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, 24 July 2017 10:59
LITURGY NOTES FOR THE 17th SUNDAY OF THE YEAR.
Seventeenth Sunday of the Year
July 30, 2017
World Day Against Trafficking in Persons
Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.
As we gather 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.
Other images removed due to size
First Reading: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 119:57, 72, 76-77,127-128,129-130
Second Reading: Romans 8:28-30
Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:44-52
§ Christ Jesus, you have brought us the treasure of God’s love: Jesus, have mercy.
§ Christ Jesus, by your death you have won for us the treasure of forgiveness and life: Christ, have mercy.
§ Christ Jesus you have left us in the Eucharist the treasure of your presence and strength: Jesus, have mercy.
- Christ Jesus, you came to reveal to us the Reign of God: Jesus, have mercy.
- Christ Jesus, you are wisdom made perfect: Christ, have mercy.
- Christ Jesus, you reveal to us the hidden treasure of our hearts: Jesus, have mercy.
God of Wisdom,
our hearts remain restless
until they find your peace in Christ Jesus.
As we place our trust in the Good News of Jesus
and the Reign he came to build among us,
may we be receptive, attentive and wise in heart
to keep seeking your presence in our world
and the challenges it brings.
Opening Prayer [Alternative]
God of wisdom,
you alone impart the gift of right judgment.
Grant us an understanding heart,
that we may value wisely
the treasure of your Reign
and possess its fullness
of peace, justice and right relationship.
Introduction: We have been entrusted with a ministry of service, peace and reconciliation with all peoples. Let us pray that others may discover the ‘reigning of God in Christ’ through our lives. The response to each petition: May your compassion and justice come among us all, O God.
v For the leaders of nations: that as they work for prosperity and progress of their peoples, they may not lose sight of the fact that people and their deepest human values are essential, let us pray: May your compassion and justice come among us all, O God.
v For the developed countries: that they may mindful of developing nations and they engage in fair and just trade and be respectful of local culture, let us pray: May your compassion and justice come among us all, O God.
v For the sick, the poor and neglected among us: that they may discover in the respect and loving care of people they encounter the goodness of God, let us pray: May your compassion and justice come among us all, O God.
v For young people: that their needs, values and aspirations be listened to without prejudice and judgment by their parents and the Church, so that they will find their unique ways of serving God and people, let us pray: May your compassion and justice come among us all, O God.
v For the Republic of South Sudan: that the people will find peace and freedom from fear of neighbouring countries, famine and hunger and come to be seen as a people who have come through with courage and determination, let us pray: May your compassion and justice come among us all, O God.
v For peoples seeking and equal share in resources and also a say in the political process: we remember specifically the people in Syria, Malaysia, Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, let us pray: May your compassion and justice come among us all, O God.
v For all victims of terrorism - the injured, families of loved ones killed, especially those who are hidden from us: may they find comfort in knowing that they are remembered by others who strive in their daily lives to work for peace with justice, let us pray: May your compassion and justice come among us all, O God.
v For those in the path of war: may those who have lived so long with conflict and the those who have experience the violence of poverty find hope in their own efforts to change their situations and the efforts of others, let us pray: May your compassion and justice come among us all, O God.
v For asylum seekers and refugees: that we who engage in military activity in others parts of the world realise that they contribute to the number of asylum seekers and refugees in the world and that we thus have a responsibility to assist them, let us pray: May your compassion and justice come among us all, O God.
v For people fearful of deportation to their countries: we remember the people who have been deported from Australia back to danger and have suffered imprisonment, torture and death, and we pray that those in power will exercise compassion in determining the lives of people among us, let us: May your compassion and justice come among us all, O God.
(the following prayers may be used specifically to remember people who are trafficked)
v For people who are the innocent and vulnerable in society: foreign students, runaway girls and boys, homeless and the transgender youth, migrants and the refugees, who are trapped, tricked and abused by traffickers who prey on them, let us pray: May your compassion and justice come among us all, O God.
v For people who are persuaded by promises of legitimate and legal work, educational opportunities, and a better life, and finish up living in bondage, let us pray: May your compassion and justice come among us all, O God or May we be one with our trafficked sisters and brothers.
v For people who have been moulded into child prostitutes, child soldiers, sex workers, domestic slaves, and forced laborers, and have been told that they are owned and that no one cares what happens to them, let us pray: May your compassion and justice come among us all, O God or May we be one with our trafficked sisters and brothers.
