Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an Australian community, in a worldwide religious congregation.
Jesus loved with a human heart: with him we proclaim his love to the world.
We work to discover through advocacy, healing and reconciliation, God's presence in our world.
We are to be on earth the heart of God. God has no other heart but ours.
- Published: Thursday, 15 March 2018 07:21
LITURGY NOTES FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY OF LENT, 2018
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.
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
Reading I Jer 31:31-34
Responsorial Psalm Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15 R. (12a) Create a clean heart in me, O God.
Reading II Heb 5:7-9
Gospel Jn 12:20-33
1. You have made an unending covenant with all your people, Jesus, have mercy.
2. You have drawn all people to yourself as you were lifted up on the cross, Christ, have mercy.
3. You have brought life-giving light into our lives, Jesus, have mercy.
the love of your Son for the world,
led him to accept the suffering of the cross
that his brothers and sisters might receive new life.
Change our selfishness into self-giving.
Help us to embrace the world you have given us,
so that we may transform the darkness of its pain
into the life and joy of Easter.
Prayer over the Gifts
may our celebration strengthen us in our self-giving
to be faithful followers of Jesus whose love is
inscribed in our hearts and woven into all our actions.
Prayer after Communion
by this sacrifice
may we always remain one with Jesus, your Son,
whose body and blood we have shared.
With Jesus' love inscribed in our hearts
and woven into our actions,
by our sacrificial love
may we be a source of blessing
to one another and all people.
Prayers of the Faithful
Introduction: Let us pray to our Self-giving God, who is present and calls us to hope in difficult times. The response to each prayer is: God of new life, hear our prayer.
· For the people of Iraq who will remember this week the invasion of their country in 2003 this week and the devastation that it has brought to their country, we pray: God of new life, hear our prayer.
· For the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, the Ukraine, that there will be an end to violence and injustice and healing for the victims, and a change of heart for those involved in violence, corruption and impunity, we pray: God of new life, hear our prayer.
· For the suffering people of Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and places less known to us, that their burdens may soon end, and may the dignity of all affected by conflict, pain, and injustice be respected, we pray: God of new life, hear our prayer.
· For all who die to themselves through the sacrifices they make on behalf of others, may they experience the daily wonder of new life, we pray: God of new life, hear our prayer.
· For women and children who are victims of human trafficking and sold into slavery, may we speak out against these crimes that prey on the hopes of innocent people, we pray: God of new life, hear our prayer.
· For the innocent people -children, women and men - who continue to languish on Manus Island and Nauru on our watch, may they soon have their dignity respected and find freedom, we pray: God of new life, hear our prayer.
· For the people around the country who are preparing to rally and march on Palm Sunday for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers that they know their actions matter even if they see free results, we pray: God of new life, hear our prayer.
· For the people who, through peace protests, oppose the injustices endured by the Palestinian people and those who build bridges between Israeli and Palestinian people, may they be living signs of Christ’s peace, we pray: God of new life, hear our prayer.
· For the many people who are uprooted today: victims of war and oppression, prisoners, migrants and the homeless, that they may find hope in our actions for justice, we pray: God of new life, hear our prayer.
Concluding Prayer: Self-giving God, increase our faith, love, and hope. As we die to ourselves, may we hasten the coming of the Reign of justice, peace, and solidarity.
March 19 Feast of St Joseph, husband of Mary
March 19 National Close the Gap Day
March 19 Arrival of the Sisters of St Joseph at Penola, South Australia in 1866
March 19 Invasion of Iraq by the USA, Australia and allies in 2003
March 21 International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
March 21 World Down Syndrome Day
March 22: World Water Day
March 24: 38th anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero's assassination 1980
For the following week
March 25: Palm Sunday
March 25: Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
March 25: Death of Caroline Chisholm 1877
March 25: International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
March 26: Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio (‘On the Progress of Peoples’)
March 31: Cesar Chavez Day
‘Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others. Under no circumstance can this invitation be obscured! All of the virtues are at the service of this response of love. If this invitation does not radiate forcefully and attractively, the edifice of the Church’s moral teaching risks becoming a house of cards, and this is our greatest risk. It would mean that it is not the Gospel which is being preached, but certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options. The message will run the risk of losing its freshness and will cease to have ‘the fragrance of the Gospel’ (39).
Pope Francis, ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ Evangelii Gaudium
Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief.
Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated to complete the work,
but neither are you free to abandon it.
