- Published: Tuesday, 06 March 2018 19:41
LITURGY NOTES FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT, 2018
Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 11th 2018
Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where we are now gathered, (the Gadigal people of the great Eora nation,) 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.
We acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land
on which we stand.
We pay our respects to them and 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.
The beauty that will save the world is the love that shares the pain.
Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini former Archbishop of Milan
‘My vengeance is that I forgive you.’
Peace remains possible. And if peace is possible, it is also a duty! Pope Benedict XVI, Message for World Day of Prayer for Peace 2004
What we do not love, we will not save.
Wendell Berry – poet, ecologist
First Reading: 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23 The story of the exile of the chosen people
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 137:1-6 How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
Second Reading: Ephesians 2:4-10 By grace you have been saved.
Gospel: John 3:14-21 Light came into the world.
q God of Light, you sent your Son into our world, not to condemn but to save: Jesus, have mercy.
q God of Light, you are rich in mercy and your love is unbounded: Christ, have mercy.
q God of Light, you sent your Son into a hostile world so that we might come to know your light: Jesus, have mercy.
Good and gracious God,
out of love for the world
you gave us your only Son, Jesus the Christ.
Through him you spoke peace to our world
and by his suffering, death and resurrection
you brought us the gift of reconciliation.
May we work to turn hatred into love,
conflict into peace
and death to fullness of life.
Prayer over the Gifts
Good and gracious God,
may the gifts we offer bring us peace and joy.
May we, by celebrating this Eucharist,
be strengthened to
bring your light into the world.
Prayer after Communion
Good and gracious God,
your presence enlightens our world.
Fill our hearts with the light of your gospel
so that we may instruments of your peace.
Prayers of the Faithful
Introduction: Let us pray with hope and confidence to God, who loved us so much as to give us Jesus the Christ.
1. For the people of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, and our own country: may human rights abuses and burdens they continue to suffer soon end and their dignity be respected, we pray: Good and gracious God, hear our prayer.
2. For the people of West Papua: may they be supported by courageous governments in their struggle for independence and have their human rights observed and justice for people killed and violated be secured, we pray: Good and gracious God, hear our prayer.
3. For the people of Timor Leste who have lived with injustice and bullying at the hands of the Australian government finally have a semblance of justice given them as their government and the Australian government sign a maritime boundary treaty at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, we pray: Good and gracious God, hear our prayer.
4. For peace in our world: may those with power and in power use dialogue, understanding and respect as nations talk up war against Iran, we pray: Good and gracious God, hear our prayer.
5. For the peoples of Africa who continue to face starvation due to foreign speculation and drought: may the rich nations take up the challenge to address the issues of poverty, debt and conflict so that the people may live lives of dignity and health in peace, we pray: Good and gracious God, hear our prayer.
6. For the many people who continue to be uprooted today - victims of war and oppression, prisoners, migrants and the homeless, and especially the Rohingha at this time: may they find hope in our concern for justice and experience the strength of your love, we pray: Good and gracious God, hear our prayer.
7. For women, men and children who are victims of human trafficking: may we open our eyes to the reality of this evil and the causes of trafficking and exploitation be addressed, we pray: Good and gracious God, hear our prayer.
8. For all people continue to face uncertainty in their lives because they are refugees and seek security: may politicians and legislators show compassion by overturning the harsh decisions that affect these people, we pray: Good and gracious God, hear our prayer.
9. For all people who commemorate Lent: may their hearts be illuminated by the light of the gospel and their eyes opened to the depth of true suffering, structured injustice and global poverty in our world, we pray: Good and gracious God, hear our prayer.
10. For all who are sick or who live with chronic pain: may they find comfort in the love and care of those who love them, care for them and must witness their suffering, we pray: Good and gracious God, hear our prayer.
Concluding Prayer: Good and gracious God, in Jesus you have set before us many signs or your presence. Protect us in our struggle against the darkness of our lives, assist us in our efforts to do good and encourage us as we strive to be people of the light. During this Lenten season may hear your voice and know your presence among us and be signs of your peace and light in our world.
March 11 Death of 18,500 people and widespread contamination following the earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima, Japan (2011)
March 15 National Close the Gap Day
March 17 Feast of St Patrick
Our task must be to widen our circle of compassion,
to embrace all living creatures
and the whole of nature in its beauty.
If I sit silently, I have sinned.
