Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Evangelii Gaudium

Pope Francis released his first Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium today. Evangelii Gaudium means "the Joy of the Gospel". The inter-webs have been flooded with blogs, tweets and Facebook statuses quoting lines and paragraphs. Of course, I had to contribute my two cents worth! 

My favourite paragraph comes early in the document (admittedly I'm still working my way through it!):
22. God’s word is unpredictable in its power. The Gospel speaks of a seed which, once sown, grows by itself, even as the farmer sleeps (Mk 4:26-29). The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking.
I dare you to check out the Pope's Exhortation, even if you just skim it. Here's the link: If you have read it, I encourage you to leave a comment with your thoughts or your favourite line/paragraph.

Be joyous, be hopeful and be faith-filled: God's got this!

Thursday, 21 November 2013


I've posted in this blog several times about my love of basketball. Just the other day I was reminiscing to a friend about my first memory of basketball: watching Michael Jordan on T.V. when I was three years old. Soon after my father bought me a basketball hoop. It was one of those children's goals, made of red and black plastic. 
6 y.o. , with my first basketball hoop in the background
I started playing club basketball when I was six. I was short, chubby and clumsy, three attributes which do not lend themselves to the game of basketball; but I was young and energetic and didn't care that I stunk. I remember clearly the first time I scored a basket in a game: it was the start of the second half and I remember getting the ball near halfway, I went screaming down court towards the hoop, the ball bouncing all over the place; my short, chubby legs pumping beneath me; the whole crowd cheering my name! I approached the hoop and I let the ball fly...IT WENT IN! I turned around to celebrate with my teammates, but noticed they were all standing down the other end of the court, arms crossed, all looking rather unimpressed. That's when the referee explained to me that I had scored in the other team's hoop

Turns out the crowd wasn't cheering my name, they were yelling at me to turn around.

I wanted to score a basket so badly that I ignored everything else going on around me. I went the wrong way because I was too caught up in doing my own thing. OK, so I was six and I didn't really know what was going on; but this story prompts a question: do you ever get so focussed on what you're doing that you neglect to hear the voices around you? Goals and plans are important, but they also need to be flexible and open to change. Its important to have a vision for what you want to do with your life, but it's more important to allow God to influence your life.

If you'd have asked me five years ago what I wanted to do with my life, I would have told you I was going to be a Catholic priest. I prayed and discerned and eventually I entered the seminary. When I was in the seminary I was confronted with one of the most difficult choices I've ever faced in my life: should I stay or should I go? Part of me still really wanted to stay, to become a priest. But part of me also felt drawn in a different direction. Looking back now, I can say that "drawing feeling" was God. I traumatised over what to do, making a decision and then changing my mind the very next day. Eventually I went with that drawing in a different direction.

As I reflect back on that time now I can see God at work. At the time though I was left with a whole bunch of loose ends. I was bummed because I had long planned on being a priest, only to have that plan change on me when I finally began that journey. It took me a few years to figure out what it all meant. Now though I can see how all the pieces connect. As I go to out to the Catholic schools around Brisbane I lean heavily on  my formation from the seminary to speak to young people about vocation, calling and discernment.

Being driven is a good thing. Ambition and motivation are good qualities to have, but our drive has to be inspired, fuelled not just by success but also imagination and hope. I once heard a Bishop say that everything happens for a reason, that signs don't have to be miraculous but can be normal and mundane everyday events. How is God speaking to you through your family, workmates or teachers? What's happening at work or at school that could be prompting you in a different direction? Do you approach life with the imagination to hear God speak through these people or experiences?

God's call might not always make sense, but if you have hope and faith in your heart God will use every experience to speak to you and others about his love.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Happy Ever After

I used to think life was all about the happy ending
"It's coming any day now and when it does I'll be cruising"
Until then I was content with abusing my capability to choose
And I was obsessed with my right to fulfilment through consuming
Snatching, grabbing, using, taking
This is my life, happiness is my remuneration
I deserve grace, I deserve love, I deserve joy, I deserve freedom
What right do you have to deny me my rightful possession?
Me, me, me – no space for God, or for my brethren
No space for anyone but myself in my version of heaven
I didn’t realise with each selfish breath I was taking
I was stealing life from those who were needing, bleeding, breaking
I was rich in goods, but poor in charity
I would confess my sins but not learn mercy
Too consumed with being clean that I was afraid to get dirty
God bless me, yes please, but don’t ask me to get messy
Trust me, that’s no way to be living,
Yeah you might survive but you arrive in a lonely destination
Stop denying your calling to engage in creation
You were placed in this space for the fulfilment of salvation
See, I realised that my life has a greater calling
I’m challenged to rise up and out of my fallings
I can’t and won’t hold back, I’m all in
I’m running instead of crawling; now soaring towards the dawning of a new day, 
I’m talking about a new way to think, to live and be
Listen to what I say: we are set free
Free, not for self but to live generously
In the same way that He died to provide a redeeming guarantee
He rose so that we don’t have to live like we’re dead
See, we work for profits, but our souls are stuck in the red
We mould our bodies, and let physicality cajole our heads
We turn to money to get ahead, but our debts weigh us down like lead

Just stop.



