- Published: Monday, 01 May 2017 16:20
LITURGY NOTES FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
Fourth Sunday of Easter Year A
May 7th 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.
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.
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.
God of abundance,
With you, help us co-create healthy communities
where all of our resources can be shared
our possessions, pain, joy, love and concern,
our health and sickness — all that we have and are.
You have promised us life in abundance to all of your people.
Help us not to turn away the marginalized from your tables but,
be ones who co-create the meal with you.
A Future Not Our Own
A prayer / poem by Archbishop Oscar Romero
(assassinated March 24, 1980)
It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No programme accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own
Reading I Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Responsorial Psalm Ps 23: 13a, 3b4, 5, 6 The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Reading II 1 Pt 2:20b-25
Gospel Jn 10:1-10
· Good Shepherd, your voice is heard in the challenging words you speak to us: Jesus, have mercy.
· Good Shepherd, your voice provokes us to continue your work in the Church and to make you known to all people: Christ, have mercy.
· Good Shepherd, your voice is recognised in those crying out to us in need and suffering: Jesus, have mercy.
- You call us to resist those who crush and destroy the most vulnerable. Jesus, have mercy.
- You call us to listen to those stories and experiences of the vulnerable in our midst. Christ, have mercy.
- You call us walk alongside and partner those who live with disadvantage and poverty, Jesus, have mercy.
· You call us to follow you when we sometimes prefer to go our own way: Jesus, have mercy.
- You call us into the light when we sometimes prefer the darkness: Christ, have mercy.
· You call us to new life when we sometimes prefer our tombs: Jesus, have mercy.
you have given us,
a reliable and caring model
to lead us to you and to one another.
Stir our hearts with the words of the gospel
so that we hear his voice
in the groaning and miseries of others.
Hold out your outstretched arms towards us
so that we too may tend and care for one another
Prayer of the Faithful
Introduction: Let us pray with Jesus, our Good Shepherd, who takes care of the needs of all creation. We pray in response: Good Shepherd, lead us in your ways.
1. For all who exercise leadership in the Church: that they may courageously lead the People of God to the Reign of justice and peace, let us pray: Good Shepherd, lead us in your ways.
2. For a relief of tensions between North Korea and the United States where military action will be avoided by the use of diplomatic means and respect for the concerns of each party, let us pray: Good Shepherd, lead us in your ways.
3. For the people of Syria and Iraq who continue to live with extreme oppression and violence: may all parties involved in these conflicts leave behind their individual interests and recognise the humanity of those who suffer, let us pray: Good Shepherd, lead us in you ways.
4. For the nations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans affected by rising waters: may the developed nations acknowledge their responsibilities to them, let us pray: Good Shepherd, lead us in your ways.
5. For all who suffer because of the lack of leadership in the church or abuse of power, we pray for strength and courage to continue to be faithful to One who calls and truly leads, let us pray: Good Shepherd, lead us in your ways.
6. For those in the ministry of formation and education: that they may lead those entrusted to them in a deeper commitment to God in their outreach to the wider world, let us pray: Good Shepherd, lead us in your ways.
7. For the leaders of nations: that they may promote the freedom and dignity of people, by putting justice and the quality of life above personal gain and power, let us pray: Good Shepherd, lead us in your ways.
8. For our youth and young adults: that they may have the courage to make themselves totally free to respond to God’s call to them in the Church and the world, let us pray: Good Shepherd, lead us in your ways.
9. For our Mother Earth that we commit to a greater responsibility to take more steps to nurture the environment, let us pray: Good Shepherd, lead us in your ways.
10. For those who have powerful voices in the media; celebrities; leaders in government and in the church; teachers and all who have been gifted with influence that they will use their voices to speak out for justice and peace, given the gift of influence, let us pray: Good Shepherd, lead us in your ways.
11. For those called to offer comfort: for doctors and nurses; chaplains and hospice workers and all who sit with those who grieve, let us pray: Good Shepherd, lead us in your ways.
