Who we are

Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an Australian community, in a worldwide religious congregation.

Ministry Mission

Jesus loved with a human heart: with him we proclaim his love to the world.

Peace, Justice, Creation

We work to discover through advocacy, healing and reconciliation, God's presence in our world.

Spirituality

We are to be on earth the heart of God. God has no other heart but ours.

LITURGY NOTES: FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

ist sunday of advent

First Sunday of Advent

Year B

December 3, 2017

candle

Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we stand

We pay our respects to them for their care of the land

May we walk gently and respectfully upon the land.

or

I acknowledge the living culture of the ……..people,

the traditional custodians of the land we stand on,

and pay tribute to the unique role they play in the life of this region.

or

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

(the ……)  and recognise that it continues to be sacred to them.

We hail them: as guardians of the earth and of all things that grow and breed in the soil; as trustees of the waters – [the seas, the streams and rivers, the ponds and the lakes] - and the rich variety of life in those waters.

We thank them for passing this heritage to every people since the Dreamtime.

We acknowledge the wrongs done to them by newcomers to this land and we seek to be partners with them in righting these wrongs and in living together in peace and harmony.

The presence of

the incarnate word

shines at the heart

of all creation.

Teilhard de Chardin

A HIV-person in Bangladesh      

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Readings

First Reading:              Isaiah 63:16-17, 19; 64:2-7

Responsorial Psalm:  Ps 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19

Second Reading:         1st Corinthians 1:3-9

Gospel Reading:          Mark 13:33-37

Penitential Rite

·         Jesus, you awaken us to your presence and come to our help: Jesus, have mercy.

·         Christ, you let your face shine on us and free us: Christ, have mercy.

·         Jesus, you give us life so that we may give life to others: Jesus, have mercy.

or

  • Jesus, you were born into the world to reveal God’s love for us: Jesus, have mercy.
  • Jesus, you promise to be with us until the end of time: Christ, have mercy.
  • Jesus, you are born again in each of us and in your community. Jesus, have mercy.

Introductory Prayer [Instead of the Penitential Rite]:

We gather to prepare for Christmas,

hearing prophetic voices announcing

the promise of God's reigning.

The texts of the Advent season

help us to begin to let go

of our old, familiar, failing world;

to deal with the dismantling

of any system of meaning and power

into which we might have invested

our personal time and effort.

These ancient voices challenge us

to trust anew the One for Whom we wait!

The season of Advent challenges us

to see God's vision of what is yet to be;

to hear God's voice calling us anew;

to smell God's scent in our world.

Reader 1:

The Spirit of God is among us,

breaking down old barriers

and building a new world.

Prepare a way for the coming of God:

ALL: PREPARE A WAY FOR THE COMING OF GOD

Reader 2:

The Spirit of God is among us,

seeking out truth both new & old,

creating a just world.

Prepare a way for the coming of God:

ALL: PREPARE A WAY FOR THE COMING OF GOD

Reader 3:

The Spirit of God is among us,

moving in the air, the land & the waters,

making our world whole.

Prepare a way for the coming of God:

ALL: PREPARE A WAY FOR THE COMING OF GOD

Be among us now,

O holy Spirit of God.

Bring us to wholeness & peace.

Bring to birth among us the One

who is God-with-us,

Christ, now and always. AMEN

Alternative Resources from the World Council of Churches: Image Peace

First Sunday in Advent: VISUALIZING PEACE

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Gathering

Latin American Psalm

The feet of the people of the world today tread the asphalt of the city’s violent streets,

but the hearts of the humble are stronger than cannons and bombs.

Peace for human beings will not come from outside,

neither will it be built by means of nuclear weapons,

nor will it come by agreements between governments.

Peace is present in the heart of the universe

and everything is moving towards peace.

It will come as a new dawn to this abused and weary world.

It will come from the simple, the humble and the poor of the earth.

It will be announced by the voices of children,

and the stirring music of the young.

Silence

The Child of Peace is coming to be born.

But into what sort of a world are we welcoming him?

We have made this world a violent world.

Today we confess, before the Lord,

how we have contributed to this situation,

as individuals, as a community of faith, and as a society.

endandbeginning

‘End and Beginning’ © Jan Richardson

[No Gloria]

Opening Prayer

Ever-coming God,

may we be away to recognise Jesus

who is the light of our lives.

May he build up among us and with us

a world and a reign of peace and love

where we serve you in one another,

as we move forward in hope together.

General Intercessions

Introduction: Let us pray that we may be alert to Christ’s presence and his light in the world. We pray in response: Come and be our freedom, O God.

1.       Enrich your Church with a compassion that comes from deep listening to its members, especially those who feel marginalised by its power and where those who seek will find their way, where sinners find understanding and compassion, and the poor a place of refuge, we pray: Come and be our freedom, O God.

2.       Enrich world leaders with your wisdom so that they may be convinced of the effectiveness of seeking peace through nonviolence and bring peace and justice to all nations, we pray: Come and be our freedom, O God.

3.       Enrich those countries that oppress their own peoples or others with a sense of the sacredness of the person, we pray: Come and be our freedom, O God.