v For people who have been burdened with layers of fear; deprived of food and sleep; forced under the lash of beatings, rape, torture, and imprisonment; and striped of their self-dignity and trust in humanity by the traffickers, let us pray: May your compassion and justice come among us all, O God or May we be one with our trafficked sisters and brothers.
v For individual entrepreneurs and large corporations that grow rich from bringing into the average home websites where, in minutes, pimps, stalkers, and those suffering with sex addiction have access to millions of images and videos of sexual exploitation of women, teens, and children, let us pray: May your compassion and justice come among us all, O God or May we be one with our trafficked sisters and brothers.
v For trafficked women, children, and men who cry out in anguished prayer: ‘How long will our cries for help fall on deaf ears? How long will we be forgotten?’,let us pray: May your compassion and justice come among us all, O God or May we be one with our trafficked sisters and brothers.
Concluding Prayer: Loving God, God of Wisdom, you hear our prayers. As we listen to your Son may we listen to his words and follow his deeds of peace so that all forms of terrorism may vanish from this earth and be replaced by universal peace, expanding justice, and progress toward freedom.
Prayer over the Gifts
God of Wisdom,
come among us in Jesus Christ
through this Eucharist and in our daily lives.
Live fully in us
so that may manifest in our lives
your forgiveness, enlightenment and goodness.
Prayer after Communion
God of Wisdom,
in this Eucharistic celebration
you give us Jesus, your Son.
As we are nourished
may we work to promote the growth of your Reign
by opening our eyes to the goodness of this earth
and respond to your daily call to us.
Jesus, Companion of the Trafficked,
Show us how to be one with our trafficked sisters and brothers.
Breathe into us their sorrows and losses.
Breathe into us their fears and despair.
Breathe into us their exhaustion and hunger.
Breathe into us their shame and humiliation.
Breathe into us their shattered trust in humanity.
Breathe into us their fragile hope to remain alive.
Jesus, Companion of the Trafficked,
As we carry their suffering
May we be more vigilant protectors
Of all trafficked victims and survivors.
May people from every corner of the world
Work to hold traffickers and consumers accountable
For this crime of modern day slavery. Amen.
Education for Justice (Center of Concern)
July 30 World Day Against Trafficking in Persons
August 7-13 Homelessness Week 2017 http://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/
For more resources Homelessness Australia http://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/index.php/research-resources
Homelessness Australia fact sheets http://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/index.php/about-homelessness/fact-sheets
August 6 Feast of the Transfiguration and Hiroshima Day
There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people for a purpose which is unattainable.
Howard Zinn, U.S. historian
It is never right to do wrong or to requite wrong with wrong, or when we suffer evil to defend ourselves by doing evil in return.
Socrates 469 - 399 BC
The voice of protest, of warning, of appeal is never more needed than when the clamor of fife and drum, echoed by the press and too often by the pulpit, is bidding all men fall in and keep step and obey in silence the tyrannous word of command. Then, more than ever, it is the duty of the good citizen not to be silent.
Charles Eliot Norton, (1827-1908) American scholar
Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living.
My only sense of 'mission' now was to show others that they, too, could feed and touch and heal and love, without fear. To catch them up in the desire to see more, taste more, without caring if they got doctrine right or became a regular at my church.
Sara Miles, Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion
People must not only hear about the kingdom of God, but must see it in actual operation, on a small scale perhaps and in imperfect form, but a real demonstration nevertheless.
Pandita Ramabai, Indian Christian and reformer
Jesus sowed his seed in our hearts, then off he went.... He knew things would not be ideal. There were the birds and the droughts, the weeds and the insects, the parasites and the blights. But there was also the power of the seed itself.
Joseph G. Donders, teacher and chaplain at the University of Nairobi, Kenya
The pearl of justice is found in the heart of mercy.
Catherine of Siena
It is curious that people who are filled with horrified indignation whenever a cat kills a sparrow can hear that story of the killing of God told Sunday after Sunday and not experience any shock at all
Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a really easy way: stop participating in it.
It is the function of the CIA to keep the world unstable, and to propagandize and teach the American people to hate, so we will let the Establishment spend any amount of money on arms.
John Stockwell, former CIA official and author
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.
Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children. ... No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
He who recognizes no humanity in others, loses it in himself.
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.
Many Indians have told me that the most basic difference between Western and indigenous ways of being is that Westerners view the world as dead, and not as filled with speaking, thinking, feeling subjects as worthy and valuable as themselves.
