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: Monday, 17 December 2018 17:59
LITURGY NOTES FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT, 2018
Fourth Sunday of Advent Year C
December 23, 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.
None of us have the right to avert our gaze
William Sloan Coffin, 1924-2006
"We cannot fail to consider the effects on people's lives of environmental deterioration."
(Laudato si’ #43)
"The loss of forests and woodlands entails the loss of species which may constitute extremely important resources in the future, not only for food but also for curing disease and other uses." (Laudato si’ #32)
"The impact of present imbalances is seen in the premature death of many of the poor, in conflicts sparked by the shortage of resources, and in any number of other problems…."
(Laudato si’ #48)
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.
‘During these times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act’
The beauty that will save the world is the love that shares the pain.
Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini former Archbishop of Milan
Elizabeth and Mary in a modern depiction of the Visitation.
Each year, larger numbers of homeless people live on the streets of modern cities. These people may be jobless workers, battered women, the untreated mentally ill, or simply those too poor to get by. They tend to be ‘invisible’ to the rest of society, but they are a real presence of Christ, the Judge, in our midst, demanding charity and justice for the hungry and naked. They extend the incarnation of Christ, the Suffering Servant, in history.
This icon depicts the Mother of God as the mother of those on the streets. Her garments, and those of her Son, are covered with jewels and gold decoration, making manifest the hidden worth and dignity of street people, who are living icons of God.
In 1984 the Catholic bishops of the U.S. declared, ‘To turn aside from those on the margins of society, the needy and the powerless, is to turn aside from Jesus. Such people show His face to the world.’ Such people are also a presence of Church, for where Christ is, there is His Church.
First Reading: Micah 5:1-4a
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19. R./ Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
Second Reading: Hebrews 10:5-10
Gospel Reading: Luke 1:39-45
here amongst us
you disclose the secret hidden for countless ages.
As we hear your voice
may we, like Mary, embrace your will
and become a dwelling fit for your Word.
May our hearts leap for joy at the sound of your Word,
and praise you for your wonderful works.
Prayers of the Faithful
Introduction: Let us pray that we may welcome Jesus, as Mary did, and let him journey with us in our lives. The response is: We come to do you will. [taken from second reading]
- For the church, both leaders and members, that it will not be silent in the face of injustice but be a voice for those whose voices are silenced and that by our love and integrity we may render Jesus effectively present in our world. We pray: We come to do you will.
- That the church may not be silent but be a voice for those who have no voice or who are not listened to. We pray: We come to do you will.
- For our brothers and sisters who are particularly affected by climate change especially those in developing countries living with the effects of increased droughts, increased floods, more extreme temperatures, and accompanying political and social instability. We pray: We come to do you will.
- For all who celebrate Christmas that it will be an opportunity to grow in the peace of Christ, a peace that envelopes all creation. We pray: We come to do you will.
- For our Christian communities that there may always be among us great women and men who, inspired by Christ, reveal God's generous love through their humanity. We pray: We come to do you will.
- For all gathered here today, that we have the ability, like Elizabeth, to recognise Jesus in unexpected people and circumstances, especially those where we would least expect to find God. We pray: We come to do you will.
- For people who are sick, elderly, and who suffer, that they may be aware of Christ's closeness and consolation in the generosity, care and love of others. We pray: We come to do you will.
- For those working for justice and peace who reach out to be in solidarity with vulnerable people, that may persevere in their work and realise that their service builds a home for God among us. We pray: We come to do you will.
- For children and families who live on the streets in our towns and cities, and those who live away from home, those without family and those who live alone, that they may experience love and communion in a special way at this time. We pray: We come to do you will.
- For people of other cultures in our community, that the spirit of Christmas may create love, tenderness and generosity in our relationships and be continued throughout the coming year. We pray: We come to do you will.
- For all pregnant women that they will experience the support of the Christian community during this important time in their lives. We pray: We come to do you will.
- For countries that still apply the death penalty that they may recognise the dignity of all human life and move towards abandoning this practice. We pray: We come to do you will.
