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, 11 October 2018 23:01
LITURGY NOTES FOR THE 28th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME, 2018
28th Sunday of the Year
October 14th 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,
the great loss of life from all kinds of violence and disease,
and that the land was never given away.
‘I want to tell you right away how much
the Church esteems and loves you,
and how much she wishes to assist you
in your spiritual and material needs.’
Pope John Paul II, Alice Springs 1986 to the Aboriginal people..
God of peace and life,
speak to the hearts of those responsible
for the fate of peoples,
stop the `logic' of revenge and retaliation,
with your Spirit suggest new solutions,
generous and honorable gestures,
room for dialogue and patient waiting
which are more fruitful than
the hurried deadlines of war.
John Paul II [adapted for gender sensitivity]
If protest depended on success, there would be little protest of any durability or significance. History simply affords too little evidence that anyone's individual protest is of any use. Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one's own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence.
‘Our revolution comes about through tenderness,
through the joy which always becomes
closeness and compassion,
and leads us to get involved in
and to serve the life of others.’
First Reading Wisdom 7:7-11
Responsorial Psalm Ps 90:12-13, 14-15,16-17
Second Reading Hebrews 4:12-13
Gospel Mark 10:17-30 (or 10:17-27)
• You look kindly upon your people and heal their brokenness. Jesus, have mercy.
• You teach us wisdom and enable us to discern your presence in the world. Christ, have mercy.
• You challenge us to appreciate your gifts and share them. Jesus, have mercy.
Penitential Rite [Alternative]
• Your Word is living and effective in our lives. Jesus, have mercy.
• Your Word penetrates our heart and soul and enables us to discern your will. Christ, have mercy.
• Your Word exposes all things. Jesus, have mercy.
Penitential Rite [Alternative]
• Christ Jesus, you are the Word of God dwelling in our midst: Jesus, have mercy.
• Christ Jesus, you are the Word who speaks to us today: Christ, have mercy.
• Christ Jesus, you are the Word who can change our lives: Jesus, have mercy.
God of Wisdom,
your loving kindness is the foundation of our lives
and guides all the moments of our day.
Your word probes the motives of our hearts
and your love accompanies us on our journey.
May we courageously pursue the practice of good works
and be open to your call to respond to the Gospel in new ways.
Prayer over the Gifts
God of Wisdom,
May the prayers and gifts
we offer in faith and love
serve to open our minds to your presence
amongst all people.
Prayer after Communion
God of Wisdom,
May the body and blood of Jesus which we have shared
strengthen us and give us courage
to share our lives to promote the good of all your people.
Prayers of the Faithful
Introduction: Let us pray for the wisdom to appreciate God’s gifts with gratitude and use them for the good of all: The response is: God of Wisdom, fill us with your love.
That the people who have suffered horrific hurricanes and tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan will quickly, despite the traumas and losses suffered, find ways their communities restored to acceptable standards through the love and support of each other, rescuers, doctors, nurses and other kind people. We pray: God of Wisdom, fill us with your love.
That the people of West Papua, struggling under oppression and persecution will find hope from the support they are receiving from a few neighbouring countries in the Pacific, freedom from oppression, and continue to persevere in their struggle for liberation. We pray: God of Wisdom, fill us with your love.
That the lives of Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Oscar Romero may fill us with gratitude and hope, on this weekend of their canonisation, and that our hearts will burn for responding to God’s word coming to us through the lives of people who are poor and vulnerable. We pray: God of Wisdom, fill us with your love.
That the leaders of all Churches may not sacrifice their values for power, success and ambition but commit themselves to promote human dignity and gospel values of peace, justice and compassion. We pray: God of Wisdom, fill us with your love.
That the leaders of all faiths may speak with voices that promote good relations within their communities and between other communities. We pray: God of Wisdom, fill us with your love.
That world leaders will see that the rules of international trade change where they benefit the rich, undermine and destroy the livelihood of the poor, and wreak havoc on the planet’s ecosystems. We pray: God of Wisdom, fill us with your love.
That, during this Anti-Poverty Week, all in the church will have the courage to embrace Jesus’ command: “Go sell what you have and give to the poor,” and use our wealth for the sake of the Gospel. We pray: God of Wisdom, fill us with your love.