Use every letter you write, every conversation you have, every meeting you attend, to express your fundamental beliefs and dreams. Affirm to others the vision of the world you want. You are a free, immensely powerful source of life and goodness. Affirm it. Spread it. Radiate it. Think day and night about it and you will see a miracle happen: the greatness of your own life.
Dr. Robert Muller, Former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations
Now the alternative to despair is courage. And human life can be viewed as a continuous struggle between these two options. Courage is the capacity to affirm one's life in spite of the elements which threaten it. The fact that courage usually predominates over despair in itself tells us something important about life. It tells you that the forces that affirm life are stronger than those that negate it.
Paul E. Pfuetze, American Philosopher and Professor
Life may not be the party we hoped for,
but while we are here we might as well dance.
God is in the sadness and the laughter,
in the bitter and the sweet.
There is a divine purpose behind everything
and therefore a divine presence in everything.
As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
Henry David Thoreau, 1817-1862, American Author, Poet and Naturalist
Each person comes into this world with a specific destiny - he or she has something to fulfill, some message that has to be delivered, some work that has to be completed. You are not here accidentally - you are here meaningfully. There is a purpose behind you. The whole intends to do something through you.
Osho, 1931-1990,Indian Spiritual Teacher
This Holy Earth
In the name of every muscle in our bodies, we beseech you
In the name of the feather, the sun, the mountain, the river, the otter, the salmon, the pine and the stone
In the name of babies, now and forever more, and of lovers, and of sex.
In the name of the breathing, pushing, spreading, decaying, pulsing earth beneath our gills, our roots, our talons, our hooves and our bare skinned feet:
Help us easily distracted, heartbreakingly self-centered, brilliant and beautiful big-brained creatures,
Us business-as-usual, new-on-the-planet, slow-moving, deep loving creatures
Help us to remember that this wondrously intelligent orb has generated living art beyond anything we will ever hope to approximate
24 hours a day
For six billion years –
Help us to remember that we can seize the power
That we can raise our voices
That we can flood the courtrooms, the schoolrooms, the boardrooms,
the email, voice mail, letters to the editor, the streets, the banks, the churches and the temples
That we can rise up in power on behalf of all those who live in tree, cave, hive, village, dam, river, ocean, and suburb.
That we can rise up on behalf of all we love and all that keeps us alive.
We beseech you: visible and invisible,
wild and tame, past, present and future.
Have mercy on us human beings.
Help us give birth to the human race.
© 2000 Libby Roderick, Singer and Composer, Turtle Island Records, Anchorage, Alaska
You were born in flight,
Your parents anxious and given no rest.
The manner of your birth calls us to
Open-heartedness and sensitivity to the strangers in our midst.
Help us not to flee your challenge.
The violence of the present time teaches us fear of the stranger,
Reluctant to reach out to those who are different.
Grace us this day as we seek
To see you in the faces of those uprooted,
Weary, as they seek refuge and peace. Amen.
Blessed are the wanderers and those adrift.
Blessed are the strangers at our door.
Blessed are the unfed, the homeless on the road.
Blessed is the child crying in pain.
Blessed is the mother working to provide for her children, left behind in her native country.
Blessed are those who welcome Christ to be born again when they welcome these ones.
Blessed are we who struggle to make a place in our hearts for all of our brothers and sisters. Amen.
You welcome all your children,
And embrace the prodigal ones,
Help us open our hearts
And welcome all who come, searching
As our ancestors did,
For asylum and the promise of a new land, a new life.
Root out fear from our souls;
Help us form the words
'Sister' and 'Brother'
As we greet those who seek refuge in our land.
Let us remember that,
With your grace,
There are enough loaves and fishes
To go around
If we come together
As your family.
Give us the courage
And the compassion
To respect the rights of all
In this country of abundance,
To embrace all in
The name of your love. Amen.
Prayer for peace in Iraq and the Middle East
We come to you, Creator God, you are the source of life and beauty and power.
Your son Jesus is the way of faith and hope and love.
Your Spirit is the fire of love, the fount of wisdom, the bond of unity.
You call us at all times to be people of the beatitudes,
Witnesses to the Gospel of peace and love and forgiveness.
You call us at this time, when war and rumours of war, weigh heavily on the peoples of Iraq and the Middle East.
Their lives are already broken by suffering and violence.
We renew our acceptance of your call.
