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: Tuesday, 07 August 2018 10:25
LITURGY NOTES FOR THE 19th SUNDAY OF THE YEAR. AND TWO REFLECTIONS ON THE ASSUMPTION
19th Sunday of the Year
August 12th 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 ……) 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.
As we do this, we must also acknowledge the loss of their hunting grounds,
the destruction of their ceremonial places and sacred sites,
and the great loss of life from all kinds of violence and disease,
and that the land was never given away.
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.
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: 1 Kings 19:4-8
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading: Ephesians 4:30-5:2
Gospel Reading: John 6:41-51
Jesus, you feed us with your word and tell us to get up and walk. Jesus, have mercy.
Jesus, you feed us with your body and tell us to walk by its strength. Christ, have mercy.
Jesus, you feed us with your love and tell us to reach out to our neighbour. Jesus, have mercy.
God of Many Names,
Jesus has given his flesh for the life of the world
to sustain your pilgrim people on its journey.
Draw us near to him in whose name we gather.
Touch our hearts so that we may courageously
face the challenges before us
and walk the way of sacrificial love.
Prayers of the Faithful
Introduction: Let us pray to God who always provides the bread for journey and listens to our prayers. The response is: Stay with us, Lord.
- For Pope Francis and all leaders of churches and faiths: may they all be strengthened in the responsibilities they have been given and be true shepherds of those in their care, we pray in hope: Stay with us, Lord.
- For all people in leadership, whether political, corporate or religious: may they come to realise and live as if the people they are called to serve are treated people and not as financial entities or mere customers so that we can build a truly beloved community, we pray in hope: Stay with us, Lord.
- For the people affected by recent earthquakes in Indonesia: may the people of Lombok who have lost their loved ones and their dwellings find comfort in the love and help of their friends, we pray in hope: Stay with us, Lord.
- For peoples around the world severely affected by large scale mining: may the communities that have and continue to resist large mining operations in their country find the ongoing courage to resist with solidarity from others to protect their traditional way of life, their communities from division and disintegration and the environment and food security that is destroyed, we pray in hope: Stay with us, Lord.
- For the indigenous people of the world: may the growing assault and plunder of their traditional lands be halted and organisations cooperate to promote indigenous sovereignty as well as their political and cultural rights, we pray in hope: Stay with us, Lord.
- For those who strive to make their church and world more human communities: may they not falter in face of the obstacles set before them, especially when they find a lack of leadership, we pray in hope: Stay with us, Lord.
- For all of us here: may we find in the Eucharist as well as in community, the strength necessary to keep always present a vibrant hope and ongoing compassion, we pray in hope: Stay with us, Lord.
- For our neighbours – especially Indonesia, Philippines, and Papua New Guinea: may they courageously find peaceful ways to resolve their conflicts in their communities, we pray in hope: Stay with us, Lord.
- For those who are neglected: people who are homeless, misjudged, persecuted, hungry, or consigned to unremitting poverty and a short life span, that those able to deal effectively with these issues, do so with humanity and respect, we pray in hope: Stay with us, Lord.
- For those who are poor and needy - the children of Africa, the children of refugees and those who live on the streets of our cities and lands beyond our borders: may governments and churches respond with generosity and humane policies that open opportunities for these people to be agents in their own live and of their futures, we pray in hope: Stay with us, Lord.
- For people who are poor, living with disability, treated as misfits or loners: may they encounter people who reveal the face of Christ to them and encourage them in God’s love for them, the love of God and people, we pray in hope: Stay with us, Lord.
God of Many Names, you give us ‘the bread of life’ to strengthen our commitment to journey through life in love. May your Spirit reach every corner of the world, so that in every language and under all of your names we can experience our unity with you and be motivated by your love.
Prayer over the Gifts
God of Many Names,
we bring these gifts of bread and wine
as offerings to you.
May they become for us
signs of your life, goodness and encouragement to us.
Prayer after Communion
God of Many Names,
may the Eucharist we have celebrated
enable us to express our faithfulness
to the Spirit amongst us
as we face the challenges in our lives
by our kindness, forgiveness and making friends.
