Who we are

Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an Australian community, in a worldwide religious congregation.

Ministry Mission

Jesus loved with a human heart: with him we proclaim his love to the world.

Peace, Justice, Creation

We work to discover through advocacy, healing and reconciliation, God's presence in our world.

Spirituality

We are to be on earth the heart of God. God has no other heart but ours.

LITURGY NOTES FOR THE FEAST OF THE REIGN OF CHRIST

 
  Claude Mostowik MSC

 christ the king

Feast of the Reign of Christ – the Cosmic Christ

November 20th 2016
 
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.

or

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.

 

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Image result for Luke 23:33-43 Image result for Luke 23:33-43  Image result for Luke 23:33-43

 

 

Blessed are you peacemakers

Blessed are you peacemakers,

who say no to war as a means to peace.

Blessed are you peacemakers,

who are committed to disarm weapons of mass destruction.

Blessed are you peacemakers,

who wage peace at heroic personal cost.

Blessed are you peacemakers,

who challenge and confront judges, courts and prisons.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who help those who are hurting.

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Blessed are the peacemakers,

who befriend perfect strangers.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who open doors for acting justly,

loving tenderly and walking humbly with God
and all people of good will.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
who welcome, encourage and inspire.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who offer hope and healing.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who care and comfort.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who help find answers.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who provide stability not insanity.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who help restore faith and love.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who delight in creation, art and creativity.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who see the good in others.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who never give up.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who give and give and give.

Fr. Paul Milanowski Grand Rapids, Michigan

 

Reading I 2 Sm 5:1-3

Responsorial Psalm Ps 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5

Reading II Col 1:12-20

Gospel Lk 23:35-43

 

Penitential Rite

·         Christ Jesus, you reveal the face of God who brings us forgiveness and peace. Jesus, have mercy.

·         Christ Jesus, you reveal the love and peace of God. Christ, have mercy.

·         Christ Jesus, you reveal your power in service to the sick, vulnerable and marginalised. Jesus, have mercy.

or

  • Christ Jesus, you became the servant of all and washed the feet of your disciples. Jesus, have mercy.
  • Christ Jesus, you became a victim who died for your people. Christ, have mercy.
  • Christ Jesus, you are the model or service for us all. Jesus, have mercy.

 

Opening Prayer

God and Heart of the Universe,

Jesus, your Son, the beloved,

who though rejected and put to death,

illumines our lives.

Show us in his death the victory

and in his broken body the love

that unites all people and all of creation.

 

or

 

God of the poor,

Jesus, your Son, was born among us.

Open our eyes, our hearts and our hands

and may our love free, bold and inclusive

as we welcome him in those who are hungry and thirsty,

in those who are abandoned and lonely,

in refugees, the poor and the sick.

 

or

 

God and Heart of the Universe

the mystery of Jesus’ reign

over every age and nation illumines our lives.

Open our hearts, and remove from us,

every desire for privilege and power

and direct us in the love of Christ

to care for the least of our brothers and sisters.

 

Prayer over the Gifts

God and Heart of the Universe,

show us your living presence

in Christ Jesus, your Son.

As we offer these gifts,

may the Holy Spirit sustain our hope

and inspire us to generously build up

a world that is human, peace and just.

 

Prayer after Communion

God and Heart of the Universe,

in this Eucharist,

we recognise Jesus, the Centre of our lives,

May we respond by becoming, like him,

people who live for others, peacebuilders

and instruments of your healing

so that your peace reigns in the hearts of all people. 

 

General Intercessions

Introduction: Let us pray through Jesus Christ, that the reign of God may become real and concrete among us.  Jesus, remember us when you come into your reign.

or

Introduction: As we remember people who bear the burdens of everyday life, let us pray in the words of one who was crucified with Jesus: Jesus, remember us when you come into your reign.

 

1.       Make your Reign visible in our political and religious institutions: may they speak words of peace and make concrete gestures of peace in our world, let us pray: Jesus, remember us when you come into your reign.

 

2.       Make your Reign visible in the churches: may we always follow in the path of Christ who did not come to be served but to serve, let us pray: Jesus, remember us when you come into your reign.

 

3.       Make your Reign visible in all who exercise power and authority in this world: may use power as a means to a service, let us pray: Jesus, remember us when you come into your reign.

 

4.       Make your Reign visible in our attitudes to: people: may we see in them your image of love and diversity, let us pray: Jesus, remember us when you come into your reign.

