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.


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


2nd sunday of advent

These notes are a little longer than usual but I have included the Redfern Speech by Paul Keating in full as it is coming up to its 25th anniversary.

Claude Mostowik msc



Second Sunday of Advent

Year B

December 9th 2017

Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.

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

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

May we walk gently and respectfully upon the land.


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

the traditional custodians of the land we stand on,

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


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

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

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

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

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

A Prayer for Rohingya and Manus Refugees

Rev Scott Higgins November 30, 2017


This is a prayer I wrote to use in my church. Feel free to use it in yours.

Lord Jesus,
We come to you who once was a refugee,
To plead the cause of those who today are refugees.
We come to you as the One who hears the cry of the poor & oppressed,
And call you to hear the cry of the Rohingya of Myanmar
And the despairing on Manus Island.

We pray for the Rohingya, fleeing military violence in Myanmar.
Our hearts ache for every girl who is raped,
Every woman who is beaten,
Every man who is shot.
Every child whose tender heart is filled with terror.

Our Peacemaker, we pray for a pathway for peace in Myanmar.
May the flicker of hope that the world felt with the release and election of Aung San Suu Kyi
Fan into a flame of justice.
Strengthen those who would see justice for Myanmar’s ethnic minorities,
And tear down from power those who refuse to turn their hearts and minds to justice.

Our Refuge, we pray for refuge for the Rohingya who have fled.
Open the hearts and minds of the Bangladeshi government toward them,
That they might grant the Rohingya who have sought their aid
spaces that are safe and resources that are sufficient for their time of exile.

Lord Jesus, our minds turn to the refugees on Manus Island,
Their hopes for safety from persecution and violence
in their home countries are shattered.
And they now live with fear of violence on Manus.

In the depths of their despair,
May they find a flicker of hope.
In the grip of their fear,
May they find Papuans who will be their shelter.

Forgive us for being deaf to their cries.
They came to Australia seeking our help
And our solution has turned out to be their nightmare.
Rouse our government to action,
And our nation to mercy.
Fill our hearts with a righteous anger,
that leaves us restless until every refugee now on Manus is safe.

0107John-Baptist04the            cover of America, the Catholic magazine

‘I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’ Mark 1:8


Reading I                      Is 40:1-5, 9-11

Responsorial Psalm Ps 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14 R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Reading II                     2 Pt 3:8-14

Gospel                            Mk 1:1-8


Note: Where there is a blessing and lighting of candles the Penitential Rite does not take place

Penitential Rite

You proclaim peace and salvation to God’s people. Jesus, have mercy.

You reveal to us how mercy and truth meet, Christ, have mercy.

You show us how justice and peace embrace. Jesus, have mercy.

Opening Prayer

Ever-Coming God,

you come in our midst

with tender comfort and transforming power.

May the coming of Jesus, your Son, 

make us watchful and eager for your presence in our lives

where you make ready a way in the wilderness

and clear a straight path in our hearts.

General Intercessions

Introduction:  Let us pray to the God who comes and calls us to make a straight path in our lives as we work to build a new heaven and new earth. The response is: Let us prepare a new way, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.

  • For the Church, that it may like a herald's voice in the desert, that speaks to the hearts of women and men and never cease to proclaim what is true and just, even at the price of unpopularity, proclaiming what is true and just, even when unpopular, we pray: Let us prepare a new way, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
  • For the people in all the churches and those of other faiths, that they will find ways to make the love of God present by their solidarity and support for all especially people who are vulnerable, and in any kind of suffering, we pray: Let us prepare a new way, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
  • For leaders in communities in our country and in other parts of the world, that they will be guided on the ways of peace and justice, so that there will be a world safe for young and old, and give hope to those struggling with social or economic disadvantage, we pray: Let us prepare a new way, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
  • For the leaders of nations that they may listen to the voice of the Spirit at work in the world and look with wisdom and in dialogue for solutions to end wars, civil strife and exploitation of nations and peoples, we pray: Let us prepare a new way, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
  • For parish communities that they will be prompted more and more to reach out and welcome others as friends and co-workers, we pray: Let us prepare a new way, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
  • For people and groups who awaken us to the need to care for all of God’s creation through working to bring about changes in awareness and behaviour, we pray: Let us prepare a new way, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
  • For the leaders of the world who have yet to be convinced of the effectiveness of seeking peace through nonviolence that they bring peace and justice to their own nations and work to resolve conflicts internationally, we pray: Let us prepare a new way, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
  • For the peoples in countries that do not know peace, may the work of peace and justice organisations, the churches and the United Nations awaken us to our responsibilities that cause war and conflict, we pray: Let us prepare a new way, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
  • For the countries that place oil and other trade interests above those of human welfare and wellbeing, we pray: Let us prepare a new way, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
  • For the Church that proclaims the words of Christ that the ‘truth will set us free’ that it may see the truth of human love and sexuality as a revelation of God present among us, we pray: Let us prepare a new way, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
  • For your Church that it may continue on the path of deep and compassionate listening with its members especially those people who feel most marginalised by its laws and teachings, we pray: Let us prepare a new way, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
  • For the prophets in the church and the world who wake us from our indifference and complacency and call us to give a voice to the voiceless and open our eyes to those in need especially the unemployed, refugees, single mothers, Aboriginal people and young people, let us pray: Let us prepare a new way, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
  • For our mother the earth, may we show our gratitude as we look at the mountains, the oceans, forests and plains by working to protect them by our stewardship and care, we pray: Let us prepare a new way, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
  • For the land and the people of the Marshall Islands who live with disaster of past nuclear testing in their land which threatens their environment and neighbouring countries, and the people of Japan who continue to live with consequences of the nuclear explosions of Fukishima and environment degradation, as they still bear the burden of loss and damage as they continue to rebuild their infrastructure and restore what was lost, we pray: Let us prepare a new way, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.

Concluding Prayer: Ever-Coming God, may we be open to the Spirit of wisdom and courage that was active in Jesus, your Son, and convert us to the Good News, so that he may truly live among us. 

Prayer over the Gifts

Ever-Coming God

as we offer this bread and wine

as signs of our waiting for Jesus,

we pray that we may embrace his presence

as he comes and stays among us in our journey.

May we find comfort in his presence as we work to transform

what is barren in our earth to life and goodness.

Prayer after Communion

Ever-Coming God,

we have celebrated the presence of Christ with us.

Speak tenderly to us and prepare our way,

that we may return from our places of exile

and clothed in your Spirit,

be empowered to comfort other exiles.

Dates to Remember

December 10 Human Rights Day: Adoption of the UN Declaration of Human Rights in 1948

December 10 25th Anniversary of Speech by Prime Minister Paul Keating to launch International Year of the World’s Indigenous People, 1992 (see full text below)

December 10 Death of Thomas Merton, 1968

December 12 Founding of the Sisters of Mercy by Catherine McAuley (1831)

December 13 First day of Hanukkah (Jewish Feast of Dedication)


Other Resources

‘We were taught under the old ethic that (man's) business on this earth was to look out for (himself). That was the ethic of the jungle; the ethic of the wild beast. Take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow (man). Thousands of years ago the question was asked; ''Am I my (brother's) keeper?'' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society.

Yes, I am my (brother's) keeper. I am under a moral obligation to him that is inspired, not by any maudlin sentimentality but by the higher duty I owe myself. What would you think me if I were capable of seating myself at a table and gorging myself with food and saw about me the children of my fellow beings starving to death’

Eugene V. Debs: 1908 speech

‘[I]n such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, not to be on the side of the executioners.’

Albert Camus

‘Do not hold the delusion that your advancement is accomplished by crushing others.’

Marcus Tullius Cicero - (106-43 B.C.) Roman Statesman, Philosopher and Orator

Asylum seekers and migrants are human beings with rights and it is quite proper and legitimate for the law to defend those rights and for people of good will to advocate for and support people in need, vulnerable to exploitation and potential victims of miscarriages of justice.

Vaughan Jones

Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by‒people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way.

Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 49

Our social doctrine is an integral part of our faith; we need to pass it on clearly, creatively, and consistently. It is a remarkable spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral resource that has been too little known or appreciated even in our own community.

US Bishops, Sharing Catholic Social Teaching

Salvation comes to us through all women and men who love truth more than lies, who are more eager to give than to receive, and whose love is that supreme love that gives life rather than keeping it for oneself.

Jon Sobrino, Spirituality of Liberation

Catholic teaching offers consistent moral principles to assess issues, political platforms, and campaigns for their impact on human life and dignity. As Catholics, we are not free to abandon unborn children because they are seen as unwanted or inconvenient; to turn our backs on immigrants because they lack the proper documents; to create and then destroy human lives in a quest for medical advances or profit; to turn away from poor women and children because they lack economic or political power; or to ignore sick people because they have no insurance. Nor can we neglect international responsibilities in the aftermath of war because resources are scarce. Catholic teaching requires us to speak up for the voiceless and to act in accord with universal moral values.
US Bishops, Sharing Catholic Social Teaching

If the love within your mind is lost, if you continue to see other beings as enemies, then no matter how much knowledge or education you have, no matter how much material progress is made, only suffering and confusion will ensue.

The Dalai Lama

The Church knows nothing of the sacredness of war. The Church which prays the ‘Our Father’ asks God only for peace.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.

Anne Lamott

We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.
Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965), American Broadcast Newsman during the McCarthy era, whose work was depicted in the film, Good Night and Good Luck.

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

The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.

Steve Biko

The state can't give you freedom, and the state can't take it away.

You're born with it, like your eyes, like your ears.

Freedom is something you assume, then you wait for someone to try to take it away.

The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free.

Utah Phillips

To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

Nelson Mandela

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.

Mark Twain

We live in a system that espouses merit, equality, and a level playing field, but exalts those with wealth, power, and celebrity, however gained.

Derrick Bell, Ethical Ambition: Living a Life of Meaning and Worth

I want to live in a world where people become famous because of their work for peace and justice and care. I want the famous to be inspiring; their lives an example of what every human being has it in them to do - act from love!

Patch Adams

Time is an enormous, long river, and I’m standing in it, just as you’re standing in it. My elders are the tributaries, and everything they thought and every struggle they went through and everything they gave their lives to, and every song they created, and every poem that they laid down flows down to me – and if I take the time to ask, and if I take the time to see, and if I take the time to reach out, I can build that bridge between my world and theirs. I can reach down into that river and take out what I need to get through this world.

Utah Phillips

The big system can be pretty overwhelming. We know that we can’t beat them by competing with them. What we can do is build small systems where we live and work that serve our needs as we define us and not as they ‘re defined for us. The big boys in their shining armor are up there on castle walls hurling their thunderbolts. We’re the ants patiently carrying sand a grain at a time from under the castle wall. We work from the bottom up. The knights up there don’t see the ants and don’t know what we’re doing. They’ll figure it out only when the wall begins to fall. It takes time and quiet persistence. Always remember this: They fight with money and we resist with time, and they’re going to run out of money before we run out of time.

Utah Phillips

I have a good friend in the East, who comes to my shows and says, you sing a lot about the past, you can't live in the past, you know. I say to him, I can go outside and pick up a rock that's older than the oldest song you know, and bring it back in here and drop it on your foot. Now the past didn't go anywhere, did it? It's right here, right now.

I always thought that anybody who told me I couldn't live in the past was trying to get me to forget something that if I remembered it - it would get them serious trouble. No, that 50s, 60s, 70s, 90s stuff, that whole idea of decade packaging, things don't happen that way. The Vietnam War heated up in 1965 and ended in 1975-- what's that got to do with decades? No, that packaging of time is a journalist convenience that they use to trivialize and to dismiss important events and important ideas. I defy that.

Utah Phillips

Unless we do change our whole way of thought about work, I do not think we shall ever escape from the appalling squirrel-cage of economic confusion in which we have been madly turning for the last three centuries or so, the cage in which we landed ourselves by acquiescing in a social system based upon envy and avarice.

Dorothy L. Sayers

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.

Maya Angelou

If an elephant has its foot on a mouse and you say that your are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

Desmond Tutu

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

John Muir

So often we think we have got to make a difference and be a big dog. Let us just try to be little fleas biting. Enough fleas biting strategically can make a big dog very uncomfortable.

Marian Wright Edelman

But the Christianity that called to me, through the stories I read in the Bible, scattered the proud and rebuked the powerful. It was a religion in which divinity was revealed by scars on flesh. It was an upside-down world in which treasure, as the prophet said, was found in darkness; in which the hungry were filled with good things, and the rich sent out empty; in which new life was manifested through a humiliated, hungry woman and an empty, tortured man.

Sara Miles

All the cops are just workers for the one percent, and they don't even realize they're being exploited.

Ray Lewis, Retired Philadelphia Police Captain at Occupy Wall Street protest who was arrested for standing with the protestors.

Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.

Dorothy Day

In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago:

I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.

Jessica Dovey

Remember that we cannot give what we do not have. If we do not love ourselves, we will be hard pressed to love others.

If we are not just with ourselves, we will find it very difficult to look for justice with others. In order to become and remain a social justice advocate, you must live a healthy life. Take care of yourself as well as others. Invest in yourself as well as in others. No one can build a house of justice on a foundation of injustice.

Love yourself and be just to yourself and do the same with others. As you become a social justice advocate, you will experience joy, inspiration and love in abundant measure.

Bill Quigley

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be...The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The single largest pool of untapped resource in this world is human good intentions that never translate into action

Cindy Gallop

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

Anne Frank

Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds... Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free.

Arundhati Roy

What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.

John Ruskin

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.

Edmund Burke

Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts. And giving shelter to anyone who asks for it, or needs it, is giving to Christ.

Dorothy Day

I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.
James Madison 
No man is great enough or wise enough for any of us to surrender our destiny to. The only way in which anyone can lead us is to restore our belief in our own guidance.
Henry Miller (1891-1980) The Wisdom of the Heart, 1941
Live truth instead of professing it. 
Elbert Hubbard
The first step in a fascist movement is the combination under an energetic leader of a number of men who possess more than the average share of leisure, brutality, and stupidity. The next step is to fascinate fools and muzzle the intelligent, by emotional excitement on the one hand and terrorism on the other. 
Bertrand Russell, Freedom, Harcourt Brace, 1940
It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them.
Alfred Adler
In all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful. 
Leo Tolstoy.
Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters. 
Noah Webster
The government is the potent omnipresent teacher. For good or ill it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that the end justifies the means -- to declare that the government may commit crimes -- would bring terrible retribution.
Justice Louis D. Brandeis
A general dissolution of the principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy.... While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.... If virtue and knowledge are diffused among the people, they will never be enslaved. This will be their great security. 
John Adams
Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear -­ kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervour -­ with the cry of grave national emergency. Always, there has been some terrible evil at home, or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it. 
General Douglas MacArthur
Whenever a people... entrust the defence of their country to a regular, standing army, composed of mercenaries, the power of that country will remain under the direction of the most wealthy citizens.
A Framer 
The biggest lesson I learned from Vietnam is not to trust [our own] government statements. I had no idea until then that you could not rely on [them].
James W. Fulbright, US senator who initiated the international exchange program for scholars, 1905-1995
A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.
Edward R. Murrow, (1908-1965), American Broadcast Newsman during the McCarthy era.
The convention which framed the Constitution of the United States was composed of fifty-five members. A majority were lawyers not one farmer, mechanic or laborer. Forty owned Revolutionary Scrip. Fourteen were land speculators. Twenty-four were money-lenders. Eleven were merchants. Fifteen were slave-holders. They made a Constitution to protect the rights of property and not the rights of man’.
Senator Richard Pettigrew, Triumphant Plutocracy (1922)
The vested interests - if we explain the situation by their influence – can only get the public to act as they wish by manipulating public opinion, by playing either upon the public's indifference, confusions, prejudices, pugnacities or fears. And the only way in which the power of the interests can be undermined and their manoeuvres defeated is by bringing home to the public the danger of its indifference, the absurdity of its prejudices, or the hollowness of its fears; by showing that it is indifferent to danger where real danger exists; frightened by dangers which are nonexistent.
Sir Norman Angell 1872 - 1967

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
Rudyard Kipling, (1865-1936)
Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them.
John Stuart Mill, 1806-1873, English philosopher and economist, On Liberty, 1859

I believe that any man who takes the liberty of another into his keeping is bound to become a tyrant, and that any man who yields up his liberty, in however slight the measure, is bound to become a slave.
H. L. Mencken

Americans cannot escape a certain responsibility for what is done in our name around the world. In a democracy, even one as corrupted as ours, ultimate authority rests with the people. We empower the government with our votes, finance it with our taxes, bolster it with our silent acquiescence. If we are passive in the face of America's official actions overseas, we in effect endorse them.

Mark Hertzgaard

If the test of patriotism comes only by reflexively falling into lockstep behind the leader whenever the flag is waved, then what we have is a formula for dictatorship, - not democracy... But the American way is to criticize and debate openly, not to accept unthinkingly the doings of government officials of this or any other country.

Michael Parenti

America cannot have an empire abroad and a Republic at home.

Mark Twain

The power of the state is measured by the power that men surrender to it.

Felix Morley

Those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act.

Albert Einstein

I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do.

Edward Everett Hale

Redfern Speech (Year for the World's Indigenous People) – Delivered in Redfern

Park by Prime Minister Paul Keating, 10 December 1992

Ladies and gentlemen

I am very pleased to be here today at the launch of Australia's celebration of the 1993 International Year of the World's Indigenous People.