4.       Enrich with your spirit of courage where we might dissent injustices perpetrated by government and business corporations, not only when one’s personal rights are threatened or infringed but to be solidarity with all who suffer, especially the unemployed, refugees, single parents, Aboriginal people and youth, we pray: Come and be our freedom, O God.

5.       Enrich our communities with a love that is expressed in justice and a fair go for all;  that we may respect and appreciate one another; be united in all our diversity;  and attentive to each other's needs, we pray: Come and be our freedom, O God.

6.       Enrich with your strength all those who live with any form of physical or mental illness; we pray especially for all women, men and children who live with HIV/AIDS and their carers, we pray: Come and be our freedom, O God.

Concluding Prayer: Jesus Christ, you are the one who is coming to renew us and our world. Be our joy, our peace, all our hope, now and for ever.

Prayer over the Gifts (based on Pope Paul VI's ‘80 Years Later’)

Ever-coming God,

we pray that as Jesus comes in the bread and wine,

we may be inspired by  the power of his Spirit,

sustained in hope, and fully committed

to build up among people a city

that is human, peaceful, just and fraternal.

Prayer after Communion

Ever-coming God,

we have received from Jesus the bread of hope.

Help us to bring to our world

the warmth of his love, friendship,

compassion and integrity.

Parish Notices

December 2 International Day for the Abolition of Slavery,

December 3 International Day of Disabled Persons,

Advent Resource

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns (Reflections for the four Sundays in Advent)

https://maryknollogc.org/resources/advent-reflection-guide-2017-season-welcome-stranger

‘Welcoming others means welcoming God in person.’

Pope Francis

Ignatianspirituality.com (Reflections for the four Sundays in Advent)

https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/advent

Further Resources

Various prayers for people living with HIV/AIDS

Hear our prayer, O God of mercy and love,

for all who live with HIV or AIDS.

Grant them loving companions

who will support them in the midst of fear;

give them hope for each day to come,

that every day may be lived with courage and faith.

Bless them with an abundance of your love,

that they may live with concern for others.

Pour on them the peace and wholeness,

which you alone can give.

Through Jesus Christ, our Saviour,

who came to give us abundant life. Amen.

Vienna Cobb Anderson (shortened version) in Prayers, Litanies and Liturgies, Diocese of the Highveld, South Africa

Dear God, we ask you to walk with us in our HIV/AIDS filled world.

We pray expecting your presence among us!

Be with all who live with the effects of this disease.

Be with those who wait to die because they have no access to medication.

Be with children who received HIV as a legacy from their parents.

Be with orphans and families who have lost loved ones.

Be with countries who have millions of citizens with HIV/AIDS.

Be with all who are stigmatized and ignored because they have HIV/AIDS.

Be with politicians and corporate executives who control access to affordable medications.

Be with researchers and scientists who work to find a cure.

Be with healthcare workers and caregivers who comfort and encourage.

Be with all who have lost hope because of HIV/AIDS.

Lord, we hear the angel's song of peace!

Fill the hearts of people around the world with good will

so that together we can work for justice and healing

for all who suffer from HIV/AIDS.

Amen.

Carol Penner of Vineland, Ontario for Peace Ministries

A prayer for those affected by conflict

God of refuge, the rock in whom we trust,

watch over our sisters and brothers in ……...

Bring comfort to those who grieve,

shelter to those who are homeless,

and sustenance to those who hunger and thirst.

God of mercy, open our hearts to your grace,

so that we are filled with compassion and a generosity of spirit,

and inspire us to take action.

Spirit of love, pour out your peace like a healing balm,

which brings hope in place of despair.

Amen

© Catherine Gorman/CAFOD

If you do not have a place at the table, then you are on the menu

Unknown but quoted by former President Tong, Kiribati

The general public is viewed as no more than ignorant and meddlesome outsiders, a bewildered herd. And it's the responsible men who have to make decisions and to protect society from the trampling and rage of the bewildered herd. Now since it's a democracy they - the herd, that is - are permitted occasionally to lend their weight to one or another member of the responsible class. That's called an election.

Noam Chomsky

As a child I had no mother’s arms to hold me. No father to lead me into the world. Us taken- away kids only had each other. All of us damaged and too young to know what to do. We had strangers standing over us. Some were nice and did the best they could. But many were just cruel nasty types. We were flogged often. We learnt to shut up and keep our eyes to the ground, for fear of being singled out and punished. We lived in dread of being sent away again where we could be even worse off. Many of us grew up hard and tough. Others were explosive and angry. A lot grew up just struggling to cope at all. They found their peace in other institutions or alcohol. Most of us learnt how to occupy a small space and avoid anything that looked like trouble. We had few ideas about relationships. No one showed us how to be lovers or parents. How to feel safe loving someone when that risked them being taken away and leaving us alone again. Everyone and everything we loved was taken away from us kids.’

Alec Kruger, Us Taken-Away Kids: Commemorating the 10th anniversary of Bringing them home report

Blessing When the World is Ending

Look, the world
is always ending
somewhere.

Somewhere
the sun has come
crashing down.

Somewhere
it has gone
completely dark.

Somewhere
it has ended
with the gun
the knife
the fist.

Somewhere
it has ended
with the slammed door
the shattered hope.

