Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an Australian community, in a worldwide religious congregation.
Jesus loved with a human heart: with him we proclaim his love to the world.
We work to discover through advocacy, healing and reconciliation, God's presence in our world.
We are to be on earth the heart of God. God has no other heart but ours.
- Published: Wednesday, 19 October 2016 17:01
LITURGY NOTES FOR THE 30th SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
Thirtieth Sunday of the Year
October 23, 2016
Suggestions for acknowledgement of tradition custodians of the land
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we stand.
We pay our respects to them and for their care of the land.
May we walk gently and respectfully upon the land.
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where we are now gathered, the ………….(name of local people) and recognise that it continues to be sacred to them.
We hail them: as guardians of the earth and of all things that grow and breed in the soil; as trustees of the waters – [the seas, the streams and rivers, the ponds and the lakes] - and the rich variety of life in those waters.
We thank them for passing this heritage to every people since the Dreamtime.
We acknowledge the wrongs done to them by newcomers to this land and we seek to be partners with them in righting these wrongs and in living together in peace and harmony
Prayer for the People of West Papua
We see them walking, walking.
Sorrow in one hand, hope in the other.
May we walk with them in spirit,
May we also be a visible hint of God’s promises
So each step we take together
Moves us all closer to the Incarnated Body,
The Kingdom of God that we create
For all members of the human family,
Walking, walking, walking
On the journey to justice.
Jane Deren, adapted from another prayer in Education for Justice
Reading I Sir 35:12-14, 16-18
Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23 R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
Reading II 2 Tm 4:6-8, 16-18
Gospel Lk 18:9-14
§ You stand with those who come to you in their need. Jesus, have mercy.
§ You always hear the cries of the poor. Christ, have mercy.
§ You are close to the brokenhearted and hear the prayer of the humble. Jesus, have mercy.
God of the Poor,
open our eyes
to see the needs of those who cry out
or suffer in silence,
and give us the courage to bring them
your healing compassion.
Prayer over the Gifts
God of the Poor,
your presence is reflected throughout the world.
Give us eyes to see in these signs of bread and wine
the love of Jesus present in the poor
and give us the faith and courage
to make that love effective in our world.
Deliver us from every evil
and give us your peace to day.
Free us from all that blinds us
to our own poverty
or hardens our hearts towards others.
Help us to seek you and your realm
that we may hasten the full coming among us
of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. R/ For the kingdom...
Prayer after Communion
God of the Poor,
we recognise Jesus in the breaking of the bread
and as the one who opens our eyes
to the needs of our world.
May this celebration be effective in our lives
through a deeper understanding and response to those needs.
Introduction: Let us pray to God who hears the cries of the poor and is close to the broken hearted. We pray in response: O God, you hear the cry of the poor.
1. May all people seek to protect our planet from the dangers of climate change with the same vigour and dedication as those who sought to protect homes and property aware that the earth is our home and crying out from the margins. We pray: O God, you hear the cry of the poor.
2. May we be protected from the blindness that protects us from the harsh realities other people face in their lives by being open to the life stories of people around us. We pray: O God, you hear the cry of the poor.
3. May our fears not dull our vision in the face of violence, injustice and abuse of power through our solidarity and cooperation with others. We pray: O God, you hear the cry of the poor.
4. May those who work for peace throughout the world continue especially in the face of conflicting views about how to achieve peace. We pray: O God, you hear the cry of the poor.
5. May we take responsibility to recognise the image of God in others and challenge the indignity and injustice perpetrated against people indiscriminately treated on Guantanamo Bay and violence in Sri Lanka, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. We pray: O God, you hear the cry of the poor.
6. We pray for peace in Yemen and Syria: may all parties involved in these wars come to realise that peace does not come through violence and revenge. We pray: O God, you hear the cry of the poor.
7. We pray for young people who suffer bullying and vilification because of their sexual orientation find greater understanding from family and friends so that may have their goodness and humanity recognised. We pray: O God, you hear the cry of the poor.
8. We pray for all those who have died and those who have been tortured for their commitment to peace and democracy that they may be the bricks out of which a new Burma is built. We pray: O God, you hear the cry of the poor.
9. May we all in this community have the ability to love and learn from those who strike us as incomplete, damaged or lacking in some way. We pray: O God, you hear the cry of the poor.
