first things first

Mar 20, 2020

It’s late on Thursday evening as I write this Friday morning FFF post. I don’t feel as though I’ve accomplished very much today. I have found it hard to stay focussed, and some things that I knew I had to do today just haven’t got done. These FFF posts are usually prepared well in advance, but now it is late evening and I’m not ready for the early morning post. All in all a pretty messy and unsatisfying day.

In my class with the seminarians this morning I reflected on the importance of keeping perspective. They understood well what I was saying. Then I left the class and almost immediately lost perspective. I hope they did better than I did, and I hope they don’t read this to learn of my poor example!

Now in the still of the late evening I am sitting with this gospel reading for tomorrow:

“One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. 

When Jesus is asked by a scribe to name the greatest commandment he quotes the heart of Jewish law which forms the “Shema Yisrael” prayer from Deuteronomy 6:4 prayed by the faithful Jew every morning and evening:

Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.

If you’re like me there are a dozen and more things pressing for centre space in your life. While some of these things are unhealthy compulsions and temptations, other pressures are good things and valid responsibilities like our concern in these days at the spread of COVID-19. But when we make these important things (eg. family and work responsibilities) the one central thing, we suffer stress and even life’s pleasures become a burden.

A healthy and happy person is one who keeps first things first.

I had a text message last week from friends whose 7 year old son playing with LEGO had without prompting produced this wonderful scene (above) of Jesus on the cross with a group of witness at the foot of the cross. I was very moved at the spontaneity and capacity for reflectiveness of the child who was obviously focussed on what was important as he worked on his little project. Later in the day his mother sent me a second image of a further-developed crucifixion scene. I saved it as the desktop image on my computer where it remains as a way of helping me remember who and what must be first in my life as I work.

A couple of days later I was visiting another family where the children were playing with LEGO and I showed them the Lego crucifixion scene. They were inspired and set to work creating this scene (below) of Noah’s ark.

An invitation:

  • You might like to encourage children to create a bible scene from LEGO (or similar) Ask them to think of a great bible story, then search for it as an animated Youtube clip to give them ideas, then let them loose and send a pic of the completed work to me at I will post their work on this website each day as they come in.
  • Over the next 24 hours consciously place Jesus at the centre of your life in every way. Take time at least morning and evening and at other moments to ask Jesus to take centre space, especially when you risk losing perspective. Now notice the priorities and responsibilities in your life fall into right order within the loving divine embrace.
  • Pray this ancient prayer as often as you remember to during this week…

Lord Jesus
Teach me to love you
all my heart,
all my soul,
all my mind,
and with all my strength.



  1. Thank you father, for your words this morning amongst all this uncertainty at the moment it is great to step back and put it in a different perspective. I am blessed to have 3 wonderful children and I find when we chat about favourite bible stories I am always surprised by their answers, I am looking forward to talking to them this morning about creating a lego scene rather than what is happening in the world. You have brought peace to my morning thank you.

  2. Thanking you again Father. Love the statue of Joseph and Jesus. We have some statues of various figures that depict in someway our family members including our late Daughter. They likenthose of the Holy family, saints and angels are a beautiful visual stimulus to open our mind, heart, soul and strength to Gods grace. Have a great day filled with lots of tidiness and satisfying events. 😉

  3. The pictorial icons are so beautiful and mirror the heart of a loving child.

    I believe authentic love of our CREATOR GOD must first begin with self-knowledge, self-identity and SELF-compassion. When we take the necessary steps to know ourselves we are free to love our NEIGHBOUR … for me, this Christian Call resembles the holy trinity of being. +

  4. Thank you. We have a tonnes of LEGO and you have now inspired me to create an activity for the children from the bible. You are onto something Fr John. Have an amazing day. Smile

  5. Father, you did well in your FFF message, no matter how late you started!! Thank you

  6. Thank you John for your thought provoking message today. With no little ones around we can forget easily how their uncomplicated thinking puts everything in perspective.
    We have been concerned for our son caught up in the Covid-19 situation with no place to live and blockages to getting out so having to rely on God to provide a way which has now happened.
    Each morning we are nourished and supported by your help

  7. Thank you Fr John for beautiful reflection and sharing your reflective self aware, self knowledge allowing the experience of the day to come to a turning point – a moment of aha moments. Beautiful sharing. The spontaneity of the child is a powerful experience of being open and be led by the Divine.

  8. My mother’s sage advice to me as a young harried mum was to not worry about what time the washing was done… if it was already mid-afternoon, just think of as being early tomorrow’s washing. God bless her for helping me to put first things first.

  9. In these uncertain times its easy to lose focus as everything that once was important and defined our daily lives is “out the window”. It is an important opportunity to take the time we have (after the void created by cancellations of activities we’d have engaged in) to focus again on what really is important! Love and only love! Today’s gospel. Thank youJohn.

  10. John you’re writings each day are wonderful and they bring a smile to my face and lovely peaceful times. I think those LEGO pictures are just beautiful God Bless you and the children.

  11. Amen thanks to you Father John for sharing children are gifted and so inspiring thanks be to God for them Amen

    • Thank you Fr John for sharing your day with us. I do hope today has been a happy and fruitful one for you. You are a great inspiration with your thoughtful reflections even when under pressure to meet deadlines. Blessings.

  12. What a delight to read. As Fr Jack said ‘do your best and leave the rest to God’
    No more relevant than now


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