- Published: Wednesday, 12 July 2017 12:23
LITURGY NOTES FOR THE 15th SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
Fifteenth Sunday of the Year
July 16th 2017
Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.
As we gather for our meeting today let us acknowledge the local traditional custodians of this land, ................... for they have performed age-old ceremonies of storytelling, music, dance, celebrations and renewal and along with all Aboriginal people, hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia.
Let us also acknowledge this living culture and its unique role in the life of Australia today.
Finally, let us acknowledge with honour and respect our Elders past, present and future and pay our respects to those who have, and still do, guide us with their wisdom.
(based on Acknowledgement of Country NSW Dep of Education Learning and Leadership)
We respectfully remember the first people that live in our own respective areas and in honouring the memory of the traditional custodians we acknowledge with sorrow the immeasurable suffering caused to them and to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by European colonisation.
We recognise with shame that such suffering still endures to the present generation.
We pray today with faith and hope for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and ourselves that God’s mercy and justice will walk in our lives, our communities and in the heart of our nation.
(Adapted from an acknowledgement used by the Sisters of Mercy, Parramatta)
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.
First Reading: Isaiah 55:10-11
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 65:10-11, 12-13,14
Second Reading: Romans 8:18-23
Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:1-23 or 13:1-9
1. Jesus, living Word of God, who touches our minds and hearts that we may live as you ask. Jesus, have mercy.
2. Christ, powerful Word of God, who gives us depth and faithfulness, so that your message may not wither within us. Christ, have mercy.
3. Jesus, humble Word of God, who makes us receptive to you and to your message of life. Jesus, have mercy.
- Christ Jesus, you are the Word that calls to us: Jesus, have mercy.
- Christ Jesus, you are the Word living in our hearts: Christ, have mercy.
- Christ Jesus, you are the Word by which we are made new: Jesus, have mercy.
God of Abundant Love,
all creation awaits your gift of new life.
Prepare our hearts
to receive the word of Jesus, your Son,
that his gospel may grow within us
through the courage to speak
and to live as we believe.
Prayer over the Gifts
God of Abundant Love,
as the bread and wine we offer
brings us the life, joy and hope of Christ Jesus
may we bear a plentiful harvest of justice and peace
through our love and a sharing of the goods of the world.
Prayer after Communion
God of Abundant Love,
as people hunger today
for truth, authenticity
and a deeper meaning of life,
open them to your good news,
Fill our faltering words
with your word of life
and teach us to speak
a language which all understand –
especially the language of hope and love.
Introduction: Let us pray to the God of Abundant Love who sows generously so that people may eagerly welcome Christ’s word and respond to its urgent call. Let us say: R/ Your word does not return to you empty, O God.
1. That we may respond to God’s invitation and challenge to share of our resources responsibly and strive to renew structures that will alleviate poverty and debt in developing countries. We pray: R/ Your word does not return to you empty, O God.
2. We pray that all world leaders whose decisions touch the life of our planet and the lives of millions of people will overcome the mindset of short-term results that focus on security rather than peace and well-being of all people and their dignity and leave behind a testimony of selfless responsibility, We pray: R/ Your word does not return to you empty, O God.
3. We prayer that the poorest and most vulnerable among us who are disproportionately and unjustly harmed by ecological damage may have their cries for justice heard. We pray: R/ Your word does not return to you empty, O God.
4. We pray that we may be receptive to God’s word within us and listen to the poor and needy and be ready to walk with them in solidarity, We pray: R/ Your word does not return to you empty, O God.
5. We pray that business leaders be blessed with the wisdom to account for the ecological costs of economic choices, We pray: R/ Your word does not return to you empty, O God.
6. We pray for all the women and men of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East who work courageously to overcome those forces which create poverty in their communities and their countries: may we support them in efforts through development and peace lead towards great global solidarity that flows from the heart of God, We pray: R/ Your word does not return to you empty, O God
7. We pray that nations realise that expenditure on weapons of war is stealing from those who lack food, water, clothing, education and health care and is a great threat to the security of all, We pray: R/ Your word does not return to you empty, O God.