We promise to work:
To bring the light of the Gospel to those living in darkness,
To bring the hope of the Gospel to those living in despair,
To bring the healing of the Gospel to the lonely, the disadvantaged, the marginalised
And to bring the peace of the Gospel to a divided world.
(CAFOD and Pax Christi)
Peace for the Children of God
O God, all holy one,
you are our Mother and our Father,
and we are your children.
Open our eyes and our hearts
so that we may be able to discern
your work in the universe.
And be able to see Your features
in every one of Your children.
May we learn that there are many paths
but all lead to You.
Help us to know that you have created us
for family, for togetherness,
for peace, for gentleness,
for compassion, for caring, for sharing.
May we know that You want us
to care for one another
as those who know
that they are sisters and brothers,
members of the same family,
the human family.
Help us to beat our swords into plowshares
and our spears into pruning hooks,
so that we may be able to live
in peace and harmony,
wiping away the tears
from the eyes of those
who are less fortunate than ourselves.
And may we know war no more,
as we strive to be
what You want us to be:
Desmond M. Tutu, Former Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa
Respect for nature by everyone,
a policy of openness to immigrants,
the cancellation or significant reduction of the debt of poorer nations,
the promotion of peace through dialogue and negotiation,
the primacy of the rule of law:
these are the priorities which the leaders of the developed nations cannot disregard.
A global world is essentially a world of solidarity!
John Paul II, Address to George W. Bush, July 23, 2001
We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious
is the first duty of intelligent men.
They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality,
because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them,
and were not sufficiently interested in public events
to notice what was happening
is designed to make lies sound truthful
and murder respectable,
and to give an appearance of solidity
to pure wind.
Political correctness is really a subjective list put together by the few to rule the many: a list of things one must think, say, or do. It affronts the right of the individual to establish his or her own beliefs.
Mark Berley - Source: Argos, Spring 1998
In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, brave, hated, and scorned. When his cause succeeds however, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.
The fact is that every war suffers a kind of progressive degradation with every month that it continues, because such things as individual liberty and a truthful press are simply not compatible with military efficiency.
George Orwell - Homage to Catalonia
All forms of tampering with human beings, getting at them, shaping them against their will to your own pattern, all thought control and conditioning is, therefore, a denial of that in men which makes them men and their values ultimate.
‘We are not on earth to guard a museum,
but to cultivate a flowering garden of life.’
Pope John XXIII
Courage to me is doing something daring, no matter how afraid, insecure, intimidated, alone, unworthy, incapable, ridiculed or whatever other paralyzing emotion you might feel. Courage is taking action.....no matter what. So you're afraid? Be afraid. Be scared silly to the point you're trembling and nauseous, but do it anyway!
Richelle E. Goodrich
The single clenched fist
lifted and ready,
Or the open asking hand
held out and waiting.
Choose: For we meet
by one or the other.
Carl Sandburg, ‘Choose’, from Chicago Poems
We are afraid of religion because it interprets rather than just observes. Religion does not confirm that there are hungry people in the world; it interprets the hungry to be our brethren whom we allow to starve.
Dorothee Sölle, German theologian and writer, Death by Bread Alone (1975).
When peoples care for you and cry for you, they can straighten out your soul.
Langston Hughes, from ‘Last Whipping’
One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one.
Agatha Christie, Autobiography (1977)
You just need to be a flea against injustice. Enough committed fleas biting strategically can make even the biggest dog uncomfortable and transform even the biggest nation.
Marian Wright Edelman
We must be prepared to make the same heroic sacrifices for the cause of peace that we make ungrudgingly for the cause of war.
What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander.
Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate
Love is an act of sedition, a revolt against reason, an uprising in the body politic, a private mutiny.
Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of Love
To the true servant of God every place is the right place and every time is the right time.
Catherine of Siena, St. Catherine of Siena as Seen in Her
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, Letters and Papers from Prison
Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverence to those who represent us?
Justice William O. Douglas, (1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice
Each day a few more lies eat into the seed with which we are born, little institutional lies from the print of newspapers, the shock waves of television, and the sentimental cheats of the movie screen.
Norman Mailer (b. 1923), U.S. author.
If Big Brother (of Orwell's 1984) comes to America, he will not be a fearsome, foreboding figure with a heart-chilling, omnipresent glare as in 1984. He will come with a smile on his face, a quip on his lips, a wave to the crowd, and a press that (a) dutifully reports the suppressive measures he is taking to save the nation from internal chaos and foreign threat; and (b) gingerly questions whether he will be able to succeed.
