For some reason my children expect that I parent each one of them the same. They are very quick to point out when I have, in their eyes, been unfair in how I treated them compared to their siblings. There seems to be no understanding that each one of them is unique and that I have the choice to treat them as I see fit.
It seems nothing much has changed in the last 2000 years! In today’s Gospel we see the landowner paying each person the same regardless of what hours they have worked and this results in bedlam!
Ever thought why the landowner paid them in the reverse order? He could easily have paid them in a way that would have meant the first people hired would never have known what the last people hired got paid. But the landowner chose not to do that. He wanted them to see that they all got paid the same. He could have saved himself a ton of grief. Instead he decided to give everyone the same amount and was criticized for his generosity even though each person had agreed to the daily wage.
We believe that if you work more than someone else then you should be reimbursed for that time. And if not then we think it is unfair. Our accounting system is about ensuring balance….you do this, I get this. But God’s accounting system is very different. “The last will be first and the first will be last.” The first reading confirms this by reminding us, “my ways are above your ways and my thoughts are above your thoughts.”
The way the landowner acts is not what we would call the norm. What he has done we would describe as unfair.
We seem to be surprised by this but so much of life is unfair. Someone gets a promotion ahead of us, we struggle all our life with losing weight yet someone else can eat anything they want, we always do good for others yet others who don’t seem nice get to go on flash holidays etc. It is easy in times like this to compare ourselves to others just like the people in the Gospel story did and just as my children do. But Paul reminds us we should conduct our way worthy of the gospel of Christ. What does this mean?
It means to stop counting. To stop comparing. To stop having a sense of entitlement, that we deserve this or that. It’s about understanding that God’s love is underserved, we didn’t earn it but we got it anyway. Pure gift. Pure love. The challenge for us is to receive this love and reflect it back to all those we meet.
Last week most of those who read the Scripture at the Cathedral, the Proclaimers of the Word, met for a brief “Refresher” programme. As they talked about their ministry, listened to one another read, and reflected on our shared belief in the presence of Jesus in the “breaking open of the Word”, I felt extremely grateful for the way parishioners across our Pastoral Area offer themselves for leadership roles. We are very well served, both in the formal Liturgy and in pastoral service.
In the years I have been associated with our central city parishes, I’ve seen a developing awareness that we each have to contribute from our gifts for the good of all. I find I am meeting a greater willingness among you to be involved.
This awareness brings a sense of ownership and a greater number are now accepting responsibility for growing the community. I thank you most sincerely for this, and welcome your partnership. The appointment of Fiona Rammell as Lay Pastoral Leader at the Cathedral, like Mary-Anne Peetz at Otari before her, further endorses this “shared responsibility” and points to a positive and active future.
A natural consequence of this involvement is to extend service to meet needs not our own. I think we are ready to do this. This week’s Maori Pastoral Care appeal is such an opportunity. The concerns here may not directly match those of our Pastoral Area, but commitment to the Body of Christ will dictate a generous response. Regardless of who or where we are, our “change” can change lives, for truth, justice and love.
As part of my own thanksgiving for 50 years of priesthood, I am holidaying over the next six weeks – a time to reconnect with friends not seen for a long time and to “refresh” my own energy for service. Let us keep each other in prayer, and may our good work apparent in our blessed variety of service continue to thrive.
We have been reading over the past couple of weeks the parables of the seed and the sower. In these parables Jesus talks about the ground into which the seed is sown. When the soil is rich the seed bears a great harvest. Sometimes that harvest takes time but like the Word of God it never returns empty handed.
This Sunday our Parish is hosting the community of St John’s Presbyterian Church to thank them for their generosity and hospitality to us during the time the Church was closed for seismic strengthening. On the day St Mary of the Angels closed following the Seddon earthquakes in July 2013 the Rev Allister Lane from St John’s rang me to ask if there was anything they could do to help us. Each Sunday for the next 4 years we celebrated our Choral Mass there at mid-day. During this time we were also generously hosted by the Cathedral Parish and St Joseph’s in Mount Victoria for other Sunday Masses.
The story of the connection between St Mary of the Angels and St John’s goes back to the time of the first priest in Wellington, Father Jeremiah O’Reily OFM. In 1843 when he arrived in Wellington Father O’Reily helped the Presbyterian community with services and funerals as they awaited the arrival of their own minister from Scotland. St John’s have never forgotten that generosity.
Since that time St Mary of the Angels have enjoyed a very closed relationship with St John’s. Over the years they have hosted us many times while our Church has been closed for renovating or painting etc. At some stage in the future we will be able to repay that hospitality when St John’s own beautiful wooden Church needs upgrading and strengthened to the current seismic code.
The seed that Jesus talks about in these parables has certainly flourished because of the generosity of Father O’Reily nearly 175 years ago. May it continue to grow as we endeavour to nourish the ecumenical relationships with our Christian brothers and sisters in the inner city.
Our three parishes combined for the celebration of Confirmation at Sacred Heart Cathedral last Sunday. Cardinal John presided as 47 children took a step closer to their full initiation into the Catholic Church. Their First Communion in November will complete the journey. Under the guidance of parents and sponsors, these children prepared for the Sacrament that brings the gift of the Holy Spirit to inspire and encourage their developing faith. Cardinal John urged them to make kindness their constant companion. “Kindness, always kindness.”
Congratulations to all the children and a very big thank you for all the hard work and preparations undertaken by Pat, Angela, Bede and their teams.
A special moment in the journey from conflict to reunion between Lutherans and Catholics will be witnessed next Sunday afternoon (4 June) in Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Lutheran Bishop, Mark Whitfield, and Cardinal John Dew will lead the two communities in a service commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Year of Reformation. Themes of thanksgiving, repentance, common witness and commitment will draw on traditions we hold in common.
A highlight will be the introduction of a formal dialogue between Lutherans and Roman Catholics in New Zealand.
It is wonderful to note that the journey towards each other has grown in momentum these past 50 years through what is obviously a Holy Spirit-driven ecumenical season. We have come to appreciate that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. With greater understanding, trust has blossomed while old prejudices have faded.
Two weeks ago I spoke at St Paul’s Lutheran Church about the relationship between Luther and Rome. In my preparation I was surprised to discover Luther’s “Theology of Joy” which he expressed in his pastoral letters and preaching. It sits easily with Pope Francis’ emphasis on joy, as he encourages everyone to open themselves to the “Joy of the Gospel” and the “Joy of Love”.
Our times are witnessing a definite climate shift from intolerance to an atmosphere of friendly contact and participation in everything we can share together. The unity for which Jesus Christ prayed is surely within our grasp.
Next Sunday’s service at the cathedral is at 3.00pm. Please come and support this timely initiative. Be part of an historic moment in New Zealand inter-church relationships.