August 15 Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary
August 15 End of the War in the Pacific 1945
August 16 Wave Hill Station, NT, returned to the Gurindji People in 1975
It is not healthy to love silence while fleeing interaction with others, to want peace and quiet while avoiding activity, to seek prayer while disdaining service. Everything can be accepted and integrated into our life in this world, and become a part of our path to holiness. We are called to be contemplatives even in the midst of action and to grow in holiness by responsibly and generously carrying out our proper mission.
Pope Francis, ‘Rejoice and Be Glad: Gaudete et Exsultate,’ #26.
God of fires and wild storms,
of Elijah terrified upon the mountain
and disciples on fierce seas,
in these days of summer
help us to hold to you,
to know you in the slightest whisper
that is more beautiful
than all the noisy idols of war and greed.
Make us stand and walk to Jesus
over the stormiest times
for he is our Lord for ever and ever.
© 2002, Gabe Huck
Every spiritual master in every tradition talks about the significance of small things in a complex world. Small actions in social life, small efforts in the spiritual life, small moments in the personal life. All of them become great in the long run, the mystics say, but all of them look like little or nothing in themselves.
Joan Chittister osb
That violence is a fundamental, not an occasional, feature of our life must be recognised if we are to make any progress towards resolving the issues that the treaty debate raises for us...A treaty, with its formal recognition of the status of Indigenous Australians can set the spiritual, psychological and organisational context for the recognition of violence in our midst and thus commence its elimination...What is at issue in this debate is no less than the spiritual heart of Australia...
Prof. Michael Horsburgh
Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking; where it is absent, discussion is apt to become worse than useless.
Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoi (1828-1910)
Free inquiry requires that we tolerate diversity of opinion and that we respect the right of individuals to express their beliefs, however unpopular they may be, without social or legal prohibition or fear of success.
Paul Kurtz, ‘A Secular Humanist Declaration,’ in On The Barricades, 1989
This is, in theory, still a free country, but our politically correct, censorious times are such that many of us tremble to give vent to perfectly acceptable views for fear of condemnation. Freedom of speech is thereby imperiled, big questions go undebated, and great lies become accepted, unequivocally as great truths.
Simon Heffer, Daily Mail, June 7, 2000
Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.
Paulo Freire, Brazilian educator and advocate for the poor and marginalised
The voice of protest, of warning, of appeal is never more needed than when the clamor of fife and drum, echoed by the press and too often by the pulpit, is bidding all men fall in and keep step and obey in silence the tyrannous word of command. Then, more than ever, it is the duty of the good citizen not to be silent.
Charles Eliot Norton (1827-1908) American scholar
It should be no surprise that when rich men take control of the government, they pass laws that are favorable to themselves. The surprise is that those who are not rich vote for such people, even though they should know from bitter experience that the rich will continue to rip off the rest of us. Perhaps the reason is that rich men are very clever at covering up what they do.
Fr Andrew Greeley (Chicago Sun-Times, February 18, 2001)
In this America people are poor by the millions. They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
Dr. Martin Luther King
The basic mood of the future might well be one of confidence in the continuing revelation that takes place in and through the Earth. If the dynamics of the Universe from the beginning shaped the course of the heavens, lighted the sun, and formed the Earth, if this same dynamics brought forth the continents and the seas and atmosphere, if it awakened life in the primordial cell and then brought into being the unnumbered variety of living beings, and finally brought us into being and guided us safely through the turbulent centuries, there is reason to believe that this same guiding process is precisely what has awakened in us our present understanding of ourselves and our relation to this stupendous process. Sensitized to such guidance from the very structure and functioning of the Universe, we can have confidence in the future that awaits the human venture.
Thomas Berry, ‘The New Story’ from The Dream of the Earth
We cannot hope to create a sustainable culture with any but sustainable souls.
Derrick Jensen, from Endgame Vol.1: The Problem of Civilization
It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.
Edmund Hillary, was a New Zealand mountaineer and explorer.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, was a Transcendental man!
The only people with whom you should try to get even with are those who have helped you.
John E. Southard
Opportunity often comes disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat.
I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.
This moment is all that is guaranteed - use it to express the depth of your love and to wipe your slate clean of any resentment you are holding on to. Life is too precious to carry the weight of the past with you! Let it go and start to grow!
Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light but making the darkness conscious.
People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master.
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love, page 149. American novelist, essayist, short story writer, biographer and memoirist.