The global industrial economy is the engine for massive environmental degradation and massive human (and nonhuman) impoverishment.
Question : What book would you give to every child?
Answer: I wouldn't give them a book. Books are part of the problem: this strange belief that a tree has nothing to say until it is murdered, its flesh pulped, and then (human) people stain this flesh with words. I would take children outside and put them face to face with chipmunks, dragonflies, tadpoles, hummingbirds, stones, rivers, trees, crawdads. That said, if you're going to force me to give them a book, it would be The Wind In The Willows, which I hope would remind them to go outside.
This is the key to understanding the difference between indigenous and civilized warfare: Even in warfare the indigenous maintain relationships with their honored enemy. This is the key to understanding the difference between indigenous and civilized ways of living. This is only one of many things those we enslave could tell us, if only we asked: They, too, are alive, and present another way of living, a way of living that is not - in contradistinction to our God and our Science and our Capitalism and everything else in our lives - jealous. It is an inclusive way of living. They could tell us that things don't have to be the way they are.
The responsibility for wars falls solely upon the shoulders of these same masses of people, for they have all the necessary means to avert war in their own hands. In part by their apathy, in part by their passivity, and in part actively, these same masses of people make possible the catastrophes under which they themselves suffer more than anyone else. To stress this guilt on the part of the masses of people, to hold them solely responsible, means to take them seriously. On the other hand, to commiserate masses of people as victims, means to treat them as small, helpless children. The former is the attitude held by genuine freedom fighters; the latter that attitude held by power-thirsty politicians.
Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism
He who dares not offend cannot be honest.
To change masters is not to be free.
Jose Marti y Perez
Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that numbers of people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. . . Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty.
.....if by a liberal they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, their civil liberties.. if that is what they mean by a ‘liberal’ then I am proud to be a liberal.
John F. Kennedy
The civility of no race can be perfect whilst another race is degraded. It is a doctrine alike of the oldest and of the newest philosophy, that man is one, and that you cannot injure any member, without a sympathetic injury to all the members.
Ralph Waldo Emerson.
I sat there in agony thinking about all that had led me to this private hell. My idealism, my patriotism, my ambition, my plans to be a good intelligence officer to help my country fight the communist scourge - what in the hell had happened? Why did we have to bomb the people we were trying to save? Why were we napalming young children? Why did the CIA, my employer for 16 years, report lies instead of the truth?
‘I hated my part in the charade of murder and horror. My efforts were contributing to the deaths, to the burning alive of children - especially the children. The photographs of young Vietnamese children burned by napalm destroyed me.
Ralph McGehee former CIA intelligence analyst
I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all members of the military profession I never had an original thought until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of the higher- ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.
General Smedley Butler. USMC (Ret.)
Until we go through it ourselves, until our people cower in the shelters of New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere while the buildings collapse overhead and burst into flames, and dead bodies hurtle about and, when it is over for the day or the night, emerge in the rubble to find some of their dear ones mangled, their homes gone, their hospitals, churches, schools demolished - only after that gruesome experience will we realize what we are inflicting on the people of Indochina.
William Shirer author 1973
The most shocking fact about war is that its victims and its instruments are individual human beings, and that these individual beings are condemned by the monstrous conventions of politics to murder or be murdered in quarrels not their own.
Aldous Huxley - English novelist and critic, 1894-1963
The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity.
George Bernard Shaw
A society whose citizens refuse to see and investigate the facts, who refuse to believe that their government and their media will routinely lie to them and fabricate a reality contrary to verifiable facts, is a society that chooses and deserves the Police State Dictatorship it's going to get.
Ian Williams Goddard
One of the greatest delusions in the world
is the hope that the evils in this world
are to be cured by legislation.
Thomas B. Reed - (1839-1902) Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1886
What our leaders and pundits never let slip is that the terrorists -- whatever else they might be -- might also be rational human beings ; which is to say that in their own minds they have a rational justification for their actions. Most terrorists are people deeply concerned by what they see as social, political, or religious injustice and hypocrisy, and the immediate grounds for their terrorism is often retaliation for an action of the United States.
I swore never to be silent whenever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
Protest that endures...is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one's own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence.
Out beyond the ideas of
wrongdoing and right doing
there is a field.
I'll meet you there.’
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Perhaps it is this specter that most haunts working men and women: the planned obsolescence of people that is of a piece with the planned obsolescence of the things they make. Or sell.
The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.
Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.
Lying is done with words and also with silence.
