God is Grace: To Whom Do We Turn?
The Work of the Spirit (John 16:12-15)
A reflection on the Gospel from The Most Holy Trinity Sunday (Year C)
Written by Mr Casimir Douglas
“He will glorify me, since all he tells you will be taken from what is mine. Everything the Father has is mine; that is why I said: All he tells will be taken from what is mine.” (John 16:15)
We owe a great deal of Western thinking to the Greek philosopher and scientist, Aristotle (384–322 BCE). Aristotle taught that there were ten different qualities to all things, including “substance” and “relationship”. Substance is that which is “independent” of all else and can stand on its own. Aristotle ranked substance as the highest quality. In early Christian traditions, the West tried to build on Aristotle to prove that this God whom we had come to understand as Trinitarian was a substance. We didn’t want an ephemeral old relationship God, you know. We wanted a substantial God whom we could prove was as good as anybody else’s God! (Rohr, Richard; The Divine Dance; 2016).
But as evidenced in the words of the Christ, and as expressed through the pen of the Gospel writer John (16:15) above, Jesus is giving clear primacy to “relationship”. If we accept this is true, and that we are created in the image of a triune God, that is not a static substance, but a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect communion, a symbiotic relationship, a circle dance of love, then we must accept our very nature is to live in relationship with ourselves, each other, and the divine dance and grace of God.
Indeed, the invitation of Christ in these words is to enter a life of genuine and compassionate living, loving and relating - a fullness of life (John 10:10). But this invitation to genuine love and connection is being drowned out in an ocean of stimuli created to attract and distract our attention. All the readings from the past few Sunday Masses have been focused on the work of the Spirit as captured in the scriptures. It is no accident that the focus on relationship and connection in this week’s Gospel follows the allusions to the Tower of Babel from last week, in which those people driven by their egos to make themselves like gods became confused, disconnected, and ultimately, separated. In our modern context, for each of us as individuals, the story of the Tower of Babel plays out not as a tower, but as the power of a god that lives in our pockets every day - a small black screen. At the touch of a button we can spend thousands of dollars, have access to accumulated libraries of a millennia of knowledge, and find endless streams of entertainment in games, movies, television and music. Talk about confusion, disconnection, and separation!
And when we need solace, silence or a moment alone to whom do we turn? When we need to boost our confidence and seek affirmation to whom do we turn? When we seek connection and belonging to whom do we turn? When we need to share our experiences and seek wisdom and guidance to whom do we turn? The unfortunate, but all too real answer, is our phones. Created in God’s image, we have created god in our image.
The purpose of this reflection is not to condemn or demonise technology. Far from it. My phone, sitting on my bedside table, unattached from me and unused is no danger nor distraction to anyone. But human behaviour and relationship to their phone is. The question we must ask ourselves is do we need to reevaluate our relationship with the small black screen? If we are investing heavily in the relationship with the false god in our pockets, then which other relationships are going unnoticed, unnurtured, and undervalued? It turns out that binary and algorithmic systems built on 1’s and 0’s are limited and limiting for the fullness and growth of the human person. This smallest and blackest of mirrors reflects our own personal schisms.
Turning off our phones at night and deleting our favourite apps does help, but this is ‘hacking at the branches, rather than striking at the roots’ (Henry David Thoreau). If we are to rearrange our values and prioritise living, loving and relating, then we must ask ourselves - where do we place our faith?
Where do you place your faith? Where do you find your answers to the most important questions? Can your phone tell you how much you are loved? Can your phone define your personal worth and value? Can your phone teach you about how to find and appreciate real beauty in the world? Can your phone determine how grateful you are for your children, your family and your friends?
I suspect you won’t find the real answers to those questions on your phone. I may be wrong… but I don’t think I am. The answers will be found in your genuine relationship and connection with yourself, with others, and with God. God who is relationship itself - that which binds, connects, relates, joins, includes, embraces, and brings together - God’s Grace. And by accepting Christ’s invitation to a full life of living, loving and relating we open ourselves to experience the gift of God’s Grace.
Friday 10th June, 2022
Dear Parents and Carers,
Grace to you and peace.
PRINCIPAL'S MORNING TEA
At our Friday afternoon Assembly last week, there were a number of students who received a Gospel Value Award for demonstrating the value of EMPATHY. These students attended a special Principal’s Morning Tea in Josephite Hall this Tuesday (7th June).
Myself and the twelve students were treated to a smorgasbord of fruit, pastries, and slices and we each shared what we are grateful for in our lives, this included their parents, their siblings, their house, their pets, their gaming consoles, their sporting teams, and even their teachers! They also shared about their hobbies, interests and dreams which included soccer, dancing, football, basketball, Nintendo Switch time, singing, swimming and outer space!
