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 FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT

4th sunday of lent

Fourth Sunday of Lent

March 26, 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 for their care of the land

May we walk gently and respectfully upon the land.

or

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.

or

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where we are now gathered,

(the ……)  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.

 

I come to you weak

God, I come to you weak and empty;
          my prayers are thin and dry.
My heart is hardly awake, nodding off,
          my mind, divided and wandering.
You receive my feeble, wayward prayers,
          as if they are perfect and whole:
‘Beloved, your presence is all that I seek,
          your presence alone my delight.’

O Steadfast One, my faith is fragile some days,
          so easily traded for easy assurance,
or even the sleep of not caring.
          And you hold me as a newborn.
‘Beloved, your presence is all that I seek,
          your presence alone my delight.’

O Mystery, some days it just is too hard,
          to listen, to hear, to obey.
And yet this cry in me, my very despair—
          is your voice, your aching for me,
your closing your hand about mine, weak and trembling,
          your spirit embracing my own.
‘Beloved, your presence is all that I seek,
          your presence alone my delight.’

My Lord, I do not know how to love,
          but yours is the love that will save me.
I do not know how to pray at all,
          but I can sit in the light,
and let your presence enfold me and hold me,
          and let you answer me:
‘Beloved, your presence is all that I seek,
          your presence alone my delight.’

Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net

  

       

 

  b         

 

     

 

Readings

Reading I 1 Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a     

Responsorial Psalm Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

Reading II Eph 5:8-14

Gospel Jn 9:1-41 or 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

 

Penitential Rite

·         Jesus, you touch our eyes and open them to your world as it is and could be. Jesus, have mercy.

·         Jesus, you touch our ears and open them to the cries of the poor and the lonely. Christ, have mercy.

·         Jesus, you touch our hearts and open them to your love and compassion.  Jesus, have mercy.

 

Opening Prayer

Illuminating God, [God of Light]

Jesus spoke peace to a world in conflict

and brought the gift of reconciliation to all people

by his suffering and death.

Teach us to follow his example:

may our faith, hope and charity

turn hatred to love, conflict to peace,

injustice to justice

and death to fullness of life.

 

Prayer over the Gifts

Illuminating God, [God of Light]

Jesus comes among us

in these signs of bread and wine.

May we recognise him also

in the person ‘begging’ along our path,

the one who is living with a disability,

the refugee, and the unemployed.

 

Prayer after Communion

Illuminating God, [God of Light]

wake us up from the darkness of sin

and the sleep of complacency and indifference

by the power of Jesus, your Son.

Let the light of Christ shine in us,

so that those around us may discover

your goodness, compassionate love, life and truth.

 

General Intercessions

Introduction: We pray with open hearts to the God who enlightens our lives.  The response to each petition is: Let your light shine on us, O God.

 

  1. We pray to the God of peace that the people in every land and every nation may have the vision to seek an end to war and create peace with justice, we pray: Let your light shine on us, O God.

 

  1. We pray to the God of the poor that people of vision will open their hearts and walk in solidarity with with the poorest of the poor who struggle to sustain life, provide for their loved ones, and live without access to nourishing food, clean water, adequate shelter, available health care, for creative solutions to the unequal distribution of the world’s goods, we pray: Let your light shine on us, O God.

 

3.       We pray to the God of freedom that we may also strive to bring liberation through our presence and compassion to those who are enslaved by poverty, addiction, ignorance, discrimination, violence or trafficked in any way, we pray: Let your light shine on us, O God.

 

4.      We pray to the God who cries at the plight of people seeking asylum and the hearts that are closed to them: we remember the many who have drowned seeking freedom and peace and security and those recently killed at sea in Yemen by aerial bombing, we pray:  Let your light shine on us, O God.

 

5.       We pray to the God of healing that we may strive to bring sight to a culture that pursues power and pleasure and is blinded and indifference to the dignity and rights of others, we pray: Let your light shine on us, O God.

 

6.      We pray to the God of the downtrodden that we will strive to set the downtrodden free in communities where crime, racism, sexism and disintegration forces people to live without hope, we pray: Let your light shine on us, O God.

 

7.       We pray to the God beyond gender that as we strive to overcome the inequities that women experience in education, labour and health care, we pray: Let your light shine on us, O God.

 

8.      We pray to the God who is impartial so that we might not judge others by appearances but by what they bear in their hearts, we pray: Let your light shine on us, O God.

