Make Yourself Rich in the Eyes of God

Last weeks Gospel reading really speaks to all of us, but especially those who value material things above all else.

Jesus told us a parable of a rich man who had so much crop that was harvested that he had to pull down old barns and build up new ones to fit it all in. This rich man had so much that he would be able to live comfortably for the years to come, but Jesus scorns him and says that he shouldn’t store up treasures for himself and instead make himself rich in the eyes of God.

Wooden Barn

What does this really mean though, make yourself rich in the eyes of God?

Rich, to be wealthy, to own lots, however, Jesus tells us to not hoard everything. Jesus goes on to tell us to not build more barns to house all our belongings. Jesus is asking us to be rich, but not materially. But what does this mean and where do we draw the line?

In our capitalist world, our society values ‘things’. We value nice cars, big houses, fancy dinners and all that jazz. We compliment those who get that fancy promotion, we throw extravagant parties throwing all the money we can to impress our friends and we job hunt based on how much we are going to be paid.

Red Alfa Romeo C4 on Road Near Trees

Jesus’ message seems to almost counter this belief entirely. However, I think Jesus speaks to us a little more deeply than we first see.

I think a fantastic example of this is Christmas. Often times at Christmas, we are constantly rushing around, what presents do we buy, how are we going to feed everyone coming over, busy busy busy!

Christmas Tree With Baubles

Our intentions are pure. We want to make sure people are fed and that we get gifts for those that we love. However, in the rush of it all, we forget the true meaning of Christmas. We forget the joy of the birth of Jesus, we forget to tell those around us that we love them and we forget to slow down and take it all in.

Our sin isn’t hoarding too many treasures, it is placing the importance of ‘things’ above the most important things of all: Love, family, friendship and God.

Jesus tells us that we will never be happy if we keep chasing material goods and we need to chase the important things in our lives.

So rather than fill up your life with material treasures, what can you do to fill yourself up with the most important things in your life?

 

“Ask and it will be given to you”

But will it?

When I was a kid and I heard God was a magical man in the sky that I could pray for anything I wanted, I decided I liked this Jesus business. I started enjoying going to Church and got very excited for the short time after communion. I was told by my father that this was “prayer time”.

Brown Book Page

I was very excited! I got on my knees and naturally, prayed for all the important things in life. I prayed for a Nintendo 64, a pet dragon, all the Lego I could carry and donuts for breakfast the next morning. As could be expected, 6 year old Thomas was quite disappointed the next morning when there was no baby dragon waiting for him. “Not even the donuts!” I said “Surely, donuts aren’t that hard to create God!” I thought to myself.

Gray and Teal Animal Skeleton Wall Decor

I was convinced that the reason I didn’t get these things was because I didn’t pray hard enough. So the next week I prayed and concentrated with all my might, but alas, once again, not a donut or dragon in sight. I asked and it was not given to me.

Over time I have come to realize that God doesn’t work like my 6 year old self thought. So then, when we are reading Luke’s gospel this week, how does Jesus saying “Ask and you shall receive” make any sense in our lives.

My 6 year old self found this out the hard way as many of us do. When we ask for things from the spirit, often times it seems like it isn’t answered.

Person Playing Brown Guitar

One time I was hanging out with my good friend Tim. He was playing the guitar and I was watching on, admiring his playing and I said “Man, I wish I could play guitar”. Tim laughed and responded by saying “Sure mate, if you really wanted to, you would have picked up a guitar and started practicing”.

Tim was right. I had every chance to learn to play, but never tried to pick it up. The next day I prayed that God give me persistence and strength, I went out and bought a guitar and have started practicing.

I had all the tools there to do what I wanted, yet I wasn’t willing to go and do the hard yards myself. Often times as well, asking someone for something can be hard, particularly for those of us who are quite introverted. When was the last time we were vulnerable enough to ask the people around us for something we really needed, but we were too proud or scared to ask?

Two Men Running On Concrete Road

God gives us all the tools around us to receive what ever we want (Cept for dragons probably). Sure, some of us have to work harder than others to get there, sometimes we get lucky and sometimes we don’t. Its up to us to be vulnerable and ask for what we need from God, the people around us and then put in the hard yards to get there.

God is always more than happy to open the door for us, all we have to do is walk through. Sometimes that walk is tough but then again, anything worthwhile is going to be that way and God will always be there to give us that helping hand.

