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 FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

3rd sunday of advent

Third Sunday in Advent

Year B

December 17th, 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.

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.

A Prayer for Rohingya and Manus Refugees

Rev Scott Higgins November 30, 2017

blog-prayer

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.

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Readings

Reading I                    Is 61:1-2a, 10-11

Responsorial Psalm  Lk 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54 (Is 61:10b) My soul rejoices in my God.

Reading II                  1 Thess 5:16-24

Gospel                         Jn 1:6-8, 19-28

Penitential Rite

·         Jesus, we have been anointed to bring good news to the poor.  Jesus, have mercy.

·         Jesus you sent us to bring healing and reconciliation to the brokenhearted. Christ, have mercy.

·         Jesus, you sent us to proclaim your jubilee to in debt and liberty to captives. Jesus, have mercy.

Opening Prayer

Liberating God,

You send glad news to the poor

and call them into the light of your presence.

Remove our blindness

and our hardness of heart

so that we become a people

who recognise Christ in our midst

and find peace in his saving presence.

General Intercessions

Introduction: May our waiting in this season be one of listening to our world that calls us daily to respond in hope to its many groans. We come before God in praying:  Come, stay with us, O God.

1.       We pray for the all Christian Churches: may they bear witness to Christ’s presence by their concern for justice and peace, the search for unity and respect for personal conscience, we pray: Come, stay with us, O God and send down your spirit

2.      We pray for all Christian people: may they recognise that they are anointed to bring God’s good news to the poor, reconciliation and liberation to all who have been oppressed or made captive by unjust economic systems, we pray: R/ Come, stay with us, O God and send down your spirit

3.       We pray for the people of the Philippines: that as they again endure another destructive cyclone they may find courage, peace, comfort and support in one another as they experience the loss of loved ones and assess the damage done to their livelihoods, we pray: R/ Come, stay with us, O God and send down your spirit

4.      We pray for all people who sincerely God: may they bring freedom to prisoners, food and drink to the needy and speak God’s words of encouragement to the brokenhearted, we pray: R/ Come, stay with us, O God and send down your spirit.

5.       We pray for all those who are poor: may they may experience the glad tidings of justice; for all those who are brokenhearted and overwhelmed by injustice; for all those who are captives to economic and political oppression; for all those who are in prison; and for children who are growing up in poverty, we pray: R/ Come, stay with us, O God and send down your spirit

6.      We pray for this faith community: that it may it be a place of inclusive welcome to all people by its compassion, search for justice, mutual respect, service and sharing, we pray: R/ Come, stay with us, O God and send down your spirit

7.       We pray for the world: that it may know the promise of peace that comes when the hungry are fed, those without a home sheltered, those unjustly imprisoned set free, we pray R/ Come, stay with us, O God and send down your spirit

8.      We pray for peace in the troubled areas of the world such as Gaza and Israel, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, West Papua so that through dialogue and mutual respect nonviolent means may be found to settle differences among peoples, we pray: R/ Come, stay with us, O God and send down your spirit

9.      We remember those who have died … (names). That those who are grieving and find their loss particularly difficult as Christmas approaches may find comfort in the prayers of those who care for them, we pray: R/ Come, stay with us, O God and send down your spirit

Concluding Prayer: Come, stay with us, Liberating God, and show us the directions we are to take in order to be your face to those we encounter in our world. Amen.

Prayer over the Gifts

Liberating God,

we welcome Jesus, your Son, in our midst

with these gifts of bread and wine.

May the Spirit of Jesus be upon us

to help us welcome one another

with the food and drink we share together.

Prayer after Communion

Liberating God,

may our sharing in this Eucharist

help us to know Christ better

and learn to recognise him

in the people around us,

especially the poor and marginalised,

and may our solidarity with them

be a source of good news to them.

Further Resources

Advent Credo by Fr Daniel Berrigan sj(born 1921-    )

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.

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice. Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ—the life of the world.

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

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Nuclear disarmament activist. Australian activist Felicity Ruby was the first staff member and coordinator of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons (ICAN). ICAN was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for"for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons." Felicity is now pursuing her Ph.D. at Sydney University.

Light shining in the dark

Christ, we wait with eager expectation for the coming of your reign

when the humble will be exalted and the hungry fed.

Your will be done.

