other and advance the organisation together.” - Simon Sinek (Leaders Eat Last, 2014)
Schools are no exception to the statement above. It is my firm belief and conviction that leaders and organisations must prioritise their people. This is more important now than ever. This global health pandemic has brought with it a universal crisis in connection and belonging. There are some in our community who have coped well through this transitory period in our lives and have further built their resilience. However, psychological aid is recommended as a broad strategy to reduce distress in such prevailing societal conditions; this includes providing comfort, offering reassurance, building support structures, creating connection with family and friends, and promoting belonging to the wider community.
There have been and will continue to be a litany of changes to the way we live our lives in the current health climate. And this is true for St Thomas More’s Catholic School. But will continue to learn together, to laugh together, to grow together and to love together.
PARENT INFORMATION EVENING
“Come all you weary, come gather round near me.” (Matthew 11:28)
In lieu of the opportunity to invite the parent community into school for the annual welcome BBQ this week, the Parent Information Evening was held online via Zoom. The decision to continue this event online is reflective of the school’s priority to maintain and grow the connection to our families. It is our pastoral responsibility to welcome, to offer comfort, and to provide reassurance to our school community that we are committed to supporting our students and building quality relationships with families. Our Mission Statement identifies that: “Guided by Jesus, we are committed to the development of excellence”. As a staff our commitment to excellence in this scenario is to accommodate and include our parents through an online experience - to be leaders in and of our community. After all, Christ’s words in the Gospel of Matthew above do not contain any stipulations or regulations, all are welcome. Thank you to all parents and carers who attended the sessions. The feedback received has been unanimously positive.
I wish to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation for the agility, resourcefulness, professionalism and passion of the teaching staff in preparing and delivering these online sessions for the parent community.
MONDAY PRAYER ASSEMBLY
The presence of COVID-19 in the school community is not an unexpected event. The life of St Thomas More’s Catholic School, as it must, will continue as planned, whilst we ensure that staff, students and parents continue to perform the COVID-Safe practises that we have accepted and embraced as a community.
One of the weekly events at the school that is eagerly anticipated and cherished by staff and students alike is the Monday morning Prayer Assembly, which is held each week at 8:50am outside in the Piazza. All students and staff gather together at this time to begin our week of learning with prayer and reflection.
This is an opportunity to unite the community with stories of who we are, songs of what we believe, and to recognise and acknowledge the achievements of members of our community. This most recent Monday morning, I was able to share a story with the students born from the rich tradition, culture and symbolism of my Maori heritage. It was the story of a boy, a great mountain and broken wahaika. The purpose of the story was to remind our students that in times of great challenge and of great striving that we must: be brave, be strong, be steadfast. The students learned the phrasing of these words in the te reo Maori language: kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui. It was also a good excuse to dust off my guitar (and my vocal chords) and teach the students a song to remember these words, and the power of them: I am strong, I am brave, I am steadfast.
If you ask your child about the story, whilst they may not remember all of it, I hope and trust that they will recount their memory of it with joy and intrigue.
I am so very blessed to have my vocation in education, a task which is predicated on the very flourishing of each individual human being. There is no more sacred calling. The priority of all our staff is to build relationships with our students. This is the foundation required for success in learning. The fostering of life-giving relationships is central to the task of education in the current health climate. As parents and carers you can expect that our staff will smile, be calm, reassure and comfort anxious students, prioritise creating connections, allow students to share experiences, and reinforce resilience behaviours.
May the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Mr Casimir Douglas
Please access the before and after school care services via the Campbell Street and Abbott Street gates.
The staff car park is not to be used for drop off and pick up, and is not a pedestrian access point - it is far too dangerous to have children and parents walking through a vehicle access point.
We thank you for your co-operation.