- For the people of Papua, Afghanistan, Palestine, Yemen, Syria, and Mindanao in the Philippines, who every day face continuing violence and hunger, that they be allowed to have their independence restored and peace come to all parties in the conflict. We pray: We come to do you will.
- For all peoples that seek to be free, that they may be afforded the respect for their culture, way of life and language and find the freedom from oppression. We pray: We come to do you will.
Concluding Prayer: Creator God, you call each of us to play our part in the Reign. Hear our prayers and grant each one of us the grace we need to welcome Christmas into our hearts and homes.
Concluding Prayer: Creator God, for whom no one is too insignificant or too unworthy, we pray that your promises of salvation, peace and blessing are meant for who yearn and we share the hope that we have in you.
Prayer over the Gifts
may the life-giving Spirit
which dwelt in Mary, the Mother of your Son,
bless these gifts
which we celebrate in this Eucharist together.
Prayer after Communion
in this Eucharistic celebration
you have given us Jesus, your Son
and we receive the fullness of your life and love.
As Christmas draws near,
may we welcome Jesus by being ready for him
when he is least expected,
recognising him in events and people,
and sharing with those we meet.
We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.
Meister Eckhart, 1260-1328, German Dominican mystic
In Aboriginal culture going back maybe 50,000 years, the physical place where the young Aboriginal woman was pregnant and gave birth to her baby was sacred ground, always revered by her and her community. That place the young pregnant suburban Aboriginal woman of today must reclaim. Here now instead of being land, it is the space of her body, mind and emotions. She needs to reclaim this space from alcohol, drugs and violence and declare it once more a sacred place of holding life and giving birth - the sacred land of new beginnings - not only for her infants, but for herself and her community.
Norma Tracey, 2006.Contemporary Psychoanalysis (in press)
Magnificat [Prayer for Reconciliation]
My soul comes in the darkness of unknowing to the secret room of God.
My spirit seeks understanding in the happenings of these days,
because God looks upon the people in a new way.
Yes, from this day forward
All generations will speak of these strange events as wonderful,
and those of us who walk blindly trusting, will be called blessed.
For the presence of the Almighty, the most loving One, is felt in our land.
Holy is the name of the One who is eternally new.
God's guiding hand reaches from age to age
for those who grope and stumble in search of the saving way.
We are shown the power of being present to one another,
while our proud expectations for our chosen nation are shattered.
The warrior-king we expected to establish us on earth as the righteous power
has not come.
And we see instead the promised messenger as a common man.
The hungry of heart are fed with enabling love.
In places where there was need,
people now give to others from their abundance.
The rich are troubled and stripped of their power.
Warning: Advent Virus
Be on the alert for symptoms of inner HOPE, PEACE, JOY AND LOVE. The hearts of a great many have already been exposed to this virus and it is possible that people everywhere could come down with it in epidemic proportions. This could pose a serious threat to what has, up to now, been a fairly stable condition of conflict in the world.
Some signs and symptoms of the Advent Virus:
A tendency to think and act spontaneously
rather than on fears based on past experiences.
An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
A loss of interest in judging other people.
A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.
A loss of interest in conflict.
A loss of the ability to worry. (This is a very serious symptom.)
Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
Contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature.
Frequent attacks of smiling.
An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.
An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others
as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.
All the way to Elizabeth
and in the months afterward,
she wove him, pondering,
‘This is my body, my blood!’
Beneath the watching eyes
of donkey, ox, and sheep
she rocked him, crooning,
‘This is my body, my blood!’
In the moonless desert flight
and the Egypt-days of his growing
she nourished him, singing,
‘This is my body, my blood!’
In the search for her young lost boy
and the foreboding day of his leaving,
she let him go, knowing,
‘This is my body, my blood!’
Under the blood-smeared cross
she rocked his mangled bones,
re-membering him, moaning,
‘This is my body, my blood!’
When darkness, stones and tomb
bloomed to Easter morning,
she ran to him, shouting
‘This is my body, my blood!’
And no one thought to tell her:
‘Woman it is not fitting
for you to say those words.
You do not resemble him.’
Irene Zimmerman, SSSF, Woman Psalms,
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.’
Pedro Arrupe SJ, former superior-general of the Society of Jesus
To a nation bent on violence, anyone who claims to be speaking for God's kingdom and who advocates non-violent means as the way to it is making a very deep and dangerous political statement.
N.T. Wright, Bishop, Scripture scholar
Those who are capable of tyranny are capable of perjury to sustain it.
Lysander Spooner, 1808 -1887
The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.
Henry A. Wallace , 33rd US Vice President.
The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.
It is always a much easier task to educate uneducated people than to re-educate the mis-educated.
Herbert M. Shelton, Getting Well
The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been two hundred years.
These nations have progressed through this sequence:
From bondage to spiritual faith;
from spiritual faith to great courage;
from courage to liberty;
from liberty to abundance;
from abundance to selfishness;
from selfishness to complacency;
from complacency to apathy;
from apathy to dependence;
from dependency back again into bondage.
Sir Alex Fraser Tytler (1742-1813) Scottish jurist, professor and historian
Only a large-scale popular movement toward decentralization and self-help can arrest the present tendency toward statism... A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors and schoolteachers.
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
We are the ones we have been waiting for
The coming of the nonviolent Jesus into our world is desperately needed. It is time for deeper prayer, reflection and action so that a path can be found in the wilderness and a new vision of peace can be birthed.
Pax Christi USA
The church ‘..has become more aware of the fact that too many people live, not in the prosperity of the Western world, but in the poverty of the developing countries amid conditions which are still ‘a yoke little better than that of slavery itself,’ she has felt and continues to feel obliged to denounce this fact with absolute clarity and frankness, . . .
In every age the true and perennial ‘newness of things’ comes from the infinite power of God, who says: ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Rev 21:5). These words refer to the fulfillment of history, when Christ ‘delivers the Kingdom to God the Father...that God may be everything to everyone’ (1 Cor 15:24, 28). But the Christian well knows that the newness which we await in its fullness at the Lord's second coming has been present since the creation of the world, and in a special way since the time when God became man in Jesus Christ and brought about a ‘new creation’ with him and through him (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15).
John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, #61-62
The enjoyment of power inevitably corrupts the judgment of reason, and perverts its liberty.
Immanuel Kant, (1724-1804)
For in a Republic, who is 'the country?' Is it the Government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the Government is merely a servant - merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn't. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them.
Mark Twain, 1835-1910
The doctrine of blind obedience and unqualified submission to any human power, whether civil or ecclesiastical, is the doctrine of despotism, and ought to have no place among Republicans and Christians.
Angelica Grimke, (1805-1879) Anti-Slavery Examiner, September 1836
Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. ’Patriotism’ is its cult. It should hardly be necessary to say, that by ‘patriotism’ I mean that attitude which puts the own nation above humanity, above the principles of truth and justice; not the loving interest in one's own nation, which is the concern with the nation's spiritual as much as with its material welfare-never with its power over other nations.
Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one's country which is not part of one's love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.
Erich Fromm (1900-1980), U.S. psychologist.
We kill at every step, not only in wars, riots, and executions. We kill when we close our eyes to poverty, suffering, and shame. In the same way all disrespect for life, all hard-heartedness, all indifference, all contempt is nothing else than killing. With just a little witty skepticism we can kill a good deal of the future in a young person. Life is waiting everywhere, the future is flowering everywhere, but we only see a small part of it and step on much of it with our feet.
Hermann Hesse, German poet and novelist.
...most (men) have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinion. This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true. Their two is not the real two, their four not the real four; so that every word they say chagrins us, and we know not where to begin to set them right.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
One of the world's greatest problems is the impossibility of any person searching for the truth on any subject when they believe they already have it.