Christ, we prepare for your advent with searching minds and contrite hearts,

trusting in your healing spirit and redemptive love.

Your will be done.

Christ, we watch with those who wait and weep,

longing to see the rule of justice and the reign of peace.

Your will be done.

Christ, we seek you amongst the despised and rejected,

knowing that there we will find your light shining in the dark.

Your will be done.

Christ, we proclaim sight to the blind and liberty to the oppressed,

trusting in your tender mercy and passion for justice.

Your will be done.

Christ, we work with CAFOD to proclaim your truth,

challenging the mighty and raising the meek.

Your will be done.

Christ, we wrestle with our hopes and our fears, our struggles and our joys

labouring with creation to come to new birth.

May your reign come,

your will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Adapted for gender sensitivity from © Annabel Shilson-Thomas CAFOD

Set us free

Pilgrim God,

Journey with us as we seek you amongst the poor and dispossessed

And guide our feet that we may travel with those who long to find the way home.

Your will be done

Wait with us as we listen to discern your voice amongst the cries for peace
And touch our hearts that we may join with those who long for justice.

Your will be done

Search with us as we struggle to find your light amongst the shadows of oppression
And kindle our flame that we may be a beacon of hope to those who sit in darkness.

Your will be done

Join with us as we prepare to face your truth amongst the challenge of repentance

And feed our desire for justice that we may reach out to those in need.

Your will be done

Rejoice with us as we listen to your promise to set us free

And raise our voice of liberation that we may give courage to those who live in fear.

Your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

Amen.

Adapted for gender sensitivity from © Annabel Shilson-Thomas CAFOD

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it.

Stephen Colbert, from the US program The Colbert Report

God of our longing

God of our longing

hear our prayers,

protect our dreams,

and listen to our silent hopes.

Deal gently with our pain,

speak to our sadness

and remove the barriers

that imprison our spirit.

Shed your light

where shadows are cast,

that we may feel your warmth

and know your presence.

Give us courage

to hold fast to our vision

that we may build our world

and create our future.

©Annabel Shilson-Thomas CAFOD

Hope prevents us from clinging to what we have and frees us to move away from the safe place and enter unknown and fearful territory.

Henri J.M. Nouwen

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don't give up.

Anne Lamott from Bird by Bird: Some instructions on writing and life

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each [one's] life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

My father . . . used to say, 'I need my anger. It obliges me to take action.' I think my father was partly right. Anger arises, naturally, to signal disturbing situations that might require action. But actions initiated in anger perpetuate suffering. The most effective actions are those conceived in the wisdom of clarity.

Sylvia Boorstein

Prayer – Meditation:

The following prayer was found on the web site of the Reformed Church of America (http://www.rca.org).

God our Father,

in the name of him

who gave bread to the hungry,

we remember all

who through our human ignorance,

folly, and sin

are condemned to live in want.

Show us, who have so much,

what we can do

to help those who have so little;

and bless the efforts of those

who work to overcome poverty and hunger,

that sufficient food may be found for all;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland, St. Andrew Press.

Animated by the charity of Christ, a human person finds it impossible not to love his fellow human beings. He makes his own their needs, their sufferings and their joys. There is a sureness of touch in all his activity in every field. It is energetic, generous and considerate. For ‘charity is patient, is kind; charity envies not, deals not perversely, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, seeks not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinks no evil; rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.’

Pope John XXIII in Mater and Magistra

… the church is not perfect. Its early bishop James had to remind the people: . . . it was those who are poor according to the world that the Lord chose, to be rich in faith and to be heirs to all that was promised to those who love God.  …. Yet the church continues, despite its sins, working for the poor, insisting on practical love, and not just prayers and good intentions.

This Land is Home to Me: A Pastoral Letter on Poverty and Powerlessness in Appalachia by the Catholic Bishops of the Region, February 1, 1975

The millions of people whose very lives are at risk because they lack the minimum basic food call for the attention of the International Community, because it is the common duty of us all to care for our brothers and sisters.   Indeed, famine is not entirely due to geographical and climatic situations or to the unfavorable circumstances linked to harvests. It is also caused by human beings themselves and by their selfishness, which is expressed by gaps in social organization, by rigidity in economic structures all too often oriented solely to profit, and even by practices against human life and ideological systems that reduce the person, deprived of his fundamental dignity, to being a mere instrument.  True world development, organized and integral, which everyone hopes for, requires on the contrary an objective knowledge of human situations, the identification of the real causes of poverty and practical responses whose priority is the appropriate formation of each person and community. Thus, the authentic freedom and responsibility that are proper to human action will be put into practice.