10. We pray for the people of West Papua in their legitimate and ongoing struggle for independence. We pray: O God, you hear the cry of the poor.
11. We pray for the countless refugees without a home, family, and a place of belonging and we grieve for those who have lost their lives in seeking a place of safety and peace. We pray: O God, you hear the cry of the poor.
Concluding Prayer: God of the Poor, you hear our prayers and the prayers of all who come before you in humility and integrity. Gives us the means to see others and the world with your eyes.
Silence, they say, is the voice of complicity. But silence is impossible. Silence screams. Silence is a message, just as doing nothing is an act. Let who you are ring out & resonate in every word & every deed. Yes, become who you are. There's no sidestepping your own being or your own responsibility. What you do is who you are. You are your own comeuppance. You become your own message. You are the message. In the Spirit of Crazy Horse
The God of life summons us to life; more, to be life-givers, especially toward those who lie under the heel of the powers.
Daniel Berrigan SJ
Sophia pitches her tent in the midst of the world; …. This is profoundly good news for persons who are poor, denigrated, oppressed, struggling, victimized, and questing for life and the fullness of life, the majority of whom are women their dependent children.
Elizabeth Johnson CSJ, She Who Is, 150
If religion has so neglected the needs of the poor and of the great mass of workers and permitted them to live in the most horrible destitution while comforting them with the solace of a promise of a life after death when all tears shall be wiped away, then that religion is suspect. Dorothy Day
The solidarity which binds all people together as members of a common family makes it impossible for wealthy nations to look with indifference upon the hunger, misery and poverty of other nations whose citizens are unable to enjoy even elementary human rights. The nations of the world are becoming more and more dependent on one another and it will not be possible to preserve a lasting peace so long as glaring economic and social imbalances persist.
Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, #157
We hand folks over to God’s mercy, and show none ourselves.
Prayer is something more than that which we do with our minds. It involves our hearts and spirits -- that deeper part of our personalities to which only the Spirit of Jesus has access. Prayer in its highest form requires more than conscious effort. It also requires the surrender of our innermost selves to Jesus, giving him permission to make our lives a continually flowing fountain of unceasing prayer. When we have learned how to do that, we will have discovered the secret of the prayer of the heart.
Robert V. Dodd, Praying the Name of Jesus
I think perhaps it is a better world if one has a broken heart. Then one is quick to recognise it, elsewhere.
We must learn to pray out of our weaknesses so that God can become our strength.
Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
May the day come when international relationships will be characterised by respect and friendship, when mutual cooperation will be the hallmark of collaborative efforts, and when concerted effort for the betterment of all nations will be regarded as a duty by every nation.
Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, 26 March 1967
However complex and difficult situations may be, do not lose trust. In the human heart, the seed of hope must never die. Indeed, always be attentive to discovering and encouraging every positive sign of personal and social renewal. Be prepared to further the courageous building of justice and peace with every possible means.
John Paul II, Homily, 19 November 2000
Responsible action for resistance, correction, and healing are among the truest expressions of living faith.
Elizabeth Johnson CSJ, She Who Is, 268
In a world where one-fifth of the population survives on less than one dollar per day, where some twenty countries are involved in major armed conflict, and where poverty, corruption, and repressive regimes bring untold suffering to millions of people, we simply cannot remain indifferent. As a wealthy and powerful nation, the United States has the capacity and the responsibility to address this scandal of poverty and underdevelopment. As a principal force in globalization, we have a responsibility to humanize globalization, and to spread its benefits to all, especially the world's poorest, while addressing its negative consequences.
US Bishops, Faithful Citizenship, 2004
It seems to me that people have vast potential.
Most people can do extraordinary things
if they have the confidence or take the risks.
Yet most people don't.
They sit in front of the telly
and treat life as if it goes on forever.
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Into his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
Washing one’s hands of the conflict
between the powerful
and the powerless
means to side with the powerful,
not to be neutral
[Those] courageous in disposition and strong in will, live with the weak and share their lives in their desire to save them. And, to be sure, they are censured by people on the outside and mocked by those who see them spending their lives with people less disciplined. [Their behavior] is like the Lord’s for the Lord ate with tax collectors and sinners. Their attitude is characterized by brotherly love rather than self-love for they regard those who sin as houses on fire; giving no thought to their own interests, they apply their efforts to save what belongs to others.... Good people have placed their own possessions second to the salvation of others. This is the sign of genuine love. These people are the custodians of pure love.
