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: Tuesday, 28 February 2017 23:14
LITURGY NOTES FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
First Sunday of Lent
March 5, 2017
Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their 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.
I acknowledge the living culture of the ……..people,
the traditional custodians of the land we stand on,
and pay tribute to the unique role they play in the life of this region.
‘The more desperate the world becomes, the more intimate and determined becomes the life-sustaining embrace of God... We hear God's word: ‘Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground' (Exod. 3:5). The whole world is now holy ground. We must remove our sandals. Grace is barefoot... Jesus -- crucified, barefoot, the shattered, broken Christ - speaks to the shattered, broken world. The cross is the most holy ground before which the very sandals of God are removed.’
Liturgy of the Word
First Reading: Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 51:3-4,5-6,12-13,17 R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Second Reading: Romans 5:12-19
Gospel Reading: Matthew 4:1-11
- You have established your covenant with the whole of creation. Jesus, have mercy.
- Through many signs you remind us of your mercy. Christ, have mercy.
- Your ways are love and truth to those who keep your covenant. Jesus, have mercy.
- Jesus, you chose to serve God and people rather than to be served. Jesus, have mercy.
- Jesus, you chose to take the way of the cross rather than seek to impress people. Christ, have mercy.
- Jesus, you made love and service of the poor the foundation of God’s reign rather than power and wealth. Jesus, have mercy.
God of the desert,
you formed us from the clay of the earth
and breathed into us the spirit of life,
but we turned from your face and sinned.
During this time of repentance
we rely on your mercy.
You call us to renew our relationship with you
through Jesus, your Son.
God of the desert,
in the desert Jesus struggled
and overcame all temptations to power and privilege..
In these forty days of Lent
turn our hearts towards your peace,
the light of your love,
and your concern for people.
May we find life and joy in our service of one another.
Prayer of the Faithful
Introduction: As people of the new covenant, let us pray to God who calls us to be faithful as God is faithful to us and compassionate to our sisters and brother as we live our vocation to love. The response is: God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
- That countries at risk of famine and reeling from civil conflict such as South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen will be remembered and rendered assistance when the events in the USA seem to take our attention from this real and distressing situation, we pray: God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
- That countries that have reduced foreign in order spend more on their military will come to see that that their security and peace – a just peace- rests on foreign aid that truly lifts people from their poverty, we pray: God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
- That church leaders may enter into dialogue with all their people and appreciate the gifts that each member has in building up the reign of God, we pray: God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
- That people who live with a sense of failure may find the courage to make a new beginning with themselves and others, we pray: God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
- That the community of believers may in the midst of life’s desert, be capable of peacefully building people’s hope of achieving full liberation, we pray: God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
- That the role of women in peacemaking in society and church be acknowledged as we all strive for equal participation in decision making, we pray: God, in your mercy, hear our prayer..
- That those who experience in their lives the scourge of hunger, strikes, violence, injustice, or exploitation will have their hope reborn as they encounter persons who support them and struggle with them for their rights, we pray: God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
- For the people in Fukushima Prefecture in Japan who continue to live with the after effects of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami: may they know that they are remembered in their suffering and trauma and find healing in their solidarity with one another, we pray: God, in your mercy, hear ur prayer.
- For all who are baptised that their baptism will impulse them to live a new kind of life, as children of the God of Life and the God of all creatures large and small, we pray: God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
- For all people who seek the basic necessities and who seek to live their lives in dignity and freedom that they may find peace through justice by engaging in true dialogue and respect with one another, we pray: God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
- That we as a people may overcome our fear of others by engaging with those who are different to us so that we may live in peace with all nations especially those in the Pacific, we pray: God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
- That we may be strengthened by the spirit of compassion so that we may work for change where the forgotten at home and overseas are made visible and empowered, we pray: God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Priest: God of the desert, as we begin this Lent we ask you to help us make an authentic and strong effort to achieve conversion of our hearts so that our personal and community lives may be transformed.
Prayer over the Gifts
God of the desert,
out of the wilderness new life emerges.
May this Eucharist impact on our minds and hearts
so that our lives may be changed.
Prayer over the Gifts
God of the desert,
in this bread and wine
Jesus comes among us as food and drink
so that we may serve you and one another.
May we strive to be just rather than powerful
and learn from him who came to do you will.
Prayer after Communion
God of the desert,
you who breathed life into every living creature
have poured into us your spirit.
May the light and life you have created in us
be reflected through our service to one another.
Prayer after Communion
God of the desert,
we have been strengthened in this Eucharist.