Mohammad Mossadegh (16 June 1882 – 5 March 1967), Prime Minister of Iran (1951 to 1953) overthrown in a coup d'état on 19 August 1953 organised and carried out by the CIA at the request of the British MI6 because of social reform he introduced most notably the nationalisation of the Iranian oil industry, which the British had controlled since 1913 through the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later British Petroleum or BP).
God of Compassion,
You let your rain fall on the just and the unjust.
Expand and deepen our hearts so that we may love as You love,
even those among us who have caused the greatest pain by taking life.
For there is in our land a great cry for vengeance
as we fill up death rows and kill the killers in the name of justice, in the name of peace.
Jesus, our brother, You suffered execution at the hands of the state
but you did no let hatred overcome you.
Help us to reach out to victims of violence
so that our enduring love may help them heal.
Holy Spirit of God, You strengthen us in the struggle for justice.
Help us to work tirelessly for the abolition of stat-sanctioned death
and to renew our society in its very heart so that violence will be no more.
Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ
O loving God, help us to be masters of the weapons that threaten to master us. Help us to use science for peace and plenty, not for war and destruction. …Save us from the compulsion to follow our adversaries in all that we most hate, confirming them in their hatred and suspicion of us. Resolve our inner contradictions, which now grow beyond belief and beyond bearing… Grant light, grant strength and patience to all who work for peace; grant us prudence in proportion to our power, wisdom in proportion to our science, humanness in proportion to our wealth and might. And bless our earnest will to help all races and peoples to travel, in friendship with us, along the road to justice, liberty and lasting peace.
Thomas Merton, Non Violent Alternative
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.
I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I'm a human being, first and foremost, and as such I'm for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.
When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.
We must join with the tens of millions all over the world who see in peace our most sacred responsibility.
The general public are viewed as no more than ignorant and meddlesome outsiders, a bewildered herd. And it's the responsible men who have to make decisions and to protect society from the trampling and rage of the bewildered herd. Now since it's a democracy they - the herd, that is - are permitted occasionally to lend their weight to one or another member of the responsible class. That's called an election.
Democracy consists of choosing your dictators, after they've told you what you think it is you want to hear.
Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen, or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?
Today television news is watched more often than people read newspapers, than people listen to the radio, than people read or gather any other form of communication. The reason: People are lazy. With television you just sit - watch - listen. The thinking is done for you.
Roger Ailes (president of Fox News Channel) while working for the Nixon administration
Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold. It will not remove the pain of torture inflicted on a prisoner of conscience. It does not comfort those who have lost their loved ones in floods caused by senseless deforestation in a neighbouring country. Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free.
The XIVth Dalai Lama
Goodness without wisdom always accomplished evil.
Robert A. Heinlein - (1907-1988) Stranger in a Strange Land
In the name of peace
They waged the wars
Ain't they got no shame
Yes, we love peace, but we are not willing to take wounds for it, as we are for war.
John Andrew Holmes, Wisdom in Small Doses
I've been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headlines
And the sound of the crowd in my ear
You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that you've seen it before
Where a government lies to a people
And a country is drifting to war
And there's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interest runs
On the radio talk shows and the t.v.
You hear one thing again and again
How the u.s.a. stands for freedom
And we come to the aid of a friend
But who are the ones that we call our friends-
These governments killing their own?
Or the people who finally can't take any more
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone
There are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire
There's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who fan the flames
Of the wars that are fought in places
Where we can't even say the names
They sell us the president the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us every thing from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars
I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they're never the ones to fight or to die
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire
Jackson Browne, Lives In The Balance
All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
[Man] can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice.
Safeguarding the rights of others is the most noble and beautiful end of a human being.
America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms - of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.
I don't want them to believe me, I just want them to think.
Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty.
Henry David Thoreau
Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.
Eugene V. Debs
The civility of no race can be perfect whilst another race is degraded. It is a doctrine of the oldest and of the newest philosophy, that man is one, and that you cannot injure any member, without a sympathetic injury to all members.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
In times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.
I'm witnessing this chronic, insidious genocide and I'm really scared, and questioning my fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature. This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop.
To protest in the name of morality against 'excesses' or 'abuses' is an error which hints at active complicity. There are no 'abuses' or 'excesses' here, simply an all-pervasive system.
Simone de Beauvoir
Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
Truth uncompromisingly told will always have its ragged edges; hence the conclusion of such a narration is apt to be less finished than an architectural finial.
Few of us can easily surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that the state has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied.
Everyone gives the title of barbarism to everything that is not in use in his own country.
Michel de Montaigne
Fascism itself can only be turned away if all those who are outraged by it show a commitment to social justice that equals the intensity of their indignation.
Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.
The propagandist's purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.
With the establishment of a relationship of oppression, violence has already begun. Never in history has violence been initiated by the oppressed. How could they be the initiators, if they themselves are the result of violence? How could they be the sponsors of something objective whose objective inauguration called forth their existence as oppressed? There would be no oppressed had there been no prior of violence to establish their subjugation.
Many people would sooner die than think. In fact they do.
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
Every empire...tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate.
The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.
War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious.
General Smedley Butler
Hard are the ways of truth, and rough to walk.
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.
Robert M. Hutchins
I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another. I see that the keenest brains of the world invent weapons and words to make it yet more refined and enduring.
Erich Maria Remarque
We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men.
Edward R. Murrow, US broadcaster during the McCarthy era.
If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.
Dissent is what rescues democracy from a quiet death behind closed doors.
Lewis H. Lapham
We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.
Activism is my rent for living on this planet.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Display a heart of boundless love for all the world, in all its height and depth and broad extent, love unrestrained, without hate or enmity. Then as you stand or walk, sit or lie, until overcome with drowsiness, devote our mind entire to this. This is known as living here a life divine.
Sean McDonagh, To Care for the Earth, London, Geoffrey Chapman, 1986, p. 145
The light which shines in the eye
is really the light of the heart.
The light which fills the heart
is the light of God.
What we do not love, we will not save.
Wendell Berry, poet, ecologist
Religion is not 'what one does with one's solitariness.'
Religion is what one does with the presence of God.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, I Asked for Wonder, Crossroads, New York, 1987
In remembrance of those
throughout time, all over the world,
who have died in war,
we pray urgently today
that children, women and men
may become makers of peace.
We pray for children growing up
in violent surroundings,
or thinking, talking or playing in warlike ways.
God, give to your people a new challenge
new ways in which to test their strength -
in sharing power and risking non-violence.
O God, we pray for:
a new awareness of the battlefield within us;
new ways of channelling aggressive instincts;
new thought-patterns, language and ideas;
a new appreciation of the world as one community;
new methods of dialogue and negotiation;
new attempts to befriend those different from ourselves;
new readiness to forgive and reconciles;
new visions, new love, new hope….
and a new faith, that the peace that passes all understanding
can reach out from within us to embrace the world.
Kate Compston, England. Seeing Christ in Others,
Geoffrey Duncan [ed.], Canterbury Press, Norwich, 2003
People with vision….
carry within themselves
a holy irritation
Sr. Joan Chittister osb
Watch the words of others, God often speaks to us through sister and brothers.
Watch for conformity between words and deeds, and when the two are the same, watch only their deeds.
Watch for heroic women and men who give their lives tending victims - the bombed, staved, raped, tortured - and to exposing the victimizers from within prison and without. Watch the hope that they give you by their speech of their lives, and then dare to extend hope to others.
Watch the world through nonviolence and study systemic evil.
Watch nuclearism and the blind, venal paranoia of the nuclear club.
Watch tens of tens of wars going on worldwide and the arms sales feeding these wars.
Watch refugees in Yugoslavia, central Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan.
Watch the transnational money system that undergirds corporations.
Watch corporations as they declare themselves 'stateless', as they automate, downsize, fire workers, pay less and less taxes, and punish the environment.
….Only one weapon remains against such massive greed, luxury and exploitation: direct nonviolent action……
when official deceit and betrayal become intolerable,
when national life becomes more ugly and despairing,
perhaps we will regain our faith in God and say 'No!' to political charlatans, nuclear warriors and corporate parasites.
Our 'No!' will take us to the streets and the official hellholes to expose and withstand the legality of terrorism and tyranny.
Watch. Learn. Act.
adapted from the words of Philip Berrigan
Each of the Iraqi children killed by the United States was our child. Each of the prisoners tortured in Abu Ghraib was our comrade. Each of their screams was ours. When they were humiliated, we were humiliated. The U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq - mostly volunteers in a poverty draft from small towns and poor urban neighbourhoods - are victims just as much as the Iraqis of the same horrendous process, which asks them to die for a victory that will never be theirs.
Arundhati Roy, ‘Tide? Or Ivory Snow? Public Power in the Age of Empire,’
Anyone who has proclaimed violence his method inexorably must choose lying as his principle.
If a country develops an economic system that is based on how to pay for the war, and if the amounts of fixed capital investment that are apparent are tied up in armaments, and if that country is a major exporter of arms, and its industrial fabric is dependent on them, then it would be in that country's interests to ensure that it always had a market. It is not an exaggeration to say that it is clearly in the interests of the world's leading arms exporters to make sure that there is always a war going on somewhere.
