Who we are

Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an Australian community, in a worldwide religious congregation.

Ministry Mission

Jesus loved with a human heart: with him we proclaim his love to the world.

Peace, Justice, Creation

We work to discover through advocacy, healing and reconciliation, God's presence in our world.

Spirituality

We are to be on earth the heart of God. God has no other heart but ours.

LITURGY NOTES FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, 2018.

advent 2 logo

Second Sunday in Advent

December 9th 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.

 Peace remains possible. And if peace is possible, it is also a duty! Pope Benedict XVI, Message for World Day of Prayer for Peace 2006 

If there is hunger anywhere in the world,

then our celebration of the Eucharist

is incomplete everywhere in the world.

Pedro Arrupe SJ, former Jesuit superior general

 

None of us have the right to avert our gaze

William Sloan Coffin – 1924-2006

There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.

Howard Zinn, U.S. historian, 1993

 

‘My vengeance is that I forgive you.’

 

The only thing worth globalising is dissent.

Arundhati Roy

 

‘During these times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act’

George Orwell

 

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]

 

The beauty that will save the world is the love that shares the pain.

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini former Archbishop of Milan

  

 

 advent 2 patjh

Readings

First Reading: Baruch 5:1- 9

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6

  1. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Second Reading: Philippians 1:4-6.8-11

Gospel Reading: Luke 3:1-6

 

Penitential Rite

  • Christ Jesus, you brought us freedom and justice and opened for us the way to God and to other people: Jesus, have mercy.
  • Christ Jesus, you showed to us the way of peace through forgiveness and reconciliation: Christ, have mercy.
  • Christ Jesus, you lead us in the ways of compassion and hope and bring liberation to all people: Jesus, have mercy.

Opening Prayer

Disturbing God,

you come into our midst

with tender comfort and transforming power.

You make ready a way in the wilderness

and clear a straight path in our hearts

to each other and to You.

As we have learnt to pierce mountains

and level hills to build highways

come among us

to make us creative and daring enough

to builds roads of justice and peace in our midst.

 

or

 

Opening Prayer

Disturbing God,

you can pierce the mountains

and level them to build highways.

May Christ’s coming among us

inspire us to be creative and daring

to build roads of justice and love

in all our encounters with people and with you.

 

Prayer of the Faithful

  • Introduction: We pray to the God who calls us to look to the east and the west, the north and the south, where all of God’s people gather. We pray in response: Wrap us in the peace of justice, O God.

 

  • We pray for your church around the world, that its leaders may have the courage to be voices when people are persecuted and speak out against violence and war by proclaiming the creative power of peace and nonviolence. We pray: Wrap us in the peace of justice, O God.

 

  • We pray with pain and grief for all the people who have been affected by bushfires in Queensland and in California especially where there has been loss of life; we remember also the destruction to the environment that has occurred and the loss of so many animals. We pray: Wrap us in the peace of justice, O God.
  • We pray that nations, as many leaders gather for the G20, will find the way to peace through economic and climate justice instead of competition, nationalism and seeking privileges for the few. We pray: Wrap us in the peace of justice, O God.
  • We pray for the many homeless people – the young and the aged – that they may find secure shelter and protected; relationships that are supportive and respectful; and that the hungry may be fed and clothed. We pray: Wrap us in the peace of justice, O God.
  • We pray that those people who struggling to find work will soon find it and that those who are beginning to despair not lose hope. We pray: Wrap us in the peace of justice, O God.
  • We pray that the elderly will be respected in every place and circumstance; that youth will be confident about their future and the journey they take and that children are nurtured and loved. We pray: Wrap us in the peace of justice, O God.
  • We pray for those who have been crushed by circumstances and had their hope almost extinguished that they may be uplifted by your presence in the people they meet. We pray: Wrap us in the peace of justice, O God.
  • We pray for all who cry out and protest prophetically that they make not become tired even though they feel like ‘voices crying in the wilderness’ despite the ridicule and abuse they receive – the voices crying out for West Papua, justice in the Philippines and Palestine. We pray: Wrap us in the peace of justice, O God.
  • We pray for all who are invisible in our world: people who are starving, people living with HIV/AIDS, women who suffer different kinds of abuse and people who are homeless and often living with mental illness, children not only abused by HIV/AIDS but also the effects of debt and inequitable trade agreements ….. may their voices be heard in those who speak for them. We pray: Wrap us in the peace of justice, O God.