Somewhere
it has ended
with the utter quiet
that follows the news
from the phone
the television
the hospital room.

Somewhere
it has ended
with a tenderness
that will break
your heart.

But, listen,
this blessing means
to be anything
but morose.
It has not come
to cause despair.

It is simply here
because there is nothing
a blessing
is better suited for
than an ending,
nothing that cries out more
for a blessing
than when a world
is falling apart.

This blessing
will not fix you
will not mend you
will not give you
false comfort;
it will not talk to you
about one door opening
when another one closes.

It will simply
sit itself beside you
among the shards
and gently turn your face
toward the direction
from which the light
will come,
gathering itself
about you
as the world begins
again.

Jan Richardson

Ever tried.  Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. 

Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) Irish playwright, novelist, poet; winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize in

It would be so easy to say, 'Well I'm going to retire, I'm going to sit around, watch television or eat bonbons,' but somebody's got to keep 'em awake and let 'em know what is really going on in this world.

Dorli Rainey,  84 year old activist talking about her experience getting pepper-sprayed by the police during an Occupy Seattle demonstration

Take one more step out of your comfort zone.

Jackie Hudson

A great revolution in just one single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a society and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of humankind.

Daisaku Ikeda, Japanese peace activist and Buddhist leader

Campaigns don't change politics and a president doesn't change the United States. It is up to us to take back our country. 

John Perkins

We have it in our power to begin the world over again.

Thomas Paine, American revolutionary

The worst forms of tyranny, or certainly the most successful ones, are not those we rail against but those that so insinuate themselves into the imagery of our consciousness, and the fabric of our lives, as not to be perceived as tyranny.

Michael Parenti

What does labour want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures. 

Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor 1915

A great revolution in just one single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a society and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of humankind.

Daisaku Ikeda  - Japanese peace Activist and Buddhist Leader of Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai International, b.1928

War is when the government tells you who the bad guy is. Revolution is when you decide that for yourself.

Author unknown

Be true to yourself and you cannot be a traitor to any good cause on earth.

Eugene Debs

It is the minorities who have made the history of this world. It is the few who have had the courage to take their places at the front; who have been true enough to themselves to speak the truth that was in them; who have dared oppose the established order of things; who have espoused the cause of the suffering, struggling poor; who have upheld without regard to personal consequences the cause of freedom and righteousness. It is they, the heroic, self-sacrificing few who have made the history of the race and who have paved the way from barbarism to civilization. The many prefer to remain upon the popular side.

Eugene Debs

Walk lightly

Each leaf, each petal,

each grain, each person,

sings your praises,

Creator God.

Each creature on the earth,

all the mountains and great seas

show your glory,

Spirit of love.

And yet the hand of greed

has patented and plundered

your splendour,

has taken and not shared

your gift,

has lived as owner of the earth,

not guest.

And so

the ice is cracked

the rivers dry,

the valleys flooded

and the snowcaps melt.

God our Father, show us

how to step gently,

how to live simply,

how to walk lightly

with respect and love

for all that you have made.

Amen

© Linda Jones/CAFOD

I do not see a delegation

For the four-legged.

I see no seat for the eagles.

We forget and we consider

Ourselves superior.

But we are after all

A mere part of Creation.

And we must consider

To understand where we are.

And we stand somewhere between

The mountain and the Ant

Somewhere and only there

As part and parcel

Of the Creation.

Chief Oren Lyons

Source: Steve Wall and Harvey Arden, Wisdomkeepers, Beyond Words, Hillsboro, 1990, p. 71.

The more deeply I search for the roots of the global environmental crisis, the more I am convinced that it is an outer manifestation of an inner crisis that is, for lack of a better word, spiritual... what other word describes the collection of values and assumptions that determine our basic understanding of how we fit into the universe?

Al Gore

Source: Al Gore, Earth in the Balance, Plume, New York, 1993, p. 12.

The Indians feel…but they cannot help. They are too small in culture.

They are too small in the essence of the world. Their help is their being and culture.

Combined they are a minority. In combination they are faith—a faith of earth.

Let them push their being, their earth and their love of themselves

to help those who took their earth and their being’

Anonymous

Source: Ricardo Humano, The New Book, SOAR Ediciones, Cusco, Peru, 2000, p.23

livesimply

Compassionate and loving God,

you created the world for us all to share,

a world of beauty and plenty.

Create in us a desire to live simply,

so that our lives may reflect your generosity.

Creator God,

You gave us responsibility for the earth,

a world of riches and delight.

Create in us a desire to live sustainably,

so that those who follow after us

may enjoy the fruits of your creation.

God of peace and justice,

You give us the capacity to change,

to bring about a world that mirrors your wisdom.

Create in us a desire to act in solidarity,

so that the pillars of injustice crumble

and those now crushed are set free.

Amen.

© Linda Jones / CAFOD

We believe…

We believe in God

who gave us a world to share

in friendship, equality and peace.

We believe in God

who created all people and our world out of love.

We recognise that the world is unequal and unjust

and that we are individually and collectively

responsible for being good stewards

and for working with hope and love

to restore God’s kingdom on earth.

We believe in Christ, living, suffering, dying and rising,

the life force in the whole of creation.

We believe in one world, one people,

fed from one table.

