Happy people are from happy communities … what can I do to build a happy community?
We could see the readings as a call to faithfulness so that we can receive God’s promises. Faithfulness in commitments is becoming a bigger problem, and our society suffers less unity. However, faithfulness requires an important virtue: that we respect and love ourselves.
It would be easy to say: “just imitate Jesus and all will be OK.” But we need more than that. We need to know that God believes in us. In today’s readings, God is opening our minds to know that you are important, wonderful and can make a difference!
Some of our Kenyan youth have completed University degrees and struggled to find work. However, one by one they persevered, trusting in God while helping others, and now have jobs.
There are bankers, nurses, clinical officers, teachers, stock controllers, lawyers and more.
The Gospel reminds us how God embraces and encourages our divided, suffering world: Moses, Elijah & Jesus take the time to come together when the chosen people are oppressed: they show how God accepts our clumsy attempts to do good: Peter had no idea what to do.
So, God also accepts whatever small act of kindness and good that we try.
In the First Reading, just as Abram is given a great promise through the little relationship he has with his wife, God is inviting each one of us to believe that our small – sometimes broken –relationships with each other, can become fruitful and important.
Two main things destroy Hope: 1) a pre-occupation with material pleasures: simply because they only last for a short time; and/or 2) thinking we are bad, useless, etc.
I’m reminded of Abram’s experience through our ROSIES Oblate street outreach mission in Australia. Several people who lived on the streets have overcome obstacles and past pain, to integrate back into regular society, and have created their own healthy families. Why? Young people from our parishes and schools visited and encouraged them week after week, after week.
Now, what else can create obstacles to feeling that sense of importance promised by God? It’s when we focus mainly on what I want to do. However, when we look around us and see what the community needs, and respond to it, then our lives become more complete, if more tired!
The most important service to the community is by raising children. Many countries are in crisis because of a shrinking population – so thank you to all the faithful parents out there.
But here are some examples where more community support is in needed in Australia:
1) by 2035 Catholic Education estimates a 15% shortfall in teachers;
2) there is a shortage of paramedics throughout the country;
3) Good balanced, middle class political leaders are also hard to find; and
4) Aged care and nursing are understaffed because fewer people are choosing it.
Why? In many case, there are fears of criticism or legal punishments for honest mistakes. And, often, service for the wider community requires a lot of sacrifice: time, effort and stress. Sometimes the financial rewards are lower than the more commercial jobs.
However, if no one chooses community service “jobs”, will our society continue to be a good and happy place? I fear not. Australian society has become very good at complaining and criticising ANY lack of community services, or mistakes. However, complaints against the Government for not overcoming the crises are unfair when we don’t, also, criticise ourselves.
As mentioned in last week’s homily, there comes a time when we need to “give back” to the community so that we can live happier and more fulfilled lives.
Finally, Lent is a time when we often think about the poorer people overseas. We make sacrifices to help them. However, there are some structural injustices the developed nations, like Australia, are inflicting upon poorer countries.
For example, we tell our Governments to get more nurses, etc. from overseas. But, do we realise the damage that does to the poorer, overseas countries?
We entice nurses from Africa, but do we compensate Africa for the education they received?
Are western nations “stealing” education resources from poorer countries?
Are we depriving those poorer countries of the nurses they need?
Should we do something about it?
Be encouraged that God has faith in each of you: but to feel that love, we have to be active in community service, not just serving our own interests.
Let us pray for a generous spirit to grow stronger in us, so that we think about promoting community service work, and appreciating those who currently do it.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI