LITURGY NOTES, St JOHN THE BAPTIST
Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.
(Any of these can also be recited by all in the congregation)
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
that was never given away.
I acknowledge the living culture of the ……..people,
the traditional custodians of the land we stand on,
and pay tribute to the unique role they play in the life of this region.
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where we are now gathered,
(the ……) and recognise that it continues to be sacred to them.
We hail them: as guardians of the earth and of all things that grow and breed in the soil; as trustees of the waters – [the seas, the streams and rivers, the ponds and the lakes] - and the rich variety of life in those waters.
We thank them for passing this heritage to every people since the Dreamtime.
We acknowledge the wrongs done to them by newcomers to this land and we seek to be partners with them in righting these wrongs and in living together in peace and harmony.
We acknowledge the …………………….people the first inhabitants of this land.
We honour them for their care of the land
on which we gather today, and with them,
and as we pray for justice and their constitutional recognition
may we also be mindful that the land has never been given away.
First Reading: Is 49:1-6
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15
Second Reading: Acts 13:22-26
God of the Prophets,
we joyfully celebrate today
the birth of John the Baptist,
your prophet who announced a new era
and prepared the way for your Son.
Help us to proclaim the message of Jesus
in the new language demanded by our time.
Give us the courage to leave our old ways
and to open to today’s people
the new road to the future which you offer us.
Prayers of the Faithful
Introduction: Let us pray to God, who has placed guides on our road leading us home, and let us say: God of the Prophets, give us your peace with justice.
Concluding Prayer: God, you know us as we are. You have formed and called us even before we were born. May we be faithful and courageous witnesses to Jesus as we serve one another with compassion and love.
Prayer over the Gifts
God of the Prophets,
you gave John the Baptist the eyes of faith
needed to recognize the Christ.
Give us eyes to recognie Christ, your Son,
in the bread and wine offered and shared.
May Jesus become visible in us
and that in this way we may build roads
that lead to you, our living God.
Prayer after Communion
God of the Prophets,
Jesus, your Son, has been with us again
in our words and in our very being.
Change our hearts,
place on our lips words of faith and courage
and let our deeds speak without fear
the language of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Deliver us, God of the Prophets, from every evil
and liberate us from our pride that keeps us
from showing the true face of your Son.
Make your Church attentive
to the voice of your Spirit
speaking through prophets in our day;
make us attentive to the signs of the times
and to the needs and aspirations of people.
Help us to prepare with joy and hope
for the full coming among us
of Christ Jesus, our Savior. R/ For the kingdom ....
Parish NoticesJune 26 International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug TraffickingJune 26 International Day in Support of Victims of Torture
‘This is a day on which we pay our respects to those who have endured the unimaginable. This is an occasion for the world to speak up against the unspeakable. It is long overdue that a day be dedicated to remembering and supporting the many victims and survivors of torture around the world.’
June 29 Solemnity of Peter and Paul
Torture may include:
Victims of torture are often caught up in government suppression of dissent, they are not charged with any criminal offence and they may be the wives or young children of suspects. They suffer, physically and mentally, long after release.
Effects of torture may include:
When grace comes first and touches the mind, prayer is enjoyable and devout. It is like a morning rain shower. Prayer is laborious when hour heart is far away from your prayer, and God is far away from your heart. Your heart is faraway from you if it is preoccupied with unimportant concerns, lukewarm in religious fervor, or immersed in carnal desires. God is away from your hear when he withdraws grace, postpones his presence, or exercises the patience of the petitioner.
Peter of Celle, quoted in Essential Monastic Wisdom, by Hugh Feiss
Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that numbers of people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running and robbing the country. That's our problem.
Howard Zinn, Failure to Quit
‘For those who stubbornly seek freedom, there can be no more urgent task than to come to understand the mechanisms and practices of indoctrination. These are easy to perceive in the totalitarian societies, much less so in the system of 'brainwashing under freedom' to which we are subjected and in which all too often we serve as unwilling instruments.
‘With numbing regularity good people were seen to knuckle under the demands of authority and perform actions that were callous and severe. Men who are in everyday life responsible and decent were seduced by the trappings of authority, by the control of their perceptions, and by the uncritical acceptance of the experimenter's definition of the situation, into performing harsh acts. A substantial proportion of people do what they are told to do, irrespective of the content of the act and without limitations of conscience, so long as they perceive that the command comes from a legitimate authority.
Stanley Milgram, 1965
[Stanley Milgram was a psychologist who performed a series of experiments that proved conclusively that obedience to authority was so ingrained in the average US citizen they were prepared to cause lethal harm to others when instructed by authority figures to do so. All those who took part were first asked if they would be capable of killing or inflicting severe pain on their fellow human beings. 100% replied categorically 'no'. http://tinyurl.com/cm6xq]
Peace is preferable to hostility, generosity to revenge, preservation of life to its destruction, production to destruction, rues and tranquility to threats and fear.