True Love is one of the rarest jewels life will ever bring you, treasure it with all your heart. When you find someone who loves you just as you are, is steadfast during moments of stress, willing to grow with you and allows you to feel however you choose to feel in any moment - there is nothing more you will ever find in a person. You've found True Love when you feel fear; fear of vulnerability, fear of abandonment and fear of letting go of your own stubborn egoic patterns that keep the real you separate and safe from the other. Trust in love and go towards your fear, taking this leap of faith in every moment is the journey Love requires for its sweet reward.
Jackson Kiddard, author & polymath.
With each newly minted crisis, US leaders roll out the same time-tested scenario. They start demonizing a foreign leader ... charging them with being communistic or otherwise dictatorial, dangerously aggressive, power hungry, genocidal, given to terrorism or drug trafficking, ready to deny us access to vital resources, harboring weapons of mass destruction, or just inexplicably ‘anti-American’ and ‘anti-West.’ Lacking any information to the contrary, the frightened public are swept along.
The first step in a fascist movement is the combination under an energetic leader of a number of men who possess more than the average share of leisure, brutality, and stupidity. The next step is to fascinate fools and muzzle the intelligent, by emotional excitement on the one hand and terrorism on the other.
Bertrand Russell Freedom, Harcourt Brace, 1940
It is in the nature of imperialism that citizens of the imperial power are always among the last to know--or care--about circumstances in the colonies.’
First they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out - because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists,
and I did not speak out -because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I did not speak out -because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me!
Pastor Martin Niemoller
To ignore politics is to ignore life. To ignore politics, or worse, simply support the status quo, is antithetical to the Christian Faith. Christ critiques all culture. How can we as his followers do less, or fail to follow him in his defence of the poor and dispossessed. Christians who say we should avoid politics have missed the basics of their faith and live a lie each time they vote or declare an opinion in their own assembly.
Between a few hundred and a few thousand people die every year from terrorist acts. More than 6 million children die every year from hunger-related causes. Where should our government's spending priorities be?
James R. Adair, editor, ProgressiveTheology.org
Who are you, my neighbour,
on this crowed street?
We live close by
in our tiny apartments
and share the changing seasons.
But do we know each other
not as strangers, but as friends?
Your family is far away, like mine;
yours in El Salvador, mine in Scotland –
two different worlds.
You came as a refugee, I through choice
and now we’re on the same street
alone, in our tiny apartments
separated only by a wall.
And around us a vast city
glittering, yet vulnerable,
where so many like us
have found food and shelter
but not always freedom from fear.
Let’s meet and talk one day
and share our stories,
and maybe our tears.
For the lights on our street
are Christmas lights –
reminding us of another Story
where strangers meet
and find each other.
It’s the story of Jesus,
the One who is always here
on our street.
Adapted from Peter Millar, This is the Day, Wild Goose Publications, 2002, Neil Paynter (ed.)
A priest was upset that an elderly man, sitting in church with his grandson, always fell asleep and snored during his sermon. So he offered to make a deal with the boy. He promised to pay the kid 25¢ if he would wake his grandfather every time he fell asleep.It went fine the first week, but the following week things were back to normal. After Mass the priest questioned the boy, ‘I thought we had a deal. I promised to pay you 25¢ to keep your grandfather awake.’ ‘Yeh,’ said the boy, ‘but grandpa pays me a buck a week to let him sleep.’
The American system is the most ingenious system of control in world history. With a country so rich in natural resources, talent and labour power the system can afford to distribute just enough wealth to just enough people to limit discontent to a troublesome minority. It is a country so powerful, so big, so pleasing to so many of its' citizens that it can afford to give freedom of dissent to the small number who are not pleased. There is no system of control with more openings, apertures, flexibilities, rewards for the chosen.
There is none that disperses its' control more complexly through the voting system, the work situation, the church, the family, the school, the mass media & none more successful in mollifying opposition with reforms, isolating people from one another, creating patriotic loyalty.
Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States
Holy as the Day is Spent’
Holy is the dish and drain
the soap and sink, and the cup and plate
and the warm wool socks, and the cold white tile
showerheads and good dry towels
and frying eggs sound like psalms
with bits of salt measured in my palm.
It’s all a part of a sacrament
as holy as a day is spent.
