A new year, common patterns

WelCom December 2016: Diocesan News and Views Mark Richards November has been a fascinating month – from the Melbourne Cup, a son’s 21st, the USA elections, the end of the year…

WelCom December 2016:

Diocesan News and Views

Mark Richards

A new year, common patterns Archdiocese of Wellington

Mark Richards

November has been a fascinating month – from the Melbourne Cup, a son’s 21st, the USA elections, the end of the year of Mercy, a trip away with my wife to see friends in Perth, and then a major earthquake.

And here we are starting all over again in Advent and a new year of ‘following the Lord along the way’. I suggest each and every one of our experiences has a pattern, a discernable pattern, which repeats but at the same time is completely different.

The Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday in November had over 20 ‘runners’ over a set distance, but with naturally different patterns to the previous years’ races. An election has been held in the USA, and there will be another in four years’ time, but the candidates and issues will differ, the world situation will be different. Each of our sons has followed a pattern of growth, birth, school, family, leaving home, maturing, and will continue in a pattern of work, trips, relationship, ageing. But in each of these lives with their identifiable patterns of growth, maturity, individuality, and difference, there is a familiarity.

In this familiarity, one of the identifiable differences is what we as a society call ‘disability’. December 3 is a day the UN sets aside for us to consider people with disabilities.

My close friends in Perth have six children and their middle daughter has Down’s syndrome. We were there for one of their son’s 21st birthday. His big sister Elena and her friends were at the heart of the party with the birthday boy’s Aussie mates. There were speeches, a cake, the grandparents and the meal; but it was a party identifiable by the distinctive nature of their family, the brother’s place in that family and his relationship with his sister and his parents.

In our parish – and it has been the same in every parish I have lived in – there are common patterns and in the midst of parish life there are those who are the focus of our love and care. More often than not they are the ones with greater need. I think of the boy in the wheelchair, the parents with the disabled children, the mental-health client who has difficulty with boundaries. It strikes me there are two elements that make them the focal point of the love of Christ in our lives.

Firstly it is acceptance, welcome, inclusion, and placing others at the centre of our community; with all the distinctive elements that calls forth. But there is also the predictability, the structure, the familiarity that enables us to accommodate and to serve.

It is Advent. It is time to start again. It is time to ‘prepare the way of the Lord’. And we will do this by opening our eyes to that which is totally familiar and to those who challenge us, to the common and the every day but recognising within that the presence of our God. We are going to proclaim Immanuel, ‘God is with us’ (Matthew 1:23), but we’re going to do it recognising him in a family in a stable, excluded, with no room at the inn, and it will be by welcoming him there that we will be able to proclaim the great song of the angels repeated by Te Whiti at Parihaka ‘peace on earth and goodwill to all.’