That the developed countries of the world will have the wisdom to recognise that they inflict injustice on other countries by unfair trade practices, refusal to cancel debts and failure to abide by international law. We pray: God of Wisdom, fill us with your love.
That the lonely figures of dissent within society and the churches may continue to courageously expose injustice, lies and deceit. We pray: God of Wisdom, fill us with your love.
That people who suffer from any kind of trauma especially of accidents and war find through the patient presence of others healing for themselves and reconciliation with those who have offended. We pray: God of Wisdom, fill us with your love.
That people engaged in the mass media will promote the values of life by seeking the truth and exposing injustice in politics and business. We pray: God of Wisdom, fill us with your love.
That parents and teachers will challenge the young to live for things that matter and inspire them to give themselves generously to others. We pray: God of Wisdom, fill us with your love.
That we may all, through the teaching of the Gospel, come to a new understanding of justice where giving to the poor is a redistribution of wealth that goes beyond alms-giving and charity. We pray: God of Wisdom, fill us with your love.
That Australians will not take for granted but be grateful for the riches of culture that have been inherited from the First Peoples of this land and from those who have come here from other lands. We pray: God of Wisdom, fill us with your love.
Concluding Prayer: Good and gracious God, Creator of all life and all that is good, hear our prayers this day. Make us mindful of our blessings and fill us with gratitude for your care and love for us.
October 14 Canonisation of Oscar Romero and Paul VI.
October 14-20 Anti-Poverty Week
October 17 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
October 19 17th Anniversary of the Sinking of SIEV X with the loss of 353 children, women and men and the shame of Australia’s abandonment of responsibility and subsequent lies around the tragedy.
Sacred land, Sacred Lives: Prayer for Indigenous Peoples’ Day October 12, 2009
God, the Holy Spirit, we come to you:
strengthen us as we journey through this life.
We of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes have, through time,
acknowledged the sacredness of the earth.
We acknowledge the earth in prayer in all the directions of the earth:
To the north. To the south. To the east. To the west.
The sacredness of all the plants and those we harvest
are treated as living beings.
Our grandfather river is sacred to us
and we benefit from and respect our river.
Our ancestors taught us to respect the earth
and use its gifts with care.
We are saddened by those who exploit
the resources of the earth only for profit.
Our river was destroyed, our land was stolen
and we know the promise that our government
would leave us on the land we loved
‘as long as the grass shall grow’
was a lie,
as were the government’s promises to all native people.
Although we seem helpless as this exploitation continues
we continue to use our influence
to protect the small portion of the earth
which has been our home for centuries.
We ask that the Spirit give us the strength and grace
to continue to protect our land and our life.
Reba Walker Worship Ways vol. 8 no. 3 October 12, 2009
I have come more and more to realize that it is being unwanted that is the worst disease that any human being can experience.
To be human is to be responsible. That is the inner meaning of the ‘dominion’ of Genesis 1:26, which is a dominion not of domination but of stewardship, taking care of the world's back yard. God the world-maker is God the care-taker. Humans properly stand over other creatures only as they stand with other creatures, showing them love, giving them space, and granting them ‘rights.’
Kim Fabricius Propositions on Christian Theology
A tough life needs a tough language – and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers – a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.
Jeanette Winterson In Defense of Poetry
When the mask falls and the core of our being is revealed, it soon becomes obvious that we are religious by nature, that religion is the secret dowry of our being.
Johannes Metz Poverty of Spirit
Today we are worshipping the gods of metal, the bomb. We are putting our trust in physical power, militarism, and nationalism. The bomb, not God, is our security and strength...We must all become prophets... We must all do something for peace. We must stop this insanity of worshipping the gods of metal. We must take a stand against evil and idolatry. This is our destiny at the most critical time of human history. But it's also the greatest opportunity ever offered to any group of people in the history of our world—to save our world from complete annihilation.
Father George Zabelka former Catholic Air Force Chaplin, speaking at a Pax Christi conference in August, 1985
To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget.
According to the Talmud, every blade of grass has its own angel bending over it, whispering, 'Grow, grow.'
Barbara Brown Taylor from An Altar in the World
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil.
Gerard Manley Hopkins God's Grandeur
If you're going to care about the fall of the sparrow you can't pick and choose who's going to be the sparrow. It's everybody.
It is a blessed thing to know that no power on earth, no temptation, no human frailty can dissolve what God holds together.
Beautiful is the moment in which we understand that we are no more than an instrument of God; we live only as long as God wants us to live; we can do only as much as God makes us able to; we are only as intelligent as God would have us be.
Archbishop Oscar Romero From Romero's last homily, March 23, 1980
God has no other hands than ours.
As soon as we abandon our own reason, and are content to rely upon authority, there is no end to our troubles.
If you think of humanity as one large body, then war is like suicide, or at best, self-mutilation.
Jerome P. Crabb.
If civilization has an opposite, it is war. Of these two things, you have either one, or the other. Not both
Ursula Kroeber Le Guin
What is the unmistakable mark of a wise (man)? It is Love, Love for all humanity.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba
What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?
Mahatma Mohandas K. Gandhi
A time will come when a politician who has willfully made war and promoted international dissension will be as sure of the dock and much surer of the noose than a private homicide. It is not reasonable that those who gamble with men's lives should not stake their own.
If we work in marble, it will perish; if we work upon brass, time will efface it; if we rear temples, they will crumble into dust; but if we work upon immortal minds and instill into them just principles, we are then engraving upon tablets which no time will efface, but will brighten and brighten to all eternity:.
Politicians and diapers should be changed frequently and all for the same reason.
José Maria de Eça de Queiroz
The terrible, cold, cruel part is Wall Street. Rivers of gold flow there from all over the earth, and death comes with it. There, as nowhere else, you feel a total absence of the spirit: herds of men who cannot count past three, herds more who cannot get past six, scorn for pure science and demoniacal respect for the present. And the terrible thing is that the crowd that fills the street believes that the world will always be the same and that it is their duty to keep that huge machine running, day and night, forever.
Federico Garcia Lorca, Spanish Poet and Playwright, 1898-1936
I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.
Booker T. Washington
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.
John Adams - Second US President, 1797 - 1801
Make men wise, and by that very operation you make them free. Civil liberty follows as a consequence of this; no usurped power can stand against the artillery of opinion.
William Godwin, (1756-1836) English journalist, political philosopher and novelist.
I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.
Booker T. Washington
You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.
Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) French economist, statesman and author
It is the responsibility of the patriot to protect his country from its government.
You can best serve civilization by being against what usually passes for it.
Societies in decline have no use for visionaries.
Let's be realists, let's dream the impossible.
Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.
Because a fellow has failed once or twice, or a dozen times, you don't want to set him down as a failure till he's dead or loses his courage--and that's the same thing.
The rules are simple: they lie to us, we know they're lying, they know we know they're lying, but they keep lying to us, and we keep pretending to believe them.
Elena Gorokhova, A Mountain of Crumbs: A Memoir
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) Russian writer Source: On Life and Essays on Religion
Come to the edge, He said. They said, We are afraid. Come to the edge, He said. They came. He pushed them...and they flew.
Truth is treason in an empire of lies
Then what is freedom? It is the will to be responsible to ourselves.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Twilight of the Idols, 1888
The powerful have invoked God at their side in this war, so that we will accept their power and our weakness as something that has been established by divine plan. But there is no god behind this war other than the god of money, nor any right other than the desire for death and destruction. Today there is a ‘NO’ which shall weaken the powerful and strengthen the weak: the ‘NO’ to war.
Subcomandante Marcos, No to war, February 16, 2003
I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.
All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
Often war is waged only in order to show valor; thus an inner dignity is ascribed to war itself, and even some philosophers have praised it as an ennoblement of humanity, forgetting the pronouncement of the Greek who said, ‘War is an evil in as much as it produces more wicked men than it takes away.
When faced with a choice between confronting an unpleasant reality and defending a set of comforting and socially accepted beliefs, most people choose the later course.