Pope Benedict XVI, 12 October 2005

I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me... All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.

Jackie Robinson

Human rights can never be at the mercy of individual opinions or individual prejudices. It is not for governments to grant human rights but to recognise and protect them.

John Faulkner

The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity.

Benjamin Franklin

...our civilization, so addicted to knowledge, has fled from wisdom. Knowledge is very, very powerful. If it is not tempered and contoured by greater visions, like justice, compassion, beauty, grace and thinking of the next generation and seven generations to come -- then indeed, it is dangerous.

Matthew Fox

Charity should be abolished; and be replaced by justice

Norman Bethune

Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.

Saint Augustine

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe’ -- Frederick Douglass

The law is not the private property of lawyers, nor is justice the exclusive province of judges and juries. In the final analysis, true justice is not a matter of courts and law books, but of a commitment in each of us to liberty and mutual respect.

Jimmy Carter

The conquest of war and the pursuit of social justice... must become our grand preoccupation and magnificent obsession.

Norman Cousins

When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?

Eleanor Roosevelt

We have a world to conquer...one person at a time...starting with ourselves.

Nikki Giovanni

Take your easy tears somewhere else. Tell yourself none of this ever had to happen. And then go make it stop. With whatever breath you have left. Grief is a sword or it is nothing.

Paul Monette

The doctrine that might makes right has covered the earth with misery. While it crushes the weak, it also destroys the strong. Every deceit, every cruelty, every wrong, reaches back sooner or later and crushes its author. Justice is moral health, bringing happiness, wrong is moral disease, bringing mortal death.

John Peter Altgeld

I cannot accept that to be realistic means to tolerate misery, violence and hate. I do not believe that the hungry man should be treated as subversive for expressing his suffering. I shall never accept that the law can be used to justify tragedy, to keep things as they are, to make us abandon our ideas of a different world.

Oscar Arias Sanchez

Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.

John Maynard Keynes

All tyrannies rule through fraud and force, but that once the fraud is exposed they must rely exclusively on force.’  - George Orwell

When injustice becomes law resistance becomes duty.

Anonymous

The evolution of culture is ultimately determined by the amount of love, understanding and freedom experienced by its children... Every abandonment, every betrayal, every hateful act towards children returns tenfold a few decades later upon the historical stage, while every empathic act that helps a child become what he or she wants to become, every expression of love toward children heals society and moves it in unexpected, wondrous new directions.

Lloyd deMause

No one has yet fully realized the wealth of sympathy, kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure.   The ultimate end of all revolutionary social change is to establish the sanctity of human life, the dignity of man, the right of every human being to liberty and well-being.

Emma Goldman (Russian-American lecturer and activist, 1869-1940)

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

Greek Proverb

Prejudice, which sees what it pleases, cannot see what is plain.

Aubrey T. de Vere (French-born Earl of Oxford, c. 1110-1194)

To punish a man, because we infer from the nature of some doctrine which he holds, or from the conduct of other persons who hold the same doctrines with him, that he will commit a crime, is persecution, and is, in every case, foolish and wicked.

Thomas B. Macaulay (British author, 1800-1858)

One of the first things I think young people, especially nowadays, should learn is how to see for yourself and listen for yourself and think for yourself.  You're not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.

Malcolm X (U.S. civil rights activist, 1925-1965)

There is hunger for ordinary bread, and there is hunger for love, for kindness, for thoughtfulness; and this is the great poverty that makes people suffer so much.

Mother Teresa

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

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

Steve Biko

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

God will make a way

God will make a Way

where there seems to be no way.

God works in ways we cannot see

and will make a Way for me

With love and strength for each new day.

By a roadway in the wilderness

God will lead me

and I will see

rivers in the desert.

Heaven and earth will fade

but God's word will still remain

and together we will do something new today.

Sr Colette Selvam from Images of prayer, ed. Linda Jones (CAFOD 2005)

Longing for a new creation

Compassionate God,

As we look to you for judgement, hold out your hand of compassion

That we may be chastened by your show of mercy and reach out to others in reconciliation.