12. For those who are living with mental illness and other conditions that make day-to-day life difficult that they may have the grace to hear God’s voice amid all the other voices, let us pray: Good Shepherd, lead us in your ways.
13. For those who have died … (names). For those who have died in war, conflict, preventable diseases and those dying whilst seeking asylum….. :may those in mourning and overcome by grief find comfort in friends, those who minister to them, let us pray: Good Shepherd, lead us in your ways.
Concluding Prayer: Shepherding God, as place these prayers before you, we pray with thanks for your constant care and protection.
Prayer over the Gifts
Jesus calls us by name to this table
to share this food and drink with him.
As we are led into your presence
may we be strengthened
to nourish one another
on our journey of peace, hope and justice..
Deliver Us [after the ‘Our Father’]
Deliver us, Shepherding God, from every evil
and give us the peace and joy
of your presence among us.
Keep us free from doubt and discouragement
and may Jesus, your Son, walk by our side
so that, together with him,
we may build up
his new world of friendship and hope,
as we prepare for his coming in glory….
R/ For the kingdom...
Prayer for Peace
Christ Jesus, you said to your apostles and friends:
I leave you peace, my peace I give to you.
Do not look not upon our sins and weaknesses,
but on the faith and love of your family the Church
and hear your people's plea for peace and unity
in the Church and in the world,
now and forever. R/ Amen.
Prayer after Communion
we have heard the voice of Jesus, your son,
and received the food of life.
May Jesus lead us
into the valleys and roads of peace
so that we may learn from him
to call each other by name
and make space for one another,
so that all may live abundant lives.
Total Cost of Wars Since 2001 still rising
Shepherding for Justice
Good Shepherd, thanks for the shepherding.
Thanks shepherding us through the challenges of our life.
Thanks for shepherding our world with your vision of new life and justice.
Thanks for all those men and women who have joined in the shepherding.
Thanks for those who have listened to the needs of the poor and oppressed.
Thanks for those who have challenged us to listen.
Thanks for those who have showed us the way of nonviolent active love.
Thanks for those who have not forgotten your vision.
Good Shepherd, help us to shepherd each other on the journey.
Help us to be open and to listen to those in need.
Help us to speak up with courage and wisdom.
Help us to put our faith in action.
Good Shepherd, shepherd our complex institutions and governments.
May they be open to the needs of all.
May they listen to those who suffer.
May they welcome those who are left out.
May they put an end to war and violence.
May the poor and powerless know their power.
May minorities and refugees experience welcome.
May all women and children be honored with awesome respect.
May we all learn from one another.
May human rights rule the world.
Education for Justice www.educationforjustice.org
To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope. Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing. Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn't lock itself into darkness, that doesn't dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow. Hope is the door that opens onto the future. Hope is a humble, hidden seed of life that, with time, will develop into a large tree. It is like some invisible yeast that allows the whole dough to grow, that brings flavor to all aspects of life. And it can do so much, because a tiny flicker of light that feeds on hope is enough to shatter the shield of darkness. A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you. And then there will be another "you," and another "you," and it turns into an "us." And so, does hope begin when we have an "us?" No. Hope began with one "you." When there is an "us," there begins a revolution…..
In order to do good, we need memory, we need courage and we need creativity…….Yes, love does require a creative, concrete and ingenious attitude. Good intentions and conventional formulas, so often used to appease our conscience, are not enough. Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number. The other has a face. The ‘you’ is always a real presence, a person to take care of.
The future of humankind isn't exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us.’ We all need each other.
Pope Francis Why the only future worth building includes everyone TED Talk April 2017 Transcript: https://www.ted.com/talks/pope_francis_why_the_only_future_worth_building_includes_everyone/transcript?language=en
‘Kindness is the language the blind can see and the deaf can hear.’
Brian Doyle America Magazine, May 2, 2011
Windy, same as usual. Shivering daffodils, huddled crocuses.
Sunbursts that are essentially a dark joke. Spattering of moist
Proto-hail, says our sister, who will eventually become a nun.