 

  • We pray for ourselves, that mercy and justice will be our companions in our communal tasks as well as our individual responsibilities. We pray: Wrap us in the peace of justice, O God.

 

  • We pray for our civil society, that it may be permeated more and more with the consciousness of its obligations on this anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. We pray: Wrap us in the peace of justice, O God.

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Concluding Prayer:  Disturbing God, we pray that we may become more and more partners in the spreading the Good News with mercy and justice our constant companions.

Prayer over the Gifts

Disturbing God,

you sustain us with your compassion

and liberating presence,

through this offering of bread and wine. 

May we fearlessly proclaim that you are near in Christ Jesus 

to a humanity that longs for you. 

 

Preface

God is with you.

And also with you.

Let us lift up our hearts to God.

We lift them up.

Let us give thanks to the Living God.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

It is indeed right to give you our thanks and praise, O God,

for from your deepest mercy comes our hope of salvation.

In the beginning you began creating the world

and you will bring it to completion at your final appearing.

Through your prophets you promised to liberate us

from all that would drive us into slavery.

You sent your servant, John,

to prepare the way for your anointed one

by proclaiming a baptism of repentance,

a refining fire to purify your people.

In Jesus, your Son, we have seen the dawn of justice,

and the glory of your mercy, compassion and justice.

When he was crucified

you raised him to new life with the power to save.

Now we eagerly await the glorious day of his appearing,

when all your people will be gathered home,

overflowing with love, joy and the fruits of righteousness

to your glory and praise.

Therefore with .....

©2003 Nathan Nettleton www.laughingbird.net  [adapted]

After the ‘Our Father’ Deliver Us

Deliver us from every evil

and give us dedicated men and women

to prepare that peace which is the sign

of the presence of your Son on earth.

Turn our hearts to you and free us from sin,

as we wait in joyful hope

for the full coming among us

of Jesus Christ. R/ For the kingdom...

 

Prayer after Communion

Disturbing God,

in this Eucharist we have celebrated

the coming of Jesus in our midst.

Refresh and restore us

to surpass our powers so that

we become clear road signs

to justice, peace, dignity and joy in our world. 

Parish Notices

December 9 International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of Victims of Genocide

December 9 International Anti-Corruption Day

December 10 Redfern speech by Prime Minister Paul Keating (1991-1996) at the launch of the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People (1992)

And, as I say, the starting point might be to recognise that the problem starts with us non-Aboriginal Australians. It begins, I think, with the act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing.  We took the tradition lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers.  We practised discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice.  And our failure to imagine these things being done to us.  With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds.  We failed to ask – how would I feel if this were done to me?  As a consequence, we failed to see that what we were doing degraded all of us.  This is a fundamental test of our social goals and our national will: our ability to say to ourselves and the rest of the world that Australia is a first rate social democracy, that we are what we should be – truly the land of the fair go and the better chance.’ 

December 10, UN International Human Rights Day Inauguration of the Universal Charter of Human Rights 1948

‘All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated.’ [Vienna Declaration 1993] A possible pledge for this Human Rights Day: 

We are the human rights generation.

We will accept nothing less than human rights.

We will know them and claim them,

For all women, men, youth, and children,

From those who speak human rights,

But deny them to their own people.

We will move power to human rights.

—Shulamith Koenig, People’s Movement for Human Rights Education

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights  In 1950, the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organizations to observe 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.

December 12, Founding of the Sisters of Mercy by Catheine McAuley (1831)

A Creed

I put my trust in God.

I believe that this universe is a creation,

from the beginning veined with purpose and destiny.

Nothing is meaningless

and nobody is superfluous in God’s mystical regime.