We look to you, In whom we hope

As we contemplate our end, make us mindful of your promise of a new beginning

That we may share your promise of life and bring hope to those who sit in darkness.

We look to you, In whom we hope

As we remember Elizabeth in her barrenness, fill us with longing for the birth of a new creation

That we too may be surprised by joy, and labour with those who seek to make all things new.

We look to you

In whom we hope

As John leapt in his mother’s womb, help us so to recognise Christ in friend and stranger

That we may respond in love, and learn to serve our neighbour with generosity, not judgement.

We look to you, In whom we hope

As Mary and Elizabeth sought each other, grant us the wisdom to recognise our needs

That we too may seek each other in solidarity and offer strength/power to the powerless.

We look to you, In whom we hope

As Mary proclaimed the salvation of the Lord, give us courage to stand alongside the downtrodden

That we may sing of their hopes and join hands to realise their dreams.

We look to you, In whom we hope

And long to see.

Amen

Adapted for gender sensitivity from © Annabel Shilson-Thomas CAFOD

Redeeming love

God of our desire and longing,

we await your coming with eager expectation

and with joyful hope.

Strengthen our hearts and minds

with the beckoning light of your redeeming love

that we may earnestly work for the coming of your kingdom

and be ever ready to receive you in those we meet.

Amen.

© Annabel Shilson-Thomas CAFOD

God of power and compassion

Leader: As we acknowledge our successes and our failures, what we have done,
And what we have been unable to do.
We turn to God, in prayer:

Reader: Comfort your people
And clothe us with your strength

All: Comfort your people, God of power and compassion

Reader: Calm our anxieties, soothe our anguish
And light the darkness that surrounds us

All: Comfort your people, God of power and compassion

Reader Compel us with your courage
And enable us with your wisdom

All: Comfort your people, God of power and compassion

Reader Hear our voices and our hearts
As we wait and watch together

All: Comfort your people, God of power and compassion

Reader Surround us with your love
And anoint us with your peace

All: Comfort your people, God of power and compassion

Adapted for gender sensitivity from © Linda Jones CAFOD

Swords into ploughshares

God of the dispossessed,

as we prepare to greet your saving light,

give us grace to watch with those who weep

and endurance to stand with those who wait

for a safe place to rest,

a return to home

and the fulfillment of hope,

that together we may beat swords into ploughshares

and make straight the paths that lead to peace.

Amen.

© Annabel Shilson-Thomas CAFOD

The injustice of war

God of peace,

in the wilderness of conflict

let us hear your voice

and be challenged to repent.

Fill us with your holy rage

that we may join your protest

and proclaim the injustice of war.

Embolden us with the hope of Advent

that we may oppose oppression

and proclaim liberation.

Amen.

© Annabel Shilson-Thomas CAFOD

Further Resources

Your task is not to seek for love,

but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself

that you have built against it.

Rumi Sufi mystic and poet

The minute I heard my first love story,

I started looking for you, not knowing

how blind that was.

Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.

They're in each other all along.

Rumi

You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?

Rumi

What you seek is seeking you.

Rumi

Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you're perfectly free.

Rumi

Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Rumi

Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing there is a field.

I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.

Rumi

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.

Edward R. Murrow, outspoken broadcaster during the time of the McCarthy Era in the USA

Mourn not the dead that in the cool earth lie, but rather mourn the apathetic, throng the coward and the meek who see the world's great anguish and its wrong, and dare not speak

Ralph Chaplin

A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Today the tyrant rules not by club or fist, but, disguised as a market researcher, he shepherds his flocks in the ways of utility and comfort.

Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980)

From 1945 to 2003, the United States attempted to overthrow more than 40 foreign governments, and to crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements fighting against intolerable regimes. In the process, the US bombed some 25 countries, caused the end of life for several million people, and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair.

William Blum

Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of today.

President Theodore Roosevelt - 1906

They are torturing people. They are torturing people on Guantánamo Bay. They are engaging in acts which amount to torture in the medieval sense of the phrase. They are engaging in good old-fashioned torture, as people would have understood it in the Dark Ages. 