Funny that we remember single words spoken forty years ago.
The huddle of shoulders in pews, the hands held out for Hosts.
The rich russet scent of raincoats and overcoats and umbrellas.
The slight polite hesitation as someone looks to lift the kneeler.
The way everyone kneels except the very old and the surgicals.
The clasps pinning down mantillas and veils and white scarves.
The burly theater of it all, the ancient tidal rise and fall and ebb
And startling resurrection against all sense and patent evidence.
The awful genius of the faith is that it is so much more and less
Than religion; we have no choice but to insist on a resurrection,
And choose one among us to drag a cross, and then leap from it
And emigrate, but not before collecting documentary witnesses;
Otherwise we are all merely walking compost, and where is the
Fun in that, not to mention why not commit crimes twice daily?
And at the other end of the spectrum, not one soul on that rainy
Easter morning long ago cared a whit about theological matters.
They did not even care if the thin man once died and rose again.
They were there, in clans and tribes and couples, for each other,
Out of respect and affection, and habit and custom, and because
They wanted to give their children a thing they couldn’t explain
Very easily, something to run away from and later back towards,
Something insistent that didn’t make sense then and still doesn’t.
Something you can easily disprove and can never actually prove,
Which is basically the point. We cover it with smoke and money,
With vestments and learned commentary, with visions and edicts,
But under the cloth there is only wild hope, to which we give His
Face, sitting there by the lake quietly eating baked fish and bread.
At the end of the meal we walked out into the rain, singing badly.
Vengeance is not the point; change is. But the trouble is that in most people's minds the thought of victory and the thought of punishing the enemy coincide.
Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just.
Some explanations of a crime are not explanations: they're part of the crime.
Olavo de Cavarlho
The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie: deliberate, continued, and dishonest; but the myth: persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.
John F. Kennedy
The occupation and robbery of a nation occurs under the illusion of freeing its citizens from brutal oppression.
Neither spin nor propaganda will do. And what the studies show is what's needed is a radical transformation of American foreign policy
The ideal tyranny is that which is ignorantly self-administered by its victims. The most perfect slaves are, therefore, those which blissfully and unawaredly enslave themselves.
The point of public relations slogans like ‘Support our troops’ is that they don't mean anything... That's the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody's going to be against, and everybody's going to be for. Nobody knows what it means, because it doesn't mean anything. Its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something: Do you support our policy? That's the one you're not allowed to talk about.
The more there are suffering, then, the more natural their sufferings appear. Who wants to prevent the fishes in the sea from getting wet? And the suffering themselves share this callousness towards themselves and are lacking in kindness toward themselves. It is terrible that human beings so easily put up with existing conditions, not only with the sufferings of strangers but also with their own. All those who have thought about the bad state of things refuse to appeal to the compassion of one group of people for another. But the compassion of the oppressed for the oppressed is indispensable. It is the world's one hope.
The World’s One Hope
‘When a child steps out in front of a moving car, someone will snatch the child back to the sidewalk. It's not only a kind person who'd do that, not only the kind of person they honor with statues, and memorial plaques. Anyone would pull a child out of the path of the car. But here, many people have been run down, and many pass by, doing nothing. Is that because there are so many suffering people? Shouldn't there be more help when there's more suffering? There's less help. Even kind people walk past, doing nothing, and they're just as kind as they were before.’
Bertolt Brecht, from The World's One Hope, a poem by translated by Tony Kushner
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around;
Peoples of the world, together
Join to serve the common cause!
So it feeds us all for ever
See to it that it's now yours.
Forward, without forgetting
Where our strength can be seen now to be!
When starving or when eating
Forward, not forgetting
Black or white or brown or yellow
Leave your old disputes behind.
Once start talking with your fellow
Men, you'll soon be of one mind.
Forward, without forgetting
Where our strength can be seen now to be!
When starving or when eating
Forward, not forgetting
If we want to make this certain
We'll need you and your support.
It's yourselves you'll be deserting
if you rat your own sort.