Jose Miguez Bonino
The church… cannot be content to play the part of a nurse looking after the casualties of the system. It must play an active part both in challenging the present unjust structures and in pioneering alternatives.
We can move in the direction of justice, but if our personal relationships don’t become more human, we haven’t moved in the direction of the reign of God and, in the long run, we will discover that our point of arrival is just another form of tyranny.
Scripture contains a subversive theme: God’s kingdom calls into question all our institutional values, including those of the church.
In the final analysis, we cannot please everyone. We have to take sides.
[F]or us us the Bible is our main weapon. It has shown us the way. Perhaps those who call themselves Christians but who are really only Christians in theory, won’t understand why we give the Bible the meaning we do. But that’s because they haven’t lived as we have.... I can assure you that any one of my community, even though he’s illiterate and has to have it read to him and translated into his language, can learn many lessons from it, because he has no difficulty understanding what reality is and what the difference is between the paradise up above, in Heaven, and the reality of our people here on Earth.
Rigoberta Menchu, I, Rigoberta: An Indian Woman in Guatemala
There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings, to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise: if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.
Bertrand Russell, in 1961 on behalf of the 12 most eminent scientists in the world.
We thirst for it, fret about it, hoard and share it. In a very personal way, we come to understand why water is so crucial in the desert; why rivers and springs and cisterns determine Bedouin migratory patterns and settled population centers. We stand in awe of the effort it took to secure water through history, groping our way down huge water tunnels, dropping stones in cisterns to determine depth…. Old imagery takes on new meaning: 'As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.'
Joyce Hollyday, Fire, Wind, and Water
Hope arouses, as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible.
William Sloane Coffin, Jr.
It's too bad that one has to conceive of sports as being the only arena where risks are, for all of life is risk exercise. That's the only way to live more freely, and more interestingly.
William Sloane Coffin, Jr.
The cause of violence is not ignorance. It is self-interest. Only reverence can restrain violence - reverence for human life and the environment.
William Sloane Coffin, Jr.
The woman most in need of liberation is the woman in every man and the man in every woman.
William Sloane Coffin, Jr.
The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.
William Sloane Coffin, Jr.
If your heart is full of fear, you won't seek truth; you'll seek security.
If a heart is full of love, it will have a limbering effect on the mind.
William Sloane Coffin, Jr.
The thesis I want to post on the door of our cathedral are the following:
Some reflections on John the Baptist……John is a saint for our time. He took nothing for granted and asked questions. We have in recent times been victims of lies by our governments, multinational corporations and churches where the pornography of politeness has been endorsed. We have been so much the victims of lies by the official church, the media, financial institutions, and politicians. The lies batter peoples dignity, hopes, psychological and physical health that sometimes lead to suicide. People’s lives and hopes are being shattered here and on places such as Nauru and Manus Island, not to mention the forgotten Rohingya people and the people of West Papua John reminds us that the Reign would suffer violence and the violent bear it away. We will miss the gospel if we miss John's urgent cry, ‘Repent! The Reign of God is near!’ He lived simply. Dressed scantily. His food might be ‘throwaway’. However, today rather than being in the desert today he would be in solidarity with the street people or close to First Australian community. He deliberately embraced a prophetic life-style. He taught that dignity cannot be bought and dignity is not the same as status.
Like many people (even those not recognised by the Church), John the Baptist did not get his dignity by conforming to the status quo, or politically correct expectations living publicly what he believed privately. Many good Christians today are unwilling to make waves, stand up or take a risk. They want to be accepted, to be loved by family, friends and colleagues rather than be unpopular, rejected, hated and scorned during times of widespread injustice. So the voices remain silent!!
Those that do risk raising their voices, risk looking foolish. They are the ones of whom the Bible speaks when it says, ‘Look, I am sending my messengers to talk right into your face. They are getting the road ready.’
Today we celebrate John’s birth. He is the only saint whose birth is celebrated as a solemn feast. He stands apart from society. Standing apart, and being on the margins, enabled him to gain insights that allowed him to judge and critique society. Social transformation and renewal only come from the grassroots, from the margins. He is like a Nelson Mandela, Dorothy Day, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn who refused to be fooled by the spin which denies evil exists around us and pretends there is peace when no peace exists.
The gospel today focuses on the naming ceremony. Names reveal a person’s essential character or destiny. John (Yehohanan) means ‘God is gracious and has compassion.’ The angel Gabriel’s announcement reveals that God had planned John’s mission even before he was conceived. Describing John’s mission (Lk 3:1-20), Luke specifically recounts John’s command that the newly baptised are to reflect divine compassion in their own lives: ‘Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise’” (Lk 3:11). John’s preaching rings of Leviticus, ‘Be compassionate, for I am compassionate, says the LORD!’ Isaiah's words in the first reading apply to John: ‘The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother's womb he named me….he formed me in the womb to be his servant’. His birth signals the beginning of a new era in the God-human relationship which is characterised by grace and not law. It will be an era to be characterised by grace and not law.