Richard Bourke, Australian attorney

Observance of customs and laws can very easily be a cloak for a lie so subtle that our fellow human beings are unable to detect it. It may help us to escape all criticism, we may even be able to deceive ourselves in the belief of our obvious righteousness. But deep down, below the surface of the average man's conscience, he hears a voice whispering, ‘There is something not right,’ no matter how much his rightness is supported by public opinion or by the moral code.

Carl Gustav Jung

All government, in its essence, is organized exploitation, and in virtually all of its existing forms it is the implacable enemy of every industrious and well-disposed man.

H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) American Journalist, Editor, Essayist, Linguist, Lexicographer, and Critic

The form of law which I propose would be as follows: In a state which is desirous of being saved from the greatest of all plagues -- not faction, but rather distraction -- there should exist among the citizens neither extreme poverty nor, again, excessive wealth, for both are productive of great evil . . . Now the legislator should determine what is to be the limit of poverty or of wealth.

Plato (427-347 B.C.)

The greatest country, the richest country, is not that which has the most capitalists, monopolists, immense grabbings, vast fortunes, with its sad, sad soil of extreme, degrading, damning poverty, but the land in which there are the most homesteads, freeholds-where wealth does not show such contrasts high and low, where all men have enough-a modest living-and no man is made possessor beyond the sane and beautiful necessities.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.

James Baldwin, Fiction Writer, Essayist, Social Critic, 1924-1987

The greatest bulwark of capitalism is militarism.

Emma Goldman Biography - Anarchist, Feminist, Labor Advocate, 1869-1940

It's amazing how people can get so excited about a rocket to the moon and not give a damn about smog, oil leaks, the devastation of the environment with pesticides, hunger, disease. When the poor share some of the power that the affluent now monopolize, we will give a damn.

Cesar Estrada Chavez Biography - Farm Workers' Union Founder, Human Rights Activist, 1927-1993

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.

Noam Chomsky (1928- ) Institute Professor Emeritus of Linguistics

No one has ever succeeded in keeping nations at war except by lies.

Salvador de Madariaga (1886-1978), Spanish writer, diplomat, and historian, noted for his service at the League of Nations

We have the possibility of doing the unimaginable. We have the possibility of changing our institutional structures to match what our hearts and minds know are the right things to do.

Carolyn Lukensmeyer

I think that all of the people I've ever admired in life are people of whom it might be said, ‘they were men and women of suffering and acquainted with grief,’ to quote an Old Testament or Hebrew Bible phrase. They were people with broken hearts, whose hearts had been broken by an open-hearted engagement with the world. And with the folks I work with, teachers, doctors, lawyers, community organizers, peace activists, clergy men and women—anyone who does their work with an open heart is going to have their heart broken.... And so the question isn't whether our hearts are going to be broken, the question is, how are we going to hold the brokenheartedness? And which way will it go with us? Will it go toward destruction, or will it go toward choosing life and creativity?

Parker J. Palmer

It’s not simply about finding people who can help sustain your hearts; it’s about crafting communities that know how to hold dissent in a way that keeps opening everyone’s heart.

Parker J. Palmer

Magnificat

  • John van der Laar January 16, 2015

We praise you, Lord,

and our spirits rejoice in you – our Saviour;

For you take notice of the unnoticeable,

and transform them into the blessed;

You are strong and true to yourself and all that is good

in everything you are and do and say;

and you do great things for us;

Through the ages you have shown compassion

to those who trust you,

And in your strength you have scattered

those who are arrogant and abusive;

You have made the thrones of tyrants topple

and you have made humble people into leaders of many;

You have cared for and provided for those who have nothing,

and you have left the over-satisfied with empty hands;

You have always been a help to your people,

and have shown mercy when we have gone astray;

You made this promise to our ancestors,

and you continue to stay true to it even now.

We praise you, Lord,

and our spirits rejoice in you – our Saviour.

Amen.

A New World

·         By John van der Laar December 18, 2014

In the quiet moments, in the still places,

I can sometimes hear it;

An urgent voice, echoing through the wildernesses of the world,

and of my heart

calling me to prepare and to participate

in the new world that wants to be born.

How can I be part of something that I haven’t seen,

that I struggle even to conceptualise, let alone understand?

Yet, still the voice calls, and my heart stirs.

I begin to imagine a world of joy and creativity,

a world where the poor are always cared for

and the rich are always generous;

a world where justice guides,

and where mourning is always temporary;

a world where the highest values are valued most highly

and where priorities and agendas are set

with the greatest good in mind.