 

9.      We pray to the God who was a wandering Aramean that we might that we might open to accept and appreciate the gifts that immigrants and refugees bring to our communities, we pray: Let your light shine on us, O God.  

 

10.   We pray to the God of nonviolence, so that the peoples of the Middle East such as Iraq, Libya and Syria may proceed without violence and lead to greater stability for the whole nation where the leaders are dedicated to the needs of the people, including the minority faiths, we pray: Let your light shine on us, O God.

 

Concluding Prayer: Illuminating God, may see as you see as Jesus opens our eyes to the injustices in which we share and strive to restore the hopes of people in the values of truth, dignity and justice.

Or

 

Concluding Prayer: O God, you are the light in our darkness. Shine on us today and hear our sincere prayers for your world. Give us the eyes to see your presence among us and hearts to welcome you in each person we meet. We pray always in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Further Resources

We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace.

William Ewart Gladstone

 

Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful and whatever is powerful may be just.

Blaise Pascal

 

Never, for the sake of 'peace and quiet', deny your own experience or convictions.

Dag Hammarskjold

 

Yes, we love peace, but we are not willing to take wounds for it, as we are for war.

John Andrew Holmes, Wisdom in Small Doses

 

In the name of peace

They waged the wars

Ain't they got no shame

Nikki Giovanni

 

The church is obliged by its evangelical mission to demand structural changes that favor the reign of God and a more just and comradely way of life. Unjust social structures are the roots of all violence and disturbances. … Those who benefit from obsolete structures react selfishly to any kind of change.

Archbishop Oscar Romero, November 1979. Assassinated March 24, 1980

 

There is need for awareness that the mountains and rivers and all living things, the sky and its sun and moon and clouds all constitute a healing, sustaining sacred presence for humans which they need as much for their psychic integrity as for their physical nourishment.

Thomas Berry

 

The press is so powerful in its image-making role, it can make a criminal look like he's the victim and make the victim look like he's the criminal. This is the press, an irresponsible press. If you aren't careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.

Malcolm X, Audubon Ballroom, December 13, 1964

 

The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.

Albert Camus, 1930-1960

 

We will surely get to our destination if we join hands

Aung San Suu Kyi

 

If our colleges and universities do not breed men who riot, who rebel, who attack life with all the youthful vision and vigour, then there is something wrong with our colleges. The more riots that come out of our college campuses, the better the world for tomorrow.

William Allen White.

 

But even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task, it is to confront the poverty of satisfaction - purpose and dignity - that afflicts us all. Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.

Robert F. Kennedy

 

The deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless. It is beyond words, and it is beyond speech, and it is beyond concept. Not that we discover a new unity. We discover an older unity. My dear Brothers [and Sisters], we are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are

Thomas Merton

 

The vision of a culture lies in what becomes its major institutions, in what it remembers as its most impacting events, in who it sees as its heroes.’

Joan Chittister

 

We have longed to taste the resurrection. We have longed to welcome its thunders and quakes, and to echo its great gifts. We want to test the resurrection in our bones. We want to see if we might live in hope instead of in the ... twilight thicket of cultural despair, in which standing implies many are lost.

Daniel Berrigan

 

What we do is so little that we may seem to be constantly failing. But so did [Christ] fail. He met with apparent failure on the Cross. But unless the seeds fall into the earth and die, there is no harvest.

Dorothy Day

 

Prayer for Countries in Conflict

From injustice and division,

let them know your love.

From violence and injury,

may they realize your forgiveness.

From despair and darkness.

may they have hope.

From sadness and grief,

may they again know peace and joy.

 

God of compassion and peace,

kindle in the hearts of all your children love for peace,

and guide with your wisdom the leaders of ………. (name country or region)Kenya

as they work to bring about peace and justice in their land.

 

We ask this in your name, Lord. Amen

adapted from A Prayer for Peace in Kenya

By Sr. Anita Jennissen, OSF

 

Message from the grave

You, last of all that knew your tribal tongue,

Sleep now with them in this ancestral ground.

Above your grave the towering, ancient wrong

Speaks in a silence pregnant and profound.

Beside your grave I stand, among your folk

Who loved this land before the white man came,

Burned by the burning words you never spoke,

I ask for forgiveness for my people's shame.

For named and nameless ills your people bore

From us, who killed by bullet, axe and pride.