May we choose life by taking his way of love
to our sisters and brothers.
March 10 Ash Wednesday
March 11 Devastation by earthquake and tsunami in the Fukushima Prefecture, Japan in 2011 with the deaths of 18,500 people
March 15 World Consumer Rights Day
Human security is a child who did not die,
a disease that did not spread,
a job that was not cut,
an ethnic tension that not explode in violence;
a dissident who was not silenced.
Human security is not a concern with weapons –
it is a concern with human life and dignity.
Pax Christi International 2009
To ignore the immense multitude of people who are not only deprived of the absolute necessities of life (food, housing and medical assistance) but do not even have the hope of a better future, is to become like the rich who pretended not to see the beggar Lazarus.
Pope John Paul II on Lent 2003
In our time humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history, as we can see from the advances being made in so many fields. We can only praise the steps being taken to improve people’s welfare in areas such as health care, education and communications. At the same time we have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day, with dire consequences. A number of diseases are spreading. The hearts of many people are gripped by fear and desperation, even in the so-called rich countries. The joy of living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident. It is a struggle to live and, often, to live with precious little dignity. This epochal change has been set in motion by the enormous qualitative, quantitative, rapid and cumulative advances occurring in the sciences and in technology, and by their instant application in different areas of nature and of life. We are in an age of knowledge and information, which has led to new and often anonymous kinds of power.
Pope Francis Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium para. 52
Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.
Pope Francis Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium para. 53
The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor.
St. Basil the Great
Meals that are just – a prerequisite for true nourishment of the soul – are not easy to come by. For we must take into consideration who sits around our table (how inclusive and diverse our circle is); who raises our food and how; who prepares and serves the meals and how they are treated; and what we eat. By this standard, how many of our meals do justice?
A Prayer for Ash Wednesday or Through Lent
The darkness asks us questions.
You are out there and we do not see.
You invite us into the night,
the stillness, the loneliness, the desert place.
We cannot see our shadow;
the cold damp of unknowing rises up from beneath our feet.
We tread cautiously, tentatively.
We are afraid,
afraid of ghosts
haunting us with spectres of guilt
We would like to run back,
reach the river bank,
swim the Jordan,
sit in the sun by the sea,
mending our nets.
But you have brought us here
- with no bread.
When we look we can see only ourselves,
When we read,
it is invisible words which cannot be grasped,
thoughts we cannot clutch,
hope we cannot capture.
Yet the wild honey remains a taste in our mouth,
a memory for a new day.
Why have you brought us here?
What miracle will you perform for us?
The darkness sighs around us,
dense with your unseen presence,
close to our breathing,
close to our breathing.
O darkness, enlighten us,
embrace us with your invisible love.
Let us see your glory in the ashes.
Take us by the hand that we may trust the darkness.
Minister to us by your Spirit that we may not be afraid.
Jesus, keep the beasts away.
‘The intensest love that humanity has ever known has come from religion, and the most diabolical hatred that humanity has known as come from religion.’
Swami Vivekananda, 19th century Hindu religion leader
When prophets are silent and faith a distortion
When prophets are silent and faith a distortion,
The bruised reed lies broken, and hope is snuffed out;
We wander through deserts of fear and deception,
Despised and derided and driven by doubt.
The dry bones of exile lie fallen and broken,
We find ourselves lost in the darkness of night;
The leaders are blinded, by God seem abandoned,
While wrong is exalted as if it were right.
When God loses patience with pastors and people
Foundations are shaken and hopes are unsure;
The faith which is broken, the love that's forsaken
Are open through pain to God's promise and cure.
He digs up foundations of guilt and injustice,
He opens the pathway to truth from deceit,
From brokenness, nothingness, renders salvation;
This vulnerable path leads to praise that's complete.
Andrew E. Pratt, England
Civil disobedience is, traditionally, the breaking of a civil law to obey a higher law, sometimes with the hope of changing the unjust civil law. ... But we should speak of such actions as divine obedience, rather than civil disobedience. The term 'disobedience' is not appropriate because any law that does not protect and enhance human life is no real law.
Sister Anne Montgomery, R.S.C.J.
We are not asked to subscribe to any utopia or to believe in a perfect world just around the corner. We are asked to be patient with necessarily slow and groping advance on the road forward, and to be ready for each step ahead as it become practicable. We are asked to equip ourselves with courage, hope, readiness for hard work, and to cherish large and generous ideals.
