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: Monday, 08 May 2017 16:30
LITURGY NOTES FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 14, 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.
Reading I Acts 6:1-7
Responsorial Psalm Ps 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19
Response: Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Reading II 1 Pt 2:4-9
Gospel Jn 14:1-12
1. Jesus, the Way to God is open to all. Jesus, have mercy.
2. Jesus, the Truth can be learned by all, Christ have mercy.
3. Jesus, the Life lived by all. Jesus, have mercy
1. Christ Jesus, you are the Way that leads us to the life we desire: Jesus, have mercy.
- Christ Jesus, you are the Truth that convicts us when we fail: Christ, have mercy.
3. Christ Jesus, you are the Life for which we long: Jesus, have mercy.
you led your people to freedom,
and sent Jesus to be our way to you.
Deepen our faith
so that the words of your new song
may be echoed in our lives by our service
to all people in all times and places.
you prepare a place for us,
in the home of the Mother-and-Father of us all.
Draw us more deeply into yourself,
through scripture read, water splashed, bread broken, wine poured,
so that when our hearts are troubled,
we will know you more completely as the way, the truth, and the life.
Introduction: Let us bring before God the needs of the Church and of the world as we pray: R/ You open your house to us, O God.
1. We pray for all whose focus in life is the human dignity and the human rights of each person around the globe: may God’s mercy be reflected in them, we pray: You open your house to us, O God.
2. We pray for all whose deepest concerns are for those in poverty, those living with HIV/AIDS, those in prison, and those who challenge unjust social structures and systems affecting the poor: may God’s compassion be experienced in them, we pray: You open your house to us, O God.
3. We pray for those who in their everyday lives reject violence and strive to make peace in their communities: may God’s inclusive love be seen in them, we pray: You open your house to us, O God.
4. We pray for all those who in their lives have a vision of the common good and in their dealings with others place greater value on human dignity rather than profits so that all can participate in building God’s reign: may God’s graciousness be evident in them, we pray: You open your house to us, O God.
5. We pray for our Mother Earth: may we commit to a greater responsibility to take more steps to nurture the environment which reveals to us the presence of God, we pray: You open your house to us, O God.
6. We pray for those who have died … (names) especially those who have died in war, conflict and preventable diseases… (Gaza and the West Bank, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tibet, Afghanistan, Syria, West Papua, Iraq, South Sudan, Nigeria):may those in mourning and overcome by grief find comfort in friends, those who minister to them, we pray: You open your house to us, O God.
7. We pray for peace: may those in danger and live in fear every day eventually find protection, security and peace, we pray: You open your house to us, O God.
Concluding Prayer: God of new beginnings, help us to reflect deeply on the call to justice and peace in our daily lives.
Prayer over the Gifts
Jesus revealed what it means
to be for us the way, the truth and the life
by giving himself for us in this Eucharist.
May we learn to give to one another
our time, compassion, service in the manner of Jesus.
Prayer after Communion
may the people around us
see Jesus and You,
when we become for others
the way to hope, justice and love;
the truth that uplifts and reassures;
and the life that is given freely.
Those in power have made it so we have to pay simply to exist on the planet. We have to pay for a place to sleep, and we have to pay for food. If we don't, people with guns come and force us to pay. That's violent.
Derrick Jensen, Endgame: Volume 1: The Problem of Civilization
What if the point of life has nothing to do with the creation of an ever-expanding region of control? What if the point is not to keep at bay all those people, beings, objects and emotions that we so needlessly fear? What if the point instead is to let go of that control? What if the point of life, the primary reason for existence, is to lie naked with your lover in a shady grove of trees? What if the point is to taste each other's sweat and feel the delicate pressure of finger on chest, thigh on thigh, lip on cheek? What if the point is to stop, then, in your slow movements together, and listen to the birdsong, to watch the dragonflies hover, to look at your lover's face, then up at the undersides of leaves moving together in the breeze? What if the point is to invite these others into your movement, to bring trees, wind, grass, dragonflies into your family and in so doing abandon any attempt to control them? What if the point all along has been to get along, to relate, to experience things on their own terms? What if the point is to feel joy when joyous, love when loving, anger when angry, thoughtful when full of thought? What if the point from the beginning has been to simply be?
