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: Sunday, 30 October 2016 19:38
Claude Mostowik MSC
Thirty Second Sunday of the Year
November 6th 2016
Day of Jubilee for Prisoners
designated by Pope Francis to conclude the Year of Mercy
Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.
We acknowledge the traditional owners and 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 on this land.
We acknowledge the traditional custodians and occupiers of the land where we are now gathered, (N…. ) 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.
First Reading 2 Maccabees 7: 1-2, 9-14
Responsorial Psalm Ps 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15
R. (15b) Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
Second Reading 2 Thessalonians 2: 16- 3:5
Gospel Luke 20:27-38 or Lk 20:27, 34-38
- Christ Jesus, you have loved us and given us everlasting hope. Jesus, have mercy.
- Christ Jesus, you have encouraged and strengthened us in every good deed and word. Christ, have mercy.
- Christ Jesus, you have called us to people of the resurrection, who raise up the downcast and downtrodden. Jesus, have mercy.
God of all the living,
in the resurrection of Jesus
you have given us the life
which even death cannot destroy.
Remember your unshakeable promise
and strengthen us to live in this world
as your new creation.
Prayer over the Gifts
God of all the living,
we come before you with the gifts of
bread and wine which become for us food and drink,
the symbols of life and joy.
May we live that life and joy for you and one another.
Prayer after Communion
God of all the living,
through this celebration of the body and blood of Jesus
we are renewed by your love.
Confirm in us that life is meaningful and worthwhile
through the hope we give to others.
Introduction: As people of hope we pray to God, who is God of the living – not of the dead. We pray in response: God of life, hear our prayer.
1. As people of the resurrection, we pray that God will bless all relationships in the church and in our communities that are faithful, loving and life-giving. We pray: God of life, hear our prayer.
2. As people of the resurrection, we pray that we may continue to struggle against all forms of dehumanisation – in the workplace, in the suppression of freedom and in whatever creates fear in others. We pray: God of life, hear our prayer.
3. As people of the resurrection, may we work with others to put an end to war and violence, seek a world where everyone has sufficient food to eat and access to education, where asylum seekers and people who are homeless are cared for and Christians speak up for justice for everyone. We pray: God of life, hear our prayer.
4. As people of the resurrection, our minds and hearts turn again to the many people who walk this earth seeking a safe, secure and humane way of life, especially those whose hopes for a better future cause them to take extreme risks to achieve their hopes and dreams. We pray: God of life, hear our prayer
- As people of the resurrection, we remember our earth, and pray for the wisdom and creativity to address the damage we do each day as well as the assaults on the environment by armed conflict. We pray: God of life, hear our prayer.
6. As people of the resurrection, we pray that we may recognise that every person is created in God’s image and likeness with dignity, value and worth regardless of race, gender and class. We pray: God of life, hear our prayer.
7. As people of the resurrection, we pray that we may recognise that salvation is found in Jesus through being part of a new humanity, a new community. We pray: God of life, hear our prayer.
8. As people of the resurrection, we remember the 60 ethnic Rohingya fleeing persecution and violence in western Myanmar feared dead recently after their boat capsized in the Bay of Bengal. We pray: God of life, hear our prayer.
9. As people of the resurrection, we remember the people in the Philippines whose lives have been affected by various disasters this year, especially the people of Bohol in the central Philippines after enduring a massive earthquake recently. We pray: God of life, hear our prayer
10. As people of the resurrection, we pray that we may remember all the dead, known and unknown to us, and that the good that they have done may inspire us in our lives and in our hope. We pray: God of life, hear our prayer.
Concluding Prayer: Loving and faithful God, hear the prayers of your people. May we be confident in your care for us and each moment as people who believe in your promises.
Prayer of the Faithful (adapted for gender sensitivity)
Dedicated to Prisoners in the Year of Mercy - Holy Father’s Jubilee for Prisoners, 6 November 2016
Introduction: As we call to mind the need for compassion and care for those in prison in Australia, we offer our prayer to God.
- We pray for our Church leaders who in following Christ's example, may be compassionate, welcoming, and hospitable to prisoners, bringing them comfort and assurance. (Pause) Hear us, O God.
- We pray for all our political leaders, especially those responsible for prisoners and detainees; May they clearly see their needs and provide for those needs with justice and compassion. (Pause) Hear us, O God.
