We say as part of the Nicene Creed, “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God, born of the father before all ages. God from God….”
‘The Rule’ offers a way in which this might have occurred. While the story is primarily written so it might be adapted into a stage production, it challengers us to question within our own minds whether we are a true Christian and really believe in Jesus and His teachings.
So often we hear the term ‘Born Again Christian’. Jesus says, “we cannot see the kingdom of Godunless we are born again”, being ‘born again’ seems then to be the most urgent task for those who hope for heaven.
Some might see being ‘born again’ as a process, often associated with what some Christians refer to as a ‘baptism in the Spirit’. I see being ‘born again’ in Christian terminology, as a decision made at some particular stage in our adult life when we come to the personal realisation that we really do believe in Jesus and His teachings. Being ‘born again’ is a decision we make and not just a feeling or an emotion.
In ‘The Rule’ we see Jesus as ‘The Word’ being created by The Father, God from God. When Mary made the decision to say ‘yes’ to becoming the mother of Jesus, she accepted Jesus as her saviour and He was born again, this time in human form. And thus, it could be said that, because of that decision, Mary became the first ‘born again’ Christian.
Although we may have been raised in a Christian environment, been baptised, taught about and read about Jesus this, in my opinion, does not qualify us as ‘born again’ Christians.
Just as The Father created Man and woman to populate his earthly creation, He is the one who determines when the miracle of birth will occur. He is the one who creates us with individual fingerprints and DNA characteristics. While we might often question whether a birth should ever have occurred, there must be an underlying reason why The Father created each individual human miracle.
As we live our individual lives, most of us become exposed to Christianity in its numerous forms. Maybe, we gain knowledge from a young age or are influenced towards Christian thinking at an older age. Maybe, we have serious reservations about what the Bible contains and how we see some Christians live their lives. Maybe we are happy to just see our Creator in the nature that surrounds us.
I believe our God allows us to find him in the way most suited to us as individuals. Some might call this the ‘gift’ of faith, others might see it as the ‘grace’ of discovery. When we consider that we were created so we might spend eternity in heaven, our God has to give us all a chance to become the person for which we were created.
It is my belief that at some time in our lives we are given the opportunity to make the decision that says ‘I truly believe’. It is at that moment we are ‘born again’ and reciting The Creed takes on a whole new meaning as does our understanding of who Jesus was and the importance of ‘The Rule’.
So, let’s take another look at ‘The Rule’
“Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:25)
When you think about it, this represents a really serious form of loving. We must question ourselves whether we really understand the true significance of loving at this depth? How do we go about having a love affair which, under normal circumstances with an earthly partner, can often be a difficult ask?
Our God is unlike any partner we might encounter and therefore the enormity of the task might seem insurmountable. Yet, if this is what we must do to get to heaven then let’s together find a way in which we might fall totally in love with God.
As with the start of any love affair we need to find out as much about our lover as we can. If we are fortunate enough to have been raised in a Christian environment this gives us a reasonable background of understanding. If we have only recently found we have been given the gift of faith then we have some catching up to do. The basic book of knowledge of course is the Bible, but it is such a massive tome we need some balanced help to gain a broad picture of our God’s operation from creation to eternity.
There are certainly mountains of books available which, if you spent much of your time reading could seriously hamper the time you give yourself in which to get deeper into your loving relationship.
A love relationship is a two-way street. Partners need to be totally open and honest with each other just to get the relationship off the ground. So, let’s look at what God is prepared to put towards cementing our loving union. Well firstly, God’s main claim to fame is that we were created as unique individuals. We have been placed in a world created to provide for our every need. All around us we can use our senses to see, feel and touch this evolving creation. This must be considered as a reasonable contribution.
History has shown it became obvious we weren’t recognising the love God had given us and many were refusing to even recognise God’s existence, preferring to do their own ‘thing’ in furthering their individual causes in this world.
After many warnings, the Father sacrificed His own Son who was called Jesus to prove the love our God has for us all.
Apart from giving us the directions we need to create a wonderful love relationship with God and with each other, Jesus told us he was the way to the Father and then proved the love our God has for us by suffering and dying for us. Not only that, but He made a covenant or total commitment to always be available for each of us.
So, it is patiently obvious our God has already fulfilled all the needs of a great loving partner. How then can we fulfill our side of the bargain? Just as with a human partner, true love is more than a feeling or an action, it is a decision. We jointly decide to love one another. Our God has already made the decision to love us, so we need to make this decision before going any further in developing the relationship further.
This is where the proposed love affair gets tricky. With a human partner you can embrace each other, you can see the look in their eyes, you can feel their heartbeat in unison with your own and you might even enjoy a sexual relationship. There are just so many emotions you can share which helps cement your relationship. It would seem this human form of relationship cannot be duplicated with our God. Or can it?
We can certainly be aware of the presence of our creator if we look at and feel the breeze blowing through the trees or stop and listen to the birds chattering in the branches. We can see our God in the beauty of a sunset or the glory of the sky as it lights up to start a new day. We can see the creator’s work in the simple beauty of a baby, the caring look on the face of a friend or the amazing strata of an exposed cliff face. The power behind an electrical storm, the wonder of our planetary system and the constant ebb and flow of the tides are also other indicators.
While we might live in the midst of the wonders of God’s creations, sadly we tend to take it all for granted. Perhaps this could be where our love relationship could start. We could just recognise God’s presence in our lives.
For our human love relationships to survive we need to be good communicators and we need to respect and be honest with each other. So, how might we achieve these aspects of our love affair with our God?
Instead of seeing our God as an almighty entity who lives in eternity and who seems beyond our reach, perhaps we could focus in on a just a simple relationship with Jesus. The advantage of this is that Jesus was human like us and lived in our world. We can seek Him out because he wants us to find Him. We can talk to Him as a brother, involve Him in all that we do and ask Him to help and support us as He has promised.
Let us see Jesus as an integral part of our lives and constantly thank Him for helping us in so many ways. Let’s not wait until we look back on our yesterdays to see how Jesus has helped us. Let’s thank Him constantly and we will soon become aware of all the little things that are happening in our lives thanks to our ongoing friendship and love affair with our God.
“Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:25)
The little house stood overlooking the eternal void. It had always been in a spirit world of its own. Its occupants, the Godmother and the Godfather were the only couple in existence. Being spirit, they had no need for sustenance, they never aged and happily existed together in a spiritual love environment which they called Heaven.
The Godfather was a creative type of spirit and on many occasions developed innovative ideas which he discussed with the Godmother who he knew he could rely on to enhance and temper his inspirations into more practical possibilities.
While sitting on their back veranda enjoying the sweetness of the void that surrounded their spirit world, the Godfather spoke of wanting to exercise his creative powers. The Godmother listened while he talked on and on about galaxies, stars, planets and even the possibility of creating human forms who could one day join them in their heavenly spirit world.
The Godmother could see her partner was deeply serious about this latest conceptual idea and became even a little excited herself at the prospect of being involved in helping to develop such a grand scheme. Not wanting to place a dampener on this innovative idea, she decided she should at least offer the Godfather her support, but she felt there were a number of questions in her own mind that needed answering before any creative work should begin.
The Godmother felt the idea of the proposed human population in another realm seemed a bit far-fetched and asked the Godfather if he might elaborate more fully on his plan. As it happened, this part of the plan was a bit sketchy, so they both thought deeply about how such an idea might work.
During their discussions it was agreed that If a new civilisation was to eventuate, they decided it would be best to develop a simple Rule to be followed that would enable the humans to live harmoniously together and prepare them for an eventual life of happiness in the eternal spiritual heaven. Rather than refer to themselves as Godfather and Godmother in the Rule, they felt that, because they were spiritually One, they would just call themselves by the simple term of God.
The Rule they agreed upon was that ‘all humans should love their God with their whole heart, soul, strength and mind and that they must love each other as they love themselves’.
While the Godfather was all ready to vigorously commence his creation programme, the Godmother cautioned him to think about how these humans might react to this Rule of theirs in the longer term. She wondered how they would learn to understand what love was and how maintaining an allegiance to them as God might eventually wain.
As time was never a problem in their spiritual Heaven, these concerns, along with others, were discussed at length until what seemed like most of the foreseeable problems had been analysed and addressed. Although they both had some misgivings about what the concept of giving individuals ‘free will’ might have.
Together, God decided that a good idea might be to devise a trial in their spiritual heaven so they might gauge the effectiveness of this ‘free will’ and determine ways it might best be implemented within their eventual human society. This seemed to be a very practical approach that could be taken before embarking on such a major construction and creation plan which, doubtlessly, would seriously change their own existence and also Heaven as they knew it.
And so, God set about creating a complete spiritual angelic civilisation within Heaven. A major concern was how individual angels would react to The Rule in their own way. Both the Godmother and the Godfather felt for the experiment to succeed, it would be necessary to have the angel’s personalities closely resemble those that it was envisaged the humans might possess. To help achieve this, each angel was given the ability to make decisions for themselves on the understanding that The Rule was to be adhered to at all times.
The Godly Rule was enacted and the Godfather and the Godmother watched with interest as their new angelic spirit families increased in number and spread to many parts of their Heavenly home.
Gabriel, one of the senior angels, came to the Eternal House of God to tell them some disturbing news. He sat with the Godfather and Godmother on their back veranda where they enjoyed the quietness of the void and told of how an insurrection was being planned by a rebel group of angels who objected to following the Godly Rule.
It seemed some of the angels were supporting Lucifer, a senior angel, who seemed more intent on promoting himself and sought to have all power and control. He scoffed at The Rule and threatened to get enough followers to support his cause and to take over the Eternal House of God.
God thanked Gabriel and told him that ‘good will always overcome evil’ and asked that he send the Archangel Michael to their home for a briefing.
In the meantime, Lucifer heard that Gabriel had paid a visit to God and reasoned he would have to act smartly or maybe his grand ambitions might be squashed before a blow was struck.
At the request of Lucifer, the Godfather and the Godmother met him at the front gate. There was no way he was being invited to sit out on the back veranda as a guest. Lucifer bowed and offered praise and honour to God, as he felt he was expected to do. The Godfather could see through the insincerity of this greeting and asked the purpose of the visit.
Lucifer’s opening remark proposed a deal with God. This was greeted with a smirk, as he was made well aware that deals were not done with those who flouted The Rule. Lucifer was made well aware that his rebellious activities among the other angels was already known by the Godfather and the Godmother. Lucifer cowered at the base of the gate.
He looked up and mentioned he had heard a whisper that God was looking to set up a whole new civilisation outside of spiritual heaven and he was hoping he might be able to assist in some way. He offered to completely repent for his wrongdoings and dob in all those angels who were his followers if he could be pardoned and set free to promote the wonder of the creator to those in the ‘new world’.
God was not fooled by this fiend and told him to wait while his punishment was determined. The Godfather motioned to the Godmother to come back inside to discuss how they might deal with Lucifer.
The Godfather had some serious misgivings about allowing Lucifer access to his proposed new world but he insisted that ‘good will always triumph over evil’ and if humans were to eventually join them in heaven, individual’s free will would need to be tested, just as the angels had been tested. He felt that allowing Lucifer to move among his creation would enable humans to more readily understand the value of ‘good’ as against the horrors of ‘evil’.
He was not naive enough to think that human weakness wouldn’t prevail in many situations, but he felt this would enable his human creation to recognise the wonder of their creator and what they stood to lose should they choose to follow Satan. In addition, God felt that this could also add to the devil’s frustrations and heighten his on-going punishment as sinners repented, which God believed they would.
Lucifer was admonished for his actions and told he would never again see the shining face of his God and that the beauty and wonders of heaven were closed to him forever. He would suffer severe loneliness and was banished to be a lone spirit in a world yet to be created where ‘good would always overcome evil’. God told him his punishment would continue for all eternity.
