Our spirituality is not about religion, but about our relationships with others and imitating the Lord.
That was the message Dr Laurie Woods shared with parishioners from Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains during Tuesday night’s Online Scripture Night.
Broadcast live to Facebook, Dr Woods, a Scripture scholar who has taught biblical studies for 25 years, gave a presentation on ‘Jesus and the Healing Power of Encouragement’, using scripture references from the Old and New Testament to explore the encouraging ministry of Jesus.
“Scripture is an art form that’s designed to transform,” Dr Woods told the audience. “Our reflections on scripture do well to take us to a point where we can ask how does this text implicate me in being a better person growing to wholeness.
“We read in John 10:10, where Jesus said, ‘I came that they may have life and have it to the full.’ What He’s not saying is ‘I came to make them religious’ or ‘I came to make them toe the line or keep the commandments.’
“When you look at the teachings of Jesus and the behaviour of Jesus, His relationships with others, then that life is living life to the full in order to be what we can be – living our humanity to the fullness to achieve our full potential.”
After His baptism and interaction with John the Baptist, Dr Woods explained, Jesus develops a strong sense of mission. He needs help, so He invites people to join Him, to build relationships with Him and with God.
“The way to nourish a relationship is to honestly share yourself in the relationship. If you read any scripture in the Gospels, so much of Jesus’ dealings with people, relationship with people, is His sharing of Himself. This is why the crowds kept coming back,” Dr Woods said.
“Because Jesus is a relationship person, He reads people so well. He reads people’s body language all the time…and what does He do? He listens.
“In Matthew 9:9-13, Jesus eats with the tax collectors and the sinners. Here, Jesus tells us what He’s really on about – He wants to make a difference.
“Jesus comes to call people who know they need help, and I’m issuing the invitation for them to follow me. They don’t have to come, because it’s an invitation.
“We can gloss over it because we become familiar with these stories, we forget the relationship bit, we forget the reaching out of self to the other self where people have connection, and kindness above all creates connection.
“Pure religion, pure service of God is service of others. It’s not religion the way most people understand religion, but it is relationship. It is seeing the divine in the other and reaching out.”
Dr Woods then explained how as disciples, we should be beacons of goodness, and strive to be ‘shalom’ people, or people of wholeness and peace.
“In order to encourage, we either need to have a relationship with somebody else or to be on the verge of creating relationship, and everything in scripture is about relationship. Everything is about our relationship with God, our relationship with others, a healthy relationship with self and a relationship with the world around us.
“In Matthew 5:13-14, Jesus tells the disciples, ‘you are enough’. You are a work in progress, you are not perfect, you are not finished, we are still on the journey to wholeness. And to do that, we have to change, we have to grow, we have to be the person we can be.
“Our growth to maturity puts us on the road to ‘shalom’ which is peace. Peace is a by-product of your growing towards maturity, your completeness. If I can eliminate the negatives in my life, I will be growing to wholeness, and that will lead me to true ‘shalom’, true peace.
“Most people in Jesus’ day who heard of Him or who heard Him speak or who went out to see Him, took Him as a healer – His words, His actions, His relationships, His touch – everything about him was healing. And we are all called to be healers, whether it’s through encouragement, or through forgiving, or through letting go – the power of healing is ours to give.
“The essence of faith is trust. Jesus’ message is that of common sense that is reassuring, that is encouraging, that is motivating us to live the kind of life so that we can be what we can be, achieving our potential. And we don’t do it alone, we do it in relationship, and the relationship can support us as much as we support the relationship.”
Dr Woods’ presentation resonated with those tuning in to the live stream.
“So many words of wisdom and life lessons here – being more compassionate with ourselves first and then we can share it with others,” one person said.
“Thanks for bringing Jesus afresh before us, like bread from heaven to us in isolation, helping us to see the importance of relationship,” another comment read.
The Diocesan Scripture Night was held as part of the Diocese of Parramatta’s HOME Ground program, and run in conjunction with the Mission Enhancement Team’s Reflective Ministry program.
If you wish to hear more from Dr Laurie Woods, you can still sign up for the 10-week Reflective Ministry program. Reflective Ministry is a leadership development program ideal for those current or looking to be involved in ministry. To sign up for the free, online program, please contact Donnie Velasco at email@example.com or 0432 042 140.
Next week on HOME Ground, our Pastoral Formation team will lead a session on Tuesday on prayer, meditation and enhancing spiritual life, we head down to the Diocese of Wollongong with Worship Wednesday, and our ‘BE MET’ Night returns to pick us up as we look to the weekend.
Visit parracatholic.org/homeground for the full schedule and information on how to tune in and participate.
Watch the Diocesan Online Scripture Night with Dr Laurie Woods here or below.