As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead trying to kill me. They do not feel any enmity against me as an individual, nor I against them. They are only doing their duty, as the saying goes. Most of them, I have no doubt, are kind-hearted law-abiding men who would never dream of committing murder in private life. On the other hand, if one of them succeeds in blowing me to pieces with a well-placed bomb, he will never sleep any worse for it. He is serving his country, which has the power to absolve him from evil.George Orwell, London. UK. 1941
Never underestimate the power of an enraged electorate whose trust has been shattered by deception and lies and whose voice, once shackled by fear, has risen in defiance and will now accept nothing less than moral integrity, accountability and the truth from its leaders.
Allen L Roland
Read no more odes my son, read timetables:
they're to the point. And roll the sea charts out
before it's too late. Be watchful, do not sing,
for once again the day is clearly coming
when they will brand refusers on the chest
and nail up lists of names on people's doors.
Learn how to go unknown, learn more than me:
To change your face, your documents, your country.
Become adept at every petty treason,
The sly escape each day and any season.
For lighting fires encyclicals are good:
And the defenceless can always put to use,
As butter wrappers, party manifestos,
Anger and persistence will be required
To blow into the lungs of power the dust
Choking, insidious, ground out by those who,
Storing experience, stay scrupulous: by you.
Hans Magnus Enzensberger
There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people for a purpose which is unattainable.Howard Zinn, U.S. historian 1993
Reflections on the readings
It is often simple things remind us of God’s presence like the delight of meeting someone who brightens our gray days; or offering spontaneous support to someone we meet.; or taking notice of someone we tend to overlook. Today, we notice that God enters our world through the least - the forgotten ones, those who do not to count or matter, the lowly, unnoticed. God resides in places we may wish to avoid - places that do not count, such as Bethlehem, or even in our own hearts. Remember the story I mentioned las week from Anthony De Mello the Master from whom God sought some advice: “‘I want to play a game of hide-and-seek with humankind. I’ve asked my Angels what the best place is to hide in. Some say the depth of the ocean. Others say the top of the highest mountain. Others still the far side of the moon or a distant star. What do you suggest? Said the Master, ‘Hide in the human heart. That’s the last place they will think of!’”
Israel’s history and the prophets remind us that God works among the small and insignificant to accomplish big things. It is a theme repeated throughout Luke’s gospel. God’s word overlooked those in power but came to John the Baptist. Again, God begins with the small and chooses the least powerful – a woman and a nation – to bring forth a liberator from a town that did not exist on the roll call of towns in history. As Micah speaks of the smallness of Bethlehem and what emerged there, we might contrast this with contemporary economic systems and governments, where more is better, maximisation of profit is the ethic, where survival of the fittest is lauded, where bigger is better, power is to be prized, where conquest in war shows greatness, and where being the empire is a sign of blessing and worth. In Mary (and Elizabeth) we see that hope and joy are offered in the quiet and insignificant places of our lives especially when we sit with those who are considered to be the least.
In Luke, we enter the world of women but unlike the usual practice they are named. They are not just a mother, daughter, wife or woman. There is not even a male voice to be heard as Elizabeth and Mary praise the one who liberates the oppressed. They bring their creativity to change our world. They are not submissive stereotypes or limited to pregnancy, childbirth, and child raising. They cannot be locked away in obscurity. Like many women they are involved in the real dramas of change in our world.
The coming together of these two women in a time of personal and social turmoil reminds me of the beginning of Pax Christi (International Catholic Peace Movement) in 1945 when ‘a small group of people in France met regularly to pray for peace. Their concern was and what kept them coming together was their experience of an agonizing and dreadful fact that French and German Catholics, who professed the same faith, and celebrated the same Eucharist, killed one another by the millions. For them this could hardly be God’s will. They prayed for forgiveness, for reconciliation and the Peace of Christ (Pax Christi). Pax Christi is now active in over 50 countries often where differences are settled by armed violence or the threat of violence. Pax Christi offers offer a nonviolent alternative. It has recently with the Vatican called for a commitment to nonviolence in the church and beyond by promoting the value of nonviolence as a way to peace in a world that often defines ‘justice’ as ‘revenge’, where more is spent on arms and weapons than on education and health. The Advent call, and the call of Pax Christi, as we prepare for Christ’s coming is to disarm our hearts and strive to rid ourselves of nuclear and conventional weapons. Is this not at the heart of today’s message?