We believe that we are all vital parts of Christ’s body,

reflecting his love,

by and through our actions, compassion, attitudes and choices.

We believe we are God’s instruments

through which by faith, prayer and action

we will change the world.

We believe in a God of love,

who calls all of us to listen to each other,

to actively share and treat each other as equals in humility and hope.

We believe that within God’s circle of love, faith and trust

we all share in a worldwide hunger for justice

as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Written by a group of CAFOD volunteers

But it will be necessary above all to abandon a mentality in which the poor--as individuals and as peoples--are considered a burden, as irksome intruders trying to consume what others have produced. The poor ask for the right to share in enjoying material goods and to make good use of their capacity for work, thus creating a world that is more just and prosperous for all. The advancement of the poor constitutes a great opportunity for the moral, cultural and even economic growth of all humanity.

Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus

A person who is concerned solely or primarily with possessing and enjoying, who is no longer able to control his instincts and passions, or to subordinate them by obedience to the truth, cannot be free.

Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus

We wish to listen to one other: we believe that this itself is already a sign of peace. In listening to one another there is already a reply to the disturbing questions that worry us. This already serves to scatter the shadows of suspicion and misunderstanding. The shadows will not be dissipated with weapons; darkness is dispelled by sending out bright beams of light.

Pope John Paul II, Assisi, January 24, 2002

In order to overcome today's widespread individualistic mentality, what is required is a concrete commitment to solidarity and charity.

Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus

Too many people live, not in the prosperity of the Western world, but in the poverty of the developing countries amid conditions which are still 'a yoke little better than that of slavery itself.

Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus

Ah yes, truth.

Funny how everyone is always asking for it

but when they get it

they don't believe it

because it's not the truth they want to hear.

Helena Cassadine

Truth resides in every human heart, and one has to search for it there, and to be guided by truth as one sees it. But no one has a right to coerce others to act according to his own view of truth.

Mahatma Gandhi

Our men . . . have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of 10 up.... Our soldiers have pumped salt water into men to ‘make them talk,’ and have taken prisoner people who held up their hands and peacefully surrendered, and an hour later. . . stood them on a bridge and shot them down one by one, to drop into the water below and float down, as examples to those who found their bullet-loaded corpses.

Philadelphia Ledger newspaper in 1901 [from its Manila (Philippines) correspondent during the US war with Spain for the control of the Philippines].

The truth that makes [men] free is for the most part the truth which [men] prefer not to hear.

Herbert Sebastien Agar

 ... the United States, for generations, has sustained two parallel but opposed states of mind about military atrocities and human rights: one of U.S. benevolence, generally held by the public, and the other of ends-justify-the-means brutality sponsored by counterinsurgency specialists. Normally the specialists carry out their actions in remote locations with little notice in the national press. That allows the public to sustain its faith in a just America, while hard-nosed security and economic interests are still protected in secret.

Robert Parry, investigative reporter and author

The only place you and I disagree . . . is with regard to the bombing. You're so goddamned concerned about the civilians, and I (in contrast) don't give a damn. I don't care…. I'd rather use the nuclear bomb…. Does that bother you? I just want you to think big.

Richard Nixon to Henry Kissinger on the Watergate tapes

War:

first, one hopes to win;

then one expects the enemy to lose;

then, one is satisfied that he too is suffering;

in the end, one is surprised that everyone has lost.

Karl Kraus (1874–1936)

War, we have come to believe, is a spectator sport. The military and the press ... have turned war into a vast video arcade game. Its very essence - death - is hidden from public view.

Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for New York Times

Throughout history, 

it has been the inaction of those who could have acted;

the indifference of those who should have known better;

the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most;

that has made it possible for evil to triumph.

Haile Selassie

Television is altering the meaning of ‘being informed’ by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation... Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information - misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information - information that creates the illusion of knowing something, but which in fact leads one away from knowing.

Neil Postman

The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity - much less dissent.

Gore Vidal

If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional.  Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our own nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.  No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone, and as long as we try, the more we are going to have war in this world.  Now the judgement of God is upon us, and we must either learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or we are all going to perish together as fools….it really boils down to this; that all life is interrelated; we aren’t going to have peace on earth until we face this fact.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

As human beings and Christians – or people following any of the great spiritual traditions – our task is to make conscious and embrace all aspects of ourselves (even the most undesirable) with a Christian charity which extends even to the most dangerous enemy, the one within: for left to itself, out of touch with human consciousness, this enemy within is the source of all the woes that beset humankind.  This demands an attitude which is neither puritanical nor self-indulgent, but deeply aware of and accepting of all that is within us, all the contrary aspects of our nature.  Jung advocates patience and ‘being Christian on the inside’ (i.e., in loving the enemy).  One needs to accept the pattern of one’s personality and fulfill it – even accepting one’s sinfulness.  This deep self-acceptance mellows the personality, and ‘the gold begins to glow…(for) people who can agree with themselves are like gold’.  Because one has made peace with oneself, one doesn’t need to act out destructively in the outer world and so one lives much more ethically than the person who is at odds with him or herself.