Forward, without forgetting
Where our strength can be seen now to be!
When starving or when eating
Forward, not forgetting
All the gang of those who rule us
Hope our quarrels never stop
Helping them to split and fool us
So they can remain on top.
Forward, without forgetting
Where our strength can be seen now to be!
When starving or when eating
Forward, not forgetting
Workers of the world, uniting
That’s the way to lose your chains.
Mighty regiments now are fighting
That no tyranny remains!
Forward, without forgetting
Till the concrete question is hurled
When starving or when eating:
Whose tomorrow is tomorrow?
And whose world is the world?
The ultimate weakness of violence
is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate....
Returning violence for violence multiples violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Martin Luther King Jr.
What can we do in the prevailing situation
to bring about peaceful coexistence among all nations?
The first goal must be to do away with mutual fear and distrust.
Solemn renunciation of the policy of violence,
not only with respect to weapons of mass destruction,
is without doubt necessary.
Such renunciation, however, will be effective
only if a supranational judicial and executive agency
is established at the same time, with power to settle
questions of immediate concern to the security of nations.
Albert Einstein, Peaceful Coexistence, February 1950
Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Every thoughtful, well-meaning and conscientious human being
should assume, in time of peace,
the solemn and unconditional obligation
not to participate in any war, for any reason,
or to lend support of any kind, whether direct or indirect.
Albert Einstein to War Resisters' International, 1928
A blur of romance clings to notions of ‘publicans,’ ‘sinners,’ ‘the poor,’ ‘the people in the marketplace,’ ‘our neighbours,’ as though of course God should reveal himself, if at all, to these simple people, these Sunday school watercolor figures who are so purely themselves in their tattered robes, who are single in themselves, while we now are various, complex, and full at heart.... Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? There is no one but us. There is no one to send, nor a clean hand, nor a pure heart on the face of the earth, nor in the earth, but only us, a generation comforting ourselves with the notion that we have come at an awkward time, that our innocent fathers are all dead—as if innocence had ever been.... But there is no one but us. There never has been.
Annie Dillard, An Annie Dillard Reader
I come together with others not out of need, but out of the recognition that they belong to the same heart I belong to, and that they cannot fulfill the deepest yearning of my heart. Why? Because God has created in me a heart that can only be satisfied by the One who created it.
Henri Nouwen, Lecture at Scarritt-Bennett Center
The vision that Jesus gives us is this: That I am unconditionally loved, that I belong to God, and that I am a person who can really trust that. When I meet another person who also is rooted in the heart of God, then the spirit of God in me can recognize the spirit of God in the other person, and then we can start building a new space, a new home, a house, a community. Whether we speak about friendship, community, family, marriage, in the spiritual world we are talking about spirit recognizing Spirit, solitude embracing Solitude, heart speaking to Heart. And where this happens, there is an immense space.
Henri Nouwen, Lecture at Scarritt-Bennett Center
It is hard for me to forgive someone who has really offended me, especially when it happens more than once. I begin to doubt the sincerity of the one who asks forgiveness for a second, third, or fourth time. But God does not keep count. God just waits for our return, without resentment or desire for revenge.
Henri Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak
Because our country is a country of teachers, we closed the army camps and our children go to school with books under their arms, not with rifles under their arms. We reject violence.
Dr Oscar Arias, President of Costa Rica
In the name of peace they waged the wars. Ain't they got no shame.
When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.
One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one.
In peace the sons bury their fathers, but in war the fathers bury their sons.
We need a renaissance of wonder. We need to renew, in our hearts and in our souls, the deathless dream, the eternal poetry, the perennial sense that life is miracle and magic.
All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible.
T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom
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.
[T]he library and the professor’s lecture are both remembered primarily for their value as information gateways. The students gained access to information through the library or the words of the professor. The problem is that if someone asks me what I want to achieve in my classes, it is not to provide access to information. I want to provide access to knowledge. The difference between information and knowledge is subtle but important. Knowledge is what you do with information. Knowledge is how you make meaning out of information. And, usually, you gain knowledge through an interactive process—by interacting with someone or by doing some critical analysis or further exploration of the information. Achieving knowledge requires a much richer and more complicated environment than that required for accessing information.’