- We pray for all who are in prison or detention: that even though surrounded by bars and many restrictions, they receive your grace to know and understand true freedom of spirit. (Pause) Hear us, O God..
- We pray for all who are in prison or detention: May they understand that they are loved, and on release, find a fulfilling and rewarding life, helped by family, friends and the community. (Pause) Hear us, O God.
- We pray for the families of prisoners: that they have the strength, patience and care to support their loved ones while in prison, and one day to receive them back into their lives and their homes with love and forgiveness. (Pause) Hear us, O God.
- We pray for those who work in the prison system, particularly chaplains and pastoral visitors. May they have the clarity of vision and purpose to always put the needs of prisoners first. (Pause) Hear us, O God.
- We especially pray for those held in juvenile detention: May they experience guidance and loving correction through the care and support of those who are responsible for their well-being. (Pause) Hear us, O God.
- We pray for ourselves that we don't forget those who are shut away from us and that we always remain aware of our own weakness and be thankful for the guidance and protection we have received. (Pause) Hear us, O God.
- We pray for the victims of crime that through a spirit of forgiveness, they will find healing and comfort in their distress. (Pause) Hear us, O God.
Conclusion: Loving God, your own Son was a prisoner even in his innocence. Grant these prayers through your divine mercy and compassion as we present them in faith to you in the power of the Spirit and the name of Jesus.
Prayer for Prisoners:
God, Our Creator,
We acknowledge our ancestors
and original owners of this land.
Maker and Spirit of earth and all creation
let your love possess our land
and may we share in faith and friendship
and all your gifts.
We pray for all those in our prisons
and those, who through sickness, addictions and other reasons
live in their personal prisons.
We remember and pray for those
who seek to change difficult life stories.
We remember and pray
for the victims of crime on the outside.
We remember and pray
for the countless victims of crime on the inside.
We remember and pray for
the whole criminal justice system
and its processes.
Keep all of us ever mindful of your great love,
so that we may always remember you
as a God of Mercy and forgiveness.
Remembering Victims of Natural Disaster
Good and Gracious God, we come to you to pray for the victims of Hurricane Matthew. Our hearts are heavy with sorrow for their losses of life, shelter, employment and hope. Quiet our minds and voices so that we may be able to hear, speak and do your will, but only after we have lifted these victims up in prayer.
‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house, and before you, for your name is in this house, and cry to you in our distress, and you will hear and save.’ 2 Chronicles 20:9
‘Almighty God, we recognize how small we are, and how powerless in the face of nature when its full power is unleashed. Therefore, open our hearts in prayer and our hands in generosity, so that our words may bring comfort and our gifts bring aid. Be with us now and with all humanity as we strive to mend what has been injured and rebuild what has been destroyed.’
- Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi, British Commonwealth
‘Surely one does not turn against the needy, when in disaster they cry for help.’
- Job 30:24
For those who must be evacuated and relocated. Let us cry for help.
For those who are already vulnerable, who are usually the most affected by any disaster. Let us cry for help.
For those thirsting for drink, hungering for food, seeking shelter and in need of medical care. Let us cry for help.
For those relying on governments and relief agencies to provide assistance and ensure their basic rights. Let us cry for help.
We turn to You, O God, and cry for those in the midst of this disaster. We ask all this in Your Name. Amen.
From Darkness to Light - A Prayer In a Time of Disaster
At the beginning of Creation, You calmed the chaos of the world. Be present now to those whose lives are suddenly filled with chaos. Grant them the grace of calm in the midst of confusion. We pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer.
You have always shown us the way from darkness into the light. For those struggling now to see the light, we ask that You shine it a bit brighter in our world. Grant us all the grace to see a way forward through the present darkness. We pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Throughout history You have raised up leaders to care for your people. May those who are called upon to lead now in this time of despair be given the grace to do so with conviction and compassion. We pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer.
You are truly a God of abundance. Open our eyes so that we may see how our ministries can use the abundance with which we have been blessed to help those in need. Grant us the grace to move with humility and prudence in all that we do. We pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer.
You are also a God of wonders. We have often struggled to imagine the breadth and depth of what is possible with You at our side. Grant us all – those directly affected and those holding them in prayer – the grace of creativity in our response to this event. We pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer.