For our stone blindness; for the day we tore

In kindness' name your children from your side.

What could we answer if your ghost should rise

To curse our children's children from the grave?

You rise - but with redemption in your eyes

Before we knew to ask it, you forgave.

Extract from a poem by Michael Thwaites, written at the grave of Teresa Clements, who was buried in the small Aboriginal community of Cummeragunja in southern NSW in 1959. Read by Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, at the Block in Redfern, after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made his Apology to the Aboriginal Stolen Generations, February 14, 2008.  [Sydney Morning Herald, February 15, 2008]

 

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Pius XI . . . 'taught what the supreme criterion in economic matters ought not to be. It must not be the special interests of individuals or groups, nor unregulated competition, economic despotism, national prestige or imperialism, nor any other aim of this sort. On the contrary, all forms of economic enterprise must be governed by the principles of social justice and charity.'

Pope John XXIII, Mater and Magistra, 38-39

 

Could someone explain to me why the U.S. threatened to break the patent on Cipro after three anthrax deaths, yet vigorously resists tampering with intellectual property rights when someone suggests breaking the patent on AIDS drugs for the sake of 25 million infected Africans?

Philip Yancey in Christianity Today

 

Women are equally created in the image and likeness of God, equally redeemed by Christ, equally sanctified by the Holy Spirit; women are equally involved in the ongoing tragedy of sin and the mystery of grace, equally called to mission in this world, equally destined for life with God in glory.

Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, She Who Is, 8

 

The Synod Fathers stated: 'As an expression of her mission the Church must stand firmly against all forms of discrimination and abuse of women'(178). And again: 'The dignity of women, gravely wounded in public esteem, must be restored through effective respect for the rights of the human person and by putting the teaching of the Church into practice.'

John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, 49

 

Christ's way of acting, the Gospel of his words and deeds, is a consistent protest against whatever offends the dignity of women.

John Paul II

 

We must be . . . promoting equitable treatment of women – on whose under-compensated labor the whole international economic system now depends.

Martin McLaughlin, Center of Concern

 

The Christian who takes part in the Eucharist learns to become a promoter of communion, peace and solidarity in every situation. More than ever, our troubled world, which began the new Millennium with the spectre of terrorism and the tragedy of war, demands that Christians learn to experience the Eucharist as a great school of peace, forming men and women who, at various levels of responsibility in social, cultural and political life, can become promoters of dialogue and communion.

John Paul II, Mane Nobiscum Domine, October 2004

 

Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself.

James Anthony Froude

 

’There is no telling to what extremes of cruelty and ruthlessness a man will go when he is freed from the fears, hesitations, doubts and the vague stirrings of decency that go with individual judgement. When we lose our individual independence in the corporateness of a mass movement, we find a new freedom- freedom to hate, bully, lie, torture, murder and betray without shame and remorse. Herein undoubtedly lies part of the attractiveness of a mass movement.’

Eric Hoffer

 

Beat me with the truth, don't torture me with lies.

Author – Unknown

 

‘Read, every day, something no one else is reading.

Think, every day, something no one else is thinking.

Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do.

It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.’

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) German Dramatist

 

Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind.

Henry Miller (1891-1980) American writer

 

The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a ‘pet’ notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.

John Dewey

 

It is also in the interests of a tyrant to keep his people poor, so that they may not be able to afford the cost of protecting themselves by arms and be so occupied with their daily tasks that they have no time for rebellion.

Aristotle in Politics, J. Sinclair translation, pg. 226, 1962

 

Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.

Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

 

Of all forms of tyranny the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of plutocracy

John Pierpont Morgan

 

But that's the whole point of corporatism: to try and remove the public from making decisions over their own fate, to limit the public arena, to control opinion, to make sure that the fundamental decisions that determine how the world is going to be run -which include production, commerce, distribution, thought, social policy, foreign policy, everything-are not in the hands of the public, but rather in the hands of highly concentrated private power. In effect, tyranny unaccountable to the public.

Professor Noam Chomsky, interviewed in Corporate Watch

 

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.

Susan B Anthony.

 

The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.

Jane Addams

 

The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles?

John Adams

 

Even the sceptical mind must be prepared to accept the unacceptable when there is no alternative. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands.

Douglas Adams

 

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

 

The survival of democracy depends on the renunciation of violence and the development of nonviolent means to combat evil and advance the good.