W. Lance Bennett.
Each of the Iraqi children killed by the United States was our child. Each of the prisoners tortured in Abu Ghraib was our comrade. Each of their screams was ours. When they were humiliated, we were humiliated. The U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq - mostly volunteers in a poverty draft from small towns and poor urban neighborhoods - are victims just as much as the Iraqis of the same horrendous process, which asks them to die for a victory that will never be theirs.
Arundhati Roy, Tide? Or Ivory Snow? Public Power in the Age of Empire, August 24, 2004
The best way to honour the fallen is to stop making more of them.
The way society responds to the needs of the poor through its public policies is the litmus test of its justice or injustice.
Economic Justice for All, #123
When Did We See You
I was hungry and starving
and you were full;
and you were watering your garden;
With no road to follow, and without hope,
and you called the police and were happy that they took me prisoner;
Barefoot and with ragged clothing,
and you were saying: ‘I have nothing to wear,
tomorrow I will buy something new.’
and you asked, ‘Is it infectious?’
and you said: ‘That is where all those of your class should be.’
Lord, have mercy!
To My Mother
I was your rebellious son,
do you remember? Sometimes
I wonder if you do remember,
so complete has your forgiveness been.
So complete has your forgiveness been
I wonder sometimes if it did not
precede my wrong, and I erred,
safe found, within your love,
prepared ahead of me, the way home,
or my bed at night, so that almost
I should forgive you, who perhaps
foresaw the worst that I might do,
and forgave before I could act,
causing me to smile now, looking back,
to see how paltry was my worst,
compared to your forgiveness of it
already given. And this, then,
is the vision of that Heaven of which
we have heard, where those who love
each other have forgiven each other,
where, for that, the leaves are green,
the light a music in the air,
and all is unentangled,
and all is undismayed.
Wendell Berry, ‘To My Mother’ from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Poet, novelist, and environmentalist, Wendell Berry (1934—) lives on a farm in Port Royal, Kentucky near his birthplace.
War: first, one hopes to win; then one expects the enemy to lose; then, one is satisfied that he too is suffering; in the end, one is surprised that everyone has lost.
Karl Kraus (1874–1936)
it has been the inaction of those who could have acted;
the indifference of those who should have known better;
the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most;
that has made it possible for evil to triumph.
The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.
Real care is not ambiguous. Real care excludes indifference and is the opposite of apathy. The word ‘care’ finds its roots in the Gothic ‘Kara’ which means lament. The basic meaning of care is: to grieve, to experience sorrow, to cry out with. I am very much struck by this background of the word care because we tend to look at caring as an attitude of the strong toward the weak, of the powerful toward the powerless, of the ‘haves’ toward the ‘have-nots. And, in fact, we feel quite uncomfortable with an invitation to enter into someone’s pain before doing something about it.
Still, when we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not-knowing, not-curing, not-healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares.
You might remember moments in which you were called to be with a friend who had lost a wife or husband, child or parent. What can you say, do, or propose at such a moment? There is a strong inclination to say: ‘Don’t cry; the one you loved is in the hands of God.’ ‘Don’t be sad because there are so many good things left worth living for.’ But are we ready to really experience our powerlessness in the face of death and say: ‘I do not understand. I do not know what to do but I am here with you.’ Are we willing to not run away from the pain, to not get busy when there is nothing to do and instead stand rather in the face of death together with those who grieve?
Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)
Our men . . . have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of 10 up.... Our soldiers have pumped salt water into men to ‘make them talk,’ and have taken prisoners people who held up their hands and peacefully surrendered, and an hour later. . . stood them on a bridge and shot them down one by one, to drop into the water below and float down, as examples to those who found their bullet-loaded corpses.’
Philadelphia Ledger in 1901, from its Manila [Philippines] correspondent during the US war with Spain for the control of the Philippines
We reject [homosexuals], treat them as pariahs, and push them outside our church communities, and thereby we negate the consequences of their baptism and ours. We make them doubt that they are the children of God, and this must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy. We blame them for something that is becoming increasingly clear they can do little about.