The Psalmist sings, ‘Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.’ Let it also be our song this day. May we, and those we pray for, truly hope in the Lord. And may that hope give us all the strength and heart we need to move from darkness into light.
When people decry civilian deaths caused by the U.S government, they're aiding propaganda efforts. In sharp contrast, when civilian deaths are caused by bombers who hate America, the perpetrators are evil and those deaths are tragedies. When they put bombs in cars and kill people, they're uncivilized killers. When we put bombs on missiles and kill people, we're upholding civilized values. When they kill, they're terrorists. When we kill, we're striking against terror.
The more there are suffering, then, the more natural their sufferings appear. Who wants to prevent the fishes in the sea from getting wet? And the suffering themselves share this callousness towards themselves and are lacking in kindness toward themselves. It is terrible that human beings so easily put up with existing conditions, not only with the sufferings of strangers but also with their own. All those who have thought about the bad state of things refuse to appeal to the compassion of one group of people for another. But the compassion of the oppressed for the oppressed is indispensable. It is the world's one hope.
We go on multiplying our conveniences only to multiply our cares. We increase our possessions only to the enlargement of our anxieties.
Anna C. Brackett, The Technique of Rest
The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.
Humor and laughter are not necessarily the same thing. Humor permits us to see into life from a fresh and gracious perspective. We learn to take ourselves more lightly in the presence of good humor. Humor gives us the strength to bear what cannot be changed, and the sight to see the human under the pompous.
Live like Jesus did, and the world will listen.’
Activism is my rent for living on this planet.
Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrations and revolutionists
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Movements are like this. They are grassroots, often underground, and they start with crazy people who are willing to believe in the impossible. Movements never start in corporate offices with executives drawing up a master plan...if we truly want to see the world changed, we must begin as a band of madmen, welcoming other crazy people who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
When lies abound, telling the truth is an act of revolution
Jonathan Van Voorhees (01/09/2009)
A man with a briefcase can steal more money than any man with a gun.
Don Henley (1989)
He who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a criminal
When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime.
We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a really easy way: stop participating in it
When people decry civilian deaths caused by the U.S government, they're aiding propaganda efforts. In sharp contrast, when civilian deaths are caused by bombers who hate America, the perpetrators are evil and those deaths are tragedies. When they put bombs in cars and kill people, they're uncivilized killers. When we put bombs on missiles and kill people, we're upholding civilized values. When they kill, they're terrorists. When we kill, we're striking against terror
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead, American Anthropologist
Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a really easy way: stop participating in it.
[In] Democratic societies ... the state can't control behavior by force. It can to some extent, but it's much more limited in its capacity to control by force. Therefore, it has to control what you think. ... One of the ways you control what people think is by creating the illusion that there's a debate going on, but making sure that that debate stays within very narrow margins. Namely, you have to make sure that both sides in the debate accept certain assumptions, and those assumptions turn out to be the propaganda system. As long as everyone accepts the propaganda system, then you can have a debate.
Noam Chomsky (24/10/1986)
The biases the media has are much bigger than conservative or liberal. They're about getting ratings, about making money, about doing stories that are easy to cover. –
There is a growing awareness of the sublime dignity of human persons, who stand above all things and whose rights and duties are universal and inviolable. They ought, therefore, to have ready access to all that is necessary for living a genuinely human life: for example, food, clothing, housing, ... the right to education, and work.
Vatican II, The Church in the Modern World, #26
The glory of God is a human person fully alive. A human person fully alive is the glory of God.
Because God is the creator, redeemer, lover of the world, God’s own honor is at stake in human happiness. Wherever human beings are violated, diminished, or have their life drained away, God’s glory is dimmed and dishonored. Wherever human beings are quickened to fuller and richer life, God’s glory is enhanced. A community of justice and peace (thriving among human beings) and God’s glory increase in direct and not inverse proportion.
Elizabeth Johnson CSJ, She Who Is,
….. we offer once again a simple image - a table. Who has a place at the table of life? …. How can we secure a place at the table for the hungry and those who lack health care in our own land and around the world? Where is the place at the table for those in our world who lack the freedom to practice their faith or stand up for what they believe? How do we ensure that families in our inner cities and rural communities, in barrios in Latin America and villages in Africa and Asia have a place at the table-enough to eat, decent work and wages, education for their children, adequate health care and housing, and most of all, hope for the future? We remember especially the people who are now missing at the table of life - those lost in the terror of September 11, in the service of our nation, and in the bloody conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Africa. A table is also a place where important decisions are made in our communities, nation, and world. How can the poorest people on Earth and those who are vulnerable in our land, including immigrants and those who suffer discrimination, have a real place at the tables where policies and priorities are set?