The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.
Rachel Naomi Remen
One is left with the horrible feeling now
that war settles nothing;
that to win a war is
as disastrous as to lose one.
It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them…. Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say.
Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity.
It is right and it is duty.
’He jests at scars, who never felt a wound’
William Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet
Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.
The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience.
The essence of oligarchical rule is not father-to-son inheritance, but the persistence of a certain world-view and a certain way of life ... A ruling group is a ruling group so long as it can nominate its successors... Who wields power is not important, provided that the hierarchical structure remains always the same.
George Orwell, 1984
Reflections on the readings…
In 1947 a Bedouin shepherd boy was with his goats on the western shore of the Dead Sea, when one goat strayed and had to be followed up a steep cliff. Passing by a cave he threw a stone inside, but on hearing the sound of something breaking he panicked and ran back to find his friend. Both returned to the cave together and found several large clay jars. Inside these, wrapped in linen, was to be one of the greatest of archaeological discoveries: the Dead Sea scrolls.
The shepherd boys did not realise they had stumbled upon a great treasure. When they tried to sell the scrolls to a merchant in Bethlehem, he refused to give the amount of money they asked for. It was not until the four scrolls came into the hands of the Syrian Patriarch of Jerusalem and three scrolls were smuggled out of the country to the USA that the value of the find came to light. Among the manuscripts was the rule of the Qumran community and fragments of scripture. Carbon testing on the linen revealed that dated them around 33 AD.
At around that time, a few kilometres north of Qumran, Jesus told the story of a man, who stumbles across a great treasure hidden in the field. On discovering its value, he buries again, and seeks to buy the field. (It is important to note that the metaphors of the treasure and pearl break down if we imply that God’s reign can be bought and owned.) God’s reign cannot be bought - not by good deeds, nor any other commodity. It is a free gift attainable by all. Though not able to be bought, it costs everything – not by obligation or by guilt but a free surrender. It is expressed in the different routes people take in life to discover the ‘value’ and ‘cost’ of God’s reign. Our personal journey many take many detours, face many obstacles, be littered with many failures but there is also the joy of continuing and rediscovering God’s gracious design for us notwithstanding. Those detours and obstacles were faced by St Augustine, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and Archbishop Oscar Romero. The desire for God finally prevailed. Some journeys were cut short by evil and hatred of the truth as occurred when Oscar Romero was assassinated along with the many unnamed and unrecognised priests, nuns, lay ministers who witnessed in Latin America as in other places. Each gave a powerful witness to God’s reign and its importance in every person.
When we see the immense suffering of the world, the unimaginable pain of starvation, disease, mutilation, degradation, we wonder what kind of God would be involved in genocide, war, torture, rape or as we see ongoing famine in the Horn of Africa (Kenya and Somalia). The only God there is: the God of love and love does not control or coerce. It only pleads for a for free response. Love creates things and then lets things be what they choose.
The question these last few weeks has been: what is the Reign of heaven like? Jesus attempts to respond to this question using different images. Last week we had the wheat and the weeds, the mustard seed. Today, we find it is like a treasure hidden in a field - a pearl of great value - a net thrown into the sea. We might ask what they all have in common. They are all like the reign of God, right? No. On closer look we see that the actions and the actors are inseparable: seed is sown by a sower, yeast is hidden by a woman, the treasure hunter and the merchant buy and sell, the fishers fish and sort out the fish. God’s reign is not about places but relationships – God and others. Thomas Merton writing to a friend, said: ‘Do not depend on the hope of results…. you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. . . .you gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people . . . .In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.’ This is manifested in the parable of the net. Those who fished in the Lake of Galilee (also known as Gennesareth or Tiberias) had to work cooperatively. Because of the size of the net, one group of fishermen had to remain on shore to pay out the net, while their partners, working from a boat, carried the net out into the lake, forming a wide circle. Then, working together, both groups pulled the net to shore.
The Reign Jesus announces is subversive, unstoppable, invasive, a nuisance, urgent, shocking, abundant. It requires action and commitment and inspires extreme behavior. Jesus, the Palestinian revolutionary, presents us with a reign that is subversive and messy, and if we want to embrace God’s reign in the life of our communities, we need to embrace the revolutionary nature of the reign and the inevitable mess that this causes. Jesus walked the streets of Israel, the streets of Gaza and the West Bank, and on seeing social injustice and oppression and marginalisation, he spoke out against it. He was a compassionate presence amongst his people and was prepared to die for their liberation. That was his mission and we as a community, as a church, are invited into that same mission. It will be uncomfortable, it will be messy - but that’s God’s reign for you!!