Life of Syncletica
Every time I hear a political speech or I read those of our leaders, I am horrified at having, for years, heard nothing which sounded human. It is always the same words telling the same lies. And the fact that (men) accept this, that the people's anger has not destroyed these hollow clowns, strikes me as proof that (men) attribute no importance to the way they are governed; that they gamble - yes, gamble - with a whole part of their life and their so-called vital interests.
Repent and believe in the gospel, Jesus says. Turn around and believe that the good news that we are loved is gooder than we ever dared hope, and that to believe in that good news, to live out of it and toward it, to be in love with that good news, is of all glad things in this world the gladdest thing of all.
Let them vie in giving one another honor. Let them patiently bear everyone’s weaknesses of body and behavior. Let them compete in obeying one another.... Let them prefer nothing to Christ. May Christ lead us together to eternal life.
Rule of Benedict
In modern memoirs written by real people about another real person we would expect just that sort of diversity which we find in the Gospels. If it surprises us there, it is perhaps because we have fallen out of the habit of looking on Jesus and his disciples as really real people.
Dorothy Sayers, Introduction to The Man Born to Be King
The great mystery of God's love is that we are not asked to live as if we are not hurting, as if we are not broken. In fact, we are invited to recognize our brokenness as a brokenness in which we can come in touch with the unique way that God loves us. The great invitation is to live your brokenness under the blessing. I cannot take people's brokenness away and people cannot take my brokenness away. But how do you live in your brokenness? Do you live your brokenness under the blessing or under the curse? The great call of Jesus is to put your brokenness under the blessing.
Henri J.M. Nouwen, Lecture at Scarritt-Bennett Center
But the life that no longer trusts another human being and no longer forms ties to the political community is not a human life any longer.
Martha Nussbaum, O Magazine, November 2003
There are lots of different people saying lots of different things, and some of them put us off with their craziness and there are lots of points to argue with them about, but at their best they seem to be acting out of a single profound impulse, which is best described with words like tolerance, compassion, sanity, hope, justice. It is an impulse that has always been part of the human heart, but it seems to be welling up into the world with new power in our age now even as the forces of darkness are welling up with the new power in our age too. That is the bright side, I think, the glad and hopeful side, of what Jesus means by ‘The time is fulfilled.’ He means the time is ripe.
Frederick Beuchner, Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons
If you are at your manual labor in your room and it comes time to pray, do not say: ‘I will use up my supply of branches or finish weaving the little basket, and then I will rise.’ But rise immediately and render to God the prayer that is owed. Otherwise, little by little you come to neglect your prayer and your duty habitually, and your soul will become a wasteland devoid of every spiritual and bodily work. For right at the beginning your will is apparent.
Sayings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers
Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf. We must somehow take a wider view, look at the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what's going on here.
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
You have not lived a perfect day, even though you have earned your money, unless you have done something for someone who cannot repay you.
Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry [people] pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Suffering and joy teach us, if we allow them, how to make the leap of empathy, which transports us into the soul and heart of another person. ln those transparent moments we know other people's joys and sorrows, and we care about their concerns as if they were our own.
‘He jests at scars that never felt a wound’
We’re here to fight for a government that is open, rational, forward-looking and humane. And we’re going to rock the joint while doing so
A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are
worshipping we are becoming.
Ralph Waldo Emerson:
He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, science for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable an ignorable war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.
Each of the Iraqi children killed by the United States was our child. Each of the prisoners tortured in Abu Ghraib was our comrade. Each of their screams was ours. When they were humiliated, we were humiliated. The U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq - mostly volunteers in a poverty draft from small towns and poor urban neighborhoods - are victims just as much as the Iraqis of the same horrendous process, which asks them to die for a victory that will never be theirs.
Arundhati Roy, ‘Tide? Or Ivory Snow? Public Power in the Age of Empire,’ 8/24/04 http://www.democracynow.org/static/Arundhati_Trans.shtml
One of the things that bothers me most is the growing belief in the country that security is more important than freedom. It ain't.