It will be a year of great significance for Australia.

It comes at a time when we have committed ourselves to succeeding in the test which so far we have always failed.

Because, in truth, we cannot confidently say that we have succeeded as we would like to have succeeded if we have not managed to extend opportunity and care, dignity and hope to the indigenous people of Australia - the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people.

This is a fundamental test of our social goals and our national will: our ability to say to ourselves and the rest of the world that Australia is a first rate social democracy, that we are what we should be - truly the land of the fair go and the better chance.

There is no more basic test of how seriously we mean these things.

It is a test of our self-knowledge.

Of how well we know the land we live in. How well we know our history.

How well we recognise the fact that, complex as our contemporary identity is, it cannot be separated from Aboriginal Australia.

How well we know what Aboriginal Australians know about Australia.

Redfern is a good place to contemplate these things.

Just a mile or two from the place where the first European settlers landed, in too many ways it tells us that their failure to bring much more than devastation and demoralisation to Aboriginal Australia continues to be our failure.

More I think than most Australians recognise, the plight of Aboriginal Australians affects us all.

In Redfern it might be tempting to think that the reality Aboriginal Australians face is somehow contained here, and that the rest of us are insulated from it.

But of course, while all the dilemmas may exist here, they are far from contained.

We know the same dilemmas and more are faced all over Australia.

That is perhaps the point of this Year of the World's Indigenous People: to bring the dispossessed out of the shadows, to recognise that they are part of us, and that we cannot give indigenous Australians up without giving up many of our own most deeply held values, much of our own identity - and our own humanity.

Nowhere in the world, I would venture, is the message more stark than it is in Australia.

We simply cannot sweep injustice aside. Even if our own conscience allowed us to, I am sure, that in due course, the world and the people of our region would not.

There should be no mistake about this - our success in resolving these issues will have a significant bearing on our standing in the world.

However intractable the problems seem, we cannot resign ourselves to failure -any more than we can hide behind the contemporary version of Social Darwinism which says that to reach back for the poor and dispossessed is to risk being dragged down.

That seems to me not only morally indefensible, but bad history.

We non-Aboriginal Australians should perhaps remind ourselves that Australia once reached out for us.

Didn't Australia provide opportunity and care for the dispossessed Irish? The poor of Britain? The refugees from war and famine and persecution in the countries of Europe and Asia?

Isn't it reasonable to say that if we can build a prosperous and remarkably harmonious multicultural society in Australia, surely we can find just solutions to the problems which beset the first Australians - the people to whom the most injustice has been done.

And, as I say, the starting point might be to recognise that the problem starts with us non-Aboriginal Australians.

It begins, I think, with that act of recognition.

Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing.

We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life.

We brought the diseases. The alcohol.

We committed the murders.

We took the children from their mothers.

We practised discrimination and exclusion.

It was our ignorance and our prejudice.

And our failure to imagine these things being done to us.

With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds.

We failed to ask - how would I feel if this were done to me?

As a consequence, we failed to see that what we were doing degraded all of us.

If we needed a reminder of this, we received it this year.

The Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody showed with devastating clarity that the past lives on in inequality, racism and injustice.

In the prejudice and ignorance of non-Aboriginal Australians, and in the demoralisation and desperation, the fractured identity, of so many Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

For all this, I do not believe that the Report should fill us with guilt.

Down the years, there has been no shortage of guilt, but it has not produced the responses we need.

Guilt is not a very constructive emotion.

I think what we need to do is open our hearts a bit.

All of us.

Perhaps when we recognise what we have in common we will see the things which must be done - the practical things.

There is something of this in the creation of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.

The Council's mission is to forge a new partnership built on justice and equity and an appreciation of the heritage of Australia's indigenous people.

In the abstract those terms are meaningless.

We have to give meaning to ‘justice’ and ‘equity’ - and, as I have said several times this year, we will only give them meaning when we commit ourselves to achieving concrete results.

If we improve the living conditions in one town, they will improve in another. And another.

If we raise the standard of health by twenty per cent one year, it will be raised more the next.

If we open one door others will follow.

When we see improvement, when we see more dignity, more confidence, more happiness - we will know we are going to win.

We need these practical building blocks of change.

The Mabo Judgement should be seen as one of these.

By doing away with the bizarre conceit that this continent had no owners prior to the settlement of Europeans, Mabo establishes a fundamental truth and lays the basis for justice.