A.J. Muste

 

There is a very wide range of methods, or forms of nonviolent action, and at least 125  have been identified.  They fall into three classes:

  
Nonviolent protest:
Methods are symbolic in their effect and produce an awareness of the existence of dissent.  Under tyrannical regimes, however, where opposition is stifled, their impact can in some circumstances be very great.  Methods of nonviolent protest include marches, pilgrimages, picketing, vigils, 'haunting officials', public meetings, issuing and distributing protest literature, renouncing honours, voluntary emigration, and humorous pranks.

 
Nonviolent non-cooperation:
If sufficient numbers take part, they are likely to present the opponent with difficulties in maintaining the normal efficiency and operation of the system; and in extreme cases the system itself may be threatened.  Methods of nonviolent non-cooperation include various types of strikes, various types of boycotts and various types of political non-cooperation.

  
Nonviolent intervention:
These methods share some features in common with the first two classes, but also challenge the opponent more directly; and, assuming that fearlessness and discipline are maintained, relatively small numbers may have a disproportionately large impact.  Methods of nonviolent intervention include sit-ins, fasts, reverse strikes, nonviolent obstruction, nonviolent invasion, and parallel government." 
Gene Sharp The Technique of Nonviolent Action

 

Prayer

God, I believe that you can do new things.

Help my unbelief!

I believe that you can help us to make a way in the desert.

Help my unbelief.

I believe that you want to create rivers through the wasteland.

Help my unbelief.

I believe that we are not stuck to just repeat the evils of the past.

Help my unbelief.

I believe that I can do things that I was not able to do before.

Help my unbelief.

I believe that I might be able to forgive my enemy.

Help my unbelief.

I believe that peace among nations is possible.

Help my unbelief.

I believe that we can overcome the ways of violence.

Help my unbelief.

I believe that we can eliminate hunger and poverty.

Help my unbelief

I believe that we can overcome racism.

Help my unbelief.

I believe that we can create homes for everyone.

Help my unbelief.

I believe that we can finally drop the stones of condemnation.

Help my unbelief.

I believe that we will have a new heaven and a new earth.

Help my unbelief.

I believe that with your Spirit we can all see things in a new way.

Help my unbelief.

God, I believe that together we can do new things.

Help my unbelief! Amen.

Author – Unknown

 

Seeing

Keep us from our self-imposed blindness, Jesus;

hold our heads firmly in your grasp so we cannot look away

from those who are broken;

pull us forward so that we cannot avoid

encountering those who are suffering;

break our hearts, so that we cannot resist

the tears of those who grieve;

Help us, Jesus, to be always seeing;

and seeing, help us to find a way

to act in mercy toward the hurting,

to act in defiance of the corrupt,

and to act in hope for the healing of our world.

Amen.

John Laar Sacridise January 20, 2015

 

You will come

Holy One,
you will come to me this day.
You will hide in the little events.
In the friends and stranger,
in those whom you send me to love,
you will be present.
In the feelings and perceptions
that arise in me you will be whispering.
In the the low murmurings,
the leanings of my soul,
you will be gently nudging me.
In the light, in the silence,
you will come to me.
And I will be ready
to say yes.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net

 

Seeing The Signs

It would be much easier, Jesus,

to ignore the hard truths around us:

the widening gap

between rich and poor,

the consistency with which the powerful

get their way,

the bending of rules and the self-enrichment

of the connected and influential,

the lack of adequate care, protection and resources

for the most vulnerable among us;

we would rather not see these signs.

It would be much easier if we could just pretend everything was alright,

if we could prophesy goodness and light,

and ignore the darkness and evil;

if we didn’t have to offend the status quo,

or challenge the comfortable;

if we could convince ourselves that the cross,

was just a one time thing –

your calling, not ours.

But, we can’t do this, Jesus, because we know too much;

your Gospel has captured us and opened our eyes,

and we have become slaves to love,

the love that must speak for the voiceless,

the love that must challenge injustice,

the love that draws lines of division

between truth and denial,

between compassion and expediency.

Give us the courage to acknowledge what we see,

to name the signs of the times,

to disrupt the ‘way things are’

in the name of what should be,

to divide in order to heal and restore,

and to be crucified for the sake of love.

Amen.

