Our summer holiday period should refresh us but it sometimes brings pain and sadness – these past months the tragic bushfires coinciding with the long drought, then some brief respite with torrential rains, storms and hail in particular areas, often with savage impact on individuals, families, communities, property and life. Our fireys have distinguished themselves yet again, well beyond the call of duty, and those from overseas have put their lives on the line for us and our safety, sometimes at great personal cost to themselves.
While the resilient Aussie spirit has been evident throughout this period, the emotional brokenness will be with us for a long time. As the grass turns green again and the trees sprout their buds, we must take care not to forget the ongoing struggle of individuals and communities that carry the scars of the tragedies and the powerful emotions that live just below the surface. As I enjoyed the luxury of a few weeks off after Christmas I was very aware of so many others in need of a break but unable to access their favourite holiday venues because of the fires.
Last Sunday the Church across the world marked the inaugural celebration of Sunday of the Word of God, promulgated by Pope Francis to remind us of the power of God’s Word and our need to proclaim the Scriptures well and listen prayerfully to the message. I am often in awe at the sharpness of God’s Word in times of crisis, a case in point I recall being the Mass readings the morning after 9/11. The same is true as we face challenging events.
As Jesus began his public ministry, he often quoted from the prophets, especially Isaiah, with his reference to ‘people that lived in darkness’ but who now see a great light. Our experience of the smoky darkness even in the middle of the day and the flames leaping into the sky may have obscured for us, at least temporarily, the ‘light of Christ’. The celebratory spectacle of New Year or Australia Day fireworks may have lacked something this year.
Yet for us Christians, fire and light are positive signs of the saving presence of Jesus in our midst, highlighted on this Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in Simeon’s prophetic words that the child Jesus is: ‘a light to enlighten the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel’ (Luke 2:32).
This Feast is grounded in everyday life as Mary and Joseph do the ordinary things for their son Jesus, bringing him to the Temple for the ceremony of presentation and consecration to the Lord – not unlike parents in our Parish who bring their child for presentation to the Community before Baptism. In both cases, they are affirmed in their parental task of creating a home and living family life as their child, like Jesus, grows and becomes strong and wise, helped by the grace of God.
Our children have now returned to school, many hundreds of them, and on this day we pray for each of them and for their families and the teachers and staff who guide them. As for Jesus and his family, may our children and parents be open to the wisdom in our families and seek suitable role models for our young people.
Have a wonderful year!