Man is the kind of creature who cannot be whole except he be committed, because he cannot find himself without finding a center beyond himself. In short the emancipation of the self requires commitment.
Reinhold Niebuhr, The Practical Cogitator, p. 431
The whole course of things goes to teach us faith. We need only obey. There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening, we shall hear the right word.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Stories are the vehicle that moves metaphor and image into experience. Like metaphors and images, stories communicate what is generally invisible and ultimately inexpressible. In seeking to understand these realities through time, stories provide a perspective that touches on the divine, allowing us to see reality in full context, as part of its larger whole. Stories invite a kind of vision that gives shape and form even to the invisible, making the images move, clothing the metaphors, throwing color into the shadows. Of all the devices available to us, stories are the surest way of touching the human spirit.
Ernest Kurtz, The Spirituality of Imperfection, p. 17
Negative thinking dwells on limitations and impossibilities; affirmative thinking focuses on capabilities and potentialities.
William Arthur Ward
Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. It is the accumulative weight of our disciplines and our judgments that leads us to either fortune or failure.
Education is the process through which meaning and faith can develop. There is precious education in the solitary treks we make through confusion, suffering and unexpected joy.
The roots of studenthood are an eagerness to learn. Education is just the examined life, the ascent to the Mystery through the investigation of mysterious things in nature, society and one’s self. If one is to study, one has to discipline imagination, purify attention.’
John Carmody, The Progressive Pilgrim
An Indian guide, who displayed uncanny skills in navigating the rugged regions of the Southwest, was asked how he did it. ‘What’s your secret of being an expert tracker and trail blazer?’ a visitor asked him.
The guide answered, ‘There’s no secret. One must only possess the far vision and the near look. The first step is to determine where you want to go; then you must be sure that each step you take is a step in that direction.
A father asked his son to return a shopping cart they had just used. The son protested, ‘C’mon, Dad! There are carts all over. No one returns them. That’s why they hire people to collect them.’
After a brief argument, Mom chimed in, ‘For heaven’s sake, it’s no big deal. Let’s go.’
The Dad was about to surrender when he noticed an elderly couple walking together to return their cart. After a moment he said, ‘Son, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who put their carts away and those who don’t. We are the kind that returns their shopping cart. Now go return the cart!’
Obviously, this story is about more than grocery carts. It’s about doing the right thing in a world that promotes rationalizations and excuses, and demeans or trivializes simple acts of virtue. I suppose another way of putting it is—There two kinds of people: Those who have the character to do what they ought to and those who find reasons not to.
People of character do the right thing even if no one else does, not because they think it will change the world, but because they refuse to be changed by the world.
‘To humanity, which at times seems lost and dominated by the power of evil, of egoism and of fear, the Lord rises again to offer the gift of his love that forgives, reconciles and reopens the soul to hope….. It is a love that changes the heart and bestows peace. How much the world needs to comprehend and embrace the divine mercy.’
Pope John Paul II’s final plea for peace came the night before his death - and in a posthumous message he had prepared for the Sunday mass that turned into a moving farewell by 130,000 pilgrims huddled in St Peter's Square:
In teaching us charity, the Gospel instructs us in the preferential respect due to the poor and the special situation they have in society: the more fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others.
Paul VI, Octogesima Adveniens, A Call to Action
The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves.
I hate it when they say, 'He gave his life for his country.' Nobody gives their life for anything. We steal the lives of these kids. We take it away from them. They don't die for the honor and glory of their country. We kill them.
Admiral Gene LaRocque.
The enemy is not ugly.
Cyril Hally ssc
Creator God, you make all things,
and weave them together in an intricate tapestry of life.
Teach us to respect the fragile balance of life
and to care for all the gifts of your creation.