Lyn Nofziger [Franklyn C. Nofziger] Press Secretary for President Reagan
The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.
Theodore Roosevelt - (1858-1919) 26th US President - Source: letter 01/10/1917
A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason
We cloak ourselves in cold indifference to the unnecessary suffering of others--even when we cause it:
I cannot do everything, but I must not do nothing
Baronness Caroline Cox
The powerful have invoked God at their side in this war, so that we will accept their power and our weakness as something that has been established by divine plan. But there is no god behind this war other than the god of money, nor any right other than the desire for death and destruction. Today there is a ‘NO’ which shall weaken the powerful and strengthen the weak: the ‘NO’ to war.
Subcomandante Marcos, No to war, 2/16/03
The ultimate measure of a [man] is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), US civil rights leader
The vested interests - if we explain the situation by their influence - can only get the public to act as they wish by manipulating public opinion, by playing either upon the public's indifference, confusions, prejudices, pugnacities or fears. And the only way in which the power of the interests can be undermined and their maneuvers defeated is by bringing home to the public the danger of its indifference, the absurdity of its prejudices, or the hollowness of its fears; by showing that it is indifferent to danger where real danger exists; frightened by dangers which are nonexistent.
Sir Norman Angell, 1872 - 1967
Anything you do from the soulful self will help lighten the burdens of the world. Anything. You have no idea what the smallest word, the tiniest generosity can cause to be set in motion. Be outrageous in forgiving. Be dramatic in reconciling. Mistakes? Back up and make them as right as you can, then move on. Be off the charts in kindness. In whatever you are called to, strive to be devoted to it in all aspects large and small. Fall short? Try again. Mastery is made in increments, not in leaps. Be brave, be fierce, be visionary. Mend the parts of the world that are within your reach. To strive to live this way is the most dramatic gift you can ever give to the world.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, American Author, Poet and Psychologist
Iniquity, committed in this world, produces not fruit immediately, but, like the earth, in due season, and advancing by little and little, it eradicates the man who committed it. ...justice, being destroyed, will destroy; being preserved, will preserve; it must never therefore be violated.
Manu 1200 bc
The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. On the whole, men are more good than bad; that, however, isn't the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance which fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill.
Albert Camus: The Plague, Modern Library Edition, p. 120
During times of war, hatred becomes quite respectable even though it has to masquerade often under the guise of patriotism.
If you want to know whether someone is truly religious, do not listen to what they say about God, listen to what they say about the world
(Men) love their ideas more than their lives. And the more preposterous the idea, the more eager they are to die for it. And to kill for it.
You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
Mohandas K. Gandhi
The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.
Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.
The first time it was reported that our friends were being butchered there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread. When evil doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out 'stop!' When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become unendurable, he cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.
Like me, you could...be unfortunate enough to stumble upon a silent war. The trouble is that once you see it, you can't unsee it. And once you've seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. Either way, you're accountable.
Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that numbers of people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience… Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty
Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them. There is almost no kind of outrage-torture, imprisonment without trial, assassination, the bombing of civilians-which does not change its moral color when it is committed by 'our' side. The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.
Cowardice asks the question - is it safe? Expediency asks the question - is it politic? Vanity asks the question - is it popular? But conscience asks the question - is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
After the last tree has been cut down,
After the last river has been poisoned,
After the last fish has been caught
Only then will you find
That money cannot be eaten.
How dare you molest the seas?’ asks Alexander of a pirate he has captured. ‘How dare you molest the whole world?’ the pirate replies. ‘Because I do it with a little ship only, I am called a thief. You, doing it with a great navy, are called an emperor.
St Augustine (more or less)
Every gun and rocket that is fired, every warship launched, signifies, in a final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
I don't believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. I goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people.
The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
When you give food to the poor, they call you a saint.
When you ask why the poor have no food, they call you a communist.
Archbishop Helder Camara, Brazilian liberation theologian
Going to church no more makes you a Christian than sleeping in your garage makes you a car.
True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
Martin Luther King, Jr
The first man who, having fenced off a plot of land, thought of saying, ‘This is mine' and found people simple enough to believe him was the real founder of civil society. How many crimes, wars, murders, how many miseries and horrors might the human race had been spared by the one who, upon pulling up the stakes or filling in the ditch, had shouted to his fellow men: ‘Beware of listening to this impostor; you are lost if you forget the fruits of the earth belong to all and that the earth belongs to no one!’
Political rights do not originate in parliaments; they are, rather, forced on parliaments from without. And even their enactment into law has for a long time been no guarantee of their security... Political rights do not exist because they have been legally set down on a piece of paper, but only when they have become the ingrown habit of a people, and when any attempt to impair them will meet with the violent resistance of the populace [....] The peoples owe all the political rights and privileges which we enjoy today in greater or lesser measure, not to the good will of their governments, but to their own strength.
It is hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head.
The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.’
Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have. I walk out to the pond and all the way God has given me such beautiful lessons.
Oh Lord, I was never a quick scholar but sulked and hunched over my books past the hour and the bell; grant me, in your mercy, a little more time. Love for the earth and love for you are having such a long conversation in my heart.
Who knows what will finally happen or where I will be sent, yet already I have given a great many things away, expecting to be told to pack nothing, except the prayers which, with this thirst, I am slowly learning.
Mary Oliver, Thirst
God, our Advocate,
open us up to the movement of your Spirit.
Allow us to see ourselves
and others that are different from us as part of you and your people.
Help us to grow in the knowledge and awareness
of your divine invitation to live in partnership with you
and help us to throw off
the prejudice, fear, rejection and pain
that separates us from your
unbounded and unconditional love.
O, God, hear our prayer.
‘Faith is always supposed to make it harder, not easier, to ignore the plight of our sisters and brothers. (p. 165)’ Robin R. Meyers Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus. The scriptures again reinforce God’s partiality toward ‘the oppressed...orphan...widow and the lowly.’ That God takes the side of the poor and listens to their cries. If God stands with the poor and the unjustly treated, so must we.
Note that the two characters in the gospel are in the Temple. This institution (like the church) determined the rules of the game and made both characters who they are. Both see God like an auditor. Both are victims of a dominating system that declares who is right with God and who is not right with God. Both need to be liberated from it.
We come across such thinking in relation to the poor, and blame them for their situation and thus unworthy of assistance or compassion. Others are labeled as ‘illegal’ (criminal) for seeking asylum. Sadly, people who came under similar circumstances in the past now join the chorus against asylum seekers.
A few years, a priest-chaplain in a maximum security section at Melbourne Remand Centre wrote of meeting an inmate who was accused of a serious crime. After such a meeting, he read about the crimes in the press or see it on TV which portrayed the person as dangerous and irredeemable monster. He was often struck by the fact that the person as represented did not resemble the one he had met. Calling a person who has offended a monster makes it so easy to disregard his (her) humanity and our shared humanity. He saw that they too had a story – often including enormous deprivation, abuse, and loss of cherished relationships, grief and sadness.
When a person escaping oppression and seeking asylum is labelled a ‘queue-jumper’ or ‘illegal’ or 'just' an ‘economic refugee’ it means we do not have to listen to their story and overlook their plight. People unable to find/hold employment can be labelled bludgers. People with a mental illness or homeless are dismissed as no-hopers; those suffering from addictions as junkies. Earlier this year, Sr Jeannine Gramick wrote about the violence of silence. She was responding to how church leaders had passed over references to the fact that those killed and wounded in the Orlando bar were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. In this instance, the silence of violence denied the existence of a group of people who have been violently targeted in various ways because of who they are. In terms of the gospel today, it says that if we do not acknowledge another’s existence then his or her rights do not need to be recognised; and thus do not need added protections; and one does no have to relate in any meaningful way.
Labelling dismisses the lived human experience of the 'other'. By distancing the 'other' enables us to avoid the obligations arising from a sense of solidarity and shared humanity. In 2013, Pope Francis on a surprise visit to the island of Lampedusa referred to the lack of concern for the suffering of refugees and migrants as a 'globalisation of indifference' as 'we have become used to the suffering of others.' He continued, 'It doesn't affect us. It doesn't interest us. It's not our business.' Blindness to the suffering of our brothers and sisters or allowing society to label those on the margins renders them invisible – and shrinks our humanity. We seem to be increasingly building a world that is exclusive rather inclusive; intolerant rather than compassionate; judgemental rather than embracing and welcoming diversity.