T. McBride, (1997). Forward. In Dreamworks: A meeting of spirituality and psychology

O Prince of Peace,

whose active presence we seek in our lives,

come this day and show us

how to beat our swords into plowshares,

tools of life instead of instruments of fear.

May your love strip us naked

of all weapons and strategies of conquest,

which are not the tools of lovers,

wise ones and God's children.

Let us not lust for power

but rather strive for the insight

to be guided on the Way of Peace.

Let us not yearn for a victory

that requires a sister's sorrow

or a brother's shamefaced defeat.

With tears, black suits and dresses

and tolling funeral bells,

let us attend life's victory parties

that are won at such a cost.

Let us be peacemakers,

hammering swords into shovels,

filling holes and leveling peaks.

for only through such open hands and hearts

can The Peacemaker come.

AMEN.

A Peace  Pslam based on chapter 31of the Tao Te Ching from Edward Hays’ Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim.

Voices

When you keep

all the hate,

all the worry,

all the fear,

all the loathing,

all the guilt,

all the passion,

all the confusion,

all the pride,

all the jealousy,

all the strength,

all the forgiveness,

all the compassion,

all the hostility,

all the pain,

all the hesitation,

all the wishes,

all the desires,

all the aspirations,

all the faults,

all the wild ideas,

all the nightmares,

all the dreams,

all the doubts,

and all the love,

inside.

Your voice

becomes

so small.

Find your voice

Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health Ottawa, ON, Canada

An Advent Credo

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss

This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction

This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever

This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world.

This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers

This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history -

This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.

Fr Daniel Berrigan, sj, Jesuit, peace activist, poet (1921-2016)

From Testimony: The Word Made Flesh, by Daniel Berrigan, S.J. Orbis Books, 2004.

Reflections on the Readings….

Most would remember when a school teacher needed to leave the classroom, and would do so with a ‘I’ll be right back, so you better not misbehave.’ Of course, no did for a few minutes, but the longer the longer the teacher was out of the classroom, the more trouble that ensued. And then there trouble. Mark was trying to avoid this by wanting everyone to be in his or her place, doing exactly what the ‘returning’ Jesus expected. Mark uses the images of being asleep or being awake; being conscious or being oblivious to what’s happening around us. The key virtue for Christians around the year 70 is simple: ‘Be watchful! Be alert!’ Be doing what Jesus expects you to do when the door of the Parousia suddenly opens. Yet more than 2000 years later, though we no longer expect his imminent return, alertness still remains a key virtue because for Jesus God was present and effectively working in everyone’s life. He tried to make others aware of God’s kingdom among them; that they be alert to a presence most people did not seem to notice. 

The cosmic imagery Mark has used just prior to this passage suggests upheaval, destruction of the Temple, images of war, earthquakes, famine and family betrayal.  Great words for the preachers and prophets of doom!  It can come as a shock that a season perceived to be about joy and peace begins with the end of the world. As Advent approaches, Jesus’ words come less as a shock but as something familiar. This last year up to a couple of months ago, there were a number of times when my world ended in a small way. Nothing like the End of the World Jesus describes here, but a gap left with the death of my mother, the death of my 16 year old feline companion, the death of a friend. I see these ending as part of the many endings that people all around me experience. They are all connected and the coming of Christ at the end of time somehow shows me that he inhabits and is present in ending we experience. Advent calls us to be on the lookout for the presence of Christ who inhabits our every loss, who is present in each devastation, and gathers us up when our world has shattered, and offers healing now. On another level, the destruction might not be of the world but the ruin of the status quo. It might point to how harsh the world is, but also how it can be when we are ‘alert’. The emergence of new ways of thinking, feeling, and acting can threaten the established order. We have seen this in various social movements. People calling for a new way of doing things. Something new is possible and we are being offered an alternative way to be human. Ingrained habits, and mindless and oppressive ‘business as usual’ is being challenged. The old world of the 1%, the world of corporate greed is challenged more and more. Some will accept the changes and others will struggle against it. Christ’s words are those of comfort and presence despite pictures of darkened skies and falling stars and suggestions of violence which jump-start Advent.

It is necessary to both work and watch. It means to be a servant (‘each with his or her own work’) and a doorkeeper (‘on the watch’). This work is a cooperation with the One who is active and at work bringing about a new humanity. We are being invited or lured into collaborating. Can we live engaged in God’s world and be open to the arrival of the new? We are called to be fully present to the moment, immersed in the present, and looking to the future.  This waiting is not passive but an active waiting… whilst listening, discerning and doing.

Jesus did not wait around. Nor was he always patient. A call to patience, like the call to ‘obedience’ or ‘loyalty’ can subvert being active; people can be lulled into accepting an unjust status quo. Institutions [commercial, political or religious] thrive when we are sleepy, passive, obedient and impressionable. We can be uncritical [asleep] about the rantings of people [advertisers, politicians and shock jocks] about the world, our country, or the church. We see then when the drone goes on about the need for further military involvement in the Middle East or the so-called threats to our security by people who seek our protection.

