Mass of Thanksgiving for all donors
Bishop David Oakley
It is good that we should come together today, to offer this diocesan Mass of Thanksgiving, for all those who have generously contributed as donors to our diocese.
May I share with you a story from my young childhood? When it was coming time to celebrate my mother’s birthday, my father would always ask me the question, “son, what are you going to get your mother’s birthday present?” After much thought and reflection I would suggest something. My dad would say, that’s a really lovely idea son, and then give me the money to buy the gift.
Everything we have is gift, even our sharing of the gift with someone else. The gift of life itself is not something we should take for granted. Every breath we breathe is a gift of God. And so, gratitude is one of the fundamental marks of Christian discipleship.
Gratitude is a feature of our Lord’s relationship with his heavenly Father. Jesus does not take anything for granted in this relationship between himself and his Father. I would like to suggest this, all we need to know about discipleship is found in the words of Jesus during the last supper in the fourth Gospel. There is so much for us to ponder there, and to reflect upon.
I have always found those words of Jesus, we have just heard, an encouragement to deepen our relationship with him. ‘As the father has loved me, so I have loved you.’ All too often we can imagine the life of a disciple is about measuring up to certain standards. After all, does Jesus not tell us about the commandment to love one another? And if this is not challenging enough for us, he goes on to say that we are commissioned to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last.
The burden seems to be upon us, what must we do to fulfil these words? But there is a context for this that we have already reflected upon. It is the fundamental nature of our Christian faith. We are loved by God. And this is a cause of joy for Jesus.
There is something more. A truth which is the fruit of this loving relationship between ourselves and the Trinity God. We are not servants. We are friends. And Jesus has made known to us the essence of his own relationship with the Father.
All this, invites us to think about our lives in a very very different way to many of those around us. Our lives only find authentic meaning within this loving relationship we have with God. This means we are invited to become icon images of Jesus in our society today. This is how our Lord puts things, we can have no greater love than to lay down our lives for our friends. This is a statement which defines Jesus’ relationship of loving obedience with his Father. Just a few hours after sharing these words with his apostles, the Lord will do exactly this, lay down his life in love upon the Cross.
There are many ways in which we can follow this example. We are not slaves who do something because we feel we must do so. We are not photocopies, pale reflections of Jesus. I like to think of this relationship we have with the Lord, as a sharing in his DNA. This is not a coat we can put on and take off at will. This is a loving attitude towards others, which is discovered at the core of our being.
And so, I want to thank you for accepting Jesus’ choice of you and your generous offering to our diocesan family. As we often say in liturgical rites which celebrate empowerment for discipleship, may God who has begun this good work within you, bring it to completion.