A pet dragon would still be pretty cool though.

 

YOUTHINK Whats going on with the youth!

43176088_878292012366900_1253770970259259392_n.jpg

Hi Everyone! It seems like term 2 just started but we

have already had such a loaded time within our youth
ministry!
For our first Friday Night Live of the term, we had Trish
from Footsie Photos come out and tell us her amazing
story of perseverance and how she managed to get
through her life being born with no arms. Her inspiring
story will continue to be an enlightening experience for
us!
Our second Friday Night Live that just went by was also
very exciting! We had an amazing time playing games and
eating great food. Our younger group (Grades 6-8) did
some really fun teamwork activities, while our older
group (Grades 9-12) did some awesome and insightful
stuff with our amazing leader Ben. Our next Friday Night
Live is on the 24th of May and the one after that will be at
Lazer Zone on the 14th of June!
Our young adult program (18+) is going really well this
year! We have had some great sessions, particularly our
last session with Ray Sanchez who talked about who
Jesus was and how we can be Jesus to those around us.
Our next Vivo will be on the 19th of May.
We are starting up a new ministry, Brawn! It is for
anyone aged 16 to 30 and is a fitness-focused faith group
that looks at the readings for the week before doing
some sort of fitness activity ranging from beach trips,
park runs and sports!
Our leadership team with people from grade 10 all the
way up to 25 years old has also had a wide range of social
activities ranging from seeing Avengers Endgame to
going to Flip out!
If any of this interests you and you want to be a part of
our youth ministry in any way, please don’t hesitate to
contact us through email, phone or our facebook!

The Prodigal Son: A message of love and understanding

Last week we heard the reading of the Prodigal Son, which is perhaps my favourite reading in the Bible. It is a story that is stuck in the traditions of the time, yet to this day we can draw so much out of the story.

Image result for prodigal son returns

The story basically goes like this: A son says to his father “Dad, I want my inheritance now before you die”. The father says “So be it” and gives his son half of what he owns. The son goes and spends his money recklessly, going out on the town, hosting parties, impressing women and so on. Eventually, his money runs out and is desperate. He ends up working for a pig farmer and one day is feeding the pigs and thinks to himself “Wow, these pigs eat better than I do, I wish I was one of my father’s servants, for they eat better than me”. So the son then sets off to go back to his father, and to beg his forgiveness and prays that his father will allow him to be a servant for him. When the son is very close to his home, the father runs out to the son and kisses him. The son says “Father, please let me be your servant, I have wronged you and do not deserve to be your son, let me serve you”. The father dismisses this and says “Nonsense, you are my son and I love you, welcome home!” The father then directs his servants to fetch his son clothes and to slaughter the cow they had been fattening, there was to be a feast.

Image result for prodigal son

Now the father’s other son, who had been working tirelessly and been supportive of his father was very angry. He couldn’t understand why his father would allow his son who took half of what he owned back into his house. He said to his father “Father, why would you allow him back after all he has done to you, send him back out!” but the father said, “Your brother had died, but now he has been reborn”.

The story itself is rooted in old Jewish ways of thinking. The idea of asking for your inheritance before your father had passed was a great dishonour, you were basically saying, “I can’t wait for you to die” or “I wish you were dead”. The son who left showed great dishonour in this way and then furthered it by wasting his money on sinful things such as prostitutes and excessive gluttony.

Image result for drunk party

The Father also goes against tradition. The idea of the father running out to greet his son would have been shocking. People of importance didn’t run, they walked, slowly, people run to them to show respect. The act of the father running out to his disgraced son showed that his father didn’t care about his status or pride. The father disregarded tradition, with only joy in his heart.

The idea of the son coming back to God and being accepted translates into Non-Jews coming to God and being accepted. The ‘good son’ who stayed with his father, is the Jew who doesn’t understand why God is accepting the non-Jew. The cow being killed symbolises Jesus Christ being sacrificed for all, including the non-Jews of the world and in a time where the divide between the Jews and Non-Jews was an issue, this story showed the world that God loves ALL of us and that Jesus died for ALL of us, not just the Jews.

Image result for jesus

Nowadays I like to think that the same message holds true but in a different context. I like to look at the example of someone coming in late to mass. Often times we look at someone come in late and think poorly of them when in reality, just like those who are there early or there on time for mass, we are coming to God and he loves us all just as much.