 

5.       Make your reign visible in all corners of the world in the Holy Land: may the Palestinian and Israeli people grow find ways of living together in unity and peace with justice, let us pray: Jesus, remember us when you come into your reign.

 

6.       Make us grateful and appreciative of the diversity that surrounds us: for the spectrum of skin colors, languages, and customs that make up the world and God’s reign, let us pray: Jesus, remember us when you come into your reign.

 

7.       Make your reign visible where people are in need, pain and sickness: may we be especially aware in December of people in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific region who live with HIV/AIDS and work to overcome fear, shame, ignorance and injustice, let us pray: Jesus, remember us when you come into your reign.

 

8.       Make your reign visible in our communities where men and women strive to eliminate all forms of violence especially violence against women and children, let us pray: Jesus, remember us when you come into your reign.

 

9.       Make your reign of peace visible in the lives of people without a homeland: may the people of Palestine and other people who seek a homeland of their own be given their rights, let us pray: Jesus, remember us when you come into your reign.

 

10.   Make your reign of equality and peace visible in the peoples of the Pacific who live in fear of rising waters through climate warming and for people who suffer persecution of any kind, let us pray: Jesus, remember us when you come into your reign.

 

11.   Make your reign of justice visible in the places where there is greed and corruption that causes people to suffer: may a world of peace and justice be realised in the ordinary efforts of people, let us pray: Jesus, remember us when you come into your reign.

 

Concluding Prayer: Heart of the Universe, may the Spirit of Jesus help us to witness to the values, the cultures and religions of all people by promoting a dialogue of love, justice, truth and life for all.

or

Concluding Prayer: Good and gracious God, we believe that the reign of Jesus your Son is among us. Hear the prayers of your people today that they hearts and minds be opened to recognise your presence among so that we may live as citizens of your reign on earth.

 

More Resources

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. ... That’s our problem.

Howard Zinn

 

King?

King is your word not mine;

Friend I am, and not very choosey,

pagans and prostitutes,

publicans and sinners,

grace is my kingdom.

King is your word, not mine;

Servant I am, no one beneath me,

feet washer and waiter,

serving the least,

love is my kingdom

King is your word, not mine;

Physician I am, all free of charge,

touching the leper,

expelling the demons,

health is my kingdom.

King is your word, not mine;

A seer I am, seeing God’s word

in mustard seed and yeast,

wildflower and ravens,

truth is my kingdom.

King is your word, not mine;

Tradesman I am, honing my craft,

familiar with wood,

hammer and nails,

hope is my kingdom.

©  B.D. Prewer 2002

 

The Giving Tree

Once there was a giving tree who loved a little boy.

And everyday the boy would come to play

Swinging from the branches, sleeping in the shade

Laughing all the summer’s hours away.

And so they love,

Oh, the tree was happy.

Oh, the tree was glad.

 

But soon the boy grew older and one day he came and said,

‘Can you give me some money, tree, to buy something I’ve found?’

‘I have no money,’ said the tree, ‘Just apples, twigs and leaves.’

‘But you can take my apples, boy, and sell them in the town.’

And so he did and

Oh, the tree was happy.

Oh, the tree was glad.

 

But soon again the boy came back and he said to the tree,

‘I’m now a man and I must have a house that’s all my home.’

‘I can’t give you a house’ he said, ‘The forest is my house.’

‘But you may cut my branches off and build yourself a home’

And so he did.

Oh, the tree was happy.

Oh, the tree was glad.

 

And time went by and the boy came back with sadness in his eyes.

‘My life has turned so cold,’ he says, ‘and I need sunny days.’

‘I’ve nothing but my trunk,’ he says, ‘But you can cut it down

And build yourself a boat and sail away.’

And so he did and

Oh, the tree was happy.

Oh, the tree was glad.

 

And after years the boy came back, both of them were old.

‘I really cannot help you if you ask for another gift.’

‘I’m nothing but an old stump now. I’m sorry but I’ve nothing more to give’

‘I do not need very much now, just a quiet place to rest,’

The boy, he whispered, with a weary smile.

‘Well’, said the tree, ‘An old stump is still good for that.’

‘Come, boy’, he said, ‘Sit down, sit down and rest a while.’

And so he did and

Oh, the trees was happy.

Oh, the tree was glad.