Emily Greene Balch
The question should not be 'What would Jesus do?' but rather, more dangerously, 'What would Jesus have me do?' The onus is not on Jesus but on us, for Jesus did not come to ask semidivine human beings to do impossible things. He came to ask human beings to live up to their full humanity; he wants us to live in the full implication of our human gifts, and that is far more demanding.
Rev. Peter J. Gomes, professor and minister at Harvard University who passed away in February 2011.
Praying is no easy matter. It demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person, to see there what you would rather leave in darkness, and to touch there what you would rather leave untouched.’
Henri J.M. Nouwen
Humility leads me to do anything I can do in any situation without having to do everything in every situation.’
Sister Joan Chittister
It was easy to see You
in holy faces, holy places,
God made flesh in a mother's voice
or in the gentle hands of a nurse
or the smile of a grandmother
or the laughter of small children.
Every presence of love and beauty
proclaimed Your advent.
I needed eyes sharpened by suffering
before I was able to see You
in the pain of human poverty.
The man who stared at a prison ceiling,
the alcoholic mother, the hungry child,
the old woman who died alone in her flat,
the young victims who grew up
to become abusers themselves,
the people who were in despair
over their inability to make changes,
when I could look at them
through the experience
of my own crucifixions,
I realised that they all looked back at me with Your eyes.
It took much longer to see You
in places of affluence and power,
in Parliament or at the stock exchange,
or at the helm of a luxury yacht
or residing in a summer palace,
surrounded by material wealth.
But I now discover that in these places
You have the same eyes as the poor,
the disabled, the imprisoned,
the same eyes as my grandmother,
the child, the hospital nurse.
Joy Cowley, Aotearoa New Zealand.
'An old man was walking along a beat at daybreak, when he noticed a girl ahead of him picking up starfish that had been cast ashore by a storm the night before. The old man hurried to catch up to her, and asked what she was doing. ‘Rescuing starfish,’ the young woman replied. ‘They'll die if I leave them here when the sun comes out.’ ‘But this beach goes on for miles,’ argued the man, ‘and there are millions of starfish stranded here. How can your effort make any difference?’ The girl looked intently at the starfish in her hand, then threw it back to the safety of the sea and said, ‘It makes a difference for this one!’'
Earth teach me!
Earth teach me patience
as the plants grow slowly
Earth teach me hope
as the plants grow slowly
Earth teach me hope
as the first green shoots break though
Earth teach me courage
as the wild animals protect their young
Earth teach me blessing
as the sun rises each day
Earth teach me loving kindness
as the birds migrate for winter
Earth teach me freedom
as the birds who fly alone
Earth teach me celebration
as the apples come to full fruit
Earth teach me yearning
as the rain nourishes the drought.
Earth teach me!
Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice.
Beware of being too rational. In the country of the insane, the integrated man doesn't become king. He gets lynched.
Aldous Huxley, Island
The ideal set up by the Party was something huge, terrible, and glittering - a world of steel and concrete, of monstrous machines and terrifying weapons - a nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting - three hundred million people all with the same face.
George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
To plunder, to slaughter, to steal, these things they misname empire; and where they make a wilderness, they call it peace.
I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.
General Smedley Darlington Butler
The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.
When men talk about defense, they always claim to be protecting women and children, but they never ask the women and children what they think
The conceited villager believes the entire world to be his village. Provided that he can be mayor, or humiliate the rival who stole his sweetheart, or add to the savings in his strongbox, he considers the universal order good, unaware of those giants with seven-league boots who can crush him underfoot, or of the strife in the heavens between comets that go through the air asleep, gulping down worlds. What remains the village in America must rouse itself. These are not times for sleeping in a nightcap, but with weapons for a pillow, like the warriors of Juan de Castellanos: weapons of the mind, which conquer all others. Barricades of ideas are worth more than barricades of stones.
I bear solemn witness to the fact that NATO heads of state and of government meet only to go through the tedious motions of reading speeches, drafted by others, with the principal objective of not rocking the boat.
I think that NATO is itself a war criminal.
If you assume that there's no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, there are opportunities to change things, there's a chance for you to contribute to making a better world. That's your choice.
Noam Chomsky, The Chronicles of Dissent
Either man is obsolete or war is. War is the ultimate tool of politics. Political leaders look out only for their own side. Politicians are always realistically manoeuvring for the next election. They are obsolete as fundamental problem-solvers
R. Buckminster Fuller
The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
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.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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.
To save your world you asked this man to die; Would this man, could he see you now, ask why?: W. H. Auden: ‘Epitaph for an Unknown Soldier’
Alliance: In international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted into each others' pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third.
