Thirty four years ago, I was deaconed into God’s holy church on St. Valentine’s Day at St. Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne. I was 24 years old and felt that I’d already lived a life. I was working as an interior designer, studied Interior architecture in Melbourne and Edinburgh, I’d travelled extensively and was from a fairly privileged home with down to earth parents who believed strongly in keeping our feet firmly on the ground. I’d travelled through China … the last leg on my own at the age of 16…in a freezing cold winter when it was still fiercely communist and tourism was frowned upon, and made it through. I was a keen observer, impressionable, a listener.
When I began my journey as an ordinand, I answered the question of ‘why’, “because I love God and I love people”.
As I came in for a landing, all these things became dreaming remembrances as my feet hit the ground running and the reality of vocational life, that which you give up to be a servant, for all whom you encounter in the daily journey of diaconal life became my daily reality.
Or were they…we forget, that all that we are and all that we do, is the sum total of who we become.
A child in my class was too poor to have food to eat at lunch at school. I put him on my bicycle and as I rode out of the school grounds to buy him some lunch, I was lifted off the bike by the scruff of the neck by the headmaster, who gave me the strap and punished the hungry boy. I’d do it again, I told my mum who was immensely proud of me for my act of courage. The hungry need to be fed.
Do to others as you would have them do to you. It’s the golden rule. Love and do good without expecting anything in return. It’s the most liberating gift and the heart of Jesus expectation of us as we build integrity and Christian life.
Jesus must be at our centre as we journey with him as servants, as his lights in the world, as pilgrims and strangers in a foreign land.
My experience is that Jesus always gives back, rarely in ways we expect. My joy has been learning to live by faith and knowing that by prayer and action, loving and generosity, the transformative stuff we have been promised becomes real through us and for us in the communities we are called to serve and into which Christ leads us.
Openness to learn from others and to see Christ in those we encounter builds faith and assurance that the incarnational God who is the word become flesh is manifest in our daily living, our experiences and the mystery of life itself, to which Jesus Christ himself invites us to.
We are heading towards lent…..remember we are dust and to dust we shall return. We are heading towards reopening, and pray that a world gripping and limiting pandemic is beginning to abate, but a world changing experience which will require us to rethink our approach to much of what we have been used to doing and taking for granted. Nothing unusual. History is littered with world changing events and we learn to live with the discomfort and belligerence of change, but are invited to the potential and hope which comes with refreshment and new order.
Be open to all of this. It’s a great invitation and identify the changeless invitation which Jesus invites us to….to love one another, as I have loved you.
P.S. Fr BarryBrown celebrates 49 years of ordination and ministry. What a privilege to know him and to be the recipient of his lovingness.