Former member of parliament and courageous advocate for asylum seekers and other people suffering injustice,  Petro Georgiou, said: ‘In life, do you know how many things you'd like to walk past and not notice?...Lots. But sometimes you do notice, and when you notice, you have to do something.’  The global financial crisis has awakened some to look at our values. Climate change is waking us up to how we deface the earth and how our action or lack of action harms our Pacific neighbours.  We do not always wake up to the fact that an Israeli death is just as tragic as that of Palestinian. When our Government continues to change the rules to hurt voiceless and helpless people, especially children, who seek our protection from violent situations, will we wake up to what is meant by a ‘fair go’. Or, do we drift of back to sleep.

Patience and waiting do not change the world. It is a call to engagement. Otherwise those who are poor, lonely, elderly, sick, have to wait even longer.  The poor wait for an end to their suffering in a world where medicine is patented. World AIDS Day commemorated on Friday continues to prompt us to remember those who still struggle to obtain even generic and affordable medication for their illness. Indigenous people and gay people still wait for justice, equality and freedom. And when it is achieved, it is given grudgingly and with conditions. Is God silent because we are asleep?

In a cry from the heart, Isaiah [520 BCE] pleaded for an end to God's silence. God seemed remote or absent at a time when the nation was in ruins and the Temple desolate. Now we wait for God’s servants to be near, active, healing and gathering.

People in the Pacific wait for us to listen and respond to their situation of climate change; people in Syria and Afghanistan want their countries back from the foreign forces and insurgents that attack them over and over again with impunity; the people of Zimbabwe have waited for 37 years for some measure of relief from oppressive and corrupt government but will there be change; people on Manus Island cry out for us to listen to their pleas for security and freedom but who is listening? people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries still ask what the future holds for them when medicines are unavailable due to the ‘profit motive’; West Papua still cry out for respect, for human rights and autonomy in the face of ongoing repression and violence, but is the world listening; Palestinians remain imprisoned in Gaza and endure daily hardships few of us know about. All are God’s children and all are vulnerable and ‘vulnerability’ means ‘waiting to be wounded’ again and again. If God cares, we need to join Isaiah who demands God’s face be shown again – a face that is shown in our presence, our solidarity and our care and compassion.

 Advent invites us to be in solidarity with all that groans and who groans under the birth pangs of the new creation. In the movie, The Way, four men set out alone to do the Camino - pilgrimage/walk to Compostella. They aim to go alone but fall in together during the walk. The Way begins with the story of Daniel, a young man, who was somewhat estranged from his father, Tom (played by Martin Sheen). When Daniel is killed in an accident not long after beginning the pilgrimage, Tom flies to France to identify and reclaim Daniel’s body. Here Tom learns that his son had embarked on the ‘Camino’ in order to ‘find himself’, and so decides to complete the pilgrimage in his son’s memory. Intending to keep to himself and his own thoughts, Tom finds himself in the company of three other men – all with personal reasons for taking the 800 kilometre journey. An extrovert Dutchman who only intended to lose excess weight discovers within himself a depth of kindness and joy he had not appreciated earlier. An embittered Canadian divorcee was on the journey to quit smoking but finds forgiveness and acceptance. An Irish writer looking for a story for a novel rediscovers his faith. And Tom, who intended to scatter his son’s ashes at the end of the journey, ends up with a new understanding of, and a deep respect for, the son he had lost. In this story of gradual, quiet and personal transformation, the four men, in their interaction, discover the difference between ‘the life we live and the life we choose’.

In 1960's, an out of touch Church offered a new view of itself and its mission: ‘The joys and hopes, the sadness and pain of human beings in our time, above all, of the poor and all who suffer, are also joys and hopes, sadness and pain of Christ’s disciples. There is nothing truly human that doesn’t find a place in his heart……’ (Gaudium et spes. 1). It needs to continue to struggle with this as it finds that this is not possible unless it is accountable, allows for diversity, embraces the world,  seeks to serve rather than defend its power structures, and seeks healing and justice rather than defending its image. This takes us back to last Sunday’s gospel: ‘Whatever you did to the least of these you did it to me!!’

As with Isaiah, we too need God to ‘rend the heavens and come down,’ to rend, rip away the indifference and egoism that separates country from country, race from race, male from female, rich from poor, young from old, religion from religion, healthy from sick, etc. More importantly however, we need to pray that we rend our hearts and be part of the change that we want to see.  God is already in the action. God has been embracing us with love all along. The Eucharist reminds us that God is bound to us and bound up with the whole of creation.

Yes, there is serious pain in the world, in our community. There are wars and rumours of wars. There's strife within families, and even within the Church and between churches, those called to be one in Christ. God’s name continues to be profaned, used as a political prop to assert power over the powerless when God’s name is really the name of the one who is compassionate, a servant, who feeds the hungry, lifts up the lowly, frees the prisoner. We know this as well as Mark’s readers did. God’s reign is not late in coming, it has not been derailed. It is here. We know the God of Jesus is love, and love [our love] drives out fear.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote of the connection between the spiritual life and the human condition in his book The Phenomenon of Man: ‘We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.’ Despite the images in Mark’s Gospel, we are bombarded with so many distractions such as catastrophes in the form of hurricanes and typhoons, political unrest, illness, family/work stressors, violence and addictions that distract us from living fully human/spiritual lives.  Mark tells us that we must ‘Watch’ – not what others are doing or be in judgement of them, but to watch and be alert to what we are thinking, doing, feeling, giving and taking. Do our actions and interactions and engagements with others align with those of Jesus – his loving and healing presence? We need to trust that others will benefit from our loving presence.