For the youth of today, sometimes many youths miss mass or may not even come to mass. They do, however, pray, come to worship events or youth groups, do good things in the community, they come towards God, but not in the way that might be in a traditional Catholic sense. The story of the Prodigal Son shows us that God loves each and every one of us and that no matter what we have done, there is ALWAYS a place in his house for each and every one of us because God loves us all so much that he gave his son for ALL of us.

Image result for youth skating

The story calls for us to act with unconditional love in our lives. God is asking us to love openly and freely, to run out into the field without hesitation when someone wrongs us, to forgive them and to celebrate their return to us. While we can all often be the son who holds back their love and holds grudges against those who have wronged us, we are called to a deeper understanding of all those around us and to be the one who runs out into the field, unrelentingly and to love ALL those around us.

Image result for son returns home

Turn the Other Cheek

The reading this week is one of the most quoted of all time. Turn the other cheek it says, implying that if someone strikes us, we should turn our cheeks and let them strike the other one and this always confused me. My brother and I would often get into fights and I sure as hell wasn’t going to turn the other cheek, I liked the older Hebrew saying “an eye for an eye”, if he hit me, I was going to try hit him harder. As human beings, we need to feel a sense of justice, we want to feel things are fair.

When I’m working as youth coordinator here, I see this all the time with the kids we work with. “He has the ball, he won’t share it”, “She got more food than me” “they got coke, I only got Fanta”, and sometimes I think, just take what you’re given! But then I remember myself saying those same things to my Dad when it looked like my brother got more ice cream.

From a little kids perspective, when someone gets a little more ice-cream, instantly they know it’s not fair, it’s ingrained that things have to be fair. Kids see a very surface level of what’s fair and what’s not fair.

In the youths Vinnies program, there was a little boy whose father had left him and his mother was in a really poor financial situation, so much so, that all he got for his birthday was a single $2 sundae from Maccas. Now I heard about this while we were on our Vinnies camp, so I decided to give the boy my plate of desert because I knew how much he appreciated it. Now when I did that, the girl beside him launched into a rage “Why didn’t you give it to me” she screamed! “That’s not fair”.

I guess it wasn’t fair, but as we go through life, I think we all come to a realisation that life isn’t fair. Sometimes we are dealt a poor hand, whereas others get the full house. So when I hear Jesus say “Turn the other cheek,” I think he is trying to tell us this.

When someone is trying to cut me off on the road, I could refuse to let them in, slam my horn and hurl abuse at them. Or I could turn the other cheek, perhaps they are really late for work and need the money, whereas I’m just too proud to let them in.

When Jesus calls us to turn the other cheek, I don’t think he is saying we should let ourselves be beaten up by our brothers and enemies. I think Jesus is calling us to be more understanding, to be kinder people, with compassionate hearts who do our best to understand and help not just our friends, but ALL people around us!

 

New year, new me?

New year, new me, you hear people say. “Last year, I drunk too much”, “Last year, I didn’t do enough exercise”, the list goes on. We have this idea that as the new year passes, we have a new opportunity to begin our lives anew and start again. We clean out our cupboards, we sign up for that gym membership and we might even promise to pray more, but why?

As an occasional gym goer, I always refuse to go to the gym at the start of the year. Why you may ask? Its because of all those people who tell themselves they are going to get fitter and completely change their bodies to be a new healthy version of themselves. Within a week, I am back into the gym with all of the regulars who have signed up for some time, with none of the newcomers around. The people who stick around are not looking for dramatic change, but instead, opt for slow constant improvement.

If we look towards Jesus and his stories in the Bible we can see this idea of being reborn and being born anew. Jesus would ask rich men to give away all their wealth in a bid to be one with him, at which they would hang their heads low and run back to their mansions. We do, however, see big changes occur in those who take the simplest of actions. For example; the woman who touched the cloak of Jesus, the disciples choosing to listen to Jesus and the washing of feet. We see people who make these small improvements, receive the praise of Jesus.

So what would Jesus say to people who say “new year, new me?” Who knows, but I think he might say something like good luck and then letting out a wry chuckle, how about, new year, better me? We know that Jesus made us, and that often time our actions take us further away from Jesus, so why would we want to become something new, when what we ask for is right there? The closer we come to Jesus, the closer we come to ourselves and we can do this all the time by opting for slow, constant improvement.