Shel Silverstein from Bobby Bare's ‘Singing in the Kitchen’’,

 

Everybody wants a home. A home is a place different to work, which is frequently stressful. But the home is a place where we can relax, where we can rest, where we can be with friends, we're together. Home is essential to human beings, and, belonging is to know that I'm loved, that I'm appreciated. You see, the worst thing that can happen for anyone is the anguish of loneliness. Nobody loves me, nobody wants me. And this can come about for many people. They throw themselves into work, but they might be terribly lonely on the part of their hearts, that which is most human within them. So human beings, they need a place where they belong, but not belonging that closes them up and a belonging of fear, but a belonging of relationship. We're together, we love each other. When we're strong and fit and capable and have lots of diplomas, maybe we feel we don't need to belong. We're capable. But as soon as somebody is a little bit weaker, a bit more fragile, then we need to belong, we need this place where we're loved as we are. So home and belonging is something very fundamental to human beings.

Jean Vanier

 

The history of this human family has been a history of wars, of empires, or slavery, of hurting people. So something has to change in the hearts of humanity if we want to become a society or a family, a world human family, where we appreciate each other and we appreciate each other's cultures. But in order to appreciate people, particularly when they're different, it means learning their language, getting to know them, trying to understand them. So to be human, is to open up to the different, and then there's a little commandment if I may use that expression of Jesus' where he says 'When you give a meal, don't invite the members of your family, don't invite your rich neighbours, don't invite your friends, but when you give a really good meal, a banquet, invite the poor, the lame, the disabled and the blind. And you shall be happy, you shall find a beatitude.' You see the whole vision of God is to bring human beings together, to accept each other, and in the degree that we close up in our tribe or in our clan or in our little group of people where were just spend our time flattering each other and working for each other, then we just continue to create a world of division, and eventually worlds of division become worlds of conflict and worlds of war.

 

So to live with people with disabilities and to let my heart be opened up to discover their gifts and their beauty and to relationship, means that I have to discover all the fears that I have within me - that I'm frightened of the different. The big question is how to help people not to be frightened. So what I would say is L'Arche is a sort of training ground, or a school, where we learn to live with people who are very different, because their disabilities are different, and maybe their religion is different, their culture is different - it's a school where we learn to appreciate people different, to love that and then to grow together and to become a sign that our world is not just a world where we have to live in rivalry, competition, in a sort of tyranny of normality, but it is possible to create places where we can learn to celebrate our differences and then as I get to understand people better there's a sort of wisdom of growth.

Jean Vanier

 

God we need a little more healing:

Something in all of us likes a lot of power and control.

We have ended up spending billions on weapons,

We have weapons that can destroy the whole world.

Somehow we get ourselves into the business of selling weapons to others.

Too many young men and women are trained for war which nobody wants.

Too many people are hungry and afraid.

God we need a little more healing.

God we need a little more healing:

Something in all of us likes a lot of power and control.

We worry about money and food and clothes and things.

We end up buying things we don’t need.

We end up working too much.

We end up filled with things and worry.

Somehow we end up with a world where some are very rich.

We end up with a world where some are very poor.

We end up with a world where some have no work.

We end up with a world in which some are overworked.

God we need a little more healing.

 

God we need a little more healing:

Something in all of us likes a lot of power and control.

Some people end up with a lot of power.

Some people end up with making all the big decisions.

Some of our brothers and sisters never get listened to.

Somehow our politics becomes a politics of the rich or of the few.

Our democracy becomes less democratic.

Money and prestige and status are in charge.

Skin color or ethnic group or gender seem to matter too much.

God we need a little more healing.

 

God we need a little more healing:

Something in all of us likes a lot of power and control.

We don’t know how to let go.

We don’t know how to be free.

We don’t know how to be ourselves.

Sometimes we are bound by all our fears.

We don’t know how to be active and nonviolent.

We don’t know what to do at all.

God we need a little more healing.

Amen.

Sources Unknown

 

I believe in aristocracy….  not an aristocracy of power, based on rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky.  Its members are found in all nations and classes, and through all the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet.  They represent the true human tradition, the one queer victory over cruelty and chaos.

E.M. Forster

 

We have no reason to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. . . .How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

Rainer Maria Rilke

 

The individual today is often suffocated between two poles represented by the State and the marketplace. At times it seems as though the individual exists only as a producer and consumer of goods, or as an object of State administration. People lose sight of the fact that life in society has neither the market nor the State as its final purpose.

John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 49

 

We must repeat that the superfluous goods of wealthier nations ought to be placed at the disposal of poorer nations. The rule, by virtue of which in times past those nearest us were to be helped in time of need, applies today to all the needy throughout the world. And the prospering peoples will be the first to benefit from this. Continuing avarice on their part will arouse the judgment of God and the wrath of the poor, with consequences no one can foresee. If prosperous nations continue to be jealous of their own advantage alone, they will jeopardize their highest values, sacrificing the pursuit of excellence to the acquisition of possessions. We might well apply to them the parable of the rich man. His fields yielded an abundant harvest and he did not know where to store it: 'But God said to him, ‘Fool, this very night your soul will be demanded from you.