Marilyn Waring, from 'Who's Counting', based on her book Counting for Nothing
The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venal love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.
The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the Deity to regenerate our victims while incidentally capturing their markets, to civilise savage and senile and paranoid peoples while blundering accidentally into their oil wells.
John Flynn, 1944
A centralised democracy may be as tyrannical as an absolute monarch; and if the vigour of the nation is to continue unimpaired, each individual, each family, each district, must preserve as far as possible its independence, its self-completeness, its powers and its privilege to manage its own affairs and think its own thoughts.
James Anthony Froude (1818-1894) Author and historian, from Short Studies on Great Subjects
Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
James Bovard, Lost Rights. The Destruction of American Liberty
Nonviolence is a direction, not a separating line. It has no boundaries. The essence of nonviolence is understanding and compassion, so when you cultivate understanding and compassion, you are practicing nonviolence. You cannot be absolutely nonviolent -- but the more you can understand, the more you can be compassionate, the more you can be nonviolent. … Nonviolence is not a principle. It is a flower that blooms on the ground of understanding and love. Nonviolence is something to cultivate.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning.
Frederick Douglass, from his speech celebrating West India Emancipation Day, August 1857.
To believe in something not yet proved and to underwrite it with our lives; it is the only way we can leave the future open.
Lillian Smith, writer and civil rights proponent, The Journey (1954).
Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee.
T.S. Eliot, from ‘Ash Wednesday, VI’
Humility is what gives us the vision to look upon our world with fresh eyes. Humility enables us to respect others enough to put down our spurious images of ourselves and open our arms, as individuals and as a nation.
The bread that you possess belongs to the hungry.
The clothes that you store in boxes, belong to the naked.
The shoes rotting by you, belong to the bare-foot.
The money that you hide belongs to anyone in need.
Saint Basil, fourth century theologian and monastic
Cowardice asks the question: Is it safe? Expediency asks the question: Is it politic? Vanity asks the question: Is it popular? But conscience asks the question: Is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular - but he must take it simply because conscience tells him it is right.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.
The darkness asks us questions.
You are out there and we do not see.
You invite us into the night,
the stillness, the loneliness, the desert place.
We cannot see our shadow;
the cold damp of unknowing rises up from beneath our feet.
We tread cautiously, tentatively.
We are afraid,
afraid of ghosts
haunting us with spectres of guilt
We would like to run back,
reach the river bank,
swim the Jordan,
sit in the sun by the sea,
mending our nets.
But you have brought us here
- with no bread.
When we look we can see only ourselves,
When we read,
it is invisible words which cannot be grasped,
thoughts we cannot clutch,
hope we cannot capture.
Yet the wild honey remains a taste in our mouth,
a memory for a new day.
Why have you brought us here?
What miracle will you perform for us?
The darkness sighs around us,
dense with your unseen presence,
close to our breathing,
close to our breathing.
O darkness, enlighten us,
embrace us with your invisible love.
Let us see your glory in the ashes.
Take us by the hand that we may trust the darkness.
Minister to us by your Spirit that we may not be afraid.
Jesus, keep the beasts away.
William Loader, 15 February 1999
I believe war is a weapon of persons without personal power, that is to say, the power to reason, the power to persuade, from a position of morality and integrity; and that to go to war with an enemy who is weaker than you is to admit you possess no resources within yourself to bring to bear on your fate.
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his [or her] own heart?
Ethics is about negotiating conditions in which the most vulnerable are not abandoned. And we shall care about this largely to the extent to which we are conscious of our own vulnerability and limitedness.
Rowan Williams, Ethics, Economics and Global Justice
There remains an experience of incomparable value ... to see the great events of world history from below; from the perspective of the outcast, the suspects, the maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed, the reviled - in short, from the perspective of those who suffer ... to look with new eyes on matters great and small.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, After Ten Years
Principles of Nonviolence
Martin Luther King, Jr
1) Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
· It is active nonviolent resistance to evil.
· It is assertive spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.
· It is always persuading the opponent of the justice of your cause.
2) Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
· The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation.
· The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.
3) Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.
· Nonviolence holds that evildoers are also victims.
4) Nonviolence holds that voluntary suffering can educate and transform.
· Nonviolence willingly accepts the consequences of its acts.
· Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation.
· Nonviolence accepts violence if necessary, but will never inflict it.
· Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.