Guide by your wisdom those who have power and authority,
that, by the decisions they make, life may be cherished,
and a good and fruitful Earth may continue to show your glory
and sing your praises.
Almighty God, you have called us
to tend and keep the garden of your creation.
Give us wisdom and reverence for all your plants and animals
who share this planet with us,
and whose lives make possible our own.
Help us to remember that they too love the sweetness of life
and join with us in giving you praise.
From the NCC's Earth Day Sunday 2001 resource packet.
Prayer for the World
Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the Sun come out and
fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the Sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender, or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness
of the Sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the Sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the Earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.
Center of Concern www.coc.org
Prayer for the Third Millennium
Men and women of the Third Millennium,
the Easter gift of light
that scatters the darkness of fear and sadness
is meant for everyone;
all are offered the gift of the peace of the Risen Christ,
who breaks the chains of violence and hatred.
Rediscover today with joy and wonder
that the world is no longer a slave to the inevitable.
This world of ours can change:
peace is possible even where for too long
there has been fighting and death, as in the Holy Land and Jerusalem;
it is possible in the Balkans, no longer condemned
to a worrying uncertainty that risks
causing the failure of all proposals for agreement.
And you, Africa, a continent tormented
by conflicts constantly threatening,
raise your head confidently,
trusting in the power of the Risen Christ.
With his help, you too, Asia,
the cradle of age-old spiritual traditions,
can win the challenge of tolerance and solidarity;
and you, Latin America, filled with youthful promise,
only in Christ will you find the capacity and courage
needed for a development respectful of every human being.
Men and women of every continent,
draw from his tomb, empty now for ever,
the strength needed
to defeat the powers of evil and death,
and to place all research and all technical and social progress
at the service of a better future for all.
Center of Concern
Some reflections on the readings
The scriptures today express resurrection hope and invite us participate with God in co-creating courageous and generous communities. We are called as people of faith to accept the joyful and messy work of belonging to communities that hold us accountable; that challenge us to keep learning, that love us unconditionally and strengthen us through times of difficulty. Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. We are invited to co-create human community with God by praying also that others will join us. The call comes to pray for vocations but not just to prevent the extinction of that endangered species called priests and religious. We are called to recognise that we are to serve people according to the heart of Jesus – the way of the good shepherd. Let’s be clear! Vocations exist even though priesthood and religious life might be diminishing some parts of the church. People do nurse the sick; counsel the troubled; minister the eucharist to the sick; speak out in solidarity with those whose voices are ignored or not heard; stand with asylum seekers and refugees despite abuse and ridicule; and serve in many other ways. We are called to serve imaginatively and relationally not with patriarchal or macho qualities such as aggression, domination, control, and condemnation but with qualities of tenderness, forgiveness, strength and protection.
We need to see Jesus’ claim on the title of the Good Shepherd against the backdrop of Israel’s failed shepherd kings, e.g., Jeremiah 10:11:’For the shepherds are stupid……and all their flock is scattered.’ And Jeremiah 23:1: ‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture, says the Lord’. One of the harshest indictment comes from Ezekiel 34:2-6: ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds pasture the flock? You consumed milk, wore wool, and slaughtered fatlings. ... You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the stray or seek the lost. ... So they were scattered ... No one looked after them’. It is at this point that God promised, ‘I myself will look after and tend my sheep’ (Ezekiel 36:11) which took on flesh and blood in the person of Jesus who calls us by name, heals and protects and seeks us out anyone who is lost or strays. We see here the challenge to all who have responsibility to lead and care for others to model themselves after Jesus. In an interview last year, Pope Francis asked, ‘How are we treating the people of God?’ He answers his own question: ‘I dream of a church that is a mother and a shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the Good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbour. This is pure Gospel.’
