Following the life of Christ

During October, as in all of Ordinary Time (formerly known as Time After Pentecost), the Liturgy does not focus on one particular mystery of Christ, but views the mystery of Christ in all its aspects.
We follow the life of Christ through the Gospels, and focus on the teachings and parables of Jesus and what it means for each of us to be a follower of Christ. This is a great time for us to ‘brush up’ on the public life of Christ in which he taught us so much!
October is also a month in which we celebrate the lives of many saints. These dear souls are those who lived their lives as best they could in the footsteps of Jesus to whom they remained so close. This month the main liturgical feasts are St. Thérèse (October 1), Guardian Angels (October 2), St Francis of Assisi (October 4), St Faustina (October 5), St Bruno (October 6), St John XXIII (October 11), St Teresa of Jesus (October 15), St Hedwig and St Margaret Mary (October 16), St Ignatius of Antioch (October 17), St Luke (October 18) St Paul of the Cross (October 20), St John Paul II (October 22), and St Anthony Mary Claret (October 24). The feasts of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7), St Callistus I (October 14) and Sts Simon and Jude (October 28) are superseded by the Sunday liturgy.
The lives of these saints provide us with so many examples of living the Gospel values, at a time when it seems that almost daily we read of attempts to secularise our way of life. Many of us recall when, in the not too distant past, it was commonplace to speak of people ‘becoming Catholic’, or ‘praying for a good intention’; whilst more often these days we hear of those who no longer attend a Church, or whose beliefs are not based on Christian values. And yet, maybe there are just as many saints in our modern times – we just do not know them yet!
In the light of this, accepting the proposal of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, Pope Francis has called for an Extraordinary Missionary Month to be celebrated in October 2019, with the aim of fostering an increased awareness of the missio ad gentes and taking up again with renewed fervour, the missionary transformation of the Church’s life and pastoral activity.
Furthermore, the Pope has expressed his desire that ‘ the Missionary Month of October 2018 can serve as a good preparation for this celebration, by enabling all the faithful to take to heart the proclamation of the Gospel and to help their communities grow in missionary and evangelising zeal. He has expressed his hope: “May the love for the Church’s mission, which is ‘a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people,’ grow ever stronger”!
This also brings to mind the whole reality of prayer in our ordinary everyday lives. Recently, I was having a conversation with someone about prayer and she mentioned that she rarely prayed the Rosary because she found it so hard to concentrate whenever she did.
The Rosary is a beautiful prayer but, due to one reason or another, many people never get to discover this beauty. It can feel like we are supposed to be doing so many things simultaneously – saying each Our Father and Hail Mary with due reverence, praying for our particular intentions, all the while trying to create vivid mental images of Christ and Our Lady in our mind’s eye. If we fail in this endeavour, it is tempting to feel dejected and as though we have been through some pointless mechanical exercise. We might tell ourselves it is better not to pray the Rosary at all rather than to pray it badly.
Well the month of October is a good time to re-evaluate the place the Rosary has in our lives. Contemplation is a fundamental part of the Rosary. The French priest and Dominican Tertiary, St Louis de Montfort said: The Rosary without meditation on the sacred mysteries of our salvation would almost be like a body without a soul; excellent matter, but without form which sets it apart from other devotions.
It is because of its meditative nature that many popes and saints have been so keen to promote the Rosary. In 1982, when St John Paul II visited Fatima he told the people: Do you want me to teach you a ‘secret’? It is simple, and it is no longer a secret; pray, pray very much; recite the Rosary every day.
The Rosary is not an optional extra. It has the potential to transform our lives if we are willing. So where does that leave those of us who genuinely find it difficult to concentrate whilst praying the Rosary? I have come to realise that whilst we can pray the Rosary to varying degrees of perfection, it is not really possible to pray the Rosary badly.
St John Paul II said that as a young man, praying the Rosary helped him realise that not only does Our Mother Mary direct us towards Christ, but Christ also directs us towards His mother. Christ is saying ‘look what marvels I have worked for my mother.’
Devotion to the saints and especially to Our Lady is so important because it marks out why our faith is so special. God’s grace is not something superficial, but penetrates the core of our being. Therefore, Pope Francis said that he hopes the month will be a promising time of prayer and reflection on the testimony of missionary saints and martyrs, the Bible and theology, as well as catechesis and charitable missionary work towards the evangelisation of the Church.
This taking place: it is hoped that the Church may “once again find the freshness and ardour of the first love for the crucified and risen Lord, going out to evangelise the world with credibility and evangelical efficacy.” This, Francis highlighted, is essential for the Church’s mission today. Men and women “distinguished by zeal and holiness” are more and more needed for the mission!” As Pope Francis has requested, let us begin now to join our Holy Father in prayer for the success of the Missionary Month in October 2019.