Holy is the busy street
and cars that boom with passion’s beat
and the check out girl, counting change
and the hands that shook my hands today
and hymns of geese fly overhead
and spread their wings like their parents did.
Blessed be the dog, that runs in her sleep
to chase some wild and elusive thing.
Holy is the familiar room
and quiet moments in the afternoon
and folding sheets like folding hands
to pray as only laundry can.
I’m letting go of all my fear
like autumn leaves made of earth and air
for the summer came and the summer went
as holy as a day is spent.
Holy is the place I stand
to give whatever small good I can
and the empty page, and the open book
redemption everywhere I look
unknowingly we slow our pace
in the shade of unexpected grace
and with grateful smiles and sad lament
as holy as a day is spent,
and morning light sings ‘providence’
as holy as a day is spent.
Carrie Newcomer, from her album, The Gathering of Spirits
Bread of life,
come to us in our moments of deepest need,
and sustain us in our own wildernesses of rejection and misunderstanding
that we may never die to your call to live in love as you love us. Amen.
Reflections on the readings……..
The single thread that runs through all the readings is the call to live with grace, integrity and compassion for both friend and enemy. It’s the small, daily acts of love and forgiveness, of honesty and compassion that make a significant difference in the world, and it is these acts that we are invited to make the habits of our lives. The writer of the Letter to the Ephesians instructs believers on how to live as true followers of Christ-to be honest with one another, to speak to one another in edifying ways, avoiding aggression, shouting and slander and choosing instead forgiveness and compassion.
We find Jesus today challenged for saying that he is the bread of life, and reveals God, and offers fullness of life to those who come to him. Jesus’ response is powerful but also invitational. In the Letter to the Ephesians, simple, practical guidelines are offered for community life: how we speak to one another and treat one another is important, because it builds our life together, and reflects God’s presence among us. The call is to Christlike behaviour lived in the daily routines of our lives. We are called to reflect the heart of Christ’s compassion and gentleness. The call is to love those who oppose us. It is a challenge to embrace forgiveness, love and honesty in a radical, counter-cultural way, and allowing God’s love to flow through us to touch and restore our neighbours, our communities and our world. The choice to live like Christ – the Bread of Life – each day can have positive consequences for our world.
Jesus instructed his followers to love their enemies, be compassionate as God is compassionate, receive and welcome children, serve the poor, feed the hungry, and take up the cross, yet it does not happen. Rather than do as Jesus says, his followers still take up the ‘sword’ [guns, tanks, nuclear weapons, or the tongue]. They still reject calls to welcome the stranger and in fact make like desperate for them as we have done to asylum seekers and refugees. They still reject the call to care for creation and find excuses not to do so.
As I prepare these reflections on Hiroshima Day that many of Jesus’ teachings have to taken hold. We see how in political, scientific, religious, and business discourse has become vitriolic and aggressive. The paradigm we operate from is one of conflict, name-calling, shouting, shaming, dishonesty and emphasising the negative elements in others. We devalue those with whom we disagree, and aggressively force through our agendas. Where the Bread of Life is a call to unity (not uniformity) and a sign of unity through reconciliation, this negative posturing leads to a growing disengagement in all aspects of religious, political and social life. There is a growing inability to deal with problems because a lack of collaboration and solidarity where the greater good loses to special interests. Jesus and the writer of the Letter to the Ephesians call us to live in ways that bring life to our families, friends, neighbours, strangers, and even enemies. As Jesus is the Bread of Life, we are to be little ‘breads of life’ to our world. By extending Jesus’ invitation to others, others find life and compassion, forgiveness and restoration through us. And it begins in small ways. This Christlikeness, lived out daily, contributes to the compassion, integrity and healing in our little acre of God’s world.
This is not easy. The US journalist, Chris Hedges, in I Don’t Believe in Atheists, says that fundamentalist atheists (e.g., the late Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris) share similar traits as fundamentalist evangelicals, who like the disciples of Jesus wanted to rain down fire and brimstone on those Samaritans who refused to accept Jesus. One other thing they share is often a lack of humour. Whilst Jesus tried to teach us how to live in peace through the practice of nonviolence, we prefer to kill the enemy, ridicule those we disagree with, marginalise those are different to us. 4th Christians abandoned nonviolent resistance to war by allying themselves with Constantine. It seems that today, it is mostly Christians and Catholics who unleash destruction on other countries – whether in Africa, the Philippines, in Afghanistan, Syria, and Latin American countries. Practicing Christians can sit at computers and unleash unmanned drone bombers over other countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan and bring hell upon mostly unarmed and innocent civilians who could be working the land or getting married or attending a funeral.