The insignificance of the birth of Jesus, what does it mean for us?

Nowadays, we remember Jesus as the pinnacle of what human beings can be at there best. But if we look back at the time of Jesus, we can see a very different story.

For any fans of Monty Python, there is a scene in The Life of Brian, which for those of you who don’t know, is a bit of satirical look at the life of Jesus, and there is a scene where this huge crowd of people are asking to see the Messiah and Brian’s mother says “He’s not the messiah, he’s just a naughty boy!”.

We don’t often think about it, but Jesus was baby at some point, he wasn’t always a wise man who went around the place healing everyone and doing his party trick of turning water into wine. Jesus was very special but also fully human.

Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger and while we all know he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, there is nothing extravagant about his birth. Yes, there were Angels and in some other gospels some other things happen such as the great star and the wise men, but overall a lot of what is said in this story really isn’t that exciting. But still, every year we have nativity scenes. So, why do we do this?

Its because we know what Jesus will become. The story of Jesus birth at Jesus’ time I assure you would not have been a sell out at all! We know what will happen, the little boy who is Jesus rises from the bottom and saves humanity. The ultimate underdog, the real O.G.

When we think about it, the majority of us also have had seemingly insignificant births. We go to the hospital, or we are born at home, just like Jesus, none of our births would be top sellers at the box office. But also like Jesus, we have the potential to rise up and be truly amazing. Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, but that’s just the start of the journey, without everything else that followed, Jesus’ birthday would have been forgotten a long time ago.

Just like Jesus, the important part about us is not where we come from, but what we can become. Christmas and the birth of Jesus’ remind us of this and how no matter how insignificant we may seem, just like Jesus we can rise up and change the world for the better, each of us can be an every day Jesus with our actions.

In the Name of Love? The New Abortion Laws

baby-1915402_960_720

As we know abortion has been legalised in Queensland and in my newsfeed, I see two very distinct sides. One that goes against the idea of killing a developing human being and one that promotes women’s choice.

Another thing I see is the pure hatred each side seems to have for the other. You walk past someone on the street and no punches are thrown. But as soon as you give them a keyboard or a phone, World War 3 erupts with opinions of each side being the machine guns, hurtful comments being the grenades.

Let’s look at the intentions on each side. The conservative view is that by allowing abortions you are literally committing murder. So, of course, conservative people want to stop abortion, they do it because they want to protect and love people. The more liberal side believes the unborn baby is not yet considered life and by allowing abortions you are giving women a choice to not have a baby in a bad situation in her life due to many circumstances. They want to protect and love women.

Both sides intentions are pure. They both have love and protection at the forefront of their movement. So why do we go on to brutally attack each other when both sides intentions are loving?

We are human beings and we all do what we can with the best information we have. I personally believe that an unborn child has a right to life and pro-choice would be allowing that child to have a choice if they live or die. But many of you will disagree with me, and rightly so, you believe that you are right and I am wrong due to the information you have been given and that is fine!

God calls us to love ALL our neighbours, not just those who agree with us. And if you believe in pro-choice then surely you would agree that it should be everyone’s choice to also oppose that if they so choose.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t fight for what we believe in. If you look into your heart and see that one side is right or wrong, then go your heart out. But think about why you are saying what you are saying when you ridicule and be so toxic to the opposing side in the so-called name of love.

Social Justice: What can YOU do?

SOCIAL JUSTICE_ WHAT CAN YOU DO_ (1).pngSocial justice is a word that gets thrown around a whole lot these days. People have this desire idea that our world is just. This fits peoples idea’s of the natural world order. It doesn’t seem right to us that someone who commits a crime should just be able to walk free, there is a desire that the person will face justice for what they have done. This translates over to greater society where issues in the social sphere seem to lack justice.

