When travelling through unfamiliar territory we frequently depend on signposts to lead us to our destination. They point the way. On this second Sunday of Advent it might help if we reflect on our role as Christians pointing the way to God and his Son, Jesus. I wish to suggest that as practising Catholics our way of living should be infectious as well as contagious.
In relation to this I have been reflecting recently on the almost universal presence of contemporary advertising on billboards, in publications and via all forms of electronic media. Perhaps many of us take such advertising for granted. After all advertising is measured as successful to the degree that it influences the person who sees it to purchase goods or services or adopt particular trappings or pursue a certain lifestyle etc.
This weekend the liturgy challenges us to see ourselves as vibrant sources that advertise the teachings and life tasks that fit with being a disciple of Jesus Christ. This way of seeing the Christian life was extraordinarily powerful in the spread of the early Church. It was the integrity and priorities of the lives of early Christians that persuaded their pagan contemporaries to see the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the community of believers, be converted and live the “way” of Christ.
More than ever today we Catholic Christians have to see ourselves as pointing to Christ by the authenticity of our witness and the integrity of our lives. John the Baptist in today’s Gospel from St Mark carries this out. He points to Jesus acknowledging he is greater and that he will “baptise with the Holy Spirit”.
When I was growing up we were taught to value “good example”. This is another way of saying that who we are and what we do is a vital pointer to others showing them the person of Jesus Christ, his teaching and the hope he holds out for us.
So the question I ask myself: do I point the way to Christ? Is my “advertising of Christ” of a different quality to other forms of advertising jostling for air time in our cluttered audio-visual world?
Last weekend Fr. Alan Gibson, our new Parish Priest, gave us some information about his background. I hope to introduce him in person to parishioners at all three Masses during the weekend of December 9-10.
For a few weeks now parishioners have been asking me what I will be doing when I leave my role as Parish Priest after Christmas. This weekend is a good time to share with you the future directions of my life.
I have undertaken to establish a Centre for Human Ageing at Catholic Theological College, Victoria Parade, East Melbourne. CTC is part of the University of Divinity. For many years before being appointed to Malvern I have been studying and teaching about the issues related to ageing in contemporary Australia. I have found that all the research centres on human ageing around Australia give primary emphasis to “healthy” ageing, i.e. on how to ensure physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing keeping people active and healthy in their later years. This research is essential to enhance the ageing process in people who are increasingly living for many more years than previously.
The new Centre at CTC will be unique in that it will address what I call the humanistic issues of human ageing. By that I mean we will seek to understand better the “meaning” of growing older. What does my life mean now as I enter the final third of my life’s journey? Answering this question will take us into four areas: theology, spirituality, pastoral care, and ethics.
Theological exploration takes us into questions such as: What does faith and our understanding of God contribute to the experience of ageing? Does my relationship with God change in my latter years (i.e. my spirituality)? Are there particular elements in pastoral care that need to be emphasised in our care of an ageing community? What are some of the ethical challenges for us as we grow older?
The centre will operate in two ways. First, we have had to gather the relevant literature. Articles and books will be published together with the delivery of courses at the Graduate Certificate and Masters levels. These resources will hopefully be of use for all who care for ageing persons in the home, the community and care institutions.
The second area to be developed will be the constitution of the centre with a high profile board and chair who will then direct the centre’s engagement in public discussion about all aspects of human ageing. My hope is that this public organisation will ensure the ongoing viability and direction of the centre into the future.
I hope this brief description gives you some idea of the project ahead of me over the next few years. I greatly appreciate your support and prayers into the future.