Desmond Tutu, former Anglican Archbishop of South Africa
... the United States, for generations, has sustained two parallel but opposed states of mind about military atrocities and human rights: one of U.S. benevolence, generally held by the public, and the other of ends-justify-the-means brutality sponsored by counterinsurgency specialists. Normally the specialists carry out their actions in remote locations with little notice in the national press. That allows the public to sustain its faith in a just America, while hard-nosed security and economic interests are still protected in secret.
Robert Parry, investigative reporter and author
They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war.
One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge -- even to ourselves -- that we've been so credulous.
Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.
Dwight David Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States, 1890-1969
Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as first it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens.
Plato, Ancient Greek philosopher (428/427-348/347 B.C.)
A rationality that has brought us into the age of nuclear weaponry and global economic meltdown invites some sharp questions, to put it mildly.
Rowan Williams (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/10285)
A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.
You may have an army of bleeding hearts tending the sorrowful and the hungry and yet not see an end to the causes of hunger and thirst. Working for real change is vital.
Melba Maggay, Filipina evangelical theologian
Many Idols Mark 10:17-22
One idolised wealth,
another hungered for fame,
so they went sadly away.
One loved career,
one the latest fashion,
and they went proudly away.
One lived through her children,
one lived for his farm,
so they went busily away.
One fed on the adulation of fans,
sport was another’s passion,
so they went impatiently away.
One had the gambling lust,
another’s was sex,
so they went madly away.
One wanted to be waited on,
one wanted to lay about,
so they went sluggishly away.
One was hooked on sport,
one on the next drug fix,
so they went hurriedly away.
One lived for churchly honours,
one for churchly clout,
so they went blindly away.
© B.D. Prewer 2002
Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) German Dramatist
Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind.
Henry Miller (1891-1980) American writer
The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a ‘pet’ notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.
Reflections on the readings……..
Our world is full of ‘shadow people’ – unseen sufferers who struggle daily with poverty, dread and infectious diseases, lack of clean water and sanitation, few resources and fewer opportunities. For many, these people remain unseen even when they live next door, are ‘out of mind.’ It is easy to see these ‘shadow people’ as ‘issues’ to be resolved where helping them without their involvement involves an uneven power dynamic where we can be seen as ‘saviours’ coming to ‘rescue’ the ‘poor.’ It seems that a powerful healing work of justice is to really notice the ‘shadow people,’ to see them as people and acknowledge and honour their humanity and respond to them in friendship and solidarity. We can only experience traces of God in our lives but those traces disrupt, challenge and make demands on. But, this God shows up explicitly and concretely in one specific place – the ‘other,’ the friend, the neighbour, the stranger, whom we encounter daily, and whose needs impinge upon us.
Anti-Poverty Week begins today. We are reminded of increasing inequality in this country and around the world. One billion children worldwide live in poverty. The UNICEF reports that 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. These are not statistics but human beings, each with a face, relationships - and dreams that are continually being dashed as countries close their borders, communities erect walls, nations spend more and more on weapons of war, neglect people affected by climate change. All these add to people living in poverty.
Jesus told the man who wanted to inherit eternal life: ‘Go sell what you have and give to the poor.’ Today’s Gospel contains an ‘inconvenient truth’ if we listen. I recalls the public interchanges between Fr Bob Maguire in Melbourne with ‘head office’ when faced with accusations relating to his mission amongst the poor. He was accused of using too many resources on behalf of the poor and needy rather than handing it over to ‘head office’. Like Mark, Maguire thought it better if the Church was poor and thus more open to the real treasures within the community and that its possessions be at the service of people-especially the poor. Another minister once said that the church should go to hell, that is, it should go to the hell-holes of the world (the streets in our inner cities or outlying suburbs, Nauru, Manus Island, Christmas Island, Gaza) in solidarity with the dying and perishing people. The challenge for the rich man, the churches and ourselves is: ‘in what do we ultimately trust? Is it money, possessions, status, power, need for recognition or being vulnerable and trusting in God?
Where Jesus has addressed power and service, family and social relationships in recent weeks, today he touches on another inconvenient truth - security and possessions are also a source of power and have the tendency to hide the faces of people from us; to lead to exclusiveness and neglect. The young man in the gospel was blessed with wealth and had done everything right. He would have been seen as blessed by God because of his ‘goodness’. Having wealth and power were seen as signs of God’s favour whereas poverty was a sign of God’s rejection or punishment.