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
In our excessive involvement in the affairs of other countries, we are not only living off our assets and denying our own people the proper enjoyment of their resources; we are also denying the world the example of a free society enjoying its freedom to the fullest.
J. William Fulbright
I do think we'll look back on it [as] a period of horrible shame and regret for how we treated people, how we disobeyed our own law and international law.
If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace.
Liberty and democracy become unholy when their hands are dyed red with innocent blood.
Some Einstein Quotes on Peace & War
Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.
Imagination is more important than knowledge.
I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism -- how passionately I hate them!
The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking.... The solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.
He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.
We must inoculate our children against militarism, by educating them in the spirit of pacifism.... Our schoolbooks glorify war and conceal its horrors. They indoctrinate children with hatred. I would teach peace rather than war, love rather than hate.
Everything, everything in war is barbaric... But the worst barbarity of war is that it forces men collectively to commit acts against which individually they would revolt with their whole being.
As we breathe the very air which sustains us,
We remember your love, God, which gives us life.
Fill us with your compassion for Creation.
Empty us of apathy, selfishness and fear, of all pessimism and hesitation.
Breathe into us solidarity with all who suffer now
and the future generations who will suffer
because of our environmental irresponsibility.
Move us into action to save our earth
and to build your sustainable Kingdom. Amen.
Jane Deren,Social Justice News, Diocese of Oakland, Ca.
A common and natural result of an undue respect for law is that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power?
Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience
Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.
Bertrand Russell: English logician and philosopher 1872-1970
Fear always springs from ignorance.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American lecturer, poet, and essayist, 1803-1882
Dress it as we may, feather it, daub it with gold, huzza it, and sing swaggering songs about it, what is war, nine times out of ten, but murder in uniform
For most people, it is easy to focus on the malevolent misdeeds of one's enemies and to blot out the memory of one's own malevolent misdeeds. For some people, it is easy to do the reverse: bare our hearts to our own evildoing and forget what has been done to us. But only if we can remember both sets of evildoing can we take the steps to end them.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow
The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false.
Political history is largely an account of mass violence and of the expenditure of vast resources to cope with mythical fears and hopes
Democracy don't rule the world, You'd better get that in your head; This world is ruled by violence, But I guess that's better left unsaid
You have to show violence the way it is. If you don't show it realistically, then that's immoral and harmful. If you don't upset people, then that's obscenity.
In violence, we forget who we are
Mary McCarthy, American novelist and critic, 1912-1989
When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war. War settles nothing.
Dwight David Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States, 1890-1969
If there’s a world here in a hundred years, it’s going to be saved by tens of millions of little things. The powers-that-be can break up any big thing they want. They can corrupt it or co-opt it from the inside, or they can attack it from the outside. But what are they going to do about 10 million little things? They break up two of them, and three more like them spring up
The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.
Anne Frank, Only One Earth
However tiring, the road…. leads from a sense of discouragement and bewilderment to the fullness of Easter faith. …. As the light of the risen Christ illumines the whole universe, we can only express solidarity with all our brothers and sisters in the Middle East who have been caught in a maelstrom of armed violence and retaliation. The roar of weapons must give way to the voice of reason and conscience: sincere concern for the legitimate aspirations of all peoples and the scrupulous observance of international law are the only way to bring the parties back to the negotiating table and to mark out a path of brotherhood for those peoples.
John Paul II, 18 April 2001
Those who have created the evil are those who have made possible the hideous social injustice our people live in. Thus, the poor have shown the church the true way to go. A church that does not join the poor in order to speak out from the side of the poor against the injustices committed against them is not the true church of Jesus Christ.
Oscar Romero, assassinated archbishop of San Salvador, The Violence of Love
Peace must be built on the basis of justice in a world where the personal and social consequences of sin are evident.
US Bishops, The Challenge of Peace, #56
Technology is so far ahead of human relations! There is such a need for new ways for people to be together, to solve conflicts, to work for peace. On the level of human relations, we are still in the Stone Age, thinking that power games and fear tactics will settle our problems. Suicide attacks and military reprisal are such primitive ways to respond to threatening situations. With the technology now at hand, these primitive responses may cause the end of all human life.
More than ever it is necessary for people, who can fly to each from faraway distances within a few hours, to speak to each other about living together in peace. Now it seems that the smaller the physical distance, the larger the moral and spiritual distance. Why do we human beings learn so much, so soon, about technology, and so little, so late, about loving one another?