Ambrose Bierce: The Devil's Dictionary
Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.
This 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.
Franklin D. Roosevelt : April 16, 1953
What is love if it remains invisible and intangible? … Grace cannot function in a world of invisibility. Yet, in our world, the rulers try to make invisible ‘the alien, the orphan… the hungry, thirsty…. Sick and imprisoned’. This is violence…. The gospel insists on visibility – the emaciated bodies of starved children must remain visible to the world. There is a connection between invisibility and violence. People, because of the dignity of the image of God they embody, must remain seen. Faith, hope and love are not vital except in ‘what is seen’…. Religion seems to raise up the invisible and despise what is visible. But it is the ‘see, hea4r, touch’ gospel that can nurture the hope which is free from deception.
Kosuke Koyama, ‘Together on the Way: Rejoice in Hope’
The rejoicing of a private and exclusive community fails to invite all to hope. That is not the gospel. Hope with all creation, and rejoice with all creation! What a far-reaching horizon (Ps. 139:7-10)!
This horizon is not a hallucination. For God no one is a stranger. Every person -- whatever his or her cultural, religious, racial, political identity -- is known to God as an irreplaceable and incomparable person. This is the root of God's wholesome ecumenism. But when our actions say ‘I am not my brother's keeper’ (Gen. 4:9) -- the clearest most understandable expression of sin -- we treat God as a stranger. To say ‘I am not my brother's keeper’ is to look upon others as pollution. This destroys the foundation for hope for the world. ‘Rejoice in hope’ is to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. If hope is not experienced now, it may not be experienced in the future.
We cannot love our neighbours unless we are open to being loved by our neighbours. We cannot extend hospitality to strangers unless we accept hospitality from strangers. The gospel upholds this two-way traffic. One-way traffic breeds self-righteousness.
Kosuke Koyama, ‘Together on the Way: Rejoice in Hope’
‘Loving ourselves, our families, our neighbours, our country and every living things is the reason we are here on earth. If we follow the ripple in the pond where a stone hits the water, we can easily see that the entire pond is affect by that one little stone. If the stone represents love, and it drops somewhere in our universe, that love will send its ripple throughout the entire universe. It is the same with anger and hate. We must choose which ripples we wish to send into our universe’
Bob Randall, Songman: The Story of an Aboriginal Elder, Sydney, ABC, 2003, p.242.
“The fundamental sin is exploitation, whether it be expressed in the domination of male over female, white over black, rich over poor, strong over weak, armed military over unarmed civilians, human beings over nature. These analogously abusive patterns interlock because they reset on the same base: a structure where an elite insists on its superiority and claims the right to exercise dominative power over all others considered subordinate, for its own benefit. … What is being looked for is not simply the solution to one problem, but an entire shift of world view away from patterns of dominance toward mutually enhancing relationships.”
Elizabeth Johnson CSJ. She Who Is, pp.27-28
O God Source of Life, Creator of Peace,
help Your children, anguished and confused,
to understand the futility of hatred and violence
and grant them the ability to stretch across
political, religious and national boundaries
so they may confront horror and fear
by continuing together
in the search for justice, peace and truth.
With every fiber of our being
we beg You, O God,
to help us not to fail nor falter. Amen.
Rabbi H. Rolando Matalon
you invite us to bring all that we are,
our questions and our failures,
into your life-giving presence;
Give us courage to live before you without pretense,
that we may know the joy of forgiveness and renewal
without fear of expulsion.
Reflections on the readings……
Today we return to our origins and remember who we are, how we are meant to be, and how the story has changed. Where life was meant to be shared [Genesis], God's word has been perverted and God’s image in people (others and ourselves) has been disfigured and maimed. The readings are very contemporary: about our lives and inconsistencies, of struggles to be faithful, of broken relationships, of the search for wisdom, the fullness of life, of a meaningful relationship with God and one another that embraces a compassionate responsibility for the every living thing.
According to Matthew, when Jesus was baptized, he was outed by the Spirit as God’s own beloved. For him it meant struggling to discern how to live with that knowledge. He had to wrestle, as we all do, who or what will define our identity. Will a hostile, albeit, subtle other (the tempter, or today church, or government, or corporation) define us, or will we strive to define for ourselves what it means to be a child of God.