US Bishops, Faithful Citizenship
Catholic Social Teaching affirms the dignity of every human person:
‘Every human person is created in the image and likeness of God and has an inviolable dignity, value, and worth, regardless of race, gender, class, or other human characteristics.’
Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.
Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are?
We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move.
You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel?
You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.
Pablo Casals (1876-1973), Spanish Cellist
Litany of Thanksgiving to those who affirm our universal human dignity
Response to each part of the litany can be a simple ‘pray for us’’ or ‘Grant us peace and justice’ One can also add local people in this litany.
Mother Theresa of Calcutta, who worked with the poorest of the poor,
Father Flanagan, who founded Boy’s Town,
Francis of Assisi, who respected all creation and even kissed the leper,
Dorothy Day, who spent her life in Housing of Hospitality,
Francis Xavier, who journeyed all over Asia to share the vision,
Peter Claver, who met the slaves who came to America,
Martin Luther King, who marched for the rights of all,
Rosa Parks, who refused to sit in the back of the bus,
Jean Vanier, who calls people into community,
Those who feed the hungry
Those who shelter the homeless
Those who do the works of mercy
Those who speak out for justice
Those who take time with the elderly
Those who work with children
Those who journey with the disabled
Those who share the vulnerability
Those who listen to others in their need
Those who proclaim equality for all
Center of Concern
I suffer I more from the humiliations inflicted by my country than from those inflicted on her.
Simone Weil, Searching for God
O God, I thank You for this day of life
for eyes to see the sky
for ears to hear the birds
for feet to walk amidst the trees
for hands to pick the flowers from the earth
for a sense of smell to breathe in the sweet
perfumes of nature
for a mind to think about and appreciate
the magic of everyday miracles
for a spirit to swell in joy at Your mighty presence
Marian Wright Edelman, Founder of the Children's Defense Fund
The Dead Don’t Cling
‘Those who attain the resurrection do not marry or are given in marriage’.
The dead don’t cling
to less than perfect joys,
or bind themselves
to vows that might disable.
They don’t seek love
that’s limited by years
and meet no more
at just one kitchen table.
The dead don’t cling
to loving that excludes,
or seek one soul
to be the only friend.
They now belong
to a much larger whole,
and love the One
who links the one to all.
© B.D. Prewer 1993
All labor that uplifts humanity
has dignity and importance
and should be undertaken
with painstaking excellence.
Dr. Martin Luther King,
Mirror, mirror on the wall, may I look with love on all.
Edward M. Hays, Holy Fools and Mad Hatters
In Germany they came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
Martin Niemöller (1892-1984), German Protestant Clergyman
For if every [man] were to regard the persons of others as [his] own person, who would inflict pain and injury on others? If they regarded the homes of others as their own homes, would they rob the homes of others? Thus in that case there would be no brigands and robbers. If the princes regarded other countries as their own, who would wage war on other countries? This in that case there would be no more war.
Hillel, first century A.D. rabbi
A Prayer for the World
Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come out and
fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the Sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender, or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness
of the Sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the Sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the Earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.
Rabbi Harold S. Kushner
Protest that endures...is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one's own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence.
War is like a big machine that no one really knows how to run and when it gets out of control it ends up destroying the things you thought you were fighting for, and a lot of other things you kinda forgot you had.
I shall pass through this world but once.
Any good, therefore, that I can show to any human being,
let me do it now.
Let me not defer nor neglect it,
for I shall not pass this way again.
Stephen Grellet, 1773-1855,French-born Quaker Minister
We will meet again my friend,
A hundred years from today
Far away from where we lived
And where we used to play.
We will know each others' eyes
And wonder where we met
Your laugh will sound familiar
Your heart, I won't forget.
We will meet, I'm sure of this,
But let's not wait till then...
Let's take a walk beneath the stars
And share 'this' world again.