Listen to the air fill your lungs, life is here
Stop feeding the lies, stop fuelling the fears
Hope and trust again, let your dreams become your prayer
Imagine what you could do if you unbound your life
If you lived by Truth instead of unfounded lies
You would save lives, change minds, create lifelines if you just realised
That your powers are magnified by the Way, the Truth, the Life
See history is His-Story
And the mystery is He’s calling
And He’s drawing on your gifts to be
The change that reveals His glory
God’s Grace is about show and tell
It’s not just for me, for I or for self
We have to learn to leave our pride on the top shelf
Before our pride leads us all to hell
Stop selling yourself short
Telling yourself it’s not worth it
See, while you’re lying to yourself your brothers and sisters are hurting
Because you’re holding on to the life they’re so desperately yearning
If you haven’t figured out what I’m saying
Let me make it clear: you have a vocation
A Divine calling, a mission:
Lived witness, evangelisation
It doesn’t matter how much money you make
The abbreviations or letters at the end of your name
Or even how many sins you carry in shame
This game is about claiming lives for Christ’s name
That’s why I dream
I dream about how different things can be
Because currently the scene is splitting at the seems
Screams are busting out of those broken dreams
It seems to me that we've deemed life to be unredeemed
Gleam from that what you will
But what I see is a world un-still
All shook up and twitching til we’re hooked up with the next un-enriching thrill
But that hunger in your gut, that yearning deep inside
It’s fed up and had enough so stop trying to hide from life
Before the life blood within you has all dried
It’s better to know failure than to know you never tried
I’m unsatisfied
My tongue is dry but my appetite has been whet
I’d rather be alive than be the walking dead
I want to drift behind if it helps someone get ahead
I want to realise joy before I die of dread
God, the Church, the World, needs you
But it doesn’t need the you that is consumed in you
Because the you that only cares for you can only serve you
And all the other “you’s” in the world miss out due to the you that’s focussed on the you instead of all the other “you’s”
Do you follow?
What I’m saying is this: broaden your horizons, stretch your embrace
Vocation is facing up to God and the rest of the human race
So for God’s and others sake, stop pursuing your own case
You will never know freedom if you cling to first place
In the midst of obsession, depression, the lack of discretion in self-expression,
Our aggression and stress when processing in congestion,
Or even our regression or suppression in many of our transgressions
My suggestion is that we ask a question: Where am I going?
I have to be honest with you though
I’m still scared of how far I have to go
What will I have to surrender in order to follow?
What if I’m too young, too dumb, too broken, weak or slow?
Hello! That’s the point I'm making, it’s not my happy ever after I should be seeking
That mentality needs tweaking
Because the Kingdom of Heaven is freaking awesome (at least that's what I'm expecting)
And in the end, I think that Heaven on earth is a far better ending.

Thursday, 7 November 2013


This morning as I was driving my little yellow granny car to work I nearly got run off the road by a bus. My life flashed before my eyes and I may or may not have squealed like a little girl. It was one of those "stuck between a bus and a hard place" moments in life, when you start to feel the crush and you're not sure how its all going to end up. Fortunately a car has brakes and I was able to slam on them and slip around the bus.

I'd like to think that in all times of my life, I'm the little yellow granny car that gets cut off by buses who aren't checking their blind spot. The reality is that there are a lot of blind spots in my life and I probably often cut other people off. As hard as it is for me to admit, sometimes I'm an arrogant driver who cuts other people off, because I don't take the time to look out for them or because I'm too concerned with getting to my destination.

How easy is it to put people in my blind spot? It happens when I'm rushing to work, or when I have my head buried in my books while I'm studying. It happens when I'm grumpy after losing a basketball game or shopping for a new shirt. I get too caught up in my own agenda, locked in on me. Loving others as you love yourself means at some point you've got to put the mirror down and look out for other people.

I got an embarrassing admission to make: I like having nice hair. I'm a believer in personal appearance and looking professional, but I get a little bit obsessive. I probably spend more than the average amount of time for a 23 year old male grooming my hair. I should say, I used to spend more that the average amount of time, because yesterday I got my head shaved. I got it shaved (not completely, just a number four) as a reminder to not get too caught up in myself. Now, I can spend more time praying in the morning than combing every hair into place. Instead of checking how my hair looks alright in the car mirror or window, I can be alert to the needs of the people around me.

Yes, cutting my hair off may be an extreme action to take, but something extreme needs to be done about a society that unashamedly promotes self above others. Bad stuff happens in our world, a lot of it unnecessarily. Social justice isn't just about "doing good", it's about restoring dignity to people. In a sense, us Westerners need to restore our dignity: we were not meant to be so self absorbed. Our dignity isn't based on our appearance, but in how we live whole and holy lives.

The bus that cut me off this morning frustrated me, not just because it cut me off, but because it was nearly empty and it was causing serious traffic congestion: it wasn't fulfilling it's purpose. Our purpose isn't to "cut off" our brothers and sisters, but to take as many of them as we can on the Christian journey.