The gospel today is addressed to the Christian community and could appear, at first glance, quite exclusive. Marginalised people are all too familiar with gates, doors, barriers and blockades – closed out of the community because they do not reflect its dominant teachings whether on sexuality, gender, race, divorce or expressing views about married clergy or ordination of women. It is not about setting up more and more hurdles, barriers, rules and paper, but about access, entry, welcome, safety and bread. There is much that one could say about the role of women in the church here or the acceptance of gay and lesbian people in the church. Many people in our churches slip shyly beneath the ‘All Are Welcome’ in our churches, hoping they will not be noticed, but hoping that there is a word they can hear that will help them deal with the alienation they have felt and still feel. Thinking of the sheepfold, they see sheep inside but they are not one of them. There is a barrier to getting in - the church wants to keep them out because they are not good enough or have not been faithful enough…and God does not love unconditionally. And how many have slipped out as quickly and quietly as they entered!!
The good news is that church bodies or church leaders, television evangelists and others like them do not ultimately decide who is ‘in’ and ‘out’ of the Christian community. The only one authorised to decide who may enter the gate and join the others is Jesus – even though ‘we’ (practicing Christians) might have views as to who should be in or out. The ‘thief’ is the violent and intolerant one, the one who spews hatred, or threatens the well-being of people who might try to jump the fence, who does not co-create with God in building community but divides and isolates.
Could we not put into this category radio and television personalities and politicians who because of their agenda would shun the work of co-creating healthy and just communities by attacking asylum seekers, Indigenous people, Muslim people as well as gay and lesbian people? Could we not include those who withhold the sacraments to certain people?
Jesus applies the ‘shepherd’ image to himself. Though belonging to another time and culture, the story made a unique impact. It was not meant to be a cute or romantic image but it was somewhat quite explosive. That explosive image is also manifested in the words and actions of Pope Francis for which he is being criticised in a number of circles. Jesus distinguished between God’s approach to people and that of the religious leaders who were supposed to be ‘the shepherds’ of the people but behave more like ‘thieves and bandits’; because they use their power not to author agency and life into people but intimidate marginalised people.
Jesus’ use of the image was a highly political and a strong social confrontation to those charged with the care of their people. They knew that they were being challenged. Jesus’ concern was not so much about keeping rules and regulations that burden people but to facilitate relationships that enable people to work together and live life to the full.
Consider the story of the man born blind a few weeks ago. His parents distanced themselves from their son. After having his sight restored [unlike the religious leaders here who were blind to God’s ways], the man was dragged before the religious leaders who interrogated and then excommunicated him. The impact of excommunication was not just about ‘you can’t come to church anymore’ but for a Jewish person, it was a loss of identity, a complete separation from community, social networks, and one’s only connection with God. Such people became outcasts and rejects – powerless in the face of this authority. Imagine the parents of the blind man not being able to even celebrate their son’s healing.
Jesus is the ‘good shepherd’ but the readings imply that Jesus must move over. We are all called to be shepherds. The readings begin with Jesus but end with us. Pope Francis, in April 2017, gave a TED talk titled Why the only future worth building includes everyone (https://www.ted.com/talks/pope_francis_why_the_only_future_worth_building_includes_everyone/transcript?language=en) where he said: ‘I would love ….. to remind us that we all need each other, none of us is an island, an autonomous and independent "I," separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone. We don’t think about it often, but everything is connected, and we need to restore our connections to a healthy state. Even the harsh judgment I hold in my heart against my brother or my sister, the open wound that was never cured, the offense that was never forgiven, the rancour that is only going to hurt me, are all instances of a fight that I carry within me, a flare deep in my heart that needs to be extinguished before it goes up in flames, leaving only ashes behind.’ Sister Joan Chittister wrote in 2001: ’The old news about Easter is that it is about resurrection. The new news may be that it is not so much about the resurrection of Jesus as it is about our own.’ Unfortunately, we so often miss it. Jesus, you see, is already gone from one tomb. The only question now is whether or not we are willing to abandon our own, leave the old trappings behind and live in the light of the Jesus, the Christ, whom the religious establishment persecuted and politicians condemned. It is the greatest question of them all in a world that practices religion as an act of private devotion and sees law and government as an arm of God. It requires rising again from the notion of piety as a justification, an excuse, for pietism.’ So too, this image today in the gospel is not about Jesus but about us. How do we exercise our service in the community? What attitudes do we bring to that service of others? We have other images of fishing with nets. Again there is the sense of gathering inclusively rather than snaring or hooking. All these images connect with the softer and caring side of our personalities. They cannot be signs of weakness if we consider that this Jesus did not avoid death or shirk suffering; he was not fearful of using the image of the tender, caring shepherd with a lamb on his shoulder or his youngest disciple cosying up to him at the table.