The Pharisee was NOT a bad person. He kept the law and surpassed it. But he defines himself by what he is not and by reference to ‘other people.’ He does not belong to the mess that is humanity. It is a self-alienating attitude from God and others. The tax collector stood apart for other reasons in the struggle for acceptance and forgiveness. He had cheated and lied, and made a living from those things – a sinner in anyone’s definition. As someone ‘sinful’ he wasn’t supposed to be in the temple. Who let him in?
Jesus sets up a situation that lets the light of true humanity shine through. We can be aware of both aspects of the Church – it beautiful side and its ugly side. It provides us with millions of witnesses who give themselves for others. Despite some success as a multicultural society, we have also witnessed greater hostility towards asylum seekers. And the public language impacts on how migrants are treated. The rhetoric about immigration and asylum seekers can ‘contaminate’ the way we treat each other every day. We might gloat about our country but do we consider how our prosperity is often on the backs of the two thirds of the world’s people; or dispossessed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Our blessings should result in fair wages, addressing the inequities between Indigenous Australians and the rest of the community, full employment, care of the aged and people with mental illness, open heartedness and welcome for asylum seekers, a deep respect for people who are different whether they be Muslim or people from Africa. Despite the rhetoric that we are predominantly decent and fair, the face of evidence presented by numerous groups about our detention centres, for example, if we mirror our political leaders then it seems that many of us are self-centred, closed in on ourselves and probably racist. Our attitudes, silence and lack of action means that there will be little relief for people imprisoned for crimes they have never committed. The UN Committee on the Rights of Children has been for some time mirroring the inhumanity of our treatment of these vulnerable people. before us our lack of humanity. When will they be heard? When will they have relief? Now Australian Council of Social Service is about to release its 2016 Report on the growing numbers of people living in this ‘the lucky country’
Today’s message is that we are all part of God’s embrace. We are invited to leave aside all comparisons and deepen our relationship with the God of mercy. Jesus shows us who God is and who we are to God. No one is excluded. Who knows what change might come about in us when we realise this? We might do as Pope John XXIII once suggested: ‘See everything, overlook a great deal; correct a little’. We might involve withholding criticism; or refraining from devaluation of others; or giving one another the benefit of the doubt, or forgetting the past mistakes and offenses of others, or willing to be surprised by another's growth in goodness. It might involve letting go of fixed ideas and positions allowing others space and time to grow. If we are changed in our prayer by God, we might also make it possible for others to change. God does not keep account of good and bad deeds and then sees what our lives add up. Who knows if the tax collector left the temple to do something different - to start a life that was just and fair and good? Hopefully both men came to see that God is life-giving; that they are brothers; and, that it is the fire of God’s heart and life that liberates us.
On one of his visits to Assisi, Pope Francis spoke to the pain and anguish prevalent among many people. To a group of poor people, he said, ‘Many of you have been stripped by this savage world, which doesn’t provide work, which doesn’t help, to which it makes no difference that children die of hunger.’
So, the true prayer that is acceptable to God is that which binds us closer to each other to all living things, especially our sisters and brothers. It is the prayer that takes us more and more to the peripheries where there are people who often do not make it. It does not seem that God wants perfection from us. Perfection, and the arrogance that manifests itself, often reflects the prejudices of the dominant culture and anything that is different is seen as deficient in so many ways. It seems that such a culture creates communities of throwaways, people seen as disposable. It is self-deceiving because we fail to see ourselves as we truly are and so fix our eyes on other with blinkers. Today’s gospel again highlights the attitudes where society hold the ‘greatest’ and the ‘least’. The poor and vulnerable are held to be responsible for their own problems, because they are thought to be lazy, weak and ignorant and so in some way they are thought to have deserved what life has given them. On the other hand, the privileged see themselves as deserving and entitled because they are somehow better, wiser, harder working or whatever.
May we recognise our brokenness and see this as a way to greater connectedness, service and compassion. May we open our eyes to the signs of God’s Reign and God’s acceptance of us. As Robin Meyers says, ‘Faith is always supposed to make it harder, not easier, to ignore the plight of our sisters and brothers.’