Elijah, in the first reading, was on the run for having brought death and destruction on his enemies and now finds himself in deep trouble. His experience was a teachable moment. Unfortunately, many of Jesus’ disciples have yet to learn the lessons of peacemaking, of nonviolence, or listen to the other and putting ourselves in their ‘space’. A teachable moment was when Elijah originally encountered God (not in today’s reading) on Mount Horeb not in the earthquake, wind or fire, but in the sound of silence, traditionally rendered ‘the still small voice.’ Here is a great contrast to the violence he unleashed against the pagan prophets. His perspective was strongly challenged. He thought he was doing God’s work. He finds that God comes with love and sustenance. He learns that God is different - gracious and forgiving. God is not found in the violent or fierce wind or the earthquake or the fire, but in a voice that emerges out of silence. And we too much learn nonviolent ways. Ephesians has given a way to begin.
The question we face today is: do we have faith in Jesus? If ‘yes,’ then how does it affect our daily lives? Are we the change we want to see in the world (pace Gandhi). Are we different because we believe in Jesus? Are we the ‘bread of life’ to others that reveal God to us in Jesus?
We are continually asked to die to our way of living and take up his life: the life of forgiveness, goodness, trust and service. It is above all living a life that struggles for peace and nonviolence and opposes any voices that justify violence as a way of peace. God has ‘drawn’ us to Jesus in faith – a faith that will sustain us. Hiroshima was allegedly an attempt to bring peace but we are left with the destruction it causes. World leaders allegedly seek peace but engage in vitriol and more violence.
The letter to Ephesians reminds us that we have a unique calling: to be truth-tellers – not perpetuate fake news. We need to put away falsehoods that war and violence are solutions to conflict; that we are better than anyone else; our wealth and prosperity is not related to hunger and poverty elsewhere in the world; that our carbon emissions do not affect the peoples of the Pacific.
Our faith is not about just us. It is about justice-right relationships. Faith in Jesus is personal relationship based on a personal conviction that through him God shares our life, reveals an immense love for us, and will not let go of us or let us down. There is no guarantee that it will be an easy road. We could end up hungry and forlorn in the desert or on the run from those who oppose us. But we are assured of God’s presence – a presence that gives strength and courage to do what we must do in the world. The faith we share at the Eucharist does not make us better than anyone else, but opens us to a responsibility - to be instruments of God's gracious and peace filled presence in the world. How can we ‘companion’ our sisters and brothers; how can we break and share our bread with them? What ‘bread’ do they need? Is it the bread of compassion, understanding, encouragement, listening, etc? Is it the physical bread of food, medicine, education, housing, job, protection or security? Is it the bread that challenges them to open their eyes to really see their sisters and brothers in all their dignity? If food is such an important as a sign of God’s goodness, then ensuring that ‘hungry’ people are fed is central to our witness for justice. This is what turns the world upside down which makes for peace, and the responsorial psalm brings to mind the Song of Mary [Magnificat] where God is praised for raising up the lowly and bringing down the powerful. A revolution indeed!