In recent times, our attention has been drawn to a deficit in compassion a vacuum of caring, a failure to attend, a blindness to safeguard the weakest among us. In many places it is becoming criminal to show compassion particularly to people who are homeless or seeking asylum. We have also seen this in the neglect and failure to respond to institution child abuse and institution abuse of children, women and men who seek asylum. How much does the suffering of other people impact upon us? Do we know what is happening? Do we care? There is a great silence. But as St Catherine of Siena (feast day April 28) once said: ‘Speak the truth in a thousand places. It is the silence that kills.’
Each of us is called to a ministry, a service, to care, to protect [shepherd] God’s ‘little ones’ or vulnerable ones to an abundant life. The biblical view of ‘shepherd’ has both a spiritual and political component. It is not sentimental but about relationship and about justice-making. It is serious, dangerous, and challenging. Jesus shows us that it is about commitment to the welfare of the other and rejecting the images from business and industry that even the Church can buy into. Sheep for Jesus were not just a commodity that produces wool or meat!!
As the world is more and more globalised, the gospel calls us to work towards a globalisation of compassion and care. But in recent times despite the globalisation, individualism has also come to the fore as we have seen in many European countries, the USA and Australia. If our fragile earth is suffers today, it might be because the captains of industry with their vested interests want to keep us from knowing or being aware that we are not monads or just individuals but part of one humanity. We are not just customers or consumers or competitors struggling for scarce resources. Our value does not depend on our ability to purchase or consume. This planet is the ‘good shepherd’s’ field of work and ministry, and we as shepherds, are not rulers of creation but tenders of creation. We are intimately bound to earth and all its passengers – including the animals. Again Pope Francis, in his TED talk said: ‘Solidarity is a term that many wish to erase from the dictionary…….. It is a free response born from the heart of each and everyone….. When one realizes that life, even in the middle of so many contradictions, is a gift, that love is the source and the meaning of life, how can they withhold their urge to do good to another fellow being? In order to do good, we need memory, we need courage and we need creativity………Yes, love does require a creative, concrete and ingenious attitude. Good intentions and conventional formulas, so often used to appease our conscience, are not enough. Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number. The other has a face. The "you" is always a real presence, a person to take care of.’
A world that makes Jesus’ loving care real needs to listen to his voice and find ways of overcoming injustice and abuse many people endure. Let’s not take for granted: unjust economic systems, children denied a good education or proper nutrition, nations whose people are abused by mountains of debt and by the policies of international financial institutions, those who work hard for something less than a living wage, women who are denied basic human or economic rights, and all who are abused in any way by unjust structures.
Living as Jesus has shown us means we do not walk away from danger. Jesus can, as we saw in the gospel last week [Emmaus] come alongside us and ‘reroute’ our journey. He takes us back into reality…….. not Emmaus but to Jerusalem. Jesus identified with the weak and vulnerable. There is no substitute for personal involvement with people on the receiving end of injustice. It means seeking ways to ‘be alongside’ and available in some lively way. It means being open to being ‘taught’ by victims and the people who are disadvantaged because they have experiences we will never know. It means receiving from them, not just finding way we can fix their lives. Our understanding and compassion can be nurtured by our involvement, walking with, listening to, and taking sides with.
Where do we see ourselves? Do our actions open the gate freely or do we bar the gate to keep people out. Gates are made to be opened and shut. When Jesus says that he is the gate, he opens to admit all and only closes to protect them.