Panic and fear, like sleep, keeps us from watching and listening, from the ability to respond to another person, and with that, the ability to love. Keep watch and respond with love. Let’s not nod off when the attractions and comforts of life in one of the richest nations of the world attempt to lull us into complacency: keep watch, and respond with love. There will be earthquakes and wars and famines, as well as more personal catastrophes of betrayal, but there is nothing that can derail this train, so people, get ready: Jesus is here, and always has been. Keep watch, and respond with love

As Advent begins, can we help one another to discover the difference between ‘the life we live and the life we choose’? Can we try to make of our lives a journey where every person we meet and every circumstance we find ourselves in are a revelation of God’s presence in our midst? God is both the road we travel and the destination of the pilgrimage on which we have embarked.  Advent reminds us to be alert along the way and to be open to the unmistakable signs of God present in the people we meet and the events that happen to us. God’s work began in Jesus’ ministry, and it continues in our midst and with us. We are faithful disciples not when we focus on the future and obsess about the end of the world but when we commit our lives, here and now, to the great work of God, repairing this world, shaping a new creation of beauty, grace, justice, and joy, leaning into the reign of God.

Don’t Just Give Thanks: Pay It Forward One Act of Kindness at a Time

John W. Whitehead Dissident Voice November 22, 2017

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

— John F. Kennedy

It’s been a hard, heart-wrenching, stomach-churning kind of year filled with violence and ill will.

It’s been a year of hotheads and blowhards and killing sprees and bloodshed and take downs.

It’s been a year in which tyranny took a step forward and freedom got knocked down a few notches.

It’s been a year with an abundance of bad news and a shortage of good news.

It’s been a year of too much hate and too little kindness.

Now we find ourselves approaching that time of year when, as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln proclaimed, we’re supposed to give thanks as a nation and as individuals for our safety and our freedoms.

It’s not an easy undertaking.

How do you give thanks for freedoms that are constantly being eroded? How do you express gratitude for one’s safety when the perils posed by the American police state grow more treacherous by the day? How do you come together as a nation in thanksgiving when the powers-that-be continue to polarize and divide us into warring factions?

It’s not going to happen overnight. Or with one turkey dinner. Or with one day of thanksgiving.

Thinking good thoughts, being grateful, counting your blessings and adopting a glass-half-full mindset are fine and good, but don’t stop there.

This world requires doers, men and women (and children) who will put those good thoughts into action.

It says a lot (and nothing good) about the state of our world and the meanness that seems to have taken center stage that we now have a day (World Kindness Day) devoted to making the world more collectively human in thoughts and actions. The idea for the day started after a college president in Japan was mugged in a public place and nobody helped him.

Unfortunately, you hear about these kinds of incidents too often.

A 15-year-old girl was gang raped in a schoolyard during a homecoming dance. As many as 20 people witnessed the assault over the course of two and a half hours. No one intervened to stop it.

A 28-year-old woman was stabbed, raped and murdered outside her apartment early in the morning. Thirty-eight bystanders bystanders witnessed the attack and failed to intervene. The woman, Kitty Genovese, died from her wounds at the locked doorway to her apartment building.

A 58-year-old man waded into chest-deep water in the San Francisco Bay in an apparent suicide attempt. For an hour Raymond Zack stood in the shallow water while 75 onlookers watched. Police and firefighters were called in but failed to intervene, citing budget cuts, a lack of training in water rescue, fear for their safety and a lack of proper equipment. The man eventually passed out and later died of hypothermia. Eventually, an onlooker volunteered to bring the body back to the beach.

A homeless man intervened to save a woman from a knife-wielding attacker. He saved the woman but was stabbed repeatedly in the process. As The Guardian reports, ‘For more than an hour he lay dying in a pool of his own blood as dozens walked by. Some paused to stare, others leaned in close. One even shook his body and then left, while someone else recorded a video of the entire proceeding.’

This is how evil prevails: when good men and women do nothing.

By doing nothing, the onlookers become as guilty as the perpetrator.

‘If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity,’ declared Albert Einstein.

It works the same whether you’re talking about kids watching bullies torment a fellow student on a playground, bystanders watching someone dying on a sidewalk, or citizens remaining silent in the face of government atrocities.

There’s a term for this phenomenon where people stand by, watch and do nothing—even when there is no risk to their safety—while some horrific act takes place (someone is mugged or raped or bullied or left to die): it’s called the bystander effect.

Psychological researchers John Darley and Bibb Latane mounted a series of experiments to discover why people respond with apathy or indifference instead of intervening.

Their findings speak volumes about the state of our nation and why ‘we the people’ continue to suffer such blatant abuses by the police state.

According to Darley and Latane, there are two critical factors that contribute to this moral lassitude.

First, there’s the problem of pluralistic ignorance in which individuals in a group look to others to determine how to respond. As Melissa Burkley explains in Psychology Today, ‘Pluralistic ignorance describes a situation where a majority of group members privately believe one thing, but assume (incorrectly) that most others believe the opposite.’