John Laar Sacredise January 20, 2015

 

God, who celebrates our bodies and our liberation from oppression,

help us to reach out and support those

who are in processes of coming out and being healed,

who are coming to awareness of the gifts

of your presence in our bodily selves.

Help us also to realize that we, as your defenders, often get it wrong

and end up oppressing those whom you have freed.

Forgive us for these abuses and

help us to accept ourselves as you have accepted and freed us.

Amen.  

from Out in Scripture

 

Reflections on the readings
Today’s gospel provides a fascinating story of what happens when the lights go on for someone, when someone’s eyes are opened and see what is really going on. The man born blind obtains an alternative view of who is in control. He sees the truth he was subjected to can no longer be tolerated as the forces of authority strike back with naked hostility towards him and Jesus.  Jesus is such a dangerous figure for openly proclaiming that his mission was to open the eyes of the blind and to set free those held captive in the darkness. We see how the powers operate when people have their eyes opened and see the truth.  They try smear campaigns as in the gospel story the man is called a liar and fraud and one who knows nothing. The leaders are in a panic to discredit Jesus, to obfuscate the miraculous event by declaring it invalid on religious and doctrinal grounds. The once blind man, couldn’t care less, he says ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ But when people have really seen the light for themselves, it is almost impossible to get them to shut up and go back to sitting in the darkness and not be cowed by the hostility that it provokes. They show a different leadership.
  
There are contemporary movements conspiring to keep us in the dark. Henry Giroux (https://www.henryagiroux.com/) has called this ‘the violence of organised forgetting’.  It leads to a moral paralysis.  He says that ignorance has become a form of weaponised refusal to acknowledge the violence of the past towards individuals or towards whole people. This ignorance revels in a culture of media spectacles in which public concerns are translated into private obsessions, consumerism and fatuous entertainment. James Baldwin rightly warned, “Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”
  
Failure to learn from the past has disastrous consequences. This ignorance is not just about the absence of information but threatens the capacity to question and paralyses agency. We have witnessed how people like Donald Trump can gain a platform by promoting values of “greatness” which actually serve to erase the memory of social and political progress achieved in the name of equality and basic human decency, history and thought itself are under attack.
  
In Australia, we may be aware of these processes where we are told that everything that is being done by the government is for our security or our best interests.  But we struggle to get our eyes open and see the truth. Our political leaders deliberately misled us and kept us in the dark regarding the reasons for invading Iraq, of which I am very away today as I write these notes on March 19 and note that I have not heard one mention of this in the news today.  
  
‘Operational Matters’ is the reason why the authorities hide what is happening to refugees and asylum seekers as they are confronted by Border Force and the Navy on the high seas and what happens to them. The fact that that Australia’s immigration detentions have until now been hidden in very remote places such as Manus Island and Nauru, is to prevent anyone from known the conditions under which the people live.  Spin doctors and vested interests devise strategies to keep us in the dark.
  
The readings show that followers of God are expected to see things from a unique perspective. God does not see as humans see. Where humans go on appearances and God looks into the heart (cf. reading from Samuel). And we expected to go beyond the appearances that frequently dead-end our understanding of people, things and situations. We have to view them in a new light; to become conscious of dimensions that, without that light, we’d never notice.  Much of Pope Francis’ ministry has shown a passionate concern for those on the edges of society or on the margins of our concern. We are forced to look at them in different ways to the past. He has pointed out our blind spots whether towards migrants and people seeking asylum, people in prison, people of other faiths, especially Muslims, people living with mental illness or disability or people who are homeless. completely different eyes than we looked at them before. 
  
The gospel story is not about one person’s blindness but about what the disciples, and us, do not see. The neighbours of the once-blind man and those who regularly saw him begging are unable to identify him. They could see, they often passed by him, but they had never looked. Those around him still see sin when there was healing.  Jesus did the wrong thing on the Sabbath and the man is reviled for his insolence when questioned by the indignant leaders. Their questions are born of suspicion and unwillingness to consider wonder and the action of God in the world. And we know they cast him out. 
  
This whole convoluted argument, and the unwillingness to accept people once considered unacceptable, is embedded in our cultural conversation about sexuality, intimacy, marriage, race, and family life.  Gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people live in a strobe-lit milieu of acceptance and endangerment, and the Church is a mine field of condemnation and acceptance, parish by parish and denomination by denomination. Mental illness has become the public whipping boy for serial killings. And whose fault is it? is the leading question in the public mind at every tragic event. However, we are directed towards what is the loving action….even when we see a homeless person on the street and choose who will engage with that person.
  