Commenting on Tolstoy's War and Peace, Jimmy Carter once said that ‘the course of human events, even the greatest historical events, are not determined by the leaders of nations or states but come about by the combined wisdom, courage, commitment, discernment, unselfishness, compassion and idealism of the common ordinary people’. This is of the youth and non-government organisations that protest the war on our earth as they did recently. It is true of members of Pax Christi in violent places and still assure us that nonviolence works. It is true of Médecins Sans Frontières that risk their lives for the sake of vulnerable and hurting people. The sign of hope is where the people call for change when leaders are numb, apathetic or self-interested.
Though not part of today’s reading, Mary’s Song (the Magnificat) spells out the creativity of God in the weak and marginal people. Mary’s delight is expressed in response to God as she embraced the calling of being ‘other’ than whom society held as the norm. Mary welcomed ‘otherness’ because God was doing something new and powerful in the history of the world. Like many minority people in our society, she understands the burden of ‘otherness’, of being different. This is how God works though her to transform the social structures that dominate the world. He Song is an invitation to all of us to recognise that God stands on the side of the socially ostracised and oppressed; those lacking recognition, appreciation and voice in society and religious world. Isolation from human institutions or church does not mean separation from God’s mercy and compassion. It is like the youth who took a day off school were not going to be limited or determined by what politicians said about them.
Mary was not just another unfortunate, unwed mother bringing a child into an unsympathetic world. Elizabeth was not just an old woman whose unexpected pregnancy surprised and shocked her husband and relatives. The gospel today is about a young woman who reaches out to care for another and thereby also finds support. Consider also how often elderly people form the backbone of many families and communities in their service of others in parishes, community centres, hospitals and nursing homes, caring and educating the young as well as people whose first language is not English, standing up to harsh and inhumane policies towards asylum seekers and refugees, peacemaking and caring for the earth. They care for children of working or absent parents; they listen compassionately to the stories of the needy, the humiliated and wounded; and their experience can teach us not to take ourselves too seriously.
Mary’s visit to Elizabeth poses some important questions. Who are we listening to? Which voices greet us with peace? Who do we visit? Who do we aid in time of distress and need? Who is caught in the web of the world’s distrust, exclusion, and violence? Here, it is unmistakably refugees, Muslims, Indigenous Australians, homeless people, people living with mental illness, more and more youth, and LGBTIQ people. Where do we stand with the so-called ‘illegals’, sinners, the expendables and unwanted? Is there room for the Word made flesh in our everyday living as we strive to be people of peace? or do we lose it as soon as anyone does or says something we oppose? Do we believe peace begins with us rather than the other? Micah refers to the one who comes who ‘will be peace’ (5:5a), who can lead us to commit to another course of action despite feelings of impotence and little of hope of success.
Jesus’ birth is best celebrated by a commitment to his way of peace. It begins by small daily actions of peace. We might check our language that can be violent, defuse conversations that become sexist, racist, derogatory, or discriminatory. Peace begins with each step. We can do it.
We are called to engage our little corner of the world and try to feel the pain of people and seek to address it. Like Mary we can be Christ-bearers to one another. As the 13th century German mystic, Meister Eckhart says: ‘We are all called to be mothers of God – for God is always waiting to be born.’ The ancient biblical story we have just heard must become our story, with its abundant grace and costly responsibility. God chooses us to remind those in power and the wealthy to move towards greater solidarity with those on the underside. This is God speaking to both those who are insignificant and marginalised and the powerful to remind all that we are brothers and sisters and that our hope for a new world of peace comes from being in solidarity. Each of us carries God’s life within us to be a source of blessing for others and be companions to one another.