The devil could do nothing more than accept his lot and so he slinked away. Although inwardly feeling deeply wounded, he was still determined to do whatever he could to bring down the Eternal House of God by whatever means he might have at his disposal. What he didn’t know was the Godmother was already formulating a plan which would act as an insurance against his evil intensions.
Archangel Michael arrived and was given the commission to drive all of Lucifer’s followers to an enclosed compound to be annexed out of sight of the glory of heaven at the far end of the spiritual void. For them it would become one hell of an existence. Michael was informed of Lucifer’s particular punishment and departed to summon his almighty army and fulfill God’s request.
With Lucifer out of the way, his followers capitulated to the might of Michael and his army. Amid cries and lamentations from Lucifer’s followers, God’s plan was promulgated and thus hell became a permanent place of punishment where the inhabitants would never again enjoy the wonder of God and the heaven they had previously known.
Meanwhile, the Godmother discussed her plan with the Godfather. It involved bringing into existence a third member of their Godly family, whose main responsibility would be to love and care for the human population created as part of the Godfather’s proposed plan. This would extend, if necessary, even to becoming an integral part of the new civilisation in order to promote The Rule and the wonder of God.
The Godmother felt this integration would only need to occur if, like the angels, greed and a desire for power were to cause too many humans to turn away from God. The role of the third member would also include an ability to show anyone who sought it, ‘the way to the Father.’
Because this Spirit creation would come into being as a result of the mingling of their creation concepts, the Godfather and the Godmother thought it appropriate that they refer to this Spirit as their Son.
While the Godfather Spirit saw himself being referred to as The Father, God of Creation, he saw the Godmother spirit as his great Helper, God of Life, as she would breathe life into his creation. Because of his planned specific role, he saw the Spirit of their Son as the God of Humanity.
And thus, the three Spirits combined to became one God and the Blessed Trinity became a reality.
The Godfather agreed to the insurance concept and suggested the Son should be totally involved in the creation process as well, so he would be fully aware of all aspects of the complete project being proposed. He suggested that as the Son might be required to live out every word contained in The Rule he and the Godmother had devised, then it seemed appropriate that the Son should be referred to as ‘The Word’.
God felt all the eventualities within the plan had been considered and so the great creation of our world began. ‘In the beginning was The Word and The Word was with God and The Word was God’.
Scripture stories tell us of the creation of our wonderful world and everything in it, both visible and invisible. Light became available and the galaxies, stars and planets envisioned by the Godfather become a reality. We learn of the separation of the lands and the seas. We marvel at the animals on the ground, the birds in the air and the fish in the sea. Seeds and plants and trees provided shelter and food. All was in readiness for the coming of the Godfather’s greatest creation.
God was happy watching his creation grow and evolve. The Godfather turned to the Godmother and the Son and said, “Let us now make humans in our own image. We want them to enjoy the world we have given them and eventually be welcomed back with us into our heaven.”
It was determined that no two humans would be exactly the same, males were created in the image of the Father and females in the image of the Mother. As with the angels, all the humans were given the gift of a free will. From the very start, The Rule was made clear to human creation and eventually, when some chose to question it, God even expanded it into 10 Commandments. It was felt this made it even more obvious what behaviour was expected from God’s people towards their God and to each other.
The devil, meanwhile, was infiltrating himself in among the population. Lucifer found he could exploit human weaknesses, so that individuals might begin to question the God of their creation. He knew what it was like to gather up possessions and go in search of power and control so he used his evil knowledge to tempt those who were vulnerable.
Sadness crept into the Eternal House of God as it became obvious to the Blessed Trinity that many humans were not living The Rule. Some had even created their own Gods which they worshipped. Others became so entrenched in satisfying their own desires, they completely disregarded the needs of others. The gifts the Spirit of God had given humanity to build up their communities were misused by some individuals whose desire for power and riches was often at the expense of the downtrodden.
God was deeply saddened by what was happening and realised it was becoming increasingly obvious that the Son would have to be sent to Earth to redeem the world. They knew this meant certain pain, considerable suffering and even a horrible human death for the Son. They realised for the sake of the whole world, the time had arrived to enact the insurance arrangement they had put in place all those eons ago in the event of something of this magnitude ever happening.
The process had been well planned. Gabriel was sent to a good woman named Mary, chosen for her holiness. His delicate role was to ask her to consider being the earthly mother of the Messiah. Mary was at first taken aback by the very thought of her, a virgin, becoming pregnant, but her deep faith in God enabled her to respond to Gabriel “Be it done unto me according to thy word.”
And the Word was made flesh and lived among us. He was named Jesus.
As Jesus grew in age and wisdom, he experienced life as a human being. At around the age of 30 he felt it was time to go public and complete the reason for his human existence. He knew he must fulfil the Father’s request to make the world in which he lived aware of The Rule and the love their God had for all creation.
His task commenced when he chose to be baptised by his cousin John. It was on this occasion that the Father, speaking from an overhead cloud, made everyone present fully aware that this was ‘his Son with whom he was well pleased.’ The Spirit of God appeared as the softness of a dove and he recognised the presence of his God mother Spirit.
Jesus travelled the countryside attracting followers along the way. He told simple stories about what God wants of us and how to apply The Rule in our lives. As a human he relied on God to help cure and heal people. God supported his work by providing miracles on many occasions. Jesus made many friends, but he also made enemies who were jealous of his popularity. Jesus taught his friends how to pray and told them of his spiritual Father in heaven. He constantly referred to the need to live out The Rule and often went off on his own to pray.
On one occasion the devil saw he was weak from praying and fasting and had a go at tempting him by offering him ownership of the whole world, if he would just bow down before him. Jesus vehemently told him where to go and then enjoyed the ministrations of some angels sent by his Godmother to assist him.
We are all born with the express purpose of living. Jesus was the only person born purely to die. And as the time of his death drew near, he gathered his friends around him and instituted the New Covenant in which he promised his Spirit would be with them for all time.
After asking his Father’s blessing, he shared bread and wine with them and told them to eat and drink this as his body and blood, which would be sacrificed for mankind. He told them whenever they did this, they should do it in memory of him.