In his very very  large book, Far From the Tree, Andrew Solomon, explores the proposition that being exceptional is at the core of the human condition—that difference is what unites us. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, or multiple severe disabilities; children who are prodigies, children conceived in rape, children who become criminals and children who are transgender. What Solomon documents is where love triumphs over prejudice. He says that all parenting turns on a crucial question: to what extent should parents accept their children for who they are, and to what extent they should help them become their best selves. After a decade of research and interviews with 100’s of families, Solomon mines the eloquence of ordinary people facing extreme challenges. We see in the gospel how Jesus uses these situations as public teaching opportunities and opportunities for loving action. He proclaims the diversity that unites, to the woman at the well last Sunday and to the man born blind. Jesus confronts deep prejudices with loving action.  There is no middle ground to walk. There is no acquiescence to the fine points of the law about Sabbath. He confronts, as did Pope Francis, when he said it is better to be an atheist rather than a hypocrite.  He challenges us to see the person first and foremost. Faced with human need, people matter most. Jesus demonstrated this last week when he was moved more by the Samaritan women’s need than her past. Jesus does not see an affliction but the person in need. No one is excluded. Maybe we had better take a second and third look at those on the edges of our social circle and world to see the person who also happens to be crippled, socially awkward, homeless, suffering from Alzheimer’s, etc. We might be the blind person and by paying attention to persons and not just their afflictions, our eyes might be opened and we too led to seeing Jesus. Many people in our community know what it is like to be shut out, told to wait, given second best, told they are no good or not good enough.  This sight that we gain through Jesus is a dangerous thing. It can get us into trouble especially when people will not see or cannot see what we see. This unwillingness to accept people once considered unacceptable, is embedded in our cultural conversation about sexuality, intimacy, marriage, race, family life and disability.
  
In Afghanistan, the Afghan Youth Volunteers for Peace (aged from 15-22) walk, talk, rally for peace and host delegations of peace activists from various countries. These unlikely people send out a different message to those in authority who supposedly know what they are doing and know only about fighting. Their message is: 'Why Not Love?' These youth have not been discouraged by insults and ridicule and had their signs vandalised. They believe, as one 15 year old boy, Abdulai says, ‘I know if I take revenge, the cycle never ends. In place of revenge, we should seek reconciliation and friendship.’ These young people have also heard the insulting words the blind man did: ‘Who are you? You're just a beggar and you're going to teach us? We're the religious leaders.’ This happened to the Afghan politician, Malalia Joya, who has been expelled from the Afghan parliament when she criticised  corruption and war making by those in parliament. As the blind beggar got an insight into Jesus and then did the work of Jesus, these Muslim people, follow the path to true humanity, and work for change and transformation. They have seen differently and acted differently.Those who are in power and arrogantly wish to hold on to it will not listen because it challenges the status quo and personal power. The corruption, power-grabbing and judgmental condemnation of anything new and different is a mark of those who cannot see – although they always protest that they see clearly. On the other hand, the acceptance, healing and grace that Jesus shows – and the response in worship of those who have been made to see by Christ’s touch – is the mark of those who “live in the light”. 
  
How will we, as Jesus’ followers, be a light and follow his way with regard to contemporary issues that confront us today: trafficking in Thailand, oppression of the Rohingya people in Myanmar and Bangladesh;  the bombing of civilians and Somali people seeking asylum and escaping from Yemen; the choice of peace and nonviolence over violence; to be welcoming and inclusive over discrimination (people seeking asylum, GLBTIQ people, the First peoples of our nation); choosing to speak out rather than being silent. As Jesus was drawn towards people who were the most rejected, we are called to be countercultural and not accept the way society deals with ‘the dogs’. 
  
The emboldened responses of those no longer willing to be rejected can infuriate those not yet willing to consider acceptance. Some congregations, placing a high value on niceness, can be reluctant to engage the questions.
  
As we walk through this Lent we ask ourselves a dual question: How often do I quibble with inessentials (eating meat on Fridays) to avoid facing the gospel? How do we focus on giving up things rather than taking on things especially in regard to other people and the environment? How often does my vision of Jesus become clouded over by selfishness, by our culture, by fear—so that though I claim sight I am in fact still blind?
4th sunday of lent