8. We pray for the people of Syria and all those suffering through political and militarised conflict that they may meet justice and have peace pursued by all. We pray: R/ Your word does not return to you empty, O God.
9. We pray for journalists in volatile lands that they be protected and be given the boldness to report accurately so that people of good will may know how to respond to injustice. We pray: R/ Your word does not return to you empty, O God.
10. We pray that as nations suffer more and more from food shortages and rising prices may we seek to seriously change our lifestyles. We pray: R/ Your word does not return to you empty, O God.
11. We pray for the elderly among us, especially those who are vulnerable to abandonment and exploitation, that they may find modeled in our churches a culture of love for all people of all ages. We pray: R/ Your word does not return to you empty, O God.
12. We pray that we may realise our celebration of the Eucharist is incomplete while other people lack the basic necessities of life. We pray: R/ Your word does not return to you empty, O God.
13. We pray that we may realise each day that by our commitment each of us has the power to change the world. We pray: R/ Your word does not return to you empty, O God.
14. We pray for people who have been and continue to be hurt by the clerical and abuse of power, by harsh teachings and neglect, might find healing and peace. R/ Your word does not return to you empty, O God.
Concluding Prayer: God of abundant love, hear our prayers and bless us as we strive to live as your followers, heeding your word in every action, faithful to your word in every encounter.
This love of God for the world does not withdraw from a reality into noble souls detached from the world, but experiences and suffers the reality of the world in the harshest possible fashion. The world takes out its rage on the body of Jesus Christ. But he, tormented, forgives the world its sins. Thus does reconciliation come about.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer Meditations on the Cross
It is not a matter of engaging in both the gospel and social action, as if Christian social action was something separate from the gospel itself. The gospel has to be demonstrated in word and deed. Biblically, the gospel includes the totality of all that is good news from God for all that is bad news in human life—in every sphere. So like Jesus, authentic Christian mission has included good news for the poor, compassion for the sick and suffering justice for the oppressed, liberation for the enslaved. The gospel of the Servant of God in the power of the Spirit of God addresses every area of human need and every area that has been broken and twisted by sin and evil. And the heart of the gospel, in all of these areas, is the cross of Christ
Christopher J. H. Wright, International director of John Stott Ministries (from Knowing the Holy Spirit Through the Old Testament)
Can we announce the gospel in the same way to the oppressor and to the oppressed, to the torturer and the tortured?
Mortimer Arias, protestant church worker in Bolivia
As Leo XIII so wisely taught in Rerum Novarum: ‘whoever has received from the divine bounty a large share of temporal blessings, whether they be external and corporeal, or gifts of the mind, has received them for the purpose of using them for the perfecting of his own nature, and, at the same time, that he may employ them, as the steward of God's Providence, for the benefit of others. 'He that hath a talent,' says St. Gregory the Great, 'let him see that he hide it not; he that hath abundance, let him quicken himself to mercy and generosity; he that hath art and skill, let him do his best to share the use and the utility thereof with his neighbour.
Pope John XXIII, Mater and Magistra, #119
God asks more from those to whom he gives more. They are not greater or better, they have greater responsibility. They must give more service.
Archbishop Dom Helder Camara, The Desert is Fertile
The hungry nations of the world cry out to the peoples blessed with abundance. And the Church, cut to the quick by this cry, asks each and every person to hear their brother or sister’s plea and answer it lovingly.
Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, #3
If there is hunger anywhere in the world, then our celebration of the Eucharist is somehow incomplete everywhere in the world.
Pedro Arrupe, SJ
We have a lot of work to do. Every time we reach out and assuage someone's hunger, and do that in memory of Jesus, a sense of Eucharist will bring to consciousness the Spirit and the real presence of Jesus--in us, through us, among us. That Spirit alone is capable of transforming us and the world.
Miriam Therese Winter, MMS
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
Do not fear going forward slowly; fear only to stand still.
Whoever degrades another degrades me,
And whatever is done or said returns at last to me.
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen, or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?
An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.
To oppose corruption in government is the highest obligation of patriotism.