GOSPEL VALUE AWARDS: DIGNITY
At our Prayer Assembly on Monday morning this week, I spoke to our students about our focus Gospel value for the month of June: DIGNITY. I highlighted to our students that to live with the value of dignity is to: be yourself, try your best, and be proud. Dignity is our self-worth and our self-belief, and is strengthened by knowing that we are created in God's image (Genesis 1:27), and that we inherently sacred beings called to be the best version of ourselves. We must believe in our own goodness even when there are those that would say things and do things that aim to diminish our light. How do we respond to those who reject us? The players, the haters, the heartbreakers, and fakers. We drew upon Christ's message to his Disciples in the Gospel of Matthew (10:14): "If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.
To illustrate this message, we sang and danced together to an acoustic rendition of Taylor Swift's Shake If Off in the beautiful Monday morning sunlight during our Prayer Assembly in the Piazza. This was captured in the YouTube clip below. Enjoy!
JACK THE JUMPER VISIT
On Monday (6th June) the mascot for the Tasmanian JackJumpers basketball team, Jack the Jumper, visiting our school with a number of coaches and Launceston Tornadoes players. The visiting our Early Years classes and provide each child with a Jack the Jumper colouring book, and organised mini-basketball clinics for the students in our Primary classes, and provided these students with NBL basketball tops to wear during the clinic and as a keepsake. I was pleased to present for the visit of Jack the Jumper to our Prep classes and to see the excitement, energy and enthusiasm with which our students engaged with Jack the Jumper. We welcome and embrace the iniatitive of this Tasmania Jack Jumpers to engage with the local community, schools and young people.
NIJSSA CROSS COUNTRY
The 2022 NIJSSA Cross Country Carnival was held on Wednesday (8th June) at Windsor Park in Riverside. All students who travelled to the carnival represented St Thomas More's Catholic School with pride and gave their very best effort on a challenging course. Thankfully, whilst the conditions were cool, the sun was out and the track was dry enough for the competitiors to shine. We finish fifth overall in the carnival, but as always, our students remain first in our hearts. Congratulations to the following students who finished in the Top 10 in their division on the day:
Grade 3 Boys:
8th - Logan Graham
9th - Flynn Moore
Grade 4 Girls:
2nd - Chloe Cocca
Grade 4 Boys:
6th - Marlon Rooney
9th - Noah Kerrison
Grade 5 Girls:
4th - Alexis Harmey
6th - Eleanor Piestch
Grade 5 Boys:
4th - Eddie Richardson
GRADE 6 LEADERSHIP SESSION
This Friday (10th June), I worked with our Grade 6 students on defining, understanding and practicing leadership as the student leaders of our school. The purpose of the session was to provide direction, guidance, and motivation to our Grade 6 students as they enter the process of developing, planning and delivering the Pastoral Care Group lessons that they will run for their entire House group (Prep-Grade 5) once every four weeks on a Friday afternoon between 2:20pm-2:50pm. The purpose and function of Pastoral Care Groups is to engage and inculcate students into their House identity and to foster a longitudinal sense of belonging and connection in the school. Empirical research is conclusive that students' longitudinal peer relationships in the school environment has a significant impact on a child’s reported level of feeling ‘connected’ and ‘belonging’ at school. Pastoral Care Groups also provide the primary opportunity for our Grade 6 students to engage in leadership, discipleship and service on a regular and structured basis within the life of the school.
For the session this week, we defined the task of student leadership as being built on three key pillars; Purpose (Service & Conviction), Process (Wisdom & Collaboration) & Presentation (Energy & Communication). The understanding of leadership must be built on the framework of the Gospels, and indeed, we began our session in prayer. Our prayer involved a role play of the Jesus washing the feet of His Disciples at the Last Supper (John 13:1-17), in which I washed the feet of our School Captains; Asher Curtis, Charlie Hilliard, Milla Johnston & Reuben Phillips. The purpose of this act was provide visible and tangible example to our Grade 6 students that their leadership in our school is inexorably linked, and indeed, inseperable from the call to serve one another.
May the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Mr Casimir Douglas
Welcome to our Student Representative Council (SRC) members for the first half of the year.
SRC meets fortnightly and is led by the school captains, who run the meeting with the help of the house captains, Mrs Scharapow and Mrs Hodgetts. We have been busy discussing plans for the next two terms, so stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks.
Our amazing teachers and support staff are busy putting the final touches on reports coming your way soon.
It takes a lot of time and extra hours to share what our outstanding students have achieved in just a few short months.
So the Wellness Committee decided to do something special for our STM family, delivering a Survival Kit full of goodies that a teacher might need for those loooong afternoons or late nights writing their student reports.