Michael Parenti, Inventing Reality (1986)
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)
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), US civil rights leader
To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.
Elbert Hubbard (1859-1915)
Patriotism in its simplest, clearest and most indubitable signification is nothing else but a means of obtaining for the rulers their ambitions and covetous desires, and for the ruled the abdication of human dignity, reason, conscience, and a slavish enthralment to those in power.
Leo Toystoy, Demanding the Impossible: a History of Anarchism by Peter Marshall (fontana press 1992) p374
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 maneuvers 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
Iniquity, committed in this world, produces not fruit immediately, but, like the earth, in due season, and advancing by little and little, it eradicates the man who committed it. ...justice, being destroyed, will destroy; being preserved, will preserve; it must never therefore be violated.
Manu 1200 bc
The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. On the whole, men are more good than bad; that, however, isn't the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance which fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill.
Albert Camus: The Plague,
When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe; he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime.
Thomas Paine The Age of Reason 1793
The simple step of a courageous individual is not to take part in the lie. One word of truth outweighs the world.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918- ) Russian writer, Soviet dissident, imprisoned for 8 years for criticising Stalin in a personal letter, Nobel Prize for Literature, 1970
War creates peace like hate creates love.
David L. Wilson
During times of war, hatred becomes quite respectable even though it has to masquerade often under the guise of patriotism.
By far the most dangerous foe we have to fight is apathy - indifference from whatever cause, not from a lack of knowledge, but from carelessness, from absorption in other pursuits, from a contempt bred of self-satisfaction.
William Osler (Canadian Physician, 1849-1919)
My generation's apathy. I'm disgusted with it. I'm disgusted with my own apathy too, for being spineless and not always standing up against racism, sexism and all those other -isms the counterculture has been whinning about for years.
Kurt Cobain (American Musician and Singer of the grunge rock band Nirvana. 1967-1994)
Apathy is the glove into which evil slips its hand.
People have not been horrified by war to a sufficient extent ... War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige as the warrior does today.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
The pioneers of a warless world are the youth that refuse military service.
I have seen men march to the wars, and then I have watched their homeward tread, and they brought back bodies of living men, but their eyes were cold and dead
Edmund Vance Cooke
When a whole nation is roaring patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to
explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassinated April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee
My notion of democracy
is that under it
the weakest shall have the same opportunities
as the strongest...
no country in the world today shows any
but patronising regard for the weak...
Western democracy, as it functions today,
is diluted fascism...
true democracy cannot be worked
by twenty men sitting at the centre.
It has to be worked from below,
by the people of every village.
When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.
Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850)
The civilized have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their 'vital interests' are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death: these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the 'sanctity' of human life, or the 'conscience' of the civilized world.
If... the machine of government... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law
Henry David Thoreau, 1849
Your grace abounds in our lives
as you make new covenants with us
and create new spirits and new hearts for us.
We are grateful for the faithful ways that you walk with us daily
in our sufferings, fears, vulnerabilities
and as we take up our crosses.
Continue your work of grace in us,
for your grace is greater than any of our human deaths.
In your holy names we pray, Amen
Reflections on the readings
We might ask today what is God up to? The readings suggest that God is up to nothing short of making all things new. And we have a part to play in this. According to Jeremiah, religion is getting a complete makeover from something formal, external and calcified to a reality alive to God and capable of having real consequences on the lives of others. God is establishing a new covenant that will not be written on stone tablets but upon the heart. It is gut-located, heart-centered, and mind-penetrated. At baptism we were/are marked as beloved children of God with the sign of the cross. We are forever changed where God etches into the fertile ground of our very hearts a covenantal instinct. And so, out of the mess we can get into, Jeremiah expresses a confidence that God will initiate a new covenant relationship – a relationship accessible to all.
