A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Rights and Privileges

Fr Kevin Bates

By Fr Kevin Bates SM

Flickerd, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Patrick Dangerfield in action in 2019 Flickerd, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org>, via Wikimedia Commons

At the time of writing, Geelong and Melbourne, the two top teams in the AFL  played a cracker of a match. Geelong champion, Patrick Dangerfield in a lengthy post-match interview commented that for him, playing the sport that he loves at an elite level, representing his team and community is very much a privilege.

Along similar lines, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, in a program aired this week, made the same comment.  His role as Prime Minister, he said, is first of all a great privilege. His goals centre not on himself but on a hope that he might enable Australia to become a more unified community, celebrating our multi-cultural identity. 

In every marriage and every loving relationship, we can expect that this element will be a foundational and necessary component. 

Removing ourselves, our points of view and our own needs from the very centre of any engagement is a crucial gift if love and trust are to grow. Of course, our own needs and points of view have their part to play, but only in concert with those among whom we live, those we serve and even those we entertain. 

Our rights play their part in all these relationships alongside a balanced appreciation of the privileges that are part of each encounter. 

The recently concluded Plenary Council of the Australian Church was fuelled by a deep listening for the promptings of the Holy Spirit, respect for the many and diverse voices being raised in the Church and an awareness of the privilege the delegates held as they held sacred the aspirations of the wider Church community. This led to some tough re-arranging of matters that needed deeper listening. 

This is such a refreshing shift of energy in a Church that all too often has spoken with a voice that allowed little or no conversation. We’ve often come to our mission with our set ideas, clear-cut teachings and minds and hearts closed to voices other than our own. 

Elements of this need to be in control still abound in the Church where our right to be right or in control replaces the privilege we hold as servants of the Good News among God’s People. 

Pope Francis some years’ ago reminded priests that they are not gate-keepers but rather they are to open the doors so that God and God’s People can encounter each other. It’s not for us as priests, or any other person with a leadership role in the Church, to decide who is worthy to come in and who should be turned away, for in God, everyone belongs. 

Ministry in the Church is an inestimable privilege that we hold humbly and joyfully with our focus not on ourselves or our own capacities or views, but on the love of God that we’re able to open up between people with each other and with God. 

We don’t need to labour how frequently, people who didn’t fit, for all sorts of reasons, have felt excluded and left by the wayside while ‘believers’ went on their self-righteous way. While the hypocrisy of this behaviour has been well and truly exposed, it’s still a temptation. It’s much easier if people fit into my view of the world.

The privilege of ministry requires sacrifice, sometimes tough choices, and a readiness to be at one with Jesus who emptied himself as St Paul reminds us, so that we could be at one with each other. 

May this sense of the privilege we own, continue to call us to a deep conversion of heart so that all our relationships personal, intimate and public, be marked by the prayer of Jesus that we all might be one. 

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