Jesus confronts us with approximations of the way God deals with us and how God is present – a presence that is new and hopeful. In the parable of the net, even though the fish were many, the net did not break. It is a sign that God’s embrace is wide enough and durable enough to draw all people (not the ‘many’ as in the new version of the Eucharistic consecration!) without allowing anyone to slip through a tear in the net and be lost. The fish are only separated when the net is pulled to shore. Thank goodness, it is God alone who chooses!! We are not to separate themselves, one from the other, or label some as good and others evil. The call is to live with mess and replace our tendency to judge other people with a patient trust in God’s loving kindness. As disciples of Jesus we are to continue to work and serve the needs of all without deciding on who is or is not worthy.
There are many images of God’s Reign. All are true but never complete. Whilst Jesus is the image of the Unseen God, the only other acceptable image of God is the human person. This has implications for our actions, relationships, forgiveness, justice making and peace making.
We see hints of God’s Reign when seeds become wheat; we hear of God's patience when the weeds and wheat are left to grow together. We observe it break into our lives as forgiveness is extended or attempts made at being peacemakers or when we give ourselves in service to others. We see it when we shape our responses to reality based on God’s gratuitousness. God’s Reign is not beyond our world. Some politicians and church leaders would like to think it is when they try to silence religious dissenters, justice and peace advocates. Jesus’ prayer is: ‘Your Kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ God’s Reign is here and now, within us - and what we bring to our world. Some years ago, a courageous Sydney Bishop, Geoffrey Robinson, now a retired, in the in the face of opposition by the hierarchy dared to raise his voice, both in Australia and overseas, about the abuse of power in the Church and its consequences in the abuse of children. His route took many turns. Like Oscar Romero he listened to people who were damaged, hurting, and acted. Both men of love, justice and compassion were and are perceived as threats to the stability of the ‘boat’.
The image of the ‘dragnet’, a primitive way of catching everything, invites us to again reimagine our relationship with God and neighbour. Could it be a call to allow for different interpretations in our living and relationships? for a suspension of judgment? for and an embrace of all people? Today’s parables remind us that different rules operate in God’s reign – and this must be replicated in our church and human communities. Exclusiveness cannot exist in church or human community. Jesus is not saying something new. The ancient world consisted of barriers; there was contempt between and within nations, between different groups and classes of people – as we also witness today. Jesus invited everyone - clean or unclean, high or low, male or female, native or stranger - to learn how to live according to the reign which consisted of mercy, compassion, peace and love. Human community will always be a mixture; it will always be messy. The church – as our world - is full of imperfect people.
This can be difficult to accept. It is difficult to believe that that ugliness and beauty, good and bad could or should exist side by side.
A contemplative approach enables us to place ourselves in the presence and world of God. Here we learn God’s attitudes in Jesus: compassion, respect for difference, love for the sinner, forgiveness of those who have hurt us, passion against injustice. None of this is easy. But a contemplative approach enables us to more open-eyed in our daily living, look for and see the surprising ways God's presence reveals itself daily. When we place ourselves into that word we realise we too are in that ‘dragnet’. To realise this is to have found ‘a treasure’.
Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador said, ‘Each one of us can make a difference.’ All of us must be instruments of faith in our community and the wider world. Despite the hopelessness and negativity that are so prevalent in the world, we must, as followers of Jesus, spread the enthusiasm of the faith that nourishes us and share the strength that we receive from this faith.
God is truly the God of surprises. God surprises us with the strength to face situations we never thought we could; that the person we took an instant dislike to is really worth knowing when we took to the trouble to spend time with him/her and get to know him/her; the unruly student we might have almost written off but has graduated and dedicated his/her life to the poor; the poor person we would dismiss has a story and experiences that we would never know if they are not shared; the beauty of the smile of an elderly person whose smile reveals something of the pleasures of life we do not yet know; the conversion and courage and determination that one experiences after being in a drab prison or the lifeless immigration detention centre.
The God of surprises opens our eyes to the discovery that what has been dragged in by the net is really a treasure and not rubbish. Where some go for a witch hunt, we are called to go for a treasure hunt. How often we have discovered that when we got to know the asylum seekers, refugees and migrants who have come to this country since the Second World War? Those who were feared, disliked, not trusted came to be seen as a treasure!!