I put my trust in Christ Jesus.

The long millennia of the human story led to him

and expands immeasurably from him.

His ways are truth and grace,

and those who receive him become children of God.

I put my trust in the Holy Spirit.

This loving Energiser precedes the beginning,

and fills the present with new possibilities.

In the Spirit there is a happiness which

is the foretaste of the joy that will ultimately fill all.

I believe in One God

revealed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

whose glory fills heaven and earth

and whose love is inexhaustible.

I believe;

scatter my unbelief!

Amen!

'Hope' is the thing with feathers—

That perches in the soul—

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops—at all—

Emily Dickinson's definition of hope captures what many of us have a hard time defining. Hope is not blind optimism, nor arrogant certainty, nor wishful thinking. Hope is the knowledge that God would not desert us, that we will endure difficult times to see a better day. Hope gives us the strength to seek peace and demand justice, and to envision the world as God intended it to be.

Advent Prayer

 

Jesus,

Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.

We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.

We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.

We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.

We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.

We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.

To you we say, ‘Come Lord Jesus!’ Amen.

Henri J.M. Nouwen

 

Jesus Prayer

Eternal Spirit: Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,

Source of all that is and all that shall be,

Father and Mother of us all, creation resonates

with celebration of your nameless name.

Let justice and mercy flood the earth;

let all creation harmonize in your imagination;

and let us recognize

that every thought and thing belongs to you.

With the bread we need for today, feed us;

in the hurts we absorb from each other

and those we inflict on others, forgive us;

in times of test and temptation, stand with us;

from the grip of all that is evil, free us.

For you alone are creating our universe,

now and forever. Amen.

We must turn towards encouraging

a more human, loving standard of behaviour

instead of relationships steeped in aggression, competition, exploitation.

Petra Kelly

The right to revolt has sources deep in our history.

William O. Douglas  (1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: An Almanac of Liberty, 1954

Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels -- men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, we may never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), 34th US President

Revolution is not something fixed in ideology, nor is it something fashioned to a particular decade. It is a perpetual process embedded in the human spirit.

Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989) Activist

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, 2/16/03 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,’ 8/24/04 http://www.democracynow.org/static/Arundhati_Trans.shtml Think truly, and thy thoughts Shall the world's famine feed. Speak truly, and each word of thine Shall be a fruitful seed. Live truly, and thy life shall be a great and noble creedHoratius Bonar,So let us regard this as settled: what is morally wrong can never be advantageous, even when it enables you to make some gain that you believe to be to your advantage. The mere act of believing that some wrongful course of action constitutes an advantage is pernicious. Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.) A man who has in mind an apparent advantage and promptly proceeds to dissociate this from the question of what is right shows himself to be mistaken and immoral. Such a standpoint is the parent of assassinations, poisonings, forged wills, thefts, malversations of public money, and the ruinous exploitation of provincials and Roman citizens alike. Another result is passionate desire — desire for excessive wealth, for unendurable tyranny, and ultimately for the despotic seizure of free states. These desires are the most horrible and repulsive things imaginable. The perverted intelligences of men who are animated by such feelings are competent to understand the material rewards, but not the penalties. I do not mean penalties established by law, for these they often escape. I mean the most terrible of all punishments: their own degradation.  Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.) Find out just what people will quietly submit to, and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.   Frederick Douglass, African-American slave, and later abolitionist. There is no telling to what extremes of cruelty and ruthlessness a man will go when he is freed from the fears, hesitations, doubts and the vague stirrings of decency that go with individual judgement. When we lose our individual independence in the corporateness of a mass movement, we find a new freedom - freedom to hate, bully, lie, torture, murder and betray without shame and remorse. Herein undoubtedly lies part of the attractiveness of a mass movement.   Eric Hoffer The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.  Samuel P. Huntington

Over grown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.

George Washington

War grows out of the desire of the individual to gain advantage at the expense of his fellow man.