This means that God is forever creating a community of people who know they are forgiven and who have a calling in the world. This new covenant is manifest in the arrival of Jesus, God with us. Christ's ministry was a ministry of extravagant love - a reckless, scandalous expenditure of his life for the sake of the world. This religion challenges but does not terrorise; it is inclusive not partisan; it welcomes the stranger rather than scorns the other for being different whether in culture, race, gender or sexual orientation. This reckless giving was truly inclusive: no one was shunned - not adulterers, not tax gatherers, not neurotics and psychotics, not alcoholics, not poor people, not beggars, not lepers, not even his detractors, betrayers or enemies. We could add today – not asylum seekers, not people of other cultures, not people of diverse sexual orientations. But, these can be recipes for a ministry described by sorrow, poverty, rejection, radical unpopularity and loss. Despite the fact that solidarity and humanity can seem to take a backward step at times, we must recognise that there is a growth in nonconformity where voices are saying ‘Another world is possible’. It is made possible by people giving of themselves, sometimes their lives, for others to create a radically different world order. We still read how in some cities in the USA, under new anti-homeless laws, people are being arrested for feeding the homeless. In some case they have faced a couple of months in jail as well as a fine. This is even being threatened in some Australian cities.
Yet, there are people who know that that Christians are called to feed the hungry, they resist laws that outlaw compassion. We saw this in recent times where the Australian Federal Police investigated people for reporting gross human rights abuses on Manus Island and Nauru. Acts of compassion become criminal offenses. This week a family was taken by Border Force from their home to be deported. God is doing a new thing. People have rallied and demanded that the family be returned to the city.
So God is doing a new thing. People are waking up and also acting on what they see and hear. People are finding the courage to resist outrageous laws. The scriptures and Jesus’ teaching call us to act in solidarity with those who are vulnerable among us.
As we approach Holy Week, Hebrews reveals a very human Jesus who struggled to be obedient to God and his mission. In that struggle we see a God who does not tire of the heartbroken or those who fail and offers us a second and third chance. This is what God is up to. I have a copy of Brené Brown’s essay ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ which was also given as a TED talk in 2010. It seems odd to put power and vulnerability together. Vulnerability is usually associated with people who suffer without power. People who are directly in harm’s way such as children in poverty, refugees and asylum seekers in crowded camps, civilians in war zones. Vulnerability is something many try to avoid. It is about our weak places and the points where we are least protected and most easily hurt. In human relationships, and our relationship with God, it seeks that it is at this point that it is possible to have the most successful relationship. Brown has found that people who were most in touch with the fact that they could be hurt-could lose, could fail, could get it wrong-but went ahead seeking connection anyway were more likely to be happier, to have more satisfying relationships and a higher sense of self-worth. It is by engaging in methods of self-protection—guarding against pain, choosing safer paths, seeking certainty, choosing acceptance over authenticity-we isolate ourselves. Brown’s conclusion is that if vulnerability leaves us open to pain, shame, and rejection, it also leaves us open to love, acceptance, and belonging. This the vulnerability of God too. We don’t always associate God with vulnerability. At Christmas, God comes as a helpless baby, and vulnerable to the physical conditions around him as well as threats from rulers and laws. At this time of year, we see Jesus struggling, distressed, wishing he could take another road, knowing what he needs to do. He sees the risks of death and failure, feels them—and yet goes ahead anyway, letting things unfold as they will. Joanna Macy says that we should not be afraid to let our heart be broken open, because this how the world gets in. This is vulnerability. This is the spirituality of the heart. This how a vulnerable God can love us. A God who through Jesus first says to us, ‘I love you’, who weeps over us, who walks towards death knowing it’s the only way to the risen life. As we have seen, God chooses vulnerability: relationship with people, forgiveness, and love. God is not only offering us love but shows us how it is done… or reminds over and over again how it is done. So when John gives us hints as to what God is up to, God is constantly drawing us to come and know that we are loved without forcing us, or bribing us or dazzling us.
In the gospel, some Greek pilgrims approach Philip with a request, ‘We want to see Jesus.’ They saw something hidden in this man who had the power of attraction. It was his incredible love for all. But it is invisible except in the actions and signs of people who love. We come to see Jesus in bread and wine…..in the faces of our sisters and brothers……..in the stranger, the poor, the marginalised, the imprisoned, and the outcast. Our culture promotes a gospel of consumerism, of fragmentation and dissolution. Globally we face challenges more daunting than ever before with poverty, famine, climate change, economic injustice, and warfare. And yet God is faithful. God does not abandon us. God has already written in our hearts the language of love that we so desperately need.
Remember last Sunday’s words from John: ‘God so loved the world that God sent God's only Son, and the Son so loved us that he gave himself for us.’ This is the logic of God’s reign. Even today, even in this age, God is doing a new thing. We are God’s people. We are forgiven and loved. This is the good news we share: life-giving and life-changing words of hope, grace, forgiveness, and love. The gift of faith is an incredible thing to tend and care for, as well as to share. Perhaps they could look for ‘God sightings’ in their daily life. What about committing to somehow share the good news with one person in word or deed? What kinds of seeds of hope, justice, and love can we sow? What parts of ourselves might have to die in the process (wants, desires, expectations, assumptions, etc.)? We are partners with Christ in this restoration kingdom work. Discuss how we can be partners. What is the cost? What are the risks? The dangers? The joys? The rewards?