The French philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, once wrote that when people come into the world they come without a purpose, and by exercising their freedom they choose a purpose for their lives. The scriptures suggest otherwise. God has a purpose for people before they are born. The challenge is to discover this purpose and be faithful to its demands. It could involve walking to a different drumbeat to other people. John lived apart from normal human contact not to avoid people or issues but to see them more clearly.
Pope Francis describes the prophet ‘…. someone who listens to the words of God, who reads the spirit of the times, and who knows how to move forward towards the future. True prophets hold within themselves three different moments: past, present, and future. They keep the promise of God alive, they see the suffering of their people, and they bring us the strength to look ahead.’
It is in reading the signs of the times and urging changes to a society’s trajectory back to the way of God that the prophet is often chastised and berated. People get stuck in their ways, especially if they have a comfortable life, and do not appreciate being challenged to change their personal worldview. This has occurred often when discussing the Israel/Palestine conflict, climate change, or asylum seekers and refugees. I am sure some of you have had this experience.
John made baptism a revolutionary commitment. He did not seek ‘celebrity’ or ‘popularity’. ‘I must decrease, and He must increase.’ Alarmed and amazed at his preaching, the crowds asked, ‘What are we to do then?’ And John told them, ‘The one with two shirts must share with the one who has none, and the one with food must do the same.’ Some tax agents, then as now extorting money from the poor to give to the rich, came to John and asked, ‘What are we supposed to do?’ John said, ‘No graft, no grease, no gravy.’ Some soldiers (actually policing occupied territory, like Israeli soldiers in the West Bank; US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan or police in the streets of their own cities) came to him and asked, ‘What are we to do?’ And John said, ‘Don't bully people; no police brutality, no rubber bullets, no false charges, no bribes allowed, no false arrests, no torture.’ Though Luke calls this good news, many of John's listeners saw it as bad news. The same applies to us today. For those who do not share, for those who worship consumer capitalism, for those who remain silent in the face of injustice - John is the man at the mike.
John came to shift the gears that drive the world. He shouted repentance, change of heart. ‘Who do you really suppose I am?’ John asked. He could be asking us what we call what is happening in society and church? what we imagine the future to be? We might, like John, think we are unfit to until the sandals of liberation and let it walk amongst us; the task has been given to us. Jesus is ‘the human future. John's neighbours wanted to prevent John being given the name and identity God wanted. They objected to ‘John’ as a name claiming that what a child becomes must be determined by his family and lineage. Their dream of a future for this child was limited by his family background. Yet, God's dream for us exceeds anything that has even been in our family background. Here I think of the hymn of some decades ago by Carey Landry: ‘The dream I have today, my Lord, is only a shadow of your dreams for me.’ Would Dorothy Day, Mary McKillop, William Sloane Coffin, Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King, Jr, etc., or any of the many women who entered religious life to teach or nurse have seen themselves picketing in order to stop another women’s prison being opened, or stop human trafficking, or condemn with their bodies the brutal treatment of asylum seekers and the poor. I wonder how many of them would see themselves as being a part of God’s dream.
When the child is named John ‘God is gracious’; the message of liberation has been sent. Isaiah speaks of comfort for the people, and a strengthening for us all. The valleys of poverty shall be lifted up. The mountains of privilege made low. The uneven ground of social injustice will be leveled. The rough places of violence and deceit made plain and exposed. This will reveal God’s ongoing presence among all people. People need no longer be trapped in downward cycles of: selfishness, vengeance, betrayed loyalties, compromised principles, materialism and all the other habits that seem to have relentless power over the world.
Something new is happening. Jesus will establish new family ties that have nothing to do with family, tribe, village or nation. The gospel will be for all, regardless of blood or national ties.
We are not locked into the inevitable. What has been does not have to continue that way. God whispers a new name to us by breaking old ways and giving us a new way of life. We can be different from what has gone before us, we can give new meaning to our world through the message we are called to proclaim. John did, he was a voice of hope and change to a despairing people. Where are we?
John's witness continues to be crucial for us. He lived up to his name. Listening to God’s word and growing in the Spirit, John witnessed to Jesus, the one who was not only close to God’s heart, but was God’s heart. We all have a spark of divinity within us. It is planted in each of us. It gives us our name and our mission.
Amidst what is happened in our countries, the fear, division, self-centredness and greed, we might ask ourselves ‘What can one person do?’ Today’s readings provide an answer. Listen deep within oneself and hear God speaking our name. Be faithful to it and be God’s love in the world. Let us be on earth the heart of God. We may think that our efforts will be in vain. But like the servant in Isaiah, like John, let us place your trust in God, for it’s God’s love shared that transforms the world.