· Suffering can have the power to convert the enemy when reason fails.
5) Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
· Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as of the body.
· Nonviolent love gives willingly, knowing that the return might be hostility.
· Nonviolent love is active, not passive.
· Nonviolent love does not sink to the level of the hater.
· Love for the enemy is how we demonstrate love for ourselves.
· Love restores community and resists injustice.
· Nonviolence recognizes the fact that all life is interrelated.
6) Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.
· The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.
The call for human beings to ‘love your enemies’ means wanting wholeness and well-being and life for those who may be broken and sick and deadly. It was meant to be the cornerstone of an entirely new process of disarming evil; one which decreases evil instead of feeding it as violence does.
We are constantly being astonished these days at the amazing discoveries in the field of violence. But I maintain that far more undreamt of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of nonviolence.
May God bless us with anger at
injustice, oppression, and
exploitation of people and the earth
so that we will work for justice,
equity, and peace.
May God bless us with
the foolishness that think that we
can make a difference in the world,
so we will do the things which
others say cannot be done
You will find that charity
is a heavy burden to carry,
heavier than the kettle of soup
and the basket of bread.
But you must your gentleness
and your smile keep.
Give soup and bread
isn’t all that you can do.
The poor are your masters-
terribly sensitive and exacting
as you will see.
But the more demanding they seem
the more unjust and bitter
the more you must give them your love.
It is only because of your love
only your love
that the poor will forgive you
the bread you give them.
St Vincent de Paul
The nonviolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally it reaches the opponent and so stirs his [or her] conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
The poor tell us who we are.
The prophets tell us who we could be.
So we hide the poor and kill the prophets.
Reflections on the readings
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.’ The readings clearly present an image of God who is relentless in reaching out to people. I like to think that this is part of a love song that God is singing to us beginning with the first breath of God at the beginning of creation and then into humanity and repeated throughout history and ultimately in the birth of Jesus. Whatever others have tried to do with this passage, it has nothing to do with justice or judgement but reveals that God is fundamentally a God of love. Love is the logic by which God’s reign runs and we see that God’s love revealed in Jesus trumps everything else, even justice, in the end. We cannot get away from this truth. We are important and so everything we do is important – when we forgive, the universe changes; when we reach out and touch another’s heart, the world changes; whenever we offer kindness and service, God’s purposes are being accomplished and nothing is ever the same. God’s loving presence is waiting to be revealed in all of creation and in the people we encounter every day. We need to open our eyes to see it. God insists that our world is lovable, so lovable that he gave his only Son for our world and all of us who belong to it. Garry Willis, and American writer, makes the point in his book What Jesus Meant that without love there is no life. there is really no life without love. Willis tells a beautiful story about his son who woke up during a violent nightmare. He asked he son what was troubling him:
The son said that the nun in his school had told the children that they would end up in hell if they sinned. He wanted to know if he was going to hell. Willis admits that there is not an ounce of heroism in his nature, but instantly answered: ‘All I can say is that if you’re going there, I’m going with you.’
Willis concluded that if he felt that way about his son, then God obviously loves him even more. He goes on to say, that perhaps that the Incarnation is God’s way of saying that no matter what horrors we face or hells we descend to, God is coming with us. Is this not the meaning of :’he descended into hell’ as we say in the Creed?
John’s Gospel suggests that God is more attuned to verbs [doing] than nouns [names]: to repenting, living, loving, responding, growing, reaping, changing, sowing running, dancing and singing rather than dead nouns or principles that reek of rules and condemnation.
The deep and abiding truth is that God loves us as we are and extends into our bruised and hurting world, not some ideal or perfect world. It is a world where the waters are polluted, where rain forests cut down, where the soil is poisoned and where people are hurting. This last week many thousands of people gathered for the 40th Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney. Many who participated over these 40 years have been badly hurt, bruised, exiled and even died after being told they are/were ‘not good enough, ‘not acceptable’ because of who they are. So many have abandoned any belief in a loving God because of people who imaged a God of judgment rather than a God who loves this world and all that is in it. We are reminded also that the poor and oppressed have a special place in the heart of God – and because God loves them in a special way, we, as God's followers are called to do so as well. Until we are able to say truthfully that we love those who are different from us in terms of gender, ethnicity, nationality, race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation or religion, we cannot say that we love the world the way God does. God’s attitude towards us is positive. Yes there is much that is dangerous, sinful, and corrupting as we see war, hunger, greed, deceit, betrayal, life denying activity, human trafficking, infidelity, broken families, murder, accident and sickness, but we need to have eyes for what is good, beautiful, and sacrificial in the world.
