Our Unit 3 and 4 VCE Students have commenced their VCAA exams with a sense of purpose, and a self-assured and confident demeanour. In a year when challenge after challenge has been thrown their way, they have shown remarkable maturity and a calm acceptance of the circumstances that have impacted their year. In their acceptance, there is not capitulation, but a determination to make the most of these circumstances. There is a lightness and happiness to their being that is infectious. There is so much we can learn from our students. Needless to say, I am extremely proud of them!
As we move closer to the season of Advent, when we await with joy the coming of the new-born Christ, I reflect on what it means to approach life with a sense of joy. Some years ago, Pope Francis gave some tips for how we might bring greater joy to our lives. These tips are summarised below by one of my favourite theologians, Ron Rolheiser, OMI, as we contemplate what advent might look like for all of us this year:
1. Proceed calmly.
Move with kindness, humility, and calm. These are the antithesis of anxiety and distress. Calm never causes high blood pressure. We need to make conscious efforts to never let the moment cause panic and excessive hurry. Rather be late than stressed.
2. Respect and take care of nature.
The air we breathe out is the air we will re-inhale. This is true spiritually, psychologically, and ecologically. We can’t be whole and happy when Mother Earth is being stripped of her wholeness. Christ came to save the world, not just the people in the world. Our salvation, like our happiness, is tied to the way we treat the earth. It is immoral to slap another person in the face and so it is immoral too to throw our garbage into the face of Mother Earth.
3. Stop being negative.
Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem. Negative thoughts feed unhappiness and a bad self-image. Positive thoughts feed happiness and healthy self-esteem.
4. Respect others’ beliefs.
What we cherish and put our faith into grows “by attraction, not by proselytizing.” Beauty is the one thing that no one can argue with. Cherish your values, but always act towards others with graciousness, charity, and respect.
5. Work for peace.
Peace is more than the absence of war and working for peace means more than not causing disharmony. Peace, like war, must be waged actively by working for justice, equality, and an ever wider inclusivity in terms of what makes up our family. Waging peace is the perennial struggle to stretch hearts, our own and others, to accept that in God’s house there are many rooms and that all faiths, not least our own, are meant to be a house of prayer for all peoples.
Ron Rolheiser, OMI.