We see how we have become addicted to immediate satisfaction which leads to exploitative behaviour, human trafficking and corporate irresponsibility. Greed for wealth and what it brings has led to a shortage of resources for some, unhealthy dependence on fossil fuels, climate change and devastation of natural resources and many species, while leaving many people with desperate need as they are paid unfairly, or subject to unjust trade restrictions. The desire for power and fame has led to celebrity voyeurism, dissatisfaction with quiet and gentle living, and an increasing sense of powerlessness among those who are unable to reach the heights of fame that our world seems to demand.
Jesus’ example of facing temptation and overcoming it reminds us that justice can only be done as we learn to live lives of discipline and simplicity, of consideration and sharing, of prayer and service. Jesus was tempted to see God’s reign in terms of controlling everything –where the world would be pain-free if he took power to himself – thus making a sham of any genuine love. We see that obtaining worldly power demands turning one’s back on God and the human vocation to love. Pope Francis has described the devil’s kingdoms as the places where ‘everything comes under the laws of competition ... where the powerful feed upon the powerless’ (Evangelii Gaudium, ‘The Joy of the Gospel,’ #53). But Jesus offers an unequivocal ‘no’ to the idolatry of power. He declines the invitation to a life dedicated to self-service rather than love, compassion, solidarity and justice. What we see in the readings today is a rejection of enticements to power and greed in order to say yes to his vocation as God’s Son. Our humanity is constantly attacked: to think small, to be mean; to be loveless; to seek violent ways of responding to conflict; to seek the easy way out.
We have the opportunity to see ourselves, how we can be there more for others; how we can bring some hope to the story of disfigurement and maiming in others and in creation. The gospel is about seeing, hearing and touching; how we grow in compassion; how we make love and compassion with justice visible; how we stand with others. Can we listen to Jesus with ears open to the truth? Prayer is making a space so that we can be sensitive to God and respond in ways that touch others, where we can attend to the best interests of others. Prayer is hearing God clamouring through the voices and situations of people around us. Prayer is allowing our heart to be broken open so that the world can enter. Jesus always models a way to be human; how we can be people with a heart and passion of God for humanity and creation. He models ways in which we can resist all that does not promote fullness of life for ourselves and other.
If the gospel causes us to be less engaged, less relational, less people of the heart then it is distorted and fails to reflect God’s loving heart in Jesus. This is the kind of religion we should give up for Lent.
We see in the temptations the drive to substitute the fullness of life for self-centredness and greed; obsession with reputation and power, the need to control and manipulate; the temptation to a small, safe, comfortable and conventional life.
In his recent Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis formulates a number of challenges for us. He reminds that despite improvements in areas such as health care, education and communications, the majority of our sisters and brothers are barely living from day to day with consequences such as the spread of disease, people gripped by fear and desperation, even in the so-called rich countries. Lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident. It is a struggle to live and, often, to live with precious little dignity. We are in an age of knowledge and information which has led to new and often anonymous kinds of power. He calls for choices to a number of realities flowing that power:
No to an economy of exclusion. We may not kill but we have to stand for the value of human life but saying ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality which also kills; where it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?. How can we stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. The laws of competition and the survival of the fittest mean that the powerful feed upon the powerless. Masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
No to the new idolatry of money whose dominion over ourselves and our societies is calmly accepted and where the current financial crisis overlooks the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. This system tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits leaving whatever is fragile, like the environment, defenseless before the interests of a deified market.
No to a financial system which rules rather than serves because it leads to the manipulation and debasement of the person, whereas we are called to a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace.
No to the inequality which spawns violence because until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. Whilst economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric. Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve.
When presented with political power in the world and tempted to show his stuff and muster his magic, Jesus reserves glory for God alone. That power is clearly reflected in military spending, the manufacture and sale of arms, making and laying of landmines, development of nuclear weapons; environmental destruction, use of vengeance and revenge as some short cut way of making peace. Though trillions of dollars and pounds and Euros are spent on bombs, only some will be used. But they still explode in peoples’ faces: the faces of millions who hungry, homeless, lack education or decent health care, have no food, no shelter, no education, no decent health care.
Jesus focuses on loving and serving God. He offers an alternative to the way of power and domination of the world. The sin of the ‘first humans’ was to reject their humanness. Jesus would not step outside the confines of humanity. Even when ‘good ends’ were dangled in front of him, he resisted displays of control, power, domination and manipulation. He preferred to draw people to himself by remaining faithful to his full identification with us which began at his baptism when he stepped into the waters of the Jordan with the rest of those people there. Jesus says 'Yes' to another world – a world of justice and integrity; a world of human life and dignity; a world of acceptance and inclusiveness.