G. Edward Griffin
Freedom of the press, or, to be more precise, the benefit of freedom of the press, belongs to everyone - to the citizen as well as the publisher... The crux is not the publisher's 'freedom to print'; it is, rather, the citizen's 'right to know.
Arthur Sulzburger, 1990, American newspaper publisher
A free press is not a privilege but an organic necessity in a great society.
Walter Lippmann,: American journalist (1889-1974)
Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky. They are people who say: This is my community, and it is my responsibility to make it better. Interweave all these communities and you really have an America that is back on its feet again. I really think we are gonna have to reassess what constitutes a 'hero'.
Every man [person] is guilty of all the good he didn't do.
In Blackwater Woods
Look, the trees
their own bodies
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
the long tapers
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
So let us regard this as settled: what is morally wrong can never be advantageous, even when it enables you to make some gain that you believe to be to your advantage. The mere act of believing that some wrongful course of action constitutes an advantage is pernicious.
Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.)
Fear is not in the habit of speaking truth.
Publius Cornelius Tacitus
If you think of yourselves as helpless and ineffectual, it is certain that you will create a despotic government to be your master. The wise despot, therefore, maintains among his subjects a popular sense that they are helpless and ineffectual.
When I tell the truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do.
If we simply repeat the formulas of the past, our words may have the character of doctrine and dogma but they will not have the character of good news. We may be preaching perfectly orthodox doctrine but it is not the gospel for us today. We must take the idea of good news seriously. If our message does not take the form of good news, it is simply not the Christian gospel.
Albert Nolan, op
On the whole we don’t take Jesus seriously – whether we call ourselves Christians or not. There are some remarkable exceptions, but by and large we don’t love our enemies, we don’t welcome the stranger, we don’t turn the other cheek, we don’t forgive seventy times seven, we don’t share what we have with the poor, and we don’t put all our hope and trust in God. We have our excuses. But is it precisely here and now that we need to take Jesus and our own prayer seriously.
Fr Albert Nolan op
Kathleen Barry, Unmaking War, Remaking Men (Santa Clara, CA: Rising Phoenix, 2010).
Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime
How many does it take to metamorphose wickedness into righteousness? One man must not kill. If he does, it is murder.... But a state or nation may kill as many as they please, and it is not murder. It is just, necessary, commendable, and right. Only get people enough to agree to it, and the butchery of myriads of human beings is perfectly innocent. But how many does it take?
Adin Ballou, The Non-Resistant, February 5, 1845
There have been periods of history in which episodes of terrible violence occurred but for which the word violence was never used.... Violence is shrouded in justifying myths that lend it moral legitimacy, and these myths for the most part kept people from recognizing the violence for what it was. The people who burned witches at the stake never for one moment thought of their act as violence; rather they thought of it as an act of divinely mandated righteousness. The same can be said of most of the violence we humans have ever committed:
Give me the money that has been spent in war and I will clothe every man, woman, and child in an attire of which kings and queens will be proud. I will build a schoolhouse in every valley over the whole earth. I will crown every hillside with a place of worship consecrated to peace.
Human word of God
you must make your own some human word,
for that's the only kind I can comprehend.
Don't tell me everything that you are.
Don't tell me of your infinity.
Just say that you love me,
just tell me of your goodness to me.
But don't say this in your divine language,
in which your love also means
your inexorable justice and your crushing power.
Say it rather in my language,
so I won't have to be afraid
that the word 'love' hides some significance
other than your goodness and your gentle mercy.
Karl Rahner, sj, (1904-1984) Encounters with Silence.
You know your country is dying when you have to make a distinction between what is moral and ethical, and what is legal.
John De Armond
It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.
Voltaire [François Marie Arouet), 1694-1778
Gracious God, the Power of all beings,
Help us believe that
you are the One who shields our heart
against turning cold,
Grant us the two beautiful companions of Hope:
the sacred Anger that things are the way they are, and
the Courage to make them the way they ought to be.
In the name of the One who shows us
the spirit of deep compassion and justice.