- Bishop Les Tomlinson, Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst

I suppose that the notion of “a full measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over” is a little less familiar to us today, when so much of what we buy is pre-packaged, hermetically sealed and clinically weighed, and where you never get more than precisely what you pay for.
Some of us would have to go back more to our childhood days – when we bought food in traditional grocery shops or in markets – to remember the joy that you got when the dealer or the shopkeeper threw in something extra for you as a child. Getting something extra for yourself was a real joy.
Generosity means breaking out of the closed logic of everyone getting their just-desserts and nothing more. It means breaking out of the logic of many models of today’s market economy or business strategies or policies of international solidarity. Of course, books have to be balanced and distributive justice respected, but there will never be a humane world which does not include the notion of generosity which enables those on the margins – and not just on the outward peripheries – to get that little extra which can be the catalyst for helping a person to flourish or even survive.
Those of you who have worked in education know that there are always young people who need that little bit of extra help to get through; not so much a full-scale grind, as a little more personal coaching and encouragement and giving the child the sense that he or she can do it. And you will remember the joy that both child and teacher felt when things went well.
Generosity is never just about plans or strategies or programs. Generosity can never be simply pre-packaged and driven, much less outsourced to others. It is something that touches the very essence of being a person. Being a generous person is part of being a true human being. There will always be something lacking in the make-up of any person who fails to be generous.
Generosity is also of the basic essence of the Christian life. The good Christian is not the one who carries out a series of norms and rules or devotions better than someone else. The believer in Jesus sets out from a totally different ethical platform from a vision where everything is judged in terms of my rights and my entitlements and what I need, to one in which the focus is on the other’s rights and needs and hopes and aspirations. 
Equality is judged not just in “exact-measure-distributive-justice”; true equality means that I work to see that the measure of hope for others is that they experience that generosity which we ourselves would really love to receive.
Generosity is the fundamental ethic of the Christian believer because it is more than a mere ethic. It is an understanding of what life is about and what human interaction is about. Living the Christian life is not about some added-on extras to what is means to be good. It is about a vision of life on a totally different plane. 
Pope Francis tells us that the terms “apostle” and “servant” can never be separated. “They are like the two sides of a medal. Those who proclaim Jesus are called to serve, and those who serve proclaim Jesus,” he said, noting that Jesus, who “came not to be served but to serve,” was the first one to show us this. “A disciple of Jesus cannot take a road other than that of the Master,” Pope Francis observed, adding that if we want to follow Jesus, we must first imitate him, becoming a servant to others. 
Pope Francis continues: “This is the only way to be a disciple of Jesus. His witnesses are those who do as he did; those who serve their brothers and sisters, never tiring of following Christ in his humility, never wearying of the Christian life, which is a life of service.”
The Christian ethic of self-giving and generosity challenges the Church, which is called never to be self-promoting and self-defending or turned-in on itself, but rather to be a place where generosity is the byword and the atmosphere which you breathe at every level. Everyone who encounters the Church must encounter, not a vast organisation with its structures even with its organisations of philanthropy, but a space where you realise that life can be lived within a different vision of welcome and outreach, where the quality of life of the highly qualified professional may be surpassed by the humble person who has no sense of self-pretence.
Without compassion we become blind to the needs of others. Only those possessed of a genuine sense of compassion will be able to identify the real burdens of those who are weighed down and marginalised or who find little hope in their future.
Coming close to Jesus should liberate and not trap people in scruples. But it is also important to remember that the opposite of conformity is not simply doing your own thing; it is being free to discover Jesus, to imitate Jesus and become his imitators in his compassion and generosity.
Finally, I would like to share with you another ‘gem’ from our Holy Father: “To be ready to serve, we need a healthy heart; a heart healed by God, one which knows forgiveness and is neither closed nor hardened ... In this way, available in life, meek of heart and in constant dialogue with Jesus, you will not be afraid to be servants of Christ, and to encounter and caress the flesh of the Lord in the poor of our time. ” 
Let us live with compassion and generosity – this will indeed generate joy!