The propensity to grasp rather than receive infects our lives, crafting economic and political structures that protect ourselves at the expense of others. These can creep into the tiny choices we make every day between loving or resisting love. An unrestrained search for power, even when carried out with good intentions, leads to evil ways. The end does not justify the means. Going to war to build peace; to make the world safe for freedom and democracy; to protect our national interests!!! The story of temptations should be read with an eye towards the attitudes of human beings toward power - those attitudes present in Jesus' time as well as those attitudes we see present in our time.
The justice of God's Reign requires living in ways that are consonant with this justice. With respect to living out the demands of our humanity and justice, the temptations show us that we constantly face 'short cuts' that are proposed to us.
There is little evidence that people actually hear God's word 'in Church'. No doubt there are exception. There are rare instances where God spoke to people as they prayed in the Temple, but God gets the message across to us in our day-to-day lives. God's work in Jesus was accomplished in the wilderness, in the world. It happens in the lives of people and we know in the past that has included so-called ‘pagans’. They have revealed to Israel the world that Christ does not endorse. Sometimes those voices have to be rather strident in order to get the message across to those who are comfortable in their little world and unable or unwilling to hear about others. Stridency is inevitable when issues of justice and injustice are involved. It could be part of the movement of the Spirit. The issues and questions that God is concerned about are those about our relationships in our day-to-day lives - and these are the questions God confronts us with as we live in this world.
'If you are the Son of God….’ If you have special relationship with God - call on God to perform a miracle to feed yourself. Why should anyone beloved by God have to suffer hunger, or any other pain? Should God not protect from all harm and pain [hunger, a tsunami, failure in one's life projects, sickness, doubts, restlessness, worry] those closest to God like Jesus? That would make religion a cruel joke. Judging from Jesus' response, God does not offer a quick fix for our problems, no massive food supply; no end to questions and ambiguities in our lives. Jesus could have spared himself the pain that bedevils the lives of millions of people in our world. But he would have distanced himself from us. He would not have lived a truly human life. And we would not be able to identify with him or claim that he truly knows our human struggles.
What have we learned by going our own way? We have learnt how to make wars and advanced weapons of war; cheat on another; lie for our own gain; elect leaders that represent our narrow concerns and interests against the 'others'; exclude the poor from our vision and concern; busy ourselves so that we do not have to reflect on our nakedness. The media gives us daily examples of how we have gained 'knowledge' and how we use it against one another and ourselves.
The question of choices was clearly portrayed in the movie Of Gods and Men for seven foreign Trappist monks at a monastery in Algeria during the civil war in the 1990’s. Their mission was to witness to a life of prayer and contemplation and service the very poor people in the area by providing them medical assistance, education and other services. As the terrorism grew intense day by day, the monks witness the horror of townspeople being ruthlessly murdered. Some European construction workers had been murdered and a woman on a bus was stabbed by Islamic fundamentalists for not wearing a veil. The monks realised that they could not escape the same fate if they remained in place. They were advised by the Algerian government to leave for their own safety. The movie moves to a scene where the monks meet in their chapter room struggling to come to a unanimous decision. Do they leave for safety or stay with the people they lived in solidarity with and face certain death? The discussion, sharing, silences are like a period in the wilderness as the monks struggle with their fears, their faith and their passion. What would they decide? In fact, the audience is also being asked, ‘what would you decide’?
Finally the monks chose to stay and not abandon the people. They feel that they have been sent to work and pray among the oppressed people of the country, and would not abandon them, no matter the danger or suffering. Like Jesus in the wilderness, they offer us, despite the tears and apprehension, the possibility of another way to live and what the world might look like when transformed by the spirit of Christ.
In a powerful statement, the Abbott muses aloud: ‘If it should happen on day, and it could be today, that I become a victim of terrorism, which somehow seems to encompass all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like them to be able to associate this death, my death, with so many equally violent ones allowed to fall into anonymity. My life is of no more value than any other, nor any less value. I have lived long enough to know that I share the evil which seems to prevail in the world and even in that which would strike me blindly.’ They were all beheaded in 1996.
We have a share in the practice of injustice and violence but we also have a share in trying, with Christ, to restore and heal the world. Lent is about healing - our healing and the world’s healing; it is about connecting with one another, the environment and God. It is about redistribution and solidarity. It is about compassion. It is about making God’s heart visible in our lives. Lent is that special time of the year when each of us is called to see what is truly ‘in our hearts.’ And to help us do that, we do as Jesus did: We go into the ‘wilderness’ for 40 days; we pray, fast, and remind ourselves again to be faithful to what our true calling is: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’