That night he was betrayed by one of his own followers. When he prayed to his Father for help, this was not forthcoming. In fact, not only did he have to suffer the pain and misery that would come during the next hours, he had to take on board the pain of all the sins of mankind as well. The load was immense.
In Heaven, while this horrific scenario was playing out on earth, the Godfather was distraught. The Godmother, inconsolable. It was a situation they had hoped would never happen, but because of this event they knew humankind would forever more be reminded of the need to live out The Rule and by so doing, enjoy the wonder and joy of everlasting life.
After Jesus breathed his last breath, his Spirit left his earthly body and came back to his spiritual home where, because of his suffering and death, the gates of Heaven were flung open for all those souls awaiting this great day.
There was a tearful reuniting between the Son, his Godfather and Godmother. The Trinity was once more three spirits in one God. The Son had completed the task given him by the Father and because of the New Covenant he had made with humankind, would be available to help anyone who called on him in their efforts to live out The Rule.
The Son had one more visit to make before being ministered to by a group of doting angels organised by his Godmother. He went to the gates of Hell and left there the image of the suffering Jesus on the Cross as a constant reminder to those anguished souls within of what they had done to their God.
True to his word, Jesus rose from the tomb on Easter Sunday. While his Spirit took on the wounded body of Jesus, he made sure he was recognised. He cooked and ate breakfast with some of the apostles, joined two others on the road to Emmaus and appeared to them all while they were in a locked room.
Jesus reminded his followers of the Covenant he had made with them at the Last Supper and promised his Spirit would always be with them. Even so, they remained locked up in a room for fear that they would be caught and suffer a similar fate to Jesus.
God sent the Helper, as the Holy Spirit was called at the first Pentecost, to fire up the disciples, remove their inhibitations and get them out into the world, so we might all understand why Jesus suffered and died for us.
As Christians, we need to follow in the disciple’s footsteps. We have a responsibility to embrace The Rule ourselves, spread the Good News and look forward to eventually being one with our God in the spiritual world of Heaven.
How fortunate we are that the Spirit of the risen Jesus lives in each of our hearts today. This was his part of the New Covenant.
After everything our God has gone through for us, it is now up to us to try and live out The Rule in our daily lives.
In writing this story it has always been my intention that maybe one day it might be used as the basis for a stage production.
Naturally some parts are purely imaginative, but I hope readers will use these ideas to create even further possibilities in their personal understanding of the depth of our God’s love for us.
As the story progresses, it broadly follows that which is well known. However, it is my wish that it will offer a further opportunity for us to perhaps relook at our individual life’s journeys in respect of The Rule.
I believe we need to question why the Church is in the position it is at present with many parishioners choosing not to attend the Sacraments. Maybe we need to re-examine and redefine what we believe Jesus wants of us as Church.
The title of this paper refers to our Church becoming enlivened by the empowerment of the people. It is my belief, for this to occur, there needs to be a major change in our attitude as people of the Church. In addition, the Church hierarchy could examine the current relationship it has with us, as ordinary Church members, and consider what changes might need to be made in order to align itself more closely with the people it serves.
The Role of our Priests
As I see it, when we come together to celebrate The Eucharist, (or attend Mass as some would still call it), the Priest does all the officiating. Sure, we get to take up the collection and the Offertory gifts and we even get to read Scripture but only Priests can read the Gospel. We can help distribute the Eucharist but this, I feel, is more to get the communicants through and back to their seats so Mass doesn’t extend beyond 1 hour, or some parishioners might start to complain.
Historically, it has just become acceptable that a Priest will handle all spiritual expectations and all we need do is keep God’s 10 Commandments and attend the Eucharist each Sunday. Our Priest will be available whenever we need him, day or night. Apart from preparing and delivering an appropriate homily on Sundays, we accept that the Priest is aware of the activities of different groups and societies operating in the parish and is also knowledgeable about events happening in our world and area that affect our communities. He is expected to officiate at baptisms, weddings and funerals, provide absolution for our sins and be there for us when we are sick or as we near the end of our lives.
Our Priest is expected to instantly provide a blessing for everything from rosary beads to new cars and must always be on time for Mass. Is it any wonder vocations are on the decline?
We expect so much from our Priests and when we attend our Eucharist, other than providing the minor assistance mentioned above, we greet each other, follow the overhead liturgy wording, listen attentatively to the Scripture and the homily, pray, receive the Eucharist, contribute to the two collections and go home. Sadly, some of those who come to our Eucharist are just ‘attendees’. Coming together to celebrate the Eucharist should be more about continually growing our relationship with Jesus and with each other.
By virtue of their studies and professional qualifications, our Priests are our spiritual leaders and advisers. They are human like us, as Jesus was. Jesus led the disciples, He showed them the way to the Father by telling them stories with which they could easily relate.
Our Role as Church
As members of the Catholic Church, we need to be more aware and thankful we have been given the gift of Faith and that we use the Church and the Sacramental life to maintain and constantly grow that gift. I believe this gift is very much like the love we give each other when we receive the Sacrament of Matrimony. I feel Faith, like Marriage, is an ongoing commitment that needs to be constantly worked on and developed so it becomes richer, stronger and deeper. Like love, our faith is not just a feeling or emotion, it is a decision of the heart.
While our Priests deserve to be treated with respect, we need to be more aware of the selfless service with which they provide us. We, in turn, need to not only be prepared, but be willing, to make ourselves available to help them, and members of our Church community, in whatever way we can that will support and maintain each other on our journey. We should no longer see our Priests as the Reverend Father up on a pedestal, but our earthly spiritual leader and our friend working with us and among us, towards our salvation.
The Empowerment of our Parishioners
I don’t believe we can empower parishioners without loosening some the existing man-made rules, regulations and control that is maintained by the Church hierarchy. I believe the congregation at our Eucharistic Celebrations has to individually feel they are a worthy, vital part of the celebration that assists our spiritual growth. We have to see ourselves as today’s apostles and need to have the same desire to follow in the footsteps of Jesus as those in the early Church. We have to be more than just attendees; we have to eagerly look forward to our attendance so we might experience Jesus afresh and commit more deeply in our personal relationship with our God. We need to be able and willing to live by example the Good News of the Gospel.