Henri Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak, pp 182-183
When we honestly ask which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.
Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude
How do we know that we are not deluding ourselves, that we are not selecting those words that best fit our passions, that we are not just listening to the voice of our own imagination?...Who can determine if [our] feelings and insights are leading [us] in the right direction?
Our God is greater than our own heart and mind, and too easily we are tempted to make our heart’s desires and our mind’s speculations into the will of God. Therefore, we need a guide, a director, a counselor who helps us to distinguish between the voice of God and all other voices coming from our own confusion or from dark powers far beyond our control.
We need someone who encourages us when we are tempted to give it all up, to forget it all, to just walk away in despair. We need someone who discourages us when we move too rashly in unclear directions or hurry proudly to a nebulous goal. We need someone who can suggest to us when to read and when to be silent, which words to reflect upon and what to do when silence creates much fear and little peace.
Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out
[Men] go abroad to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars – yet they pass by themselves without wondering.
At the heart of what Jesus says in every act and parable is this: Now, this minute, we can be on the way to the peaceable kingdom. The way into it is simply to live in awareness of God's presence in those around us. Doing that, we learn the truth of what St. Catherine of Siena said: 'All the way to heaven is heaven, because Jesus said, ‘I am the way.’ One could add, 'and all the way to hell is hell.' To the extent I fail to love, hell is in my life already.
Jim Forest, Measured by Love
Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as first it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens
Plato: Ancient Greek philosopher (428/427- 348/347 B.C.)
Military justice is to justice what military music is to music.
Groucho Marx: American comedian, actor and singer, 1890-1977
In war, there are no unwounded soldiers
If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one would remain in the ranks.
Frederick the Great
There is an awe and reverence due to the stars in the heavens, the sun, and all heavenly bodies; to the seas and the continents; to all living forms of trees and flowers; to the myriad expressions of life in the sea; to the animals of the forests and the birds of the air. To wantonly destroy a living species is to silence forever a divine voice.
Solidarity . . . is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.
John Paul II, Solicitudo Rei Socialis, 38
Political language. is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
You can't deny the other side don't want to die anymore than we do
What I'm trying to say is don't they pray to the same God that we do?
And tell me how does God choose whose prayers does he refuse?
Who turns the wheel, who throws the dice on the Day after tomorrow?
Lyrics: Day After Tomorrow - Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennan 2004
Elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody.
Franklin P. Adams, US journalist (1881-1960)
In all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful.
Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy, Russian author, 1828-1910
Governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deducted from it.
Hebbel German poet and dramatist, 1813-1863
The biggest lesson I learned from Vietnam is not to trust [our own] government statements. I had no idea until then that you could not rely on [them].
James W. Fulbright: US senator who initiated the international exchange program for scholars, 1905-1995
In order to rally people, governments need enemies. They want us to be afraid, to hate, so we will rally behind them. And if they do not have a real enemy, they will invent one in order to mobilize us.
Thich Nhat Hanh, Contemporary Vietnamese Buddhist monk, peace activist and writer
One way or another, the choice will be made by our generation, but it will affect life on earth for all generations to come.
Lester Brown,Earth Policy Institute
To live now as we think human beings should live,
in defiance of all that is bad around us,
is itself a marvelous victory.
Howard Zinn, historian and author
Solidarity is learned through 'contact' rather than through 'concepts,' and should permeate the sphere of being before that of acting.
Pope John Paul II, May 5, 2000
When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change. Personal involvement with innocent suffering, with the injustice others suffer, is the catalyst for solidarity which then gives rise to intellectual inquiry and moral reflection.
Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ, former Superior General of the Society of Jesus
Last Testament John 14
Don’t be troubled,
don’t be afraid,
if you trust God
then also trust me,
I go on ahead
and when you arrive
I will be there.
When you stumble
in the wild tempest,
when you flinch back
from the new frontier,
don’t be troubled,
don’t be afraid,
I will be there.
When you toil long
without much reward,
when you bend low
with sorrow and care,
don’t be troubled,
don ‘t be afraid
I will be there.
When you are tired
of spending your faith,
when you’re alone
with doubt and despair,
don’t be troubled
don’t be afraid,
I will be there
When you are frail
and old eyes grow dim,
when you are dying
leaving those dear,
don’t be troubled
don’t be afraid,
I will be there.
