Ever since leaving home to join the army, two weeks shy of my 18th birthday, I’ve never stayed in the same place longer than four years. In fact, my first four years in the seminary is the longest time I stayed in one place – and even then, I still had to shift houses and bedrooms every year! Yes, it can be arduous having to move all the time, but more than that, it’s always sad having to say farewell to people with whom I’ve made friends.
From next weekend onward, Archbishop Mark has appointed me to the Parish of Caloundra for three years. I’m excited about this new appointment and challenge it presents (including dusting off the surfboard), but it will be sad leaving the parishes of St Stephen’s Cathedral (including St Patrick’s and Villa Maria) and Kangaroo Point/East Brisbane. You’ve all been incredibly welcoming and supportive over these last eight and a half months – especially around the time of my presbyteral ordination in May. Thank you for your willingness to share your friendship, smiles and encouragement. I’ve certainly enjoyed ministering to and being with each of you, and I look forward to the day when I can come back and celebrate Mass with you again.
While there are many fond memories that I’ll treasure and take from my time here, one of the highlights was working with the RCIA group (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). Chad Hargrave (the co-ordinator) and I were privileged to guide, walk with and mentor about ten people through the process of Christian initiation – which culminated, but did not finish at the Easter Vigil. In fact, the ongoing, life-long nature of Christian initiation – including my own – is one of the most important things I’ve learnt throughout my appointment to the Cathedral.
In today’s Gospel, we’re invited to reflect upon how we approach our own journey of initiation – of constantly accepting God’s invitation to grow into our Christian lives. The Father, Jesus says, finds pleasure in giving us the kingdom of heaven. But our reception of this precious gift – as in our Christian initiation – is not a static reception; it’s not the same as receiving an ornament which we place on the mantel to gather dust. The kingdom and its reception, rather, are dynamic in that we’re invited to adopt the responsibility of the watchful servant: always ready to receive the Master, who arrives at any time of the day or night.
While some people might baulk at the thought of taking on the responsibility of God’s kingdom, it’s not a responsibility which takes away from our freedom. Following the ways of the Lord never takes away from our freedom and humanity but always adds to it. Put a different way, the gift of the kingdom is life-giving because God always surprises us but never disappoints.
I wish you all every blessing as you continue your journeys of Christian initiation. If you’re ever up in Caloundra, please do stop by the parish office on Edmund St and say hello.
Peace be with you. Fr Joshua Whitehead