Jesus way is radically different from what society deems good. Jesus’ yardstick is God’s goodness. Jesus’ look reveals who we are, and what we can be. ‘Goodness’ is about the quality of social relationships - doing justice and loving – both signs of God’s Reign among us
Possessions can isolate us from others. They can buffer us from the suffering of others, and make us complacent about our personal security. Rampant individualism can cause people to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the cries of the poor and the cry of the earth. Unfortunately, many people justify themselves by saying ‘we earned our wealth,’ ‘we worked hard,’ and ‘the poor are just lazy.’ This buffering and negativity applies to people seeking asylum, people who are homeless, people in prison and the First Peoples of this land. Our ability to hear the pain of others correlates to the ability to experience God’s goodness. Power and wealth can turn us away from responding with compassion to asylum seekers, the First Peoples, the aged, many youth and migrant workers. Possessions (which may not always be material) can steer us inwards rather than outwards. The young man’s focus was on himself, his eternal life, without concern for that of others. ‘What must I do.’ He does not see that experiencing eternal life lies outside his own doing. It is not about piety points. Jesus only recalls the commandments that refer to our neighbour: the social justice laws, dealing with right relationships, justice in property matters, the right use of the court system, making provision for the elderly.
During this Anti-Poverty Week we might also reflect how we have benefited from Aboriginal dispossession; from injustice; from pushing free trade rather than fair trade; support cutbacks in health and other social benefits; downsizing at the cost of unemployment and cuts to wages from people in very vulnerable sectors of the community; selling air and water which are natural resources and gifts to us already. Erasmus, (C15th priest) mused, ‘Nowadays the rage for possession has got to such a pitch that there is nothing in the realm of nature, whether sacred or profane, out of which profit cannot be squeezed.’
When hurting, poor people come to church, do they find God present in the congregation? How many young people, how many homeless and hungry people, how many people living with a disability or mental illness, how many gay and lesbian people, how many unemployed and unemployable people find God there? How many single parents, unwed mothers and fathers can find God in our houses of worship? We are expected to notice others to be in solidarity with people in a future where there is enough for all. It means working together to overturn the tables of control and divisive systems. Today’s gospel story must also be interpreted today as an invitation to transform systems and structures that create wealth and poverty, that maintain privilege within our own society or in our world.
Whilst wealth was always seen as a blessing from God, the prophets considered it an insult to God when derives from unjust practices or the failure to share. Jesus saw how people can be consumed by constant competition for status, recognition and control which permeate social and personal relations. None of these can really fill the void that resides within the human heart. When Jesus tells the young man to sell his possessions he may also be telling him and us to be humble and acknowledge that nothing that we possess can make us right with God. It is by opening our hearts and recognising our need for God – personal conversion.
Pope Paul VI: ‘We don’t have a right to keep for our use what is beyond our need when others lack the barest necessities.’ In the face of poverty, local or global, we have to face up to the question as to whether we have something to share with the poor. We are invited to a new understanding of justice. Need to go beyond generous alms-giving to tackling the causes of injustice. Let us do a check on what we worship most. What is the central focus in our lives? What draws our primary attention or distracts us from Christ in order to be open to the ‘one thing’ Jesus offers us – God’s unconditional love? What can obscure the view and drown out Jesus invitation to us today.
Jesus loved this man, not shame or browbeat him. The sadness in Jesus’ heart may be that we let things/stuff (wealth, ambition, work) isolate us from other people. Every community has suffering people, but often these people find themselves feeling isolated and marginalised even within our churches. Too often we try to avoid facing or acknowledging the reality of suffering, and in the process we leave sufferers feeling hurt, humiliated and lonely. No matter what our financial situation, our wealth, we all respond to the poor in our communities – the wealth of friendship or compassion or support to struggling, sick and lonely people. Standing with them and acknowledgment is often a far more powerful gift than any material help we can offer which in many circumstances can be disempowering. For us too, it is important to have the humility to receive the help and compassion of others, and not embrace a proud, stoic aloofness. It is only as we walk through suffering together that we can really experience and reflect the mercy and compassion of God.