Now comes my cross,
now is my glory,
I’m the beginning
and I am the end,
don’t be troubled
don’t be afraid,
I am your Friend.
© B.D. Prewer 2001
Your Gain John 14
Do not be troubled
do not be afraid
my going away
is your complete gain.
Do not be troubled
do not be afraid
the lone buried seed
will bear golden grain.
Do not be troubled
do not be afraid
though all becomes dark
it’s light that shall reign.
Do not be troubled
do not be afraid
when I’m in the tomb
foul death has been slain.
Do not be troubled
do not be afraid
at the dawn and dusk
I shall come again.
Do not be troubled
do not be afraid
all things are changing
but I shall remain.
© B.D. Prewer 2001
Unemployment today provokes new forms of economic marginalization, and the current crisis can only make this situation worse. Being out of work or dependent on public or private assistance for a prolonged period undermines the freedom and creativity of the person and his family and social relationships, causing great psychological and spiritual suffering. I would like to remind everyone, especially governments engaged in boosting the world's economic and social assets, that the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is … the human person in his or her integrity: ‘(The human being) is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life’
Pope Benedict XVI Caritas In Veritate, (2009) Edited for gender sensitivity
Face of God (John 14: 1-14)
We thought you wore the skin
of thunder, spoke in verbs of stormwind,
majestic and mighty as lightning upon summits
as the cold and silent fire
of distant stars; hidden behind
a curtain in the temple,
an untouchable invisibility approachable
by the highest priest only,
hands freshly blooded
from an altar.
And then somehow the veil was parted:
we gained glimpses of the glory
of the nearness of your love
as the hurting were healed,
the outcast befriended,
the lost restored,
and everywhere the powers of death
had their dominion challenged,
by the son of a Jewish carpenter
If you have seen me,
said Jesus, you have seen the Father.
And we do see you there,
in the Gospels,
healing in synagogues
and in houses,
feeding the hungry on hillsides,
embracing the lepers and the sinners,
turning over the tables
in the temple,
nailed to a cross of injustice
greeting women at
sharing bread with your friends,
the dominion of death
the accessible God,
visible in the skin of Jesus.
But you are not done,
not content to wear
such skin only in the pages
of the Gospels.
The many-coloured, multi-shaped
body of Christ – the Church
wide as the nations of the world –
bears your image where it acts
in your love:
still teaching mercy,
making you visible
not in great
in high saints alone,
but in the ordinary
persons in the pews,
as here, on a day like any other,
a woman making dinner,
and packing it,
knocking on the door of a neighbour
newly home from surgery for cancer:
the face of the one receiving it
lit with thankfulness,
the face of the one freely giving
like the face
An African Prayer for Refugees
O Brother Jesus, who as a child was carried into exile,
remember all those who are deprived of their home or country,
who groan under the burden of anguish and sorrow,
enduring the burning heat of the sun,
the freezing cold of the sea,
or the humid heat of the forest,
searching for a place of refuge.
Cause these storms to cease, O Christ.
Move the hearts of those in power
that they may respect the men and women
whom you have created in your image;
that the grief of refugees may be turned to joy,
as when you led Moses and your people out of captivity.
Living God, build us into a spiritual house.
Precious Christ, infuse us with the assurance of our preciousness.
Holy Spirit, help us stand as a holy nation,
called to be light to a world living in darkness and fear.
Abba, be Home to all who are rejected
from their families and churches,
and to us who travel roads unknown.
May we stay persistent in prayer,
stand grounded in our identity as God’s own people
and be bold in our proclamation of your love.
Reflections on the readings
I wonder if today’s gospel could make some of us feel smug about being Christian. What more authority do we need to hit others over the head or make one from another faith feel bad?
Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
But one of the biggest questions for a follower of Christ is how our faith interacts with whatever crisis strikes our world, and our engagement with them. It may not be easy to walk the line between the kind of ‘faith’ that makes us feel safe or ‘protects’ us from the world’s problems, and the faith that offers a framework for directing us to fix things. Today’s readings provide another challenge: to participate in God’s reconciling and healing work while trusting God for the outcome in our lives and world. This is not easy.