This world exists, Jesus, in the Gospel you preached,

in the stable and the cross and the empty tomb,

in Baptismal waters and Eucharistic meals

in your constant calling, and your constant coming.

And so we praise you for this world,

and for the dream that we can learn to know it here and now

even as you do.

Amen.

Reflection on the Readings

Reflection on the Readings

The words of the gospel on the recent Feast of Christ the King referred to those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and those in prison - and those that don’t.  Isaiah’s words today were used by Jesus when he began his public ministry. This vision statement was enfleshed in his words and actions in care for the poor and the sick, striving for justice, bring hope to the outcast and release to the captives. Here, Jesus returned to his own ancient tradition of caring for the marginalised, which are also at the heart of our Christian calling: to care for the poor, the sick, the outcast, the vulnerable, the marginalised; to bring release to the captives; to proclaim the reign of God.

John’s preaching shook many consciences and articulate what many felt in their hearts and the urge ‘what can we do?’ John did not propose new religious practices or impose further penances or deliver new precepts. ‘What can we do?’ was answered in action: ‘Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none; and whoever has food should do likewise.’ This is how we welcome Jesus in the midst of our society but we need to be aware of the harsh suffering that is brought upon many of our sisters and brothers. We need to be aware of the lies and cover-ups that hide the truth of the situation of many people. It has been clear with regard to people who are unemployed or homeless or seeking asylum or other forms of social exclusion and their voices rendered silent. In the coming year we will be offered the opportunity to humanise our crazed consumerism, to the plight of people caught up in the supply chains and rendered enslaved or bonded, to become more sensitive to the suffering of victims, to grow in practical solidarity, to contribute to the denouncing of the lack of compassion in managing the crisis.

For Isaiah, the priority is the justice that sets things right. Though most of us have not been in a prison, we have been imprisoned inside our heads and hearts by narrow, fixed ideas that blind us; stubbornness that cuts us off from others; prejudice and bigotry that puts us at odds with others; stereotyping that excuses us from engaging with another person; compulsions and addictions that prevent us from building a real life; pessimism and fearfulness that trap us within a tiny cell; long-cherished grievances that lock others out of so much love; self-absorption and self-centredness that condemn us to solitary confinement; living a lie about who we really are …  and so much more. 

The world is groaning: Environment. People with HIV/AIDS cry out for respect and compassion. People cry out for peace as arms industries profit. The death toll in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to rise (drones). Soldiers die for a lie. Refugees and asylum seekers seek to be believed and given protection and wonder why they are coming in greater numbers. Gay and lesbian people look for acceptance and respect. Aboriginal Australians still seek true respect for their culture. People who have been abused and downtrodden seek justice. This is the heart of our call and mission. Ministry is noticing those people that others fail to notice.

Isaiah wants us to imagine a new ‘political’ future. All the readings including the Magnificat (Responsorial) carry this one theme. The dream for freedom and justice is unstoppable despite attempts to stop it. John’s urgent and disturbing voice shakes things up as they are. John’s announcement of God’s nearness was a threat to the independent, the privileged, and comfortable. The paranoid protectors of the establishment send their lackeys out to a place that is of no geopolitical significance to shake down people with no geopolitical interest other than to be left alone.

We are still called to break out of our prison cells and imagine a new order. Paul suggests we do by helping the weak, not repay evil for evil, seek to do good to all, hold fast to what is good. If we are comfortable and complacent with the present order and secure in our world then we may have become accustomed to our prison bars.

John was offering them a chance where someone cared and listened to them. It was an offer of help, meaning and dignity to people declared untouchable by the establishment. What a threat to the establishment? Who would do such a thing? What if he started a revolution? We see in the Magnificat the subversive song that still strikes fear in those in power. It occurred when the Guatemalan government banned the Magnificat in the 1980s; the British banned it in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in the 1800s; Argentina banned it when the Mothers of the Disappeared (husbands, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters) used it in their call for nonviolent resistance to the ruling junta. The tone of this Song is that of the Old Testament women through to the present who call for justice. Messages of hope are good news to the poor, and bad news to those who want to maintain power and wealth over the poor and vulnerable. It is not consolation from a safe distance but a ‘no’ to who and whatever oppresses and extinguishes a decent future for others.