Paul VI, Populorum Progressio (On the progress of peoples), 49

 

May people learn to fight for justice without violence,

renouncing class struggle in their internal disputes,

and war in international ones.

John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 23

 

We have assumed the name of peacemakers, but we have been, by and large, unwilling to pay any significant price. And because we want the peace with half a heart and half a life and will, the war, of course, continues, because the waging of war, by its nature, is total—but the waging of peace, by our own cowardice, is partial… There is no peace because the making of peace is at least as costly as the making of war—at least as exigent, at least as disruptive, at least as liable to bring disgrace and prison and death in its wake.

Daniel Berrigan sj

 

Nonviolence is really tough. You don't practice nonviolence at conferences; you practice it on picket-lines.

Cesar Chavez

 

An elder Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them: ‘A fight is going on inside me...It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride and superiority. The other wolf stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside of you and every other person too.’

 

They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, ‘Which wolf will win?’ The old Cherokee simply replied... ‘The one I feed.’

 

Peace is not merely the absence of war. Nor can it be reduced solely to the maintenance of a balance of power between enemies. Nor is it brought about by dictatorship. Instead, it is rightly and appropriately called 'an enterprise of justice' (Is. 32:7). Peace results from that harmony built into human society by its divine founder, and actualized by men and women as they thirst after ever greater justice.

Second Vatican Council, The Church in the Modern World, #78

 

Christ crucified and risen, the Wisdom of God, manifests the truth that divine justice and renewing power leavens the world in a way different from the techniques of dominating violence. The victory of shalom is won not by the sword of the warrior god, but by the awesome power of compassionate love, in and through solidarity with those who suffer . . . Above all, the cross is raised as a challenge to the natural rightness of male dominating rule.

 

The crucified Jesus embodies the exact opposite of the patriarchal ideal of the powerful man, and shows the steep price to be paid in the struggle for liberation.

Elizabeth Johnson CSJ, She Who Is, 159-160

 

Today in our situation the authenticity of the people of God goes by way of poverty and justice: they are the touchstone of the truth of the faith that is professed and of the genuineness of life as it is lived out: poverty, which involves incarnating all our efforts and incarnating ourselves in the reality of the oppressed majorities, and that will necessarily entail a voluntary impoverishment and abnegation on the part of those who wield power; justice, which involves giving to the people what belongs to the people and struggling to uproot injustice and exploitation, and to establish a new earth, wherein the life of the new human may be possible.

Ignacio Ellacuría SJ, martyred in El Salvador  1989

 

[Praying] demands that you take to the road again and again, leaving your house and looking forward to a new land for yourself and your [fellow human]. This is why praying demands poverty, that is, the readiness to live a life in which you have nothing to lose so that you always begin afresh.

Henri J.M. Nouwen, With Open Hands

 

A life in prayer is a life in open hands where you are not ashamed of your weakness but realize that it is more perfect for a [human] to be led by the other than to seek to hold everything in [her] own hand.

Henri J.M. Nouwen

 

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

Henri Nouwen

 

Once upon a time, the story goes, a preacher ran through the streets of the city shouting, 'We must put God into our lives. We must put God into our lives.' And hearing him, the old monastic rose up in the city plaza to say, 'No, sir, you are wrong. You see, God is already in our lives. Our task is simply to recognize that.'

Joan Chittister, OSB, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today

 

We cannot seek or attain health, wealth, learning, justice, or kindness in general. Action is always specific, concrete, individualized, unique.

Benjamin Jowett

 

Awareness requires a rupture with the world we take for granted; then old categories of experience are called into question and revised.

Shoshana Zuboff

 

... There is one thing you have got to learn about our movement. Three people are better than no people.

Fannie Lou Hamer

 

A democracy which makes or even effectively prepares for modern, scientific war must necessarily cease to be democratic. No country can be really well prepared for modern war unless it is governed by a tyrant, at the head of a highly trained and perfectly obedient bureaucracy.

Aldous Huxley

 

People are, if anything, more touchy about being thought silly than they are about being thought unjust.

E.B. White

 

The strength of a civilization is not measured by its ability to fight wars, but rather by its ability to prevent them.