It will be much easier to work from that basis than has ever been the case in the past.

For that reason alone we should ignore the isolated outbreaks of hysteria and hostility of the past few months.

Mabo is an historic decision - we can make it an historic turning point, the basis of a new relationship between indigenous and non-Aboriginal Australians.

The message should be that there is nothing to fear or to lose in the recognition of historical truth, or the extension of social justice, or the deepening of Australian social democracy to include indigenous Australians.

There is everything to gain.

Even the unhappy past speaks for this.

Where Aboriginal Australians have been included in the life of Australia they have made remarkable contributions.

Economic contributions, particularly in the pastoral and agricultural industry.

They are there in the frontier and exploration history of Australia.

They are there in the wars.

In sport to an extraordinary degree.

In literature and art and music.

In all these things they have shaped our knowledge of this continent and of ourselves. They have shaped our identity.

They are there in the Australian legend.

We should never forget - they have helped build this nation.

And if we have a sense of justice, as well as common sense, we will forge a new partnership.

As I said, it might help us if we non-Aboriginal Australians imagined ourselves dispossessed of land we had lived on for fifty thousand years - and then imagined ourselves told that it had never been ours.

Imagine if ours was the oldest culture in the world and we were told that it was worthless.

Imagine if we had resisted this settlement, suffered and died in the defence of our land, and then were told in history books that we had given up without a fight.

Imagine if non-Aboriginal Australians had served their country in peace and war and were then ignored in history books.

Imagine if our feats on sporting fields had inspired admiration and patriotism and yet did nothing to diminish prejudice.

Imagine if our spiritual life was denied and ridiculed.

Imagine if we had suffered the injustice and then were blamed for it.

It seems to me that if we can imagine the injustice we can imagine its opposite.

And we can have justice.

I say that for two reasons:

I say it because I believe that the great things about Australian social democracy reflect a fundamental belief in justice.

And I say it because in so many other areas we have proved our capacity over the years to go on extending the realms of participation, opportunity and care.

Just as Australians living in the relatively narrow and insular Australia of the 1960s imagined a culturally diverse, worldly and open Australia, and in a generation turned the idea into reality, so we can turn the goals of reconciliation into reality.

There are very good signs that the process has begun.

The creation of the Reconciliation Council is evidence itself.

The establishment of the ATSIC - the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission - is also evidence.

The Council is the product of imagination and good will.

ATSIC emerges from the vision of indigenous self-determination and self-management.

The vision has already become the reality of almost 800 elected Aboriginal Regional Councillors and Commissioners determining priorities and developing their own programs.

All over Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are taking charge of their own lives.

And assistance with the problems which chronically beset them is at last being made available in ways developed by the communities themselves.

If these things offer hope, so does the fact that this generation of Australians is better informed about Aboriginal culture and achievement, and about the injustice that has been done, than any generation before.

We are beginning to more generally appreciate the depth and the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

From their music and art and dance we are beginning to recognise how much richer our national life and identity will be for the participation of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders.

We are beginning to learn what the indigenous people have known for many thousands of years - how to live with our physical environment.

Ever so gradually we are learning how to see Australia through Aboriginal eyes, beginning to recognise the wisdom contained in their epic story.

I think we are beginning to see how much we owe the indigenous Australians and how much we have lost by living so apart.

I said we non-indigenous Australians should try to imagine the Aboriginal view.

It can't be too hard. Someone imagined this event today, and it is now a marvellous reality and a great reason for hope.

There is one thing today we cannot imagine.

We cannot imagine that the descendants of people whose genius and resilience maintained a culture here through fifty thousand years or more, through cataclysmic changes to the climate and environment, and who then survived two centuries of dispossession and abuse, will be denied their place in the modern Australian nation.

We cannot imagine that.

We cannot imagine that we will fail.

And with the spirit that is here today I am confident that we won't.

I am confident that we will succeed in this decade.

Thank you

Comfort us, O God,

speak tenderly to us and prepare our way,

that we may return from our places of exile

and find ourselves clothed in your Spirit,

empowered to comfort other exiles.


Out in Scripture

Chains  John van de Laar (Sacredise)

We have grown familiar with chains.

Stumbled into by accident,

or carefully crafted by our own vice,

we have become used to their cold weight.

At times we even draw comfort from them,

finding a broken sense of identity in our victimhood,

or a platform for our self-righteous anger and violence.