Some reflections for the feast of the Assumption…. Claude Mostowik mscPope Pius XII, after the Second World War, declared that Mary was assumed into heaven, body and spirit after her death. Experts asked why because Catholics had traditionally believed it, not to mention that a new dogma might even complicate relations with other Christians. The Pope was reacting against the horrors/wars that he had lived through during his lifetime. 10 million people died in WW I, 40 million in the Russian Revolution, the Holocaust killed millions of Jews, Gypsies and Homosexuals, and WW II claimed 50 million lives. It was in this context that the Pope wanted to say something not only about the body of Mary, but about the body of all of us. It was hoped that the celebration of the Mary's Assumption would teach us to come to a new respect for every human being's bodily presence and history. And those who understood and experienced the horrors of those wars, and the almost total disrespect for the bodily and earthly life of human beings would agree. Surely this has profound implications and relevance for us today: we have seen the terrible wars in the Balkans, apartheid in South Africa, the troubles in Ireland, wars and conflicts in the Middle East [Iraq, Palestine] and Afghanistan, the genocide in Rwanda and Darfur, the neglect of HIV/AIDS in Africa, the ‘killing fields’ of Cambodia, not to mention world poverty. Our body, too, will remain integrated in our own personal history, not and for all time to come. Our body deserves our respect, we have to pay that respect to ourselves and to our sisters and brothers. We cannot destroy or neglect either our own bodies or that of any other person. Today’s Gospel affirms the belief that this world is pregnant with newness, with God's life. It celebrates the unexpected breaking into the life of a peasant woman who was very likely doing nothing very religious like taking out the garbage. And she sings about God's subversive activity in our world; how God reverses all plans and designs especially of those in power. God chooses the little instead of the big, the weak instead of the strong, lifts up the lowly, brings down the mighty. Mary sings about how God makes fruitful the life of a young woman and an elderly woman. Mary knew that she was chosen not because of her purity and goodness - later generations would get sidetracked into that - but because she was a nothing. She considered a nobody, and still God broke into her life. We need only pay attention to the apparitions that have occurred. Few, if any, have been to the rich, powerful or famous. They were nearly always to the poor and lowly, peasants, women and children. We sing of Mary's maternity because she deserves it. Mary sings about it because she does not deserve it. See the point of the gospel? Whilst we project Mary as the perfect woman, then we know it is absolutely right that she should be the mother of the Messiah, that the breaking in of God's word into her life was completely fitting and totally expected. She is, after all, a quality person; holy; generous and caring of her cousin. This understanding results in applauding Mary and we are let off the hook: we rationalise that we can go about our business, we can remain disengaged from the concerns of our sisters and brothers, because we are not made of the same stuff as Mary and so we cannot expect the breaking in of God's word into our lives. Mary’s Song sounds the mission of Jesus himself. He was born in a stable rather than in a plush private hospital. He came and lived in a little town, Nazareth, not the capital Jerusalem. He grew up rubbing shoulders with the poor, destitute, and people outside the law. Mary sings that same motif: God's preference is for those who, like herself, are nobodies. She calls herself a handmaid, a servant, slave-girl of the Lord. The gospel is an encounter between two bewildered peasant women overcome by God's breaking into their insignificant lives. When we understand that, we open our lives to God as well. We cannot if we project that much on Mary, because we are neither great nor regal. The gospel speaks consistently of the little people being broken into by God's word. And therefore that does not permit us to put God off because we are not qualified. We are celebrating what God did for Mary and what God can do for you and for me. Mary’s Song is one who has already been rescued from the limits of her time, society, and religion; someone who is on her way to the final exodus out of all oppression and injustice. ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit exults in God my saviour; because God has looked down on the lowly handmaid.’ Luke puts this song in her mouth... and with good reason... because to let anyone sing such a song indicates that you think her heart was bursting with it. This song indicates knowledge of the problems of her time and society, as well as what has to happen to remedy the situation: ‘God has shown the power of his arm, routed the proud of heart, pulled down princes from their thrones, and exalted the lowly. The hungry have been filled with good things, the rich sent away empty. God has come to the help of Israel the servant, mindful of mercy.’ In other words, God listens to the oppressed. Mary's song is a wave of compassion. It is a song that gives hope to everyone. It is not against anyone, but it is for the poor and the oppressed Mary's hymn has remained a woman's tune. Mary's hymn a tune for women, gay people, oppressed people. The women in Manila sang it in front of ex-president Marcos' palace. The women in Chile and Argentina, came together regularly to protest the disappearance of their husbands, brothers, sons and daughters, sang it. Mother Teresa and her sisters sang it when they opened a hospice for people living with HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C. Others like mothers of Russian soldiers went to the Chechen border to tell their sons to stop fighting and come home, lived it. Women in West Papua, the Balkans, Bougainville who have often been at the forefront of peace making in their communities and the healing that needs to occur afterwards, lived it. All those women are ahead of their time. So is Mary, taken up into heaven, ahead of all of us. Assumption2018AbrahamKochurani Abraham Catholic Women Preach August 15, 2018As a young student of theology, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary was perplexing to me because I found a very wide gap between the glorified body of Mary in heaven and the bodies of women living here on earth. As we know, the body/spirit divide that informs the philosophies of religions have had a derogatory impact on women. The patriarchal leanings of religions have denied female bodies the capacity to represent the divine. In addition, women’s bodily secretions particularly the menstrual blood is taken to be highly polluting in places set aside as sacred. In India, most of the Hindu temples deny women entry into the inner sanctum where the deity is placed. Even in Christianity, in many churches of the oriental rite, women are not allowed in the sanctum sanctorum during worship. I belong to the Syro-Malabar Church, one of the catholic oriental rites in India and in my home parish, which is a Cathedral; women are not expected to enter the Madbahaor the ‘holy of holies’ that is clearly set apart by railings. I find this practice exceedingly offensive as female bodies are still seen through the lens of purity–pollution set by religious patriarchy. It is only after entering more deeply into feminist theology that I found the imagery of the embodied Mary in heaven subversively fascinating, as it offers scope for challenging the gender politics of Christianity as a religion. It is a global reality that the female body has become a site of violence. In many parts of the world, women are mere bodies that are taken for granted, trafficked and violated, objectified and even sacrificed in families for its nurturance and for the satisfaction of male pleasure. Due to the high risk of sexual violence, a poll of global experts held earlier this year named India the most dangerous country for women. Consequently, women themselves tend to devalue their bodies as decorative objects devoid of the spirit. It is against this backdrop that we need to bring into relief the liberative significance of this feast of Assumption as it is imperative that women reclaim their sacredness as embodied persons. While Catholic theology makes Mary totally distinct from the rest of womankind, ‘assumption’ is not a privilege for Mary alone as Karl Rahner has claimed. For me, Assumption is important because it affirms the divinity of a female body. Personal is political. What is personally attributed to Mary has a political significance for women today. And so, contemplating the divinity of Mary’s body invites us to affirm our full humanity as radiating the divine. It is within this liberative framework that I situate the liturgy of Assumption, which offers us powerful readings. I would like to reflect on the first reading and the Gospel in view of its transformative potential for women and other marginalized people in this world. The first reading from the Book of Apocalypse (Revelation) gives us the imagery of a woman clothed with the sun and wailing in pain as she is in labor to give birth. There is also a dragon waiting to devour her child, a child whose destiny is to rule all the nations. The reading tells us that when she gave birth, her child was taken up to God’s throne while she fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God. Right from the early Patristic tradition, this apocalyptic woman has been identified with Mary and later with the Church itself. Just as Mary gave birth to Christ at one moment in history, the Church is called to birth Christ in today’s world. I would like to stretch this birthing imagery beyond Mary, the Church and the Christ figure to a new vision that we need to realize in this world, the vision of a new social order based on equality, justice and freedom for all. We need to birth this new vision that would subvert the social hierarchies and the power structures that are oppressive, and this is what we hear foretold in today’s Gospel: ‘the mighty would be cast down from their thrones and the lowly lifted up, the hungry shall be filled with good things, and the rich, sent away empty.’ In this new social order, whoever is devalued for their colour, gender, sexual orientation, social status and the like, regain their dignity and personhood. Here, the body merges with the spirit and that is what the feast of Assumption is all about. Perhaps we need to ask how we can work towards the reversal of the many oppressive systems of our times. There are pointers to the answer in this Gospel story itself. For Luke, the setting of the revolutionary song, the Magnificat is the encounter of two women, who are blessed in their embodiment. The ‘barren’ and the ‘Virgin’ give birth not according to human calculations, but by their openness to the Spirit of God. And Elizabeth tells Mary: ‘Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.’The Feast of the Assumption invites us then, to birth a new vision like the apocalyptic woman and like Mary, by becoming persons, a community, a Church who can intervene prophetically in this world. This new vision that we call the Reign of God would be realized where people share, where they love the earth and all its creatures, where they take a stance to include the excluded ones of this world into the table fellowship of life. For this to happen, we need to be impregnated by the Spirit - Sophia, the Wisdom of God, who would make us friends of God and the prophets. Then, we will give birth to God as Mary did and share in her assumption in the ‘already- not yet’ dialectic, till we merge fully with the source of life. Are we ready for this birthing mission? Amen.