Gene Roddenberry

 

There comes a point when a man must refuse to answer to his leader if he is also to answer to his own conscience.

Hartley Shawcross

 

Then it must also be admitted, my friend, that men who are harmed become more unjust.

Plato

 

Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.

Thomas Mann

 

The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.

General Omar Bradley

 

Among the basic freedoms to which men aspire that their lives might be full and uncramped, freedom from fear stands out as both a means and an end. A people who would build a nation in which strong, democratic institutions are firmly established as a guarantee against state-induced power must first learn to liberate their own minds from apathy and fear.

Aung San Suu Kyi

 

You may think your actions are meaningless and that they won't help, but that is no excuse, you must still act.

Mohandas K. Gandhi

 

We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.

Albert Einstein

 

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

We do not know what awaits each of us after death, but we know that we will die. Clearly it must be possible to live ethically -with a genuine concern for the happiness of other sentient beings- without presuming to know things about which we are patently ignorant. Consider it: every person you have ever met, every person you will pass in the street today, is going to die. Living long enough, each will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?

Sam Harris

 

We have adopted the incredible decision of preemption. With this system of preemption and the unilateral nature of it as practiced by the administration, we have established a foreign policy which is unsustainable in a world that we hope will be governed by peace rather than by war. As a consequence, we are on a very dangerous course not only for the US , but for civilization.

Walter Cronkite During an interview with Sam Donaldson at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's 21st Evening for Peace. 23 Oct. 2004

 

Peace and international law are closely linked to each other: Law favors peace. Democratic governments know well that the use of force against terrorists cannot justify a renunciation of the principles of the rule of law.

Pope John Paul II  From a statement marking the 2004 International Day of Peace

 

It's easy to blame the poor for being poor. It's easy to believe that the world is being caught up in an escalating spiral of terrorism and war. That's what allows George Bush to say, ‘You're either with us or with the terrorists.' But that's a spurious choice. Terrorism is only the privatization of war. Terrorists are the free marketers of war. They believe that the legitimate use of violence is not the sole prerogative of the state.

Arundhati Roy From lecture upon receiving the 2004 Sydney Peace Prize 2 Nov 2004

 

The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Holy One ,

Thank you for trusting us with your work.

Help us to trust in your vision and mission even when we cannot see clearly.

Come, Holy One!

May your justice and peace reign over all your people.

Send us out to reconcile human beings to each other and to your good creation.

Scatter our fear so we can be gathered and do your work of gathering.

In the name of Christ, Amen

Out in Scripture

 

Reflections on the readings

E. M. Forster wrote, ‘I believe in aristocracy…. not an aristocracy of power, based on rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky. Its members are found in all nations and classes, and through all the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one queer victory over cruelty and chaos.’

 

If Jesus is the image (imprint) of God, what do we see in this image? He is physically located on a cross between two prisoners. There is nothing triumphal in this image. This feast is a judgement on all institutions and churches that more concerned with how it looks rather than what is right, more concerned with survival and maintenance than the care and protection of God’s people.

 

Jesus is portrayed surrounded in death, as he was in life, by the excluded and despised. His humility and suffering reveal not power, exclusion and vengeance but liberation, forgiveness and reconciliation. We see here the radical opposition between the power of domination and coercion and the power of service that brings God’s love into people’s lives through serving, healing, and doing justice. These are often alien concepts in many institutions and corporations.

 

People (refugees, Indigenous people, people out of prison, people with disabilities, and sexual minorities) have been scattered and separated from families, churches, communities, or their own country. In parishes, people have been hurt in different ways where they might feel that God [or the church] has no place and no need for them. We rub shoulders with every day with people who silently endure pain: pain that goes back in time caused by parishes, church leaders, teachers, friends, partners and lovers; pain caused by prejudice and judgementalism or by dominating, ignorant or arrogant people.

 

The figure on the cross is God’s answer to we are seen-a God cares who for us; embraces us; who keeps coming to gather us – even when others dismiss, forsake or distance themselves from us. Colossians 1:12 states that all can claim full rights as God’s sons and daughters and be confident that God is in our midst. The Song of Mary too is a song about a God who sides with the marginalised and in unexpected ways. It affirms that the marginal ones are at the centre. It affirms that social transformation is possible. God sees more in us than others or we ourselves. We are all sons and daughters of God and having full rights, we also have full rights to answer God’s call to play an important role in the work of gathering and reconciliation. As we heard Paul say today, ‘Through Christ God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross’ (1:20). It’s that ‘all’ that that can be disturbing. The convicted criminal is invited into peace…. as is any one we do not wish to associate with. As I write, the people of the USA are voting for a new president. That includes a Hillary Clinton or a Donal Trump. What a challenge! Jesus wants us to go against the tide by showing us that peace is possible. It takes work - it is something we receive through friendships with our enemies. The peace of Christ is about being drawn, more and more, into friendships, and finding companions, even among hated enemies.