Second, there’s the problem of ‘diffusion of responsibility,’ which is compounded by pluralistic ignorance. Basically, this means that the more people who witness a catastrophic event, the less likely any one person will do anything because each thinks someone else will take responsibility. In other words, no one acts to intervene or help because each person is waiting for someone else to do so.

Now the temptation is to label the bystanders as terrible people, monsters even.

Yet as Mahzarin Banaji, professor of psychology at Harvard University points out, ‘These are not monsters. These are us. This is all of us. This is not about a few monsters. This is about everybody. It says something very difficult to us. It says that perhaps had we been standing there, we ourselves, if we were not better educated about this particular effect and what it does to us, we may fall prey to it ourselves.’

Historically, this bystander syndrome in which people remain silent and disengaged—mere onlookers—in the face of abject horrors and injustice has resulted in whole populations being conditioned to tolerate unspoken cruelty toward their fellow human beings: the crucifixion and slaughter of innocents by the Romans, the torture of the Inquisition, the atrocities of the Nazis, the butchery of the Fascists, the bloodshed by the Communists, and the cold-blooded war machines run by the military industrial complex.

So what can you do about this bystander effect?

Be a hero, suggests psychologist Philip Zimbardo.

‘Each of us has an inner hero we can draw upon in an emergency,’ Zimbardo concluded. ‘If you think there is even a possibility that someone needs help, act on it. You may save a life. You are the modern version of the Good Samaritan that makes the world a better place for all of us.’

Zimbardo is the psychologist who carried out the Stanford Prison Experiment which studied the impact of perceived power and authority on middle class students who were assigned to act as prisoners and prison guards. The experiment revealed that power does indeed corrupt (the appointed guards became increasingly abusive), and those who were relegated to being prisoners acted increasingly ‘submissive and depersonalized, taking the abuse and saying little in protest.’

What is the antidote to group think and the bystander effect?

Be an individual. Listen to your inner voice. Take responsibility.

‘If you find yourself in an ambiguous situation, resist the urge to look to others and go with your gut instinct,’ says Burkley. ‘If you think there is even a possibility that someone is in need, act on it. At worst, you will embarrass yourself for a few minutes, but at best, you will save a life.’

‘Even if people recognize that they are witnessing a crime, they may still fail to intervene if they do not take personal responsibility for helping the victim,’ writes Burkley. ‘The problem is that the more bystanders there are, the less responsible each individual feels.’

In other words, recognize injustice. Don’t turn away from suffering.

Refuse to remain silent. Take a stand. Speak up. Speak out.

This is what Zimbardo refers to as ‘the power of one.’ All it takes is one person breaking away from the fold to change the dynamics of a situation. ‘Once any one helps, then in seconds others will join in because a new social norm emerges: Do Something Helpful.’

‘I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation,’ stated Holocaust Elie Wiesel in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1986.  ‘We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.’

Unfortunately, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, too many Americans have opted to remain silent when it really matters while instead taking a stand over politics rather than human suffering.

That needs to change.

I don’t believe we’re inherently monsters. We just need to be more conscientious and engaged and helpful.

The Good Samaritans of this world don’t always get recognized, but they’re doing their part to push back against the darkness.

For instance, earlier this year in Florida, a family of six—four adults and two young boys—were swept out to sea by a powerful rip current in Panama City Beach. There was no lifeguard on duty. The police were standing by, waiting for a rescue boat. And the few people who had tried to help ended up stranded, as well.

Those on shore grouped together and formed a human chain. What started with five volunteers grew to 15, then 80 people, some of whom couldn’t swim.

One by one, they linked hands and stretched as far as their chain would go. The strongest of the volunteers swam out beyond the chain and began passing the stranded victims of the rip current down the chain.

One by one, they rescued those in trouble and pulled each other in.

There’s a moral here for what needs to happen in this country if we only can band together and prevail against the riptides that threaten to overwhelm us.

Here’s what I suggest.

Instead of just giving thanks this holiday season with words that are too soon forgotten, why not put your gratitude into action with deeds that spread a little kindness, lighten someone’s burden, and brighten some dark corner?

I’m not just talking about volunteering at a soup kitchen or making a donation to a charity that does good work, although those are fine things, too.

What I’m suggesting is something that everyone can do no matter how tight our budgets or how crowded our schedules.

Pay your blessings forward.

Engage in acts of kindness. Smile more. Fight less.

Focus on the things that unite instead of that which divides. Be a hero, whether or not anyone ever notices.

Do your part to push back against the meanness of our culture with conscious compassion and humanity. Moods are contagious, the good and the bad. They can be passed from person to person. So can the actions associated with those moods, the good and the bad.

Even holding the door for someone or giving up your seat on a crowded train are acts of benevolence that, magnified by other such acts, can spark a movement.

Imagine a world in which we all lived in peace.

John Lennon tried to imagine such a world in which there was nothing to kill or die for, no greed or hunger. He was a beautiful dreamer whose life ended with an assassin’s bullet on December 8, 1980.

Still, that doesn’t mean the dream has to die, too.

There’s something to be said for working to make that dream a reality. As Lennon reminded his listeners, ‘War is over, if you want it.’

The choice is ours, if we want it.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Read other articles by John W..