If you search up social justice on the internet, you see a whole lot of people holding up signs demanding justice in some form. Often these messages are targeted towards governments due to the belief that governments can and will fix all forms of injustice in our society. However, in our daily lives, we do not call the government to fix the small injustices in our own lives. If someone takes my lunch from the fridge and I can see them eating it and I will approach them about this ‘injustice’. This is the same for so many things, friends stand up for friends in times of need, parents ensure their child is safe from bullying, you go after the guy who stole your lunch, you refuse to eat a poorly cooked meal and the list goes on. However, when it comes to social justice where the injustice affects things like homelessness, many of us seem to believe that holding up signs and hoping the government does the work for us is the only way to uphold the justice. In truth, there are many ways for us to do this. Jesus himself called us to enact on the injustices we see around us, not by holding up signs, but by doing what we can for those around us. So, what can YOU do? There is often plenty that we can do, whether it be donating our time and/or money to organisations like St Vinnies or something as simple as talking to someone who maybe society has forgotten about. Jesus called us to do what we can and holding up a sign is great and sometimes that is what is needed, but by showing our faith in action towards those around us is really what Jesus calls us to do.

For anyone in grades 8 to 12, we are holding a social justice night on the 17th of August with the help of the St Vincent De Paul society (More information can be found in the Altitude Tab).

If God is so good, then why does _____ exist? Questions and Answers.

Atheists, Catholics, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and many other religions seem to not have a lot in common most of the time. Many people like to throw many religions in the same basket with the comment “All Christians are basically the same cause they all go to church”, and while that statement holds some truth in it and it is also true that Jesus would want us to come together and identify as the same, many would argue that each and every religion and spirituality is quite different.

However, one question that I find being asked of people from all different walks of life, religions and spiritualities is the question “If God is so good, then why does ____ exist”. Adversaries of God will use this question to disprove the existence of such a being. People struggling with God will constantly ask themselves this question. People who have had family members die will ask themselves this question. It is in fact, a very good question. The blank can be filled with so many options, so… from a Catholic perspective and with help from resources such as YOUCAT, I will attempt to answer these as best as I can.

If God is so good, then why does suffering exist?

This question here is one of the most asked questions of the Catholic church. Lex Luthor from Superman brings up a good point. If you say God is all powerful and all good, how can suffering exist? Surely, you must accept that either, God is all good, but not all-powerful, therefore suffering can exist OR that God is all-powerful, however, not all good and refuses to take away the suffering. There is another alternative, however, and that is that God does not exist at all. “Checkmate God believers!” atheists would say at this point. To answer this I would pose the dark room theory. If a room is pitch black you cannot see it or what is in it. However, if you turn a light on, you reveal the room, begging the question, does darkness really exist, or is it simply the lack of light that exists. No amount of darkness can take away the light, but a small amount of light can conquer the darkness. This is quite similar to suffering. The lack of good in this world causes suffering, so suffering in itself is just a lack of a good thing. God made a good thing, and when there is a lack of this good thing, suffering rears its ugly head. So suffering only exists in the sense that a lack of good can exist. The idea that God sends suffering down upon us, is one that is so wrong. God conquered death, the ultimate suffering and saved us from it. However, due to free will and the lack of good that can exist, suffering can exist.

If God is so good, then why did Queensland lose the state of origin?

Probably the second most asked question that I have come across. This is quite similar to the suffering question as many had to suffer during this event, however, while suffering can exist through the lack of good, while God did not create it, God urges us to learn through our suffering. Through the state of origin, we can learn humility, sportsmanship and give everyone a fair go. The Maroons will learn from their mistakes and come out swinging next year.

If God is so good, then why does death exist?

For those who have lost a family member, this is a question that is asked frequently. While no one likes it I tend to answer this by using the example of a birthday party. Birthday parties are so fun, wouldn’t it be great if they lasted forever? On the surface yes, but underneath, perhaps not. Every moment at the party is a special one, the blowing of the candles, the eating of the cake, the fun with friends, those funny things that happen that no one plans. Each and every moment is special and the reason why is bittersweet. It is special because it won’t happen again. The fact that the party only lasts a short amount of time, gives it an urgency and a sense that it is special. If the party went on forever, moments wouldn’t be special or meaningful, because they would just happen again eventually. At the end of the party, we go home and this is like life, at the end of it we go home, to heaven. Am I saying that God wants us to die? No, most certainly not, God mourns the death of every single person on this earth, he gave us the gift of life and is sad to see it pass. But just like a birthday party, life must pass, it makes life special and at the end of it we go home, into the loving embrace of the lord. So eat that cake, see that friend you said you would catch up with, God didn’t give you the gift of life to be sad about the prospect of it being taken away from you.

PART 2 Coming soon!