And so our world remains imprisoned…

by the way we choose control and aggression

over peace and mutual understanding;

by the way we idolise quick answers and quick wealth

over preservation and careful management of natural resources;

by the way we allow our self-interest and greed

to overshadow the lives of the poor and hungry who die each day;

by the way we prefer hiding in a fortress of pride

over making things right and letting others into our hearts.

But, if we will listen, we can hear a voice

making a new way through this desert,

offering a new hope,

and gently seeking to loosen the chains.

Help us, Jesus, to follow this voice;

lead us like a Shepherd,

save us, and free us;

so that, as our chains fall away,

we may loosen the chains of others.


Prayer for Our Shared Journey

Merciful God,

Our history as human beings, and even before, has been a history of life on the move. As your sons and daughters, we continue to search for a place to sleep, food to eat, and families and communities to support us.

We are a people on a journey.

We are grateful for the earth that sustains us, but we do not always take time to thank you. Also, we too often lack compassion for our brothers and sisters who have been uprooted by violence, natural disasters and poverty.

Help us to remember that we are always on a journey with them and with You, to a new way of life in abundance.


Written by Father Paul Masson, M.M., who was on mission for ten years in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas and now serves in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Father Masson wrote this prayer for JustFaith Ministries’ ‘Exploring Migration’ module in 2017. Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Reflections for Second Sunday in Advent

We are all invited to proclaim a message of hope to our world. In a world of war and terrorism, of poverty and injustice, of dishonesty and manipulation of the truth, and of political expediency, and the effects of climate change, we are invited to  be like a ‘flea’ or a ‘mosquito’ and practice our faith in the spirit of the great prophets and address issues of justice, peace, and genuine human development for all God's people. Last week, Mark exhorted us to stay alert, to stay awake. And, we need people who will stir us into waking up to what is happening around us, to remind us that there are people around us who are hurting and suffering and unjustly treated, that our Earth is suffering; to remind us that God is present in each situation of hurt, suffering and devastation.

A journalist once founded an award called ‘The Giraffe Project’ to honour people who courageously advocated for others, raised their voices, and stood in solidarity with people to promote human dignity. In South Africa, during the Apartheid regime, there were many such people, but now, very few remain prophetic voices as the churches go to bed with the government. Prophetic exceptions exist such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu who, like giraffes, stick their necks out to advocate for those on the lowest rung; those unfairly treated, and vilified by church and state.

John the Baptist could also have been a contender for such an award as he appeared when there were few prophetic voices. Like him, there are people who encourage and stand with people who lived on Manus Island and were caught in cold-hearted rules and systems more intent on keeping people out rather than welcoming them as asylum seekers and refugees; people who advocate for children, youth, women and men or work to prevent the various forms of modern slavery; people who promote workers’ rights and rights for people living with disabilities; people who struggle for equality and liberation for gay people, women and minority people. These bring to life the dream expressed in the psalm of ‘kindness and truth meeting, justice and peace kissing, truth springing out of the earth while justice looks down from heaven’. This image of ‘kissing’ in the psalm assumes an intimacy, a willingness to be vulnerable [‘able to be wounded’] and a commitment to be in solidarity. Yet, often, the steadfast love and faithfulness still have not met, and righteousness and peace still do not hold hands – let alone kiss.

There is a deep sense of passion and care for people expressed in Isaiah and John. They express the God’s heartbeat and passion for humanity as their words and actions touch our hearts with the offer of reassurance and comfort: ‘Comfort, my people. Comfort them!’ John the Baptist was speaking – not unlike in our time - when many so-called prophets were silent. We see in the gospel how people, rather than heading for the Temple in the city went to the wilderness to hear him speak of God’s concern for their oppression and need for justice. Archbishop Oscar Romero became the ‘voice of those without voice’ in El Salvador, as did the prophets of our faith [Isaiah, Micah, Ezekiel] and contemporary prophets [Mohammed, Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Ita Ford, Maura Clark, Dorothy Kasel and Jean Donovan, Desmond Tutu and Rigoberta Menchu].

Many unlikely people among us have become ‘prophets’ when they day after day confronted our immigration system and particularly the harsh treatment of innocent people on Manus Island. In so many ways they have been present and spoken out against systemic injustices and evil at great personal and social cost. They were vilified, their professionalism questioned, labelled as unpatriotic and even lost friends. But, they tried to wake us up or confront people who were lulled in a position of comfort in the face of the evil we do and the evil that is done on our behalf by a Government pretending to look after our interests. They reminded us of the humanity of people made faceless and anonymous. They gave us the hope that change is possible and does happen. They reminded us that our humanity is bound up with the way we engage with the most vulnerable and that if we look into their faces, we might see our faces.