So, how can this enthusiasm be injected into our people in our present situation? Many of us, although aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit within us, are not fully aware of the power that presence can generate, particularly when we come together to celebrate the Eucharist.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 3:16 states, “In the abundance of his glory may he, through his Spirit, enable you to grow firm in power with regard to your inner self”.
To help us become more aware of how the power of the Spirit within us can be used effectively, I would like to offer the following suggestions, purely as a means of initiating discussion that hopefully will lead to more enthusiastic church attendances.
Our church environment
At the Last Supper Jesus shared the meal at a table around which all the apostles sat. In those churches where the altar is positioned where the people sit around it, then, this form of authenticity might allow us to feel we are attending an invitation to a meal with Jesus.
I can’t imagine Jesus wore clothes any different from his friends. If our Priests were to wear a simple stole to signify their leadership role, I believe that would be sufficient to align them more with the congregation.
We come together to celebrate the Eucharist, ‘the summit and source’ of our existence. The Last Supper was Jesus’ farewell meal with his friends. He not only instituted the New Covenant where He promised to always be with us, but gave his apostles the means of remembering him forever. ‘As often as you do these things you do them in memory of me’.
The Eucharistic Prayers, which only the Priest recites, obviously are designed to cover the aspects of the Last Supper that lead us to the Consecration and the distribution of the Eucharist. We, the congregation, do get to say ‘Amen’ during these prayers, indicating that we agree with all that has been said.
I feel if our celebrant was to use the current Eucharistic Prayers to involve us, in the way Jesus would if he were present, then the laity would feel more aligned with the events of the Last Supper. It would allow our Priests to re-tell these events as story, for, in reality, the Bible is basically a proclaimed and spoken word, a book of stories. Our Priest would hold our attention, be in direct eye contact with us and enable different parts of the Eucharistic Prayers to be more fully explained for our better understanding.
Since the Council of Trent, the church rules and regulations only allow ordained priests to perform this rite. Perhaps if we re-examine what Jesus wants of us, we might relook at His words, “As often as you do these things, you do them in memory of me”. Jesus made no mention of only ordained Catholic Priests being able to ‘do these things’. Are we not all apostles responsible for taking the ‘Good News’ to the world?
Fortunately, Priests and most Catholics believe that it is the Holy Spirit on which we rely for transubstantiation to occur. (some Catholics might believe it is the Priest who performs the miracle on the alter).
The Consecration prayers during our Mass are always performed with much reverence by our Priests and the same reverence is given to this sacred part of our Eucharist by those attending. If this exclusive rite were extended to include all those present at the Eucharistic Celebration, the congregation would feel so much more an integral part of the re-enactment of the Last Supper.
I believe it would more align the congregation with their Priest as pastor and leader and take those present to a deeper relationship with their God.
Transubstantiation or Transfiguration
In our current Eucharistic prayers, we ask the Father’s blessing on our offerings as Jesus did at the Last Supper and our Celebrant asks the Holy Spirit to come down on our offerings of bread and wine and change them into the body and blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
I have always wondered why our Priest needs to ask the Holy Spirit to come DOWN when the Spirit is already down and present within each one of us as baptised Christians.
If the Church were to accept this situation, then, instead of the Consecration part of our existing Eucharistic Celebration, the important role of our Priests would be to share the wonder of the Eucharist by assisting us prepare for the coming of Jesus into our individual heart and soul.
As John the Baptist prepared the people for the coming of Jesus, so too our Priests would prepare us. It would be a time during our Mass when, with the help of our Priest, we could individually and reverently prepare for the miracle that would occur within each of us as the blessed food from our offerings melds with the Holy Spirit within us and our heavenly Father says quietly to us, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased”.
This ‘transfiguration’ is one where we can honestly and humbly say, ‘I thank you Jesus for although I am unworthy, you have still come to me and allowed me to become one with you and the Father and the Holy Spirit’.
Just as we believe and trust in the Spirit changing the bread and wine by the Priest on our behalf, so too must we trust that the same Spirit within each of us would make the same change.
It is my belief that the ramifications of this reaction would also engender a greater understanding of the power of the Holy Spirit within us and have us wanting to be a part of our Church Eucharistic Celebrations. The excitement, hopefully, would soon spread to lapsed Catholics who would recognise that the Holy Spirit has come alive and is blowing as a gentle breeze through the Church. I am sure many would recall the words of the Hosea song, ‘Come back to me with all your heart. Don’t let fear keep us apart’.
Go in peace, the Mass is ended
After our Communion, our Priest can remind us we have received food for our journey and it is our responsibility as Baptised Christians to take the Good News of the Gospel out to others. I feel we would be enthusiastically leaving the church building as the apostles left their room on that first Pentecost – excited.
Perhaps a more appropriate ending to our Eucharistic Celebration might be, “My brothers and sisters we have received the Eucharist as food for our journey. Let us go into our communities and love one another as Jesus directed us to do. Love is a universal language and recognised by all. They will know we are Christians by our love”.
This submission puts forward for consideration the following suggestions:
Parishioners need to be more than just ‘attendees’ as we celebrate the Eucharist together, we need to build up and enhance our Gift of Faith.
More emphasis to be placed by our spiritual leaders on the role of the Holy Spirit within each of us.
It would be more realistic if the church environment were to be more aligned to the Last Supper setting.
The Eucharistic prayers to be told as story rather than recited from a book.
The Consecration part of our Eucharistic Celebration to become a blessed preparation for the receipt of the blessed symbols of bread and wine by communicants, so they will be fully aware of the role of the Holy Spirit within each of us to convert these symbols to the holiness of the Eucharist.
Following our Eucharistic Celebration, it would seem more appropriate to have an enthusiastic farewell and a reminder of our responsibility as committed Christians.
It is my wish that this Plenary Council will result in a greater interest and involvement by baptised Catholics in practicing their faith and in the development of deeper personal relationships with God.