‘Let's Not Wait’
Simone Weil, Searching for God
Genuine forgiveness is not an easily cultivated art. Especially when we have been gravely wounded by another person, our basic human dignity affronted, it is no simple task to forgive. Nor should it be done lightly. For we need also to recognize and affirm the anger, the pain, the betrayal, or the sense of injustice that we feel when genuinely hurt.
Wendy M. Wright, The Rising
Unfortunately, though we often talk about forgiveness within the church, very often by the way we deal with things—attempting to suppress conflict, not making judgments, keeping things secret, not enforcing the ethical conditions we talk about, not holding the powerful accountable—we actually create a situation that stops people from being able to forgive.
Peter Horsfield, Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Situations of Sexual Assault
The Life That Ignores Limits
John van de Laar
It hides in every corner,
it crosses every boundary;
Your life, O God, ignores limits.
We know it in the safe ones we love and enjoy;
but, if we look, it appears in those who are different,
Your life, O God, ignores limits.
It's easy to see in those who are healthy and comfortable;
vibrant, joyful and privileged to have access
to the wonder-inspiring experiences that life offers;
but, if we look, it appears in those who seem lost to life,
poor and weak,
sick and broken and unable to move
beyond their limited horizons;
Your life, O God, ignores limits.
And so we celebrate your life, wherever it may be found,
and we commit ourselves to be life-seekers,
discerning and acknowledging life
in every person, every moment and every space.
God of steadfast compassion and liberating transformation,
With wisdom to accept
the past and the courage to work for the future,
grant us today compassion for those who reject transformation,
and patience for those who are not ready to face and embrace change.
Challenge us to develop integrity in all of our relations
until your presence and love may be manifested
across barriers of time and difference.
Some reflections on the readings………
Luke’s gospel contains a series of encounter between Jesus and those who oppose him. In today’s gospel, the encounter begins with a question is about ‘resurrection.’ For the ‘Sadducees’ there can be no resurrection, but Jesus response is not about resurrection so much as to who we as ‘children of the resurrection’ – that we are participating here and now in an alternative way of living this life, and that God is a God of the living. Jesus turns the tables on his questions by implicating asking if they are ‘dead’ or ‘alive’. To God, ‘all are alive.’
Jesus confrontation with the Sadducees about life after death, gives him the opening to deal with the implicit violence perpetrated against the woman in the story. She is nothing but a servant and not having any children is not even that to her dead husbands.
We know various examples of stories depicting violence against women in the Bible from the rapes of Tamar and Dinah to the abandonment of Hagar with her child in the desert. In today’s gospel there is the violence of anonymity, as the woman is brought forward as a trump card against eternal life in an attempt to entrap Jesus in a debate about the preposterous notion of resurrection. As a barren woman, she is held up as a conundrum in an argument having been married to seven brothers and then widowed without children. There is the shame and embarrassment at being exposed as barren, and worthless, seven times over.
Is this not the ‘game’ played by the church when it held up women solely as child bearers and unable to imagine any other roles for them. Unlike some of the prophets, Jesus is not seen making a barren woman fertile and never praised childbearing or motherhood. He imagined other roles for women: ‘Mary has chosen the good portion and it will not be taken away from her’ when she chose to sit among the disciples and learn, rather than work in the kitchen. And in the discussion with the Sadducees over the barren woman, Jesus reveals that in the resurrection, life is not about servitude (for women), or being owned or possessed by another, but being a child of God. Jesus repeatedly made clear that he embraces barren women, promiscuous women, fallen women, prostitutes – women who suffer social stigma still, and women who are not defined by belonging to a husband.. ‘All who hear my words and do them are my family.’ There is no family when only the males are the subjects of history, and the woman an object - ‘the wife.’ There is no family when the agenda is offspring for a male husband and father with a concern to maintain a patriarchal design. There is no family when dominant males have their names passed on to children, and who only have significance when the father’s name and memory is bestowed upon them. Jesus shifted the discussion by countering the view that a woman can be shunted around carrying the burden of patriarchal luggage. We are children of the Resurrection, not heirs of a defunct patriarchy. The resurrected life is not giving and taking in marriage, but about ‘being alive’ and doing life differently. What we do does matter. Every act of mercy, compassion and solidarity with the most vulnerable manifest God’s life. What we do is seen through the lens of God’s reign. It is about a long haul rather than immediate outcomes. It takes courage and faith to live an alternative set of values and practices from the people around us as we strive for a better world even though we may never see the final outcome of justice and peace. Former playwright and Czech president, the late Vaclav Havel said that ‘Hope …….is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.’ Thomas Merton, writing to a friend said ‘Do not depend on the hope of results . . .you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. . . .you gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people . . . .In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.’ Whilst we are together and feel some others supporting, perseverance is possible. Irrespective of violence and hard times, joy is still available, not from the circumstances, but from our relationships. We don't need specific outcomes. We need each other.