Napoleon Hill

 

Human Rights Litany

Leader: Someone is shouting in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make a straight path for God to travel! Every valley must be filled up, every hill and mountain leveled off. The winding roads must be made straight, and the rough paths made smooth.’ (Luke 3:1-6)

People: God of justice, your messenger has called us to prepare your way, to make your paths straight.

Leader: But the world is not ready to receive you. The roadway is choked with material possessions of people who have become rich from the labor of those who are denied access to resources because of their race, ethnicity, gender, class or nationality.

People: God of peace, your messenger is calling us to prepare your way.

Leader: But fearful threats exist. The highway is barricaded with armaments. The valleys are filled with landmines that kill innocent children, women and men.

People: God of compassion, your messenger is calling us to prepare your way.

Leader: But not everybody will be free to greet you. Some of the courageous languish in prison, tortured for their beliefs or for speaking truth to power. Many women are imprisoned in their homes, abused by their husbands and without means of escape because they are denied legal and economic recourse. Many children are chained in sweatshops or sold into prostitution.

People: How then shall we prepare the way?

Leader: In the name of God and for the sake of God's people, we proclaim in word and deed that all human beings are born with fundamental human rights.

People: How shall we prepare the way?

Leader: We will strive to guarantee the dignity and worth of the human person and the equal rights of women and men.

People: How shall we prepare the way?

Leader: We will work for a world in which human beings enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want.

People: Then we will go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before us shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. And every valley shall be filled and the crooked shall be made straight, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

 

Human Rights Day Liturgy [adapted from Presbyterian Church Peacemaking Program USA]

Introduction (Psalm 67)

Leader: May God's face shine upon us, that God's way may be known upon the earth, the peace of God among all nations.

People: Let the peoples pursue your justice and your peace, O God. Let all the people pursue your peace.

Leader: Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon the earth.

People: Let the people pursue your justice and your peace, O God. Let all the people pursue your peace.

Penitential Rite

Leader: God of life, Creator of all people

As equal in dignity and humanity;

You have called us to be one:

To live in unity and harmony;

To build faith and realize community.

Yet we are divided

Race from race; class from class;

Rich from poor; gender from gender;

Old from young; neighbor from neighbor.

People: O God, by whose love all enmity is brought to an end:

Break down the walls that separate us,

Forgive the sins that divide us,

Free us from pride and prejudice.

O God, give us the courage to repent honestly;

Give us the power to change our lives,

That we might be dead to sin and alive in Christ. AMEN

Silence

Leader: The mercy of God is from everlasting to everlasting.

As the dove gently settles on the tree, receive the gift of peace.

As the flame rises free with light and warmth, receive the gift of life.

As the wind moves and dances around the earth,

receive the gracious gift of the Spirit.

People: Come, O Holy Spirit.

Come as Holy Fire and burn in us,

Come as Holy Wind and cleanse us,

Come as Holy Light and lead us,

Come as Holy Life and dwell within us.

Convict us, convert us, consecrate us,

Until we are set free from the service of ourselves,

 

To be your servants to the world. AMEN.

Litany of Commitment

Excerpts from the Beatitudes (Luke 6:17-22 and Matthew 5:1-11) and the Charter of the United Nations

Leader: God of all creation, we are your children. We are also the peoples of the United Nations.

People: Help us seek the security of the whole human family made in your image and for whom Jesus lived, died and lived again.

Leader: Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.’

People: God of Peace, we your children and the peoples of the United Nations are ‘determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.’

Leader: Jesus said, ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’

People: God of Love, we your children and the peoples of the United Nations ‘reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, and in the equal rights of men and women and nations large and small.’

Leader: Jesus said, ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.’

People: God of Life, we your children and the peoples of the United Nations will ‘promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.’

Leader: Jesus said, ‘love your neighbor as yourself and love your enemies, do good and lend, expecting nothing in return.’

People: God of Community, we your children and the peoples of the United Nations will ‘practice tolerance and live together in peace as good neighbors.’ We are called to be peacemakers to the Christ who came that we might know a peace that passes understanding. Lead us to rise up and be called children of God, citizens of a new world community. Guide us to speak boldly, with moral conviction, to the nations and to the world. Let us build, with your grace, a global community by acting now for world peace, for a flowering of justice, for an opportunity of love, for the realization of Your peace. AMEN.