Out in Scripture
Reflections on the reading
The gospel story of the seed and the sower is very familiar. The reality maybe not so for us with its images of planting and growing which are so different to the machinery now used and controlled by companies such as Monsanto, Du Pont and Sygenta. Today’s farmers deal with forces that were unimaginable even a few years ago with drought in Australia, increased food prices around the world due to increase oil prices in the Middle East. The survival of farmers is threatened by the use of genetically modified seeds and ‘terminator’ seeds which threaten the survival and well-being of people on the land, particularly in the global South. For people living in urban areas it may be difficult to imaging the life of the people that ploughed, planted and cultivated the food we purchase in supermarkets. More and more we are being reminded that that we form a great web of people, plants, animals, weather, and markets. Our actions contribute to the climate change that especially affects the lives of poor farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America, who face drier conditions, unseasonal weather, and increasingly severe storms and typhoons. Though we may not grow our own good, we can be in solidarity with those who grow crops to feed us as well as their families.
Matthew is to responding to questions as to how people can hear the same message and respond differently. He raises a number of questions for us:
What are we doing here if we do not get serious about loving our enemies and forgiving those who need it?
What are we doing if we do not become the kind of community where people who are on the outside find a way in?
What are we doing we talk of a God of peace but honour those who go to war and seem to celebrate when they kill others?
What are we doing when we talk about Gods’ kindness, justice and love of us if we do not get down to the daily business of being kind to those who are not kind to us, embracing people who seek our protection, or fail to make sure justice is done to those who have been taken advantage of - and so fail to love others as God loves us?
What are we doing here when we profess a belief in the sacredness of life, yet rightly affirm the right to life of the unborn yet fail to protest our military involvement overseas where people are killed in our name; fail to protest capital punishment; or remain silent when people die of neglect?
The late Passionist, Father Thomas Berry once suggested that we put the Bible aside for a while so that we might try to see that God is revealed in our midst; and how God has been active in the processes of creation (the outpouring of the Spirit) for billions of years – and communicates with us through creation. We might ask what we have done to the Earth. The degradation of Earth, Like the degradation of God’s image in other people the image of God is also being degraded or disfigured. The word of God stands in contrast to the ‘corporatocracy’. God’s gentle expressions of presence are replaced by violent words such as ‘drilling’, ‘razing’, ‘draining’, ‘dredging’, ‘dumping’ and now ‘fracking’. The beauty of creation gives way to polluted water, soil and air; wetlands destroyed; forests laid bare; mountains with their tops removed and the world's oceans facing an unprecedented loss of species comparable to the great mass extinctions of prehistory. The melting ice caps, rising sea levels, desalination of the oceans, and more frequent and more severe natural disasters seem very different to the view we have in the scriptures. What have we done? ‘My people, my people, what have I done to you!’ What are we going to do?
Jesus preaches and reveals God’s abundant generosity by scattering seeds of gospel love, generosity and compassion so that we may replicate these in the human community. But we see Jesus revealing a God of abundance where nothing is lost in God’s eyes. There are no ‘basket cases’ or ‘lost ones’ even though we attribute such sentiments to ourselves, other people, a a suburb, a group of people, a country such as Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, a particular public housing area, street people, LGBTI people.
The seed in the parable reminds us that it takes root and flourishes in in dirt – the dirty dirt consisting of waste, rotten vegetables and mouldy fruit. This is where God is. It is unable to take root on surface that are clean and superficial, polite and polished, smug and proud. It needs to go into the shadowy interiors, the smelly regions, the shadow lands in order to be transformed and grow. It points to where we find God’s reign. We discover it in ourselves and world - those parts we try to hide or sweep under the carpet. It is found in ‘the crap of our lives’ – those parts of ourselves that others, or we, regard as of little value, shameful, unacceptable. But this is where God's word is found and thrives. Jesus is the ‘seed found among and with people considered ‘the losers in church and society. We do not need to be scrubbed up before receiving God's word. All we need to do is let the word in - into the dirt - deep down.