I believe the hierarchy within our Church needs to pivot from its current mode of operation to one which will enliven and empower the people.
It will be essential that any changes agreed upon are enthusiastically driven by our hierarchy from the top down. I feel the biggest challenge will be to communicate to all of us the Church’s acceptance of the changes and to ensure we fully understand how they will strengthen our faith and our individual relationship with Jesus.
While sitting in the aeroplane waiting for it to take off, I was casually watching the loading of passengers’ luggage into the underbelly of my jet. I suppose I was actually looking for my own suitcase to satisfy myself that it hadn’t got lost on its journey from the check-in counter. It should have been easy to see as I had tied a bright green ribbon onto the handle.
As each bag progressed along the conveyor belt that stretched from the linked trailers to the luggage storage area under our seats I looked for the ribbon, but it was not to be seen. In my mind I assumed it had been part of an earlier load, so I settled back into my seat and opened the novel I had brought with me.
Then all of a sudden it dawned on me. I sat bolt upright and looked more closely at the loading operations below my viewing window. This time I was looking with much closer scrutiny than I had adopted a minute or so earlier. Still no green ribbon to be seen! And I now knew why. I wondered how long it would be before the airline company sent in their heavies and quietly, yet forcibly, removed me from the aeroplane. How embarrassing, I thought.
It was then that the announcement was made that confirmed my fears. Our take off had been delayed due, supposedly, to the late arrival of a connecting aeroplane that had passengers booked on my flight. I knew I could explain away everything if given the opportunity, but my mind kept taking me back to earlier that morning when I had packed my bag and tied the green identifying ribbon around the handle.
Whenever I go interstate I always take my travelling alarm clock and make sure I pack it in between the clothes. A previous clock suffered a terrible fate because I had thrown it in at the last minute and the ‘not-so-gentle-ways’ of the airport handling staff had resulted in my need to purchase a new wake-up reminder. So down in between the shirts and the socks I poked the new alarm clock along with my mobile phone charger, another item I considered fragile. Just before the final zipping up, I had decided to have a glass of fruit juice.
Going to the fridge, I noticed on the second shelf four of my favourite treats, firmly wrapped in their thin plastic film. No! I thought, I can’t just woof them down because I wouldn’t be home for over a week. But then, I reasoned, I was the only one in the house that loved cold sausages and a week, even in the cool confines of the fridge, might see them in the bin before my return.
An instant decision later and I had them in my hand. I would take them with me and enjoy them later in the day at my destination. As I sat in the aeroplane, I knew that decision was the cause of the trouble that was about to descend upon me.
I had stuffed the snags down in the same area of the bag as the other items I wanted protected. Now as I sat in seat 23F looking franticly out the window hoping for even a small glimpse of my green ribbon, I could see in my mind the x-ray picture of my bag with the identifying tag that matched the one on my ticket.
Inside the bag were four sticks of gelignite connected to what seemed to be a wire fuse, detonator and timing device. I could envisage this shocking find by the jittery security personnel would cause at least half the airport to be evacuated, flights to be cancelled and travellers to be severely inconvenienced. An army robot would be brought in and when it got close to my bag, its handlers would manoeuvre its TV eye to enable it to get a close up of, not only the suspicious object, but the number and name on the attached airline tag.
I knew I was in serious trouble and would probably be exposed as a terrorist. I had no hope of expecting the authorities would believe my story as the robot would be given the command to take my bag to a safe place where it would be automatically detonated. Any evidence that might be left after the explosion would only confirm their fears. A mangled clock and electric wiring. As for the snags, they would have disintegrated and cooked beyond recognition by the fire that ensued.
Sweat beads were forming on my forehead and I could feel my underarm deodorant breaking down under the perspiration strain. It was then that the three men in suits entered the cabin. I could see the hostess pointing down to where I was sitting. They were making their way down the aisle. This was it. I was about to become headline news and all for the wrong reason. Would anyone ever believe my story?
The men sat in the empty seats behind me. The cabin door was closed and the aeroplane started backing across the tarmac. I couldn’t believe it. All my fears had been for nothing.
It just goes to show how simple it is for us to create imaginary situations that cause us severe anxiety and undue worry. On reflection, I can see how my waiting time could have been spent in a much more positive way. But then, it is easy saying things like that with hindsight.
What we need to do of course, is to recognise situations that occur over which we have no control and deliberately try and avoid the onset of anxiety. This will no doubt add to our life span and save us changing shirts more often.
From those wanting to fully understand a situation you will often hear them say, “I wish I were a fly on the wall”. Such a fly on the wall of a Polling Booth gets to see and hear many things. It watches and listens as the voting day unfolds.
It hears the occasional voter’s cynical remarks about politicians in general and wonders whether the one making the comments would be prepared to put in the long, sometimes frustrating, hours working for constituents.
The fly also scratches its head along with some of the voters who have paid little or no attention to the media in the weeks leading up to the election. As these people walk through the door of the Polling Booth, with a number of How-To-Vote sheets in their hand, some still have no idea for whom they are going to vote.
They line up at the table where their surname fits the initials displayed and they ensure the mandatory mark has been made beside their name on the voter’s register. Armed with an official ballot paper, they make their way, still somewhat bewildered, to the enclosure that contains the sharpened pencil and the screwed-up remnants of the previous occupant’s ‘How to vote sheets’. They mark their ballot paper.
From the wall, the fly sees the crippled and the sick making extreme sacrifices to come to the polling booth, determined to cast their vote. It sees young people, a little unsure of the system, voting for the first time. It sees the concern on the faces of those, who do not have their name on the roll, because they failed to notify their change of address to the Electoral Commission when they moved into the area last year.
The fly can’t help but hear the angry voters claiming they are being forced by law to vote. These people plainly let the booth officials and everyone around them know they plan to cast an informal vote. They proclaim they only came to save paying the fine.