How might our belief in this love translate into our everyday living? Could a God who first loved us ever want us to be vindictive, to take revenge, to destroy someone who has committed a crime? As God reaches out to us in love and loves us first, we have to bring ourselves to the point where we can forgive and love even our enemies. Jesus loved and forgave his executioners. That same spirit needs to be brought by US into our society that is capable of being vindictive, hateful and wants to get even. The way of Jesus is different. If we’ve absorbed this truth about how God loves us, we can’t help but carry out works of love in the same way. We are God’s work of art. We are invited to community by building networks of relationships that bring healing, reconciliation and abundant life and dislocate ourselves from networks of relationships that perpetuate injustice, death and alienation.
When John speaks of being born from above he also means thinking and living differently. It is about living in the light which means accepting God’s gracious love. Darkness exists when we live outside that relationship – when we are silent in the face of injustice, violence, greed, selfishness, viciousness, insensitivity, hypocrisy. As intimated earlier, there are forces that do not want us to work together. Where Christ said 'Love one another', those in power talk about making a better world by destroying it; they talk about peace by going to war; they talk about liberating people by killing them. The African American writer and comedian Nikki Giovanni says: ‘In the name of peace, they waged the wars. Ain't they got no shame?’
The Chronicles’ reading tells how God's messengers were mocked. Not every message is welcome. Today, some of these messengers are regarded as fools or bleeding hearts with unrealistic ideals and unattainable goals and dismissed; or they are called ‘out of touch’ and unrealistic. We saw this in recent years when the Human Rights Commissioner, Professor Gillian Triggs, was publicly ridiculed when she stood out on behalf of the asylum seekers on offshore detention centres. Attempts were made to render her message irrelevant. Journalists who expose injustice and atrocity often face violence and death; ’whistleblowers’ who reveal corruption in government face criminal charges; peace activists who call us to nonviolent living are dismissed and even threatened with arrest, tortured, imprisoned and even killed; and scientists who tell us of the threat of climate change are dismissed.
So, the people in the Chronicles ignored the words of the prophets and laughed at them. This also occurred when many opposed the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. It was an invasion based on lies and greed. Millions of people throughout the world were laughed at, dismissed and rejected, labeled fools or rabble by our political leaders who chose the path of war and violence. What will we do with Lent, as we hear Jesus and who showed the way to peace through love, who loved people and all living things and rejected violence, who accepted suffering rather than inflict it; who was willing to be killed rather than kill? Again this Lent, as 15 years ago with Iraq, there is a strong clamour to go to war again whether it be again Iran or North Korea.
If we really understood the way of Jesus, the way of God, the way of love, would we have fallen for the deceit that we can bring peace out of war, or love out of hate, or goodness out of evil? We have to try to transform what is going on in our world and follow the way of God, which is the way of love. The way of Jesus is very demanding – but it is the only way. As we continue our Lenten journey, we need to ask ourselves if we embrace God's inclusive vision of the world, or is the world divided into ‘us vs. them’? Will we seek to find ways to challenge our religious and political leaders about their prejudices that hurt and divide people? Do we have the view that God loves Catholics more than non-Catholics? or Christians more than Muslims, Hindus or even non-believers? or the ‘digger’ (Australian solider) more than the Afghan defender of his or her country? or that God is closer to the Israeli than to the Palestinian person? or that God loves those in the First World more than those who live in the Third World or in Third World conditions in our country? Overcoming our prejudices and preconceived notions about people is difficult, but possible.
Jesus was sent into the world by a big-hearted and loving God who speaks through him to a sinful world, not about condemnation but about believing. This is the most eloquent affirmation of God’s love. Jesus calls us to set aside the blunders of sin and live in the light of this truth. This is a daily challenge not just during Lent but every day of our lives. It was the challenge Jesus extended to Nicodemus who came to Jesus in the dark. May our prayer ever be, ‘God, teach us to love the world like you do! May that love turn night into day?’ We are God’s work of art and created in the image of the One whose breath, language and voice is given to us, despite the discordant movements in our lives towards injustice, violence, domination, greed and abuse of power. God’s word of love was repeated in the birth of a new born baby where God came to us in the most vulnerable and fragile way possible. May it help us to ignore what others consider important in the form of social, status, beauty and wealth. Let us rejoice in this.
For God so loved the world that God gave God’s self to us as Jesus so that all who hear what God has to say to us of what is real, true and everlasting. No alternate anthems can compete with this truth.