To explain this love and the power of his death, Jesus speaks of a simple image: ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.’ If the grain dies, it sprouts and brings forth life, but if it shuts itself up in its little husk and keeps its vital energy to itself, it remains sterile. This is the dynamic that makes the life of a person who suffers motivated by love something fertile and life giving. It cannot be imposed. Whoever clings selfishly to his life, will lose it; whoever knows how to surrender it generously, will generate more life. Whoever lives exclusively for one’s own well-being, money, success or security, will live a mediocre and empty life because life for others does not become more humane, more justice, more peaceful. Others are helped to live when we dare to live lives of generosity and service.
God is still writing on people’s hearts – people from every race, religion and nation. We know or have heard of people who have dedicated themselves to helping others. Think of the doctors and nurses who have travelled to the world’s trouble spots to provide medical assistance to people and are risking their lives at the same time. It is not always seem to be done out of religious conviction, but what conviction stirs them to make such sacrifices and take such risks? Is it the God who writes on our hearts and transforms them?
Next Saturday (March 24, 1980) we commemorate the murder of a man who was a quiet and conservative parish priest. On becoming archbishop of San Salvador, his perspective changed when he saw that the poor and the priests and church workers who stood with them were being murdered by people who valued wealth and power over justice, humanity and compassion. Oscar Romero was transformed as his eyes were opened to the impoverishment of his people, the murder of priests and lay people who challenged injustice. In his short term as archbishop, he made a powerful impact on people and movements around the world encouraging them to risk their lives for others. Like many before him, Romero saw the great sin of remaining silent and uninvolved in what was occurring around him. Not remaining silent meant denouncing a political and economic system that enriched a few and impoverished many. Above all, he called the church to be in solidarity with those on the margins. This has been the challenge to the church by Pope Francis as well. What a terrible thing to have lived quite comfortably, with no suffering, not getting involved in problems, quite tranquil, quite settled, with good connections politically, economically, socially – lacking nothing, having everything! To what good? Is this not the burden of wasted opportunity? ‘Unless the grain of wheat dies....’ Before he was killed, he said, ‘If I am killed, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people’
Last month (February 12, 2004) Sr. Dorothy Stang was remembered when she was murdered for having advocated for 30 years on behalf of Brazil’s poor when ruthless land owners stripped the Amazon rainforest and displaced the peasants and indigenous people in the region. When she was shot by assassins on a lonely road, she was reading the words ‘Unless the grain of wheat dies….’ From today’s gospel passage.
People still want to see Jesus but do they see him in our flesh, in our following and witnessing? Through our loving words and compassionate actions that people will come to ‘see’ Jesus. Hebrews tells us that Jesus ‘learned obedience by the things that he suffered.’ He learned by what he suffered. He listened to the voice of God speaking in his suffering and he learned to respond from his suffering heart. Jesus listened for God's voice in his suffering heart, in the fisherfolk, the farmers and labourers around him concerned about loss, failure and terror, in the women who were marginalised in society by poverty and powerlessness, and in some religious people about hypocrisy, and in all of this he knew that the crucifixion was coming. The time had come to plant the seed of his witness, it must fall into the earth and die before it brings forth much fruit.
Jesus’ suffering is a concrete sign of his solidarity, and God’s suffering, with us [Hebrews]. It is how God approaches us and everyone else. Last Sunday, you may remember a verse from John’s gospel: ‘God so loved the world that God sent God's only Son, and the Son so loved us that he gave himself for us.’ Today’s gospel presents a fundamental lesson: the love that gives itself is the love that gives life. We are characterised by our ability to love, to give our lives and ourselves in love. Becoming more human involves a ‘de-centring’ ourselves and centring more on others. This humanisation is embodied in today's parable and the commandment: ‘This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ It is the essence of the gospel and true meaning of religion: love, solidarity, ‘de-centring’ self.
The challenge is to learn to speak this language, to hear it, to read it, to chew on the words and drink deeply of their meaning. God is with us always, and we are created to be God’s beloved. Even today, even in this age, God is doing a new thing through us.