The Sadducees, wanted to keep their privileges by collaborating with the Romans and Jesus’ teaching threatened that. They needed to demonise him: show him to be crazy, irrelevant, a threat to authority and disrespectful of Moses’ teachings and traditions. If the ordinary people had their eyes opened and could be excited by the possibility of social change and a new quality of life then their powerful influence would be threatened.
A selective reading of the scriptures always provide excuses from living the ‘resurrection’ now by heeding the prophetic call to justice, to hospitality, to engaging effectively with people living at the margins. We do not have to wait for death to experience heaven and hell. They begin each day by our choices either to love others or to isolate ourselves. Material comfort can numb our consciences and blind us to ‘Lazarus at the gate’ or those at the walls created by our Border Force. They also cut us off from the real sources of life: telling the truth, giving and receiving mercy and sharing our joys and needs with others. Jesus’ confrontation with the Sadducees as with other power groups is really an attempt to liberate them from assumptions that imprisoned them. They were becoming dead men instead of being open to the living God as revealed by Jesus.
‘They sense, as Jesus surely knows that resurrection is a dangerous business. It is less about a dead person coming to life but the belief in God’s power for life that moves into all our arrangements, shatters all our categories by which we manage, control and administer. It speaks about God’s will for new life working where we thought our tired deathliness would prevail. And the Sadducees please; Please tell us that such life will not come among us.’ (Walter Brueggemann, The Threat of Life: Sermons on Pain, Power and Weakness Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1996, pp. 146-147)
Resurrection is about doing life differently for ourselves and for others. Its power is utterly new and overwhelmingly transforming. It is a about committing ourselves to God and living in such a way that this relationship surpasses any other relationship and infuses every relationship that we have. ‘God is not God of the dead but of the living’. This is the central focus and challenge of the Gospel – the call to peace, to justice. Resurrection is more than a feel-good belief about seeing loved ones again. A biblical sense of the resurrection of the dead should focus on the indomitable power and faithfulness of God in the face of every negation, including death. Resurrection is to be lived now. It involves justice. It involves action to overcome the oppressive forces and structures in society. It means that that our eyes are opened, to have our hearts broken open to allow in our sisters and brothers, particularly the poor and neglected, the anonymous and voiceless ones.
Engagement in our world in the areas of human rights, peace with justice, ending hunger, freedom for refugees, equality for minorities, respect for people who are from different ethnic or religious backgrounds flows from the belief that God is God of the living and not of the dead. This God is manifested in people who have engaged in faithful actions for a just, loving, compassionate and sustainable world. And we recall, that ‘our faith must make it harder, not easier, to ignore the plight of our sisters and brothers’ (Robin Meyers, Underground Church)
Jesus’ vision is of a new community, a new humanity and a new way of relating. We see this confirmed in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians where God intends the liberation of the whole human community, all of Creation in a new Peace, SHALOM. The woman in the story is not going to be anybody’s wife where she will be owned or possessed. God is doing things differently. In whatever change or loss we experience we must believe, as did Job, that ‘my Redeemer lives’. We must not let our pain blind us to the pain of others. We need to overcome the tendency to see ourselves as exception and seeing ourselves as the only victim. It is easy to do. We might see it quicker in others than in ourselves.
As we ponder Jesus’ confrontation with the Sadducees regarding life, we must ask ourselves, ‘Do I believe in resurrection?’ ‘Do I really believe in resurrection?’ Our response points to how we live today. It is not so much answered intellectually as in the ordering of our loves. Who or what is our true love? Do we find our loves fulfilled in the living God or in the promises of this world? Does this include those that others shun? Vilify? Demonise? Neglect? So, as we have focused this year on effectively engaging in our world, we show by our relationships, our solidarity, our respect that God is God of the living and not of the dead; the God of living people who continually engage in faithful actions for a just, loving, compassion and sustainable world.