8th Sunday of the year: commentary

Before commencing this commentary I ask us to leave this space and journey into the hearts of the ancient spirits of this land. Although they remain invisible they are seated with us, keeping watch over our ritual. We thank all indigenous peoples for their soulful treatment of this earth and we apologize for the merciless way in which our governments have destroyed their highly practical and deeply spiritual way of life….. (pause) (pause) (pause)

Initially I did not know what to make of this week’s readings. After a first glance I sat down and scratched my head and wondered what it is I would say. But after deep reflection, the truth and power of these words, rushed, like a virgin waterfall, into my veins.

The first reading from Hosea sings of the necessity of our devotion to the lord. And I quote: “ I will betroth you to myself for ever, betroth you with integrity and justice, with tenderness and love.”

Integrity, justice, tenderness, and love.

These characteristics seem to be severely lacking in a city such as this. As we peep outside the window we are confronted with a cruel and soulless world: there are pathetic buildings, greedy corporations and apathetic governments whom only care for the select few who are able to healthily increase our gdp. As we look to the streets we see cars and roads, followed by cars and more roads. The city sky is not filled with possibility, it is layered with different types of pollution, cloaking us in sorrow and pain.

But the truth of Hosea’s words permeate this destruction.

His words cradle the core of our universal soul.

Despite the erosion of our cherished ideals we all have it within ourselves to live with integrity, to live with justice, to live with tenderness, to live with love. And if we embody such a beautiful manner then we will be one with the lord: we will exist as one with the land.

The second reading reveals that we are letters written with the spirit of the living god.

This metaphor is beautiful and real because it succinctly explains that we are all united by an invisible yet indivisible strength.

But, we might ask – what exactly is the living god???

For me, the living god exists everywhere and in everyone: it rests in the pristine waters of jervis bay, it rests in the rugged beauty of the great dividing range, it is present in the daily birth and death of the sun, it is at peace in the radiant glow of the tranquil moon.

More than all else however, I feel the living god is present in this hall, this sacred space, the church – our home. For beneath the façade of happiness that Sydney projects to the world, it is here in this parish of Redfern where our hearts are beating as part of the common soul: as part of the collective imagination.

And I stress our hearts do NOT beat in vain! They beat to a similar rhythm – a rhythm of integrity, a rhythm of justice, a rhythm of tenderness, a rhythm of love.

Mark’s gospel ties in neatly with the readings thus far. It is in this gospel that Jesus says, “the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then, on that day, they will fast.”

It is necessary for us to understand that the bridegroom Jesus speaks of is in actual fact, himself. And so today, on this first day of lent, we prepare to fast with Jesus, in preparation for his death. To the extent that we all exist as one, it is imperative that we understand – jesus’ suffering is our suffering. But I insist it does not end there.

For if we are to call ourselves real Christians, real brothers and sisters of the lord, then we must expand our minds well past the narrow limits that this society imposes upon us each and every day.

So, once it is confirmed that we share the pain of Jesus Christ, we then move in graceful concentric circles and realize that the pain of the world’s poor is our pain as well. Included here are the men who lie helpless in Matt Talbot lane; included here are the homeless men and women who make shelter under the state library night after night; included here are the aborigines on the block, the aborigines in the longrass of Darwin, the aborigines in remote communities scattered all over this country of which we are so so proud, the aborigines that we throw into our jails again and again and again.

Marks gospel calls on us to suffer with Jesus and by default we are asked to feel the pain of the world’s oppressed. It is important that we empathise with those who suffer because it is from that foundation change can and will occur.

Hope is eternal. Possibility exists in each breath.

In unassuming laneways homeless shelters are alive; on a Tuesday and Friday morning there is a place, not too far from here, where the poor get to feast better than kings; world wide, musicians bare their soul to the rhythm of freedom; whilst here, in a humble chapel, that is steeped in a proud history of social justice – we sit and we stand – giving birth to the unchangeable belief that we will work together to effect lasting social change.

Jonathan Hill
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