It was a great joy for me yesterday morning to be in Murupara, a small and isolated Bay of Plenty town on the banks of the Rangitaiki River, to celebrate with Brother Vince Jury the 70th anniversary of his entering the Christian brothers.
On Tuesday 27 January 1948 15 year-old Vincent boarded a Short Sandringham flying boat (pic above) at Mechanics bay in Auckland for the journey to Rose Bay in Sydney where he entered the juniorate of the Christian brothers following his desire to give his life to God.
While he might have predicted that he would spend much of his life as a Christian Brother teaching in secondary schools, he could never have imagined on that 7.5 hour trans-Tasman flight that he would spend more than 25 years living in Murupara as a presence for Jesus responding to the spiritual and pastoral needs of the people of this small rural community.
Yesterday many of Vince’s friends and parishioners gathered to thank God for his ministry among them and to thank Vince for his generous response to God’s call to serve them.
At the Mass Vince was presented with the Benerementi Medal from Pope Francis for service to the Church. There was delight among Vince’s people at this surprise honour.
After recalling God establishing the covenant of love with his people following the flood (remember Noah, the Ark and the rainbow in yesterday’s first reading), we move today to the practical details of how to live in loving relationship with God in today’s scriptures: keep the commandments (the first reading from Leviticus), and care for those who are in need (the gospel from Matthew).
The commandments were welcomed by the people because until this moment they were a bit at sea about how to follow God in the practical decisions of their daily lives. Now with these commandments the people knew the boundaries of healthy and happy human existence. In this communication God had not only pointed them in the right direction but also given them a head-start on the road to abundant life.
It is significant that the liturgy today links the commandments (the “Law”) with Jesus’ instruction to care for the poor in the gospel.
Here’s a thought that I’ve been considering: The person who commits to keeping the law of God will find themselves growing in love for the poor of God, and the person who commits to serving the poor will grow in desire to keep the commandments.
What do you think?
“The LORD said to Moses,
“Speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel and tell them:
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy. Leviticus 19“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25
There’s a second bishop hiding in this photo.
Can you spot the server who has taken off with the bishop’s crozier and mitre?