Isaiah imagines the equivalent of a superhighway. But let’s remember that we are called to be peacemakers. Too often we can do more harm than good by trying to force change and growth when ‘the ground’ has not been prepared. This superhighway should not come about with dynamite and bulldozers but with small implements such as a shovel and a bucket of water.  Recently in Germany, I was made aware of the fall of the Berlin wall. Its fall seemed like a superhighway had been built to reunify Germany but how many more walls have been erected in our world (Gaza, Arizona) not to mention the walls in our minds and hearts against asylum seekers, Muslims, other minority groups to divide and exclude people. Ordinary people accomplished great things that seemed impossible because they dreamed and acted, planned and believed.

Like the people in Babylon, the people in detention centres, the people of Gaza, and the people in our urban ghettos who are addicted in some way or homeless, want to know who will raise their voices on their behalf

Advent calls us to wake up, pay attention, find the glimmers of light in the overwhelming darkness, and find hints of progress, to take courage, and realise that God is at work among us and through us. Each reading today communicates the same thing: Ours is a God who comes to be in our midst. God comes through evil and trials and in prayer no matter how feeble that may be. God comes to us through the life of another in whom we can see beauty and truth. God comes in the love of one who loves us so deeply and unconditionally that our loveableness is difficult to accept. There is no limit to the ways in which God comes, and for that reason, every juncture of our lives can be a place of encounter with the divine.

As we saw last week, Advent calls us to be on the lookout for the presence of Christ who inhabits our every loss, who is present in each devastation, who is present even in our betrayals and infidelities, and gathers us up when our world has shattered, and offers healing now. Mark’s opening words announce a ‘beginning’ (as Genesis did, ‘In the beginning…’). Mark is saying that God is doing something new with the coming of Jesus – a new era, a new covenant and a new people are beginning. The world that was and is stuck in its old, sinful and destructive patterns can be made new and alive.

John and Mary are always calling out that a new spirit and a new time is coming. So we do not go back to Bethlehem, but forward, for Bethlehem is to be found in a new and unknown time.

There are echoes of the psalm in 2Peter who looks for a new heaven and a new earth ‘where righteousness is at home’ and where we ‘strive to be found by [God] at peace’. The promised day of the Lord has not arrived but this is the time to be reconciled with one another as we try to live the values of God’s world. We need to find ways in which we can help each other in this process. Reconciliation requires repentance. In Australia, it requires a recognition of what our presence in this land has meant to the First peoples of this land and the need to stand with them as strive to live in dignity. In Australia, it requires a recognition of what we have done and still do to asylum seekers when their spirits are broken, their lives put on hold, and punished for being in the situation they find themselves. In Australia it also requires taking responsibility for the hurt we cause, not only others, but to the earth and the animal world. In Australia, it also requires us to admit that our ties to the USA cause us to be implicated in the murder of people overseas by drone strikes because US bases on our land facilitate this to occur – and those who draw attention to this are arrested and arraigned before the courts.

Advent asks: Who of us will echo his voice? Who of us will respond? We need voices that will speak loudly and bravely of the implications of God’s presence in the world. Only the strong of heart have the courage to try. Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan Nobel Peace recipient who died a few years ago likened it to the story of a little hummingbird who tries to put out the fire raging in its beautiful forest home by carrying in its beak one drop of water at a time to the blaze. When asked by the other animals why she even bothers, the hummingbird responds, ‘I’m doing what I can.’ (‘I will be a hummingbird’ - Wangari Maathai - YouTube).  There are movements around us that are part of this prophetic proclamation, but those of us who are called by Christ are to be people who communicate God’s justice, God’s kindness, God’s mercy and compassion, and God’s liberating reign. We have seen in recent times that that Church is not prophetic. It speaks out too soon on issues that we oppose or fear and slow to demonstrate a commitment to God’s Reign. Advent challenges us to embody what we proclaim in our own commitment to everyday acts of justice, inclusivity, grace, compassion and generosity. We do less through words and more through our actions that reveal an alternative way being presence that demonstrates God’s mercy and compassion, justice and mercy, concern for the poor and marginalised, the broken and grieving, the excluded and rejected. And maybe, just maybe, the people that most need to hear this message of hope and joy are not just far away but might be right nears us in our families, church communities, workplaces and neighbourhoods.