Jesus used these words above to reassure, give comfort, hope and courage to people who are struggling in the face of opposition and threat. And a cursory look at the media with its presentations of tragedy, violence in word and action, neglect and silence before injustice prompt to us suggest that Good Friday is a daily occurrence for many people. Lay people, brothers, sisters and priests and sisters are murdered by guerrilla groups with machine guns or machetes just because they work for freedom or education or belong to the wrong ‘tribe’. Where is the kingdom of heaven in this? Where is Jesus? Has he gone to prepare a heavenly place for us and forgotten to come back? Do our hearts become troubled? Often they do. Many of us might wonder how we can build our faith to the point where we can believe in a different world – where we can see God in the midst of hardship. On this Mother’s Day, the mothers in Nigeria, whose daughters were kidnapped three years ago come to mind as many still wait for their daughters to be freed. Then there are the parents and families of children and relatives who continue to drown in the Mediterranean seeking security and safety. Then there are the mothers who wait anxiously to find out what will happen to their sons Manus Island or Nauru – will they be taken to the USA, linger in detention centres indefinitely, or refouled (returned illegally) to their home countries to face certain danger. Closer to home, there are the people who have loved ones living for years with Parkinson’s or dementia, and continue to devote themselves to the care of their loved ones.
In the church and society, people can be touchingly human towards people considered to be deserving [people with disability, children, some poor people, etc.], but inhuman and unjust towards people considered to be undeserving [‘ex-priests’, women, theologians, gay people, people living HIV/AIDS especially in developing countries, people seeking asylum who come to our shores by boat, etc].
Yet, we find many people are committed to others by working for justice. God’s reign of justice continues to break through in all settings (sacred and secular) often in people and places we least expect: in every neighbourhood; hospices and hospitals; among those who live and work in solidarity with people seeking asylum and though unable to do much for them at least listen to their stories and believe them. As there are many rooms in God’s house, there are many ways of coming to God and serving and loving God and neighbour.
Today’s gospel is often read at funerals. It is not just an assurance of provision after death. It is about us today and our commitments. We are invited to be so grounded, ‘at home’, in our sense of belonging to God that nothing deters us from acting each day with passion and power. It also assures those who do not always feel at home, those rejected, those outsiders, the ‘freedom to believe’ in the One who works through us in ways that many others cannot imagine. We belong in God’s house. Jesus is promising us that he will make room, to make hospitable, liveable, and welcome, God’s reign here on earth. Jesus prepares a place for his disciples - and we are also called to make a place for others.
It seems that Indigenous people, people from the Middle East and Asia, have always understood that a principle responsibility is hospitality and welcome – feeding people and making room for others. It is not mere sentiment. It has earthy dimensions such as place or creating new places, beds and food, touch. This is to be our life. When we think of our Earth as God’s reign, the homeland of the Creator, there is room for everybody if we share. Jesus’ words are no longer words of comfort for the dying, but words of challenge for living communities – and living life to the full. The radical hospitality we are called to invites us to actively make room for the marginalised, the excluded, the vulnerable, and the outsider.
This gospel challenges all of us to make room for others, to recognize in every person, the need for welcome and inclusion. John’s words call us to examine the way in which we make room in our lives and churches for people who are different to us. Jesus calls us to follow him as he makes room for us and for others. And he challenges us to do likewise.
Images from the Easter gospels are very inclusive: space for everyone. Images such as ‘gate’ and ‘nets’ counteract the tendency to prefer one group of people over another: to distinguish between insiders and outsiders that leads to fractures, suffering and violence. They counter the idea of building more walls rather than bridges. The early church was not exempt. The disciples disparaged people by categories: Don't talk to that woman! Don't help that Roman! Don't get too close to that leper. We can come up with our own modern examples. Paul often chastised communities for closing their hearts to one or other group. He reminds us as does John, there are many rooms in God’s house.
Miroslav Volk, in The Spacious Heart says sin is less about defilement from purity but more about excluding another from one's heart and world. Withholding embrace to one’s brother and exclusion of the other as we saw in the story of the prodigal son might be the greater sin:
‘Sin is a refusal to embrace others in their otherness and a desire to purge them from one's world, by ostracism or oppression, deportation or liquidation… the exclusion of the other is the exclusion of God.’