John’s ‘voice crying out in the wilderness’ was ignored, discounted, ridiculed and ultimately snuffed out in his killing. But, hope is stronger than cynicism, optimism, greed, arrogance, and self-interest. Oppressors want to kill hope, take away the future, and produce pliant, passive people who will do the will of the powerful. The Magnificat is about turning around what seems impossible and unthinkable. Desmond Tutu might have seemed like ‘a voice crying in the wilderness’. Tutu’s denunciations of the unjust apartheid regime were always shaped by a hope-filled proclamation of the inevitability of the day of freedom for all South Africans whilst his opponents who advocated inequality and oppression found it hard to hold their ground. People in the peace movement have a vision of a world where peace is inevitable whilst continuing to oppose those who justify war. It was, is, a defiant hope. John was one who cared for people excluded, people rejected and sick people.

In the world of John’s Gospel, those who see and care are those who are really in charge, and who see God. This gospel is a drama about those who claim to be in charge are not, those of little geopolitical consequence really are.

We can rejoice in so many people who try to transform their world even without even seeing great results: peace and justice activists, carers, nurses, doctors, educators, researchers, activists and dissidents, health providers, chaplains, etc. Isaiah, in addressing the suffering, the poor, the captives and broken-hearted takes on the ‘comfortable: system that is closed to the needs of others. We are are called to change and bring about a just world. This is a real challenge when we also participate in and support policies that solidify our comfortable positions and contribute to the suffering of others, the depletion of the earth's resources, and justify divisiveness in our society between religious, ethnic and other groups. The scriptures do not want us to stop dreaming.

Today’s readings are filled with people who are disturbers of the peace, and saw hope threatened in any collaboration with the status quo because those who comfortable with the status quo will not welcome the One who comes to make all things new. A voice calling out to us today to break out of our prison cell and imagine a new order. If we are comfortable and complacent with the present order and secure in our world then we may have become accustomed to our prison bars. That new order begins as Paul joins John’s call: help the weak, do not repay evil for evil, seek to do good to all, hold fast to what is good.

It seems that Pope Francis knows what plagues our planet, yet encourages us to live and preach the joy of the Gospel. He admits that ‘The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures and a blunted conscience’ (‘The Joy of the Gospel,’ Nov 24, 2013). The Pope wants to help the church realize that it still shares John’s prophetic role of pointing out the truth and necessity of Jesus in a sinful (unjust) world. He has called us to say no to an economy of exclusion that makes us indifferent and incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor. He has urged us to not be ruled by money but to a generous solidarity and to the return an ethical approach to economics and finance which favours people not corporations. He has called us as followers of the peaceful Jesus to say no to the inequality that leads to violence in a society that is content or comfortable in leaving a part of itself on the fringes. He has challenged us and the whole church to say ‘yes’ to the Spirit and to all the new relationships brought out by Christ. Let us embrace ‘the challenges of finding and sharing a mystique of living together, of mingling and encounter, of embracing and supporting one another, of stepping into this flood tide which, while chaotic, can become a genuine experience of fraternity, a caravan of solidarity, a sacred pilgrimage. Greater possibilities for communication thus turn into greater possibilities for encounter and solidarity for everyone. … Sometimes, we are tempted to … keep the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length. Yet, Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others.’  We cannot isolate ourselves from human misfortune but ‘instead, to enter into the reality of other people’s lives and know the power of tenderness.’

God is at work in every endeavour that strives for peace and wholeness, even if that peace is partial and that wholeness only glimpsed. God does not just become flesh in the birth of Jesus but also in each one of us. We people say ‘come Lord Jesus, come’ that invitation is to us strive to build that ‘culture of encounter’ that Pope Francis often alludes to by becoming involved in struggles of people around us, and beyond. We are to become the answers to the Advent prayers of those who hunger and thirst after justice, who cry out for liberation and who yearn for the promise of the Word made flesh, because the God who comes to us in Jesus is the One who ‘brings down the powerful from their thrones, lifts up the lowly, fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty’. If we do so at no other season of the year, let us be reminded that our Advent hope is Jesus, hope of the hopeless, voice of the voiceless, liberator of the captives and wealth of the poor. It is God who comes to walk among us in Jesus, the Word made flesh.