Blessing

Leader: ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto God's self and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.’ Christ charges us to practice God's shalom and seek life in all its fullness for all God's people, everywhere.

People: And the courage of Christ, the peace of God and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit will be always with us. AMEN.

 

Eternal lover,

during this Advent time of preparation,

help us understand the wilderness experiences of our lives

as opportunities to assist you

in your prophetic transformation of the earth, of all.

In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Reflection on the readings………..

Luke sets John's word context. As John was firmly placed in his context, the readings situate us in our world. The Good News came when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Tiberius Caesar had been Emperor fifteen years, Herod was tetrarch/ruler of a fourth of Galilee, and Caiaphas was high priest. And the Good News comes when world leaders meet in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the G20 playing their political roles. And God’s word and presence appears ‘smack-dab-in-the-middle’ of human history bearing upon every aspect of our lives. This word of God did not come to any of the leaders named today above but to John, an outsider to the religious and political institutions and powers of the day. He steps into the borderlands of our history bringing God’s word into specific places through specific people to specific people. It usually begins with someone prophetic – one who is a voice for another. John proclaims that this world is about to change. God enters our lives in entirely new and unpredictable ways. So, at a particular moment in world history, while civil and religious powers ruled in their own worlds of influence, God stepped in to change the course of events, to introduce a new way of living. And, the point is that God still steps into our world despite our political leaders who think it is their domain. John and Baruch tell us to take our places and rev up our engines. God is close and is preparing to show the world who we really are, to whom we belong and that our true name is: ‘the peace of justice’.

John’s ministry takes place in the ‘wilderness’ (Luke 3:2) - isolated from modern comforts and vulnerable to the violence of others. John lived on the margins as do many people: the poor, women, street people, people with mental illness, refugees and asylum seekers and many members of the gay community. All would understand the vulnerability that John exposed himself to. All put themselves as risk when they begin to claim their identity and dignity. It can leave one with a feeling of isolation and danger. With the image of John the Baptist before us and his call to repentance, one cannot ignore the ongoing call of Pope Francis for a culture of encounter, mercy, compassion and tenderness to all especially towards and with the poorest people of the world. It is a different sounding voice to that of domination, fear of the other that lead to hatred that comes from those who represent ‘empire’ today. Pope Francis continues to reveal to that the God of Peace comes through the person of Jesus not in the powerful and the wealthy or those at the centre of society but to people who have been marginalised and considered unimportant, voiceless and powerless. And as we reflect on the movement of peoples around our world, we see how the God of Jesus always goes beyond our boundaries and inviting us to look towards the margins…. and find God present there. We are reminded that as John the Baptist came from the margins this God of Jesus is also at the margins of the world: the suffering people of Yemen and Syria; the persecuted Muslims and Christians in our world; the caravan of peoples at the borders (margins) of a powerful country such as the United States; and, indeed, in the hell-holes of Manus Island and Nauru.

Pope Francis has made clear that he is taking his cues from the poor. His encounters acknowledge the wisdom that is to be found amongst poor communities and people who are socially disenfranchised, because there is still among them a stubborn resistance to what is inauthentic in an opulent society, anaesthetised by unbridled consumption; a society that uses the “language of exclusion” and “disregards or ignores” people who are poor and treats them as problems, recipients of aid and relief services, rather than as sources of insight. He knows ‘the villas of misery’ that ring many of cities in his native Argentina, with its corruption, unjust distribution of land, lack of education and health care for the poor. This is where the G20 is currently taking place but how many of these leaders will look and see and respond to what is happening there and by extension the rest of the world. Francis tells us “that the path of Jesus began on the peripheries…….It goes from the poor and with the poor, toward others.”