This touches on the scandalous discrimination in the Acts of the Apostles. Some members of the community were favoured over the poor and vulnerable [widows] who were neglected or unjustly treated. Charitable giving became scandalous. It caused division, hatred and conflict rather than leading to unity and peace. We are continually made aware that we are to remember Jesus’ attitude that we are sisters and brothers.
Jesus proclaims a God who is near. When see Jesus, we see God at work. ‘Show us the Father’ says Philip ‘and we will be satisfied’. We need only look at Jesus. Jesus’ works reveal God's presence and love. And when we see the disciple with the heart of Jesus, we see Jesus. Belief in Jesus means doing what Jesus does: it means being in solidarity with people excluded by the present economic system and driven into worse poverty, solidarity with those who encounter closed doors and hearts because of their social insignificance [refugees, sick and elderly]. That solidarity entails raising our voices and denouncing unjust situations. Who cannot but applaud the raising of voices against the human rights abuses within Australia and abroad. Our government has more than once been criticised for its lack of leadership on human rights issues, with discrimination against indigenous communities, asylum seekers and refugees. The government has been criticised for failing to respect the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers, not to mention the ongoing failure with the proportion of indigenous people, especially juveniles, in prison; That ‘spacious heart’ Miroslav Volf refers to applies here as we soon approach Sorry Day on May 26 and the Week of National Reconciliation.
Following Christ means we will not allow ourselves be held captive to the old order, but to embrace a path that offers compassion, justice and relationships. We need to free ourselves from our limited perception of things and the lifestyles and agendas that narrow our perceptions. If God's Spirit is to breathe through us, belief involves a radical break from the gods of militarism, nationalism, and materialism. Jesus offers us new notions of power - the power to serve and not master, to die but not to kill, to bring order and not dominate.
When Jesus says, ‘I am the way, the truth the life’ he is challenging the control system of his day. This challenge was manifested by an extraordinary concern for the marginalised and the vulnerable, the unabashed embrace of children, the upholding of women and outcasts, and rejection of the belief that the privileged are God's favoured ones. In Jesus' subversive order, domination, oppression and exploitation, give way to compassion, communion and love of neighbour. When we repay evil with evil, lash out in kind, we guarantee the perpetuation of violence among us. Not all agree with this way of being in the world. But the way of transforming love, the way of Jesus, has a power all its own. It is the only power capable of transforming our violence-laden world. ‘I am the way the truth and the life.’ As we prepare for the Eucharist, let us remember that this meal recognises the power of transforming love over violent hate, the hope of reconciliation beyond betrayal, and the peace of the people of God, deeper than our desire for retribution, recrimination and retaliation. It is a memorial – a remembering – that we are all connected as humans and creation in Jesus who is the heart of the universe.
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled!’ People do live ‘Good Friday’ each day as we saw earlier. But what ‘troubles’ our hearts? Are our hearts troubled when more and more buckets of money are spent for more buckets of blood? Are our hearts troubled when we go to war based on lies? Are our hearts troubled when we use more and more of the earth’s resources and cause more damage to the environment than most peoples of the underdeveloped nations? Are they troubled when we do not recognise how our history, national policies, and consumerism adds to the suffering of others? Consider the cost to people who grow the flowers we might have bought for Mother’s Day!! As least in the USA, Americans would have bought over $2 billion worth of cut flowers for their dear mothers, but other worthy mothers - many in Colombia's Bogotá Savanna - will have often produced them, enduring injuries, pesticides, birth defects and obscenely low wages for that beautiful thought and gift. Their children too are affected. Are we troubled that most of the chocolate we eat has blood on it – the blood and suffering of children used in slavery? Are our hearts troubled when we find it difficult to empathise or see or feel the suffering of others or walk away from injustice? Are we able to find strength to practice reconciliation, to look at the hard lessons that others do not want to hear or dare to speak out? Are our hearts troubled when we object to being asked to pay for the pollution we cause?
There is a double edge to the gospel today. It is comforting. It is challenging. Along with Peter it points to our dignity but also the dignity of others which includes God’s gift of creation. It points to the space God makes for us but also that space we are to make for others. It points to God’s passion for humanity but also for our passion in which we find our humanity. It points to the many ways of serving God. Much broader and wider, much more welcoming and expansive than any of us imagined. There is room enough for everyone! Yes, ‘there are many rooms in God’s house.’ ‘God is love’ and Jesus is the replica of God among us.