Later in the evening when the booth has closed and the ballot papers are being counted, the fly wonders which of the informal papers belong to the angry voters. Are they the ballot papers with scribble all over them, or the ones with unsavoury words and comments. Maybe they are the ones where the voters add extra candidates whose names have been taken from comics or TV shows. The fly wonders whether these people really appreciate living in a country with a democracy.
As the count proceeds, the fly watches as scrutineers hover, waiting to get an early indication of how their candidate has polled. On these faithful representatives it sees looks of anguish on some of their faces and elation on others as ballot papers are sorted into piles for each candidate. Some of these people will be celebrating late into the night, while others will be licking their wounds, wondering where they failed.
The scrutineers mumble among themselves about the benefits and pitfalls of the preferential voting system. They take notes and whisper into their mobile phones to officials at their party headquarters.
The fly buzzes off out of the building before the lights go out. It lands for a feast on a half-eaten sandwich, lying beside a rubbish bin full of ‘How to Vote Sheets’.
His election day started badly because, upon arrival at the polling booth, he was unable to find a space in the car park area adjacent to the local hall. He was heard to be muttering as he reversed out and had to park some 50 metres up the road. During his short walk back to the hall he was blaming the staff at the booth who he claimed must have taken up all the parking spots.
As he walked up the pathway to the front door he was offered How-to-Vote cards by the ever-smiling voluntary party representatives. He snatched a card off each as they stepped out from under their candidate emblazoned colourful umbrellas and he stormed towards the entrance.
He found he had to join a short queue waiting to enter the voting area and this caused an outburst from him which enabled others in the queue to be well aware that ‘this whole show was a waste of time’ and that he ’would rather be out fishin’’.
When it came his turn to proceed to the registration table, he barged forward and placed his two palms on the table surface. He then belched a concoction of last night’s beer and this morning’s bacon, eggs and after brecky fag.
Before the young male Poll Clerk had a chance to offer a greeting, the disgruntled voter blurted out a surname that sounded like ‘Johnson’ and then added, Michael John.
This was the Poll Clerk’s first election and although he had been trained on what he should ask, the sight (and smell) of the person in front of him took him off guard. He fumbled with his list and looked up JOHNSON, but failed to find a Michael John.
The man in front of him was obviously getting agitated so he courageously asked how to spell the name. The reply, J.O.H.N.S.T.O.N.E. was spat out, the letters coming in quick succession.
At last Michael John Johnstone was given a voting paper and as he marched off to the nearest vacant booth he informed the Clerk and others around him that he was only doing this so he ‘wouldn’t be fined’.
He cast his vote and threw the How-to-Vote sheets on the floor. He made sure as many people as possible saw him place his folded voting paper in the box and then he stormed towards the exit still mumbling about the stupidity of the process and how ‘you couldn’t trust politicians anyway’.
Later that night as the votes were being counted, the Poll Clerks and the scruttiners wondered why a person would just put a large cross over the whole voting paper and render it informal. Perhaps, they thought, such a person did not deserve to live in a democratic country.
Recently, I attended a funeral church service for a young man who had taken his own life. It was a sad occasion for us all and especially for the young man’s family. When the 83 year old priest spoke, I seriously wondered what he could possibly say that might bring comfort to the family and friends present.
His words were a revelation to me. He recounted many of the good things the young man had performed during his life for his family and the community and concentrated his talk on the ways he had helped and served others.
The priest spoke of a loving God who had been with the young man throughout his short life and who, he believed, would never abandon him because of a serious mistake he made at the end. He recounted how Jesus had already died for our sins and wanted only to love us into eternity. I left that church with a better understanding of a God who loves us, rather than one who sits in judgement of our faults and failings.
Since that day I have often thought back over that experience and have come to the realisation that death should not be feared and that it is possible to actually embrace the thought of an eternal life. Death is something we should openly talk about. It is seen by many as a taboo subject and if we raise the concept in a conversation, we are considered to be morbid and often advised to pick on a brighter subject.
Some people just see it as inevitable and prefer to put it out of their mind until faced with its reality. Others either don’t believe in life after death or prefer not to think it might exist. While others are just plain scared about the thought of being judged for what they have done during their life.
If there is a genuine sorrow in our hearts for the things in our life we could have done better, then our God must see and understand this. There is no doubt we will be judged after death. A look at scripture can give us the answer (Matt.25:31-46). Without wishing to make this process seem too simplistic, it appears that the only criteria we will need to address is the answer to the Lord’s question, “What have you done for me”.
Our loving God accepts our human failings, but certainly would have a long memory when it comes to keeping a record of the ‘things we have done for Him’. Let us try not to fear death, for death can be the beginning of an exciting new awakening for us in a place that has been waiting for us since we were created.
It’s a long way from Brisbane to the salt Lake Gairdner in South Australia. During the trip you get to see the full gambit of Australia’s scenery from the lush tropical forests to the gibber plains and all that is in between. Generally, the roads are good with the exception of the last 140Kms of red dust and corrugations North West of Port Augusta.
On approaching the Lake for the first time you could be excused for thinking you had come across a massive ice rink. I reasoned with myself that it couldn’t be ice as it was February and the temperature was over 40 degrees C. with a savage sun beating down unmercifully on the glistening surface. It was salt. Set that hard you couldn’t even start to drive a tent peg through the patterned surface.
Here was the site for the 2013 Dry Lake Racing Australia (DLRA) Speed Week.
The event is now 23 years old and attracts entries from speed enthusiasts from all Australian States and also from some overseas countries. Some of these drivers and riders have already qualified for licences which allow them to compete in numerous speed categories up to and beyond 299M.P.H. Others are rookies and must obtain their speed licences before being eligible to be clocked at higher speeds.
Lake Gairdner is located in a desolate part of our country where saltbush, spinifex and a few dry spindly squat trees dot the red dust and rocky landscape for as far as the eye can see. Emus and kangaroos seem to be the only inhabitants along with a few skinny sheep, although there is ample evidence of a nocturnal rabbit population. It must be here that the Lord of the Flies lives along with his millions of pesky supporters. For it is here that one hand must be free at all times to constantly perform what has become known as the Aussie royal wave – a windscreen like action that attempts to keep the face and food free of the little pests long enough to attempt to eat or talk.