John challenged the existing power structures and behaviour patterns. When asked ‘What shall we do?’, he replied in practical, reasonable, economic, and hopeful ways: You who have two coats, give one away to someone who has none. You who have two loaves of bread, do likewise. Behave fairly, treat people justly. John does not hide behind the cowardice of cynicism but with courage and hope: the axe that will strike against the tree is the confrontation of the corrupt economies and systems. He was urging them to change the economy as had Pope Francis in his Encyclical Laudato si’. It begins with each of us, our hearts. This was how to stop being enslaved to unjust and wasteful systems to build a world where people work to build a world where people build relationships with each other and creation rather than being enemies or rivals. This is to invest ourselves in making crooked places straight and smoothing rough ways.

John’s message was to point toward Jesus and making a space for him who by his presence is confronting where there is corruption, impunity, violation of human rights and rendering people voiceless. His call was to transform society in preparation for the time when ‘all flesh shall see the salvation of God’ (Luke 3:6). The gospel today forces us to face the reality that the emotional pain and estrangement that marginal groups and ethnic communities face do not spring from the Gospel message of love and acceptance, but from a failure of many to truly follow the model of John as a prophetic voice and the prophetic voices in our midst. A world of hope is possible by attending to each other’s needs with our abundance, by removing the terrors of desperation and hatred among us. Baruch speaks to people who have endured pain, exile and loss and encourages them to ‘take off their clothes of mourning and misery and put on: ‘the cloak of justice from God.’

What we do today in our own land, our cities, our churches and at our altars, is inevitably a preparation for what is to come. There are voices that speak of the war of necessity and an endless war on terror. There are voices that speak of the necessity to build more nuclear weapons. There are voices that promote the market and capitalism as the only realistic way to live in the world. There are voices that tell us it arms sales are more important (e.g., Saudi Arabia) take precedence over the lives of thousands of people in Yemen. There are voices as in this country that euphemistically speak of foreign aid when it is used to train the military in Indonesia and the Philippines that oppress their own people. But, there is the voice of John and many in our world like him with other voices that speak of renewal and solidarity; of generosity and service; of bigheartedness and hospitality; and of creating a ‘culture of encounter’ which is the only way to peace and well being.

What can we do? Do we demand that our governments, organisations, churches and parishes do what they are meant to do – to build relationships that serve, especially the most vulnerable? Do make economic choices that seek to avoid collaboration with human trafficking? Do our choices reflect behaviour where the basic necessities of the many are second to the attention of the few and their privileges? Do our consumption choices take into account the kind of world we will leave to our children? Do we dare put up a Christmas crib or Nativity scene if we have failed to raise our voices against the ill-treatment of asylum seeker and refugees or even justify their ill-treatment? John’s voice continues its refrain across the stage of our privileged world: ‘Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.’

Baruch, Paul and Luke call for change. Baruch says ‘change your clothes.’ Get up, Jerusalem, Get up Israel, get up Australia, turn around and take a look. The high and the mighty will be flattened and the lowly, the marginal, the exile, the prisoner, the stranger will be lifted up so that there will be safety and equality. There will have to be radical changes in the way we're doing things now as a people.

The setting has changed since the John was called in the desert or wilderness. But it is not that different. Though we live in towns and cities, we too are in the wilderness with wild beasts. We too must confront the beasts in our wilderness: beasts of aggression, racism, homophobia, sexism, clericalism, war, violence, competition, greed, and the lust for more property, privilege and power. We need to be signs that another way of living is possible where there are no hills, mountains, valleys or crooked roads to separate us from each other. Where are the prophets who speak from the cry of the poor and always try to do justice and worry about the future of the people and the bloody situation of the poor? We are invited to enter into the dynamism of conversion, to change. Humanity transformed is humanity reconciled and made equal, a humanity reunited.

John the Baptist expected something wonderful and new to happen, ‘in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar....’ We pray that this Advent 2018 will open our eyes to see the wonderful and new things God is promising for us, in this present moment and in this place where we find ourselves. Pope Francis challenges us with a special opportunity to receive mercy and to give mercy. The heartache, misery, loneliness of this world can be transformed by the mercy of God in Christ — mercy that is received and shared by us, his disciples.

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