The signs God gives in our lives may seem unseen, unheard, unfelt, untouched, and powerless. Paul alludes to the abundant and generous Spirit of God that makes us God’s own people [children] and extends freedom to us: freedom to love, to serve, to take risks, to speak the truth of God’s presence amongst us and be aware that God continues to speak to us, and through us, to confront the disrespect afforded to the many human images of God. James Baldwin said: ‘Every human being is an unprecedented miracle.’ Bearing fruit involves translating God’s reign of love into ongoing gestures of solidarity with others. We see this in those who do the advocating, participating, dissenting and everyday caring in their lives. The fruits we are asked to produce are justice and mercy, hospitality for the stranger, for the person who is different, to be a voice for the dispossessed or wronged; the vulnerable; for the unborn, the single mother, the homeless person who might come to our door or accost us in the street.
Isaiah shows us that God is continually creating. Creation is not once and for all. In truth God is constantly speaking and creating: through us, in prayer and contemplation, in works of art and creativity, in friendship and solidarity, in expressions of love and intimacy, in the love one shares with a spouse or partner. God is creating despite what we do. God is still creating and Jesus’ disciples participate in this creating. We can slow things down but not stop them. In the face of God's activity and generosity, we need ask ourselves: where am I marginalising God's word? Where does it meet hardness of heart in me – towards my neighbour, towards creation, towards myself? Where is God's word taking root in me or transforming me or enabling me to witness for the reign of God?
Jesus' gospel is one of hope and surprise. It is a gospel of reversals. For us as church, it focuses on opportunities rather than difficulties; it focuses on what happens at the centre rather than at the margins; it focuses on the heart rather than logic; on praxis rather than dogma; it focuses on the challenges the church faces rather than a high view of the church; and it focuses on people rather than bricks and mortar.
We sow God-seeds. We speak God-words. If we could speak just one word, that might touch another’s heart - what would it be? To the child among thousands of other children who has lost parents and family to AIDS, what word would we offer? To the teenager struggling with their sexual identity or sexual orientation, what word would we offer? To the children whose parents have been taken away in the middle of the night, what word would we say? To victims of war who have lost everything, what would we say? What would we say to the hungry and malnourished; the homeless, those in prison, the poor, the deaf, the blind, the lame, the lost, the lonely … those elderly people who feel abandoned by family and friends, the victims of crime; those living with terminal illnesses, the dying feeling fearful and alone? Would it be ‘peace’? or ‘comfort,’ or ‘strength,’ or ‘courage’? Would it be ‘perseverance’? or ‘hope’?
Jesus speaks words that effect hope and healing, forgiveness and peace, justice and integrity in human hearts. Some will refuse to listen but we cannot remain silent because of resistance. Good words, bold words, challenging words, dissenting words, supportive words, words of solidarity, compassionate and caring words must continue. They are God speaking and creating. Advocacy work of any kind is like sowing seeds – a few take root and many fall by the side of the road. Some of our words go unheeded. In a sense they die. Some of our words might be listened to but quickly forgotten. Some of our words might lead to opposition. Some of our words are accepted and lead to change, transformation, betterment in small ways for people.
We are called to be the God-seed by responding to those in need, to speak out against injustice, to care for God’s creation. When we act in justice and love - in our families, our communities, and beyond - we (even just one of us) ensure that God’s Word does not fall on rocky ground, that does not return empty, that achieves God’s purpose in our lives and our world. but on allow the seed to grow and spread in our lives.
So how does God’s Reign grow? I conclude again with the words I used last week of Bishop Michael Curry, a US African American bishop and Wendell Berry, a farmer, poet and philosopher:
‘We need some Christians who are as crazy as the Lord. Crazy enough to love like Jesus, to give like Jesus, to forgive like Jesus, to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God— like Jesus. Crazy enough to dare to change the world from the nightmare it often is into something close to the dream that God dreams for it. And for those who would follow him, those who would be his disciples, those who would live as and be the people of the Way? It might come as a shock, but they are called to craziness.’
. . . . So, friends, every day
that won’t compute.
Love the Lord.
Love the world.
Work for nothing.
Take all that you have
and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace the flag.
Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands. . .
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
– from Wendell Berry’s Mad Farmer Liberation Front