There is no fresh water or even basic amenities provided at the camp sites and signs remind you that you must take out everything you bring in with you. There are no mobile phone or internet signals available and no corner shop to pick up last minute forgotten items. All this added together makes camping here a real adventure.
It is a challenge that once accepted, enables you to put aside the hardships and see in the barren landscape a place of immense beauty. It is a place of real peace where the breeze murmurs softly through the saltbush tufts and dry tree limbs and the heavens at night are filled with stars, planets and man-made objects moving at various speeds across the sky.
If you inject into this wilderness setting around 300 motoring enthusiasts vehicles, their owners, families and support personnel totaling around 1200 people who drive or ride every imaginable type of vehicle from vans to busses and pushbikes to B double container-carrying trucks then you have Speed Week 2013.
The salt lake comes alive during this week. Pit crews set up their workshops and the D.L.R.A. volunteer organisation fires into action. Considerable emphasis is placed on maintaining the salt surface of the lake in as pristine condition as possible. All vehicles coming onto the lake must first have all excessive dust blown from them and are required to have waterproof tarpaulins under them when parked. All rubbish must be taken off the lake when returning to camp each night and the organisers pay particular attention to mark traffic ways and instruct all those using the salt tracks in the importance of caring for this world heritage environment.
There are numerous vehicle classes for which owners, riders and drivers can register their vehicles to race against the clock in order to not only beat personal best times, but also attempt Australian and World land speed records. This year there was a wide range of machines from a souped up version of the humble postie bike to the Slaughter Racing Group’s streamliner vehicle in which the owners will shortly attempt the world land-speed record on the salt at Bonneville, USA. This Aussie designed and made machine will soon be fitted with a helicopter T55 Lycoming turbine engine rated at 4,800 H.P. to attempt to beat the current 437 M.P.H current world record.
Speeds are measured in M.P.H. in keeping with the universally accepted timing mechanisms used and in conformity with the methods used at the only other salt lake venue in the world at Bonneville in the U.S.A.
I was invited to be a crew member in a 4 person Kawasaki factory supported team who were attempting to gain the Australian land-speed record for a production motorbike in the 1650 P.P. class. Our team consisted of Ralph Nicholls, motorcycle racer and mechanic; Leanne Knowles, team manager and performance coach; Anthony Mack (our son), crew chief and safety officer and myself the team photographer and race support person.
The Kawasaki bike we used was a 2012 model ZX 14R. As required by the Production Class regulations, everything about the bike was in accordance with the strict rules laid down for production bikes attempting record times.
Never having ridden on salt before, Ralph Nicholls only had 2 or at most 3 rides each day in order to qualify and become acquainted with the bike and the conditions. While our primary goal was to set an Australian Production Class Record, this had to be achieved by riding in excess of 200 M.P.H. When you consider that only 36 other Australians have ever passed this 200 M.P.H. mark driving or riding any vehicle in any Class, then this, in itself, was to be a major achievement. Of those 36 only 24 had ever passed this 200 M.P.H. mark in setting a new Australian Land speed record in any Class.
The team had prepared well for this event even to the extent of using tyre warmers powered by a portable generator prior to each ride on the 8 mile prepared salt track surface. Tyre types and pressures were also given careful consideration. By Thursday evening Ralph had managed to achieve a top speed of 197.737 M.P.H. This was into a slight headwind. With only one day left in the event and the possibility of only 2 more rides we were hoping for something special on the last day.
Friday dawned and we realised it was going to be one of those perfect mornings where there was no wind and the atmosphere was cool. Fortunately, we were placed towards the front of the line-up following our 6 hour wait in the line on Thursday afternoon and were to be in the first 10 to move to the starting grid.
It had been a big week. We had learned a lot but we all knew this was probably the last chance we would have of achieving our goals. Ralph was understandably nervous but sat in an easy chair on the shady side of our crew back-up van, mentally preparing himself for the ride to come. Leanne was maintaining his water intake as it was hot for him wearing the full leather outfit. Anthony was polishing the bike hoping to remove any wind resistance dirt or dust might provide. It was an anxious time.
We were called. It was our turn to get the bike to the starting grid. We removed the tyre warmers and wheeled the bike out of the rear of the van. Ralph took it to the grid with the three of us following carrying Kawasaki umbrellas and proudly wearing our Kawasaki racing shirts.
The starter received instructions that the track was clear, the emergency response team was in position and the official timers were ready. We stepped back from the bike as Ralph revved it in his final warm up seconds. Then he was off speeding down the eight mile long track. We returned to the van each in our own way wishing Ralph every success.
The two-way radio crackled as the timer announced Ralph’s time at the first mile – 193.851 M.P.H. We looked at each other knowing that was a very fast speed to have attained after only 1 mile. Then the timer announced the speed registered at the 2 mile location. 208.153 M.P.H. (234 k.p.h). The three of us screamed as one and those still at the starting grid knew something very special had just occurred. Ralph slowed after that as he knew he had done his best but at that point was not aware of his recorded time.
It wasn’t until we met him after he had left the track that he became aware of our excitement and had difficulty taking in the enormity of what he had achieved.
To be one of only a few Australians to have exceeded the 200 M.P.H. mark was an amazing feat but to have convincingly beaten the Australian P – P record of 204 M.P.H. also puts Ralph into an elite group of record breakers. The world’s fastest speed ever achieved by a rider on a production P – P Class bike is 212 M.P.H. To better this will be our future goal.
In conjunction with the Kawasaki organisation, plans are already being made for next year’s Lake Gairdner D.L.R.A. event. Naturally our team hopes it will prove to be as successful for us as this year. It has been an exciting adventure for me and I feel fortunate to have been asked to be part of this record breaking team. It is a special feeling to have been a small part of this history making journey.
THE CATLINS COASTLINE where deep, relentless forces buckle the layered land hiding bays and beaches between long, low folds of mountains. Here rugged rocky headlands are seen to be butting into the sea and rocky shelves provide a resting place for seals.