 

Jesus died as he lived by using nonviolence to implement God’s reign. This is something alien to the powerful nations when we watch how Iran is still threatened, Syria, Libya ad Yemen are in tatters. It might cause us to reflect on the proliferation of arms; inequitable distribution of the world’s resources; depletion and destruction of God’s earth given to us to care for. It might cause us to reflect that when we ignore people we miss another opportunity to extend God’s reign of sympathy and compassion.

 

As disciples we are called to be in sympathy with God’s purposes and the way of Jesus. It is not possible for us to truly be a community that is extending God’s reign on earth if we do not extend God’s sympathy/compassion/nonviolent engagement with people. No amount of faith, orthodoxy, and prayer can replace the call to gather people into our circle and proclaim the reign of God amongst us. Christ makes friends with the wrong people, and that’s also our call if we want to proclaim the peace of Christ’s coming reign

 

The gospel opens up for us two responses. Prompted by the inscription above his head on the cross, Jesus was taunted by some: If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ In other words, ‘Real kings take care of themselves first.’ The response is that of one who responds to these taunts by taking care of someone else. It shows us leadership from a different perspective where the emphasis is on relationship characterised by service, not domination; where the focus is on those who have no power, those who are on the margins of society, those whom others prefer to ignore. That saving ourselves might be expressed in how we close the doors of our homes to the poor and hungry; close our borders to people seeking asylum; shut our eyes to the consequences of relying on the military-industrial complex and the fossil fuel industry which ravish poor nations… as long as we save ourselves financially, socially, materially. The other thief reflects the cry for ‘the other’, not for himself. He reflects the change of heart that focuses on the other; who sees the person always; and responds with humanity and care. This second man on the cross holds out hope to us. We see this in Malala Yousafza who was shot last year for raising the profile of Pakistani girls and their right to seek an education. We see that hope as she, along with many people in the world, speak out against domination, injustice, impunity, violence. Like the man on the cross with Jesus, and in Jesus himself, we see that the cross and the resurrection are one power. It names our capacity for transformation within ourselves and transformation of our world. What a judgment on the churches that so often they have more concerned with their own survival and maintenance than with the care and protection of God’s people; how often they  have been concerned with what looks good rather than what is the good and just.

 

Pope Francis has consistently shown us a leadership that calls us to hold out our hands to those who are ‘disenfranchised’; to relate to them in the same way that Jesus relates to them. His example, often still unfortunately not yet filtered through to other church leaders, has created an environment that synods, councils, rules and regulations cannot create. It’s now up to us to create the same environment he created.

 

For the early Christians, and for us today, following Jesus is a ‘game-changer’: it means turning our hearts and minds from the empires and kingdoms of this world (materialism, militarism, prestige and power) to the reign of God, which was the heart of Jesus' message. Perhaps a fear of unseen spirits that need to be appeased sounds strange to us, but don't we too live in fear of many ‘powers’? There is good reason to fear the power of greed, and war, and violence, and addiction, and commercialism, as well as the philosophies, values, and beliefs that shape our way of life today, like an exaggerated individualism, excessive materialism, and an unfounded trust in military might for our security. Pope Francis has highlighted this in his encyclical Laudato si’ that has resulted in the degradation of creation but also our relationships where we cannot hear the cry of the poor or the cry of the ‘poor’ earth. Think of the damage these powers have done, especially to so many people who have no voice in them. Sometimes, it's easy to feel that the powers that influence our lives more than the power, and the wisdom, and the plan, of God. The image of Jesus on the cross images for us the expansiveness of God’s love. The writer of Colossians provides us with a vision of the spaciousness of the God in whom we can place our trust. Though we may feel overwhelmed with the problems we face that seem insolvable: war, hunger, poverty, and damage to the environment, as well as the ‘small,’ personal disasters of our lives (never that small to us) we find here the roots of our hope: God in Christ is at work in the world, in the whole universe, and not just in our churches or our individual lives. Part of that hope is that people are participating in that work. We express it when we commit to the one who calls us to make choices from those that lead to injustice, alienation, loneliness and death to those that lead to the ‘fair go’, to deeper and respectful relationships, inclusiveness?