Thoughts August 2005

Thoughts for the Month

The Jesus I know is no cold, hard Iron-Christ; nor does Jesus deserve to be reduced to smug, glib and uncompassionate irrelevancies when the real meaning of His love is what people need so desperately.

“Who is Worthy?” Ted Kennedy

Sr. Mary Lou Moorhead’s funeral

12th July at the convent at Rose Bay.

Some of the celebrants included Cyril Hally, Steve Sinn and John Ford. About 14 members of St Vincent’s Church Redfern were present. Eulogies were given by Mary Lou’s brother, her sister, an RSJ sister from Melbourne and Marnie. Mary Lou’s sister read a poem composed especially for Mary Lou.

Marnie’s words, reproduced below, indicate what a vibrant and committed person Mary Lou had been.

Mary Lou’s free spirit sometimes belied the depth of her spirituality. Recently she wrote: “Spirituality is about connectedness and relationships. When I speak about my spirituality I am referring to my connectedness to and my relationships with myself, the other, the earth and the sacred.”

This was the Mary Lou I knew, connected to whatever was alive around her or wherever life was being threatened. As artist she found inspiration in the beauty and the awesomeness of nature; as poet she depthed through tilling imagery the mystery of the incarnation in the everyday; as a religious woman and gifted educator she was deeply committed to bringing the liberating love of Christ wherever she was – to the refugees in Nepal, to the students in Japan, Korea, the Solomons or Australia; to the ecumenical work of union and communion across the world.

She was especially committed to working for Peace and Reconciliation. In 2004 she represented Australia at an International meeting of Pax Christi and put before that world forum the urgent needs of Aboriginal Health and Education. At a local level she was a committed and loved member of St Vincent’s, Redfern. “Spirituality of peace,” she wrote recently, “refers to a challenging – even confrontational – dimension of spirituality because it cannot be – doesn’t exist – unless it faces the truth of the relationships and the justice within situations. It protests against the illusion that we are separate from one another – that we are individuals who happen to be thrown together in particular times – each looking after our own individual interests. Rather it says: ‘Affirm the connectedness because there in that relationship is life and love, caring concern and an energy that leads to action’.”

How much we shall miss that energy in our work on the Provincial Committee for Justice and Peace! Her passion was unvarying. She would spring to when action was called for and really cared that her RSCJ sisters would have the best chance to contribute in however small a way. She was uncompromising, straight as an arrow, yet always aware of nurturing relationships and sowing seeds of peace and reconciliation.

Mary Lou faced death with such courage and honesty. One of the staff at Karlaminda who cared for her so lovingly has given this beautiful tribute. ”The experience of nursing Mary Lou in the final few weeks and days of her life has been one of the most privileged experiences that I have had as a nurse and as a friend. Never in all the years of nursing people have I had the experience that I had in Mary Lou’s presence. It was a sense of really feeling God present among and around us. As Mary Lou lay dying, there was a warmth that filled the room, a sense that the strong faith of Mary Lou was emanating from her to us, the staff caring for her and, I am sure, to the rest of the community.”

Mary Lou went like an arrow to her God. May she continue to be an ambassador of justice, peace and care for our beautiful but wounded earth.

Marnie Kennedy RSCJ

Reflections – 16th Sunday

In the pre- Vatican church of the 1950’s and early 60’s, some of us will remember sermons based around the notion of God being a judging God, a distant remote deity, probably with a white beard who had no love or connection with his,-and it clearly was,- his people;- a God who enforced harsh and petty rules and punished those who did not comply.

The obvious result of this message was for many a religion of fear and scrupulousness. Of worrying about whether the eating of bacon chips was breaking the Friday no meat rule and whether toothpaste broke the fast before communion. But these paled into insignificance against the backdrop of mortal sin and the fate of eternal damnation.

What was the cut off point between mortal and venial sin for stealing? $100? $1000? Was this indexed to the consumer price index? How did it compare to $US, the pound sterling and the shekel?

What were acceptable excuses for missing mass on Sunday? Was State Rail track work good enough? An unreliable alarm clock? Getting it right religiously (and to some degree politically) was about obedience to rules but not a loving relationship.

Today’s readings are about the theme of God’s judgement, presenting a very different notion of what that means and on what it is based. The first reading from the book of Wisdom makes the link between judgement and justice. It talks of the great strength of the judgement, a strength marked by lenience not harshness. Towards the end we have this wonderful description of what is a virtuous person. There is no mention of great deeds or sacrifice, of belonging to a particular group or obeying strict rules. The virtuous person must be kindly to his fellow people. We all know from our own experiences of life how simple, complex and challenging that message is. The other positive instruction is to give your children the good hope that after sin, there is repentance. That statement is made without mention of rules, restrictions, rituals or exclusion clauses. Just the simple statement – after sin there is repentance.

The psalm continues that theme. The Lord is forgiving, full of love and compassion, abounding in love and truth. Our hell fire preacher of the 50’s would have seen truth as an absolute a point of exclusion (an in group and out group) supporting his power. The psalm puts truth clearly in the context of love and compassion.

The second reading from Romans is about the relationship between God and humanity. We are not alone. The Spirit is there to help us express what can’t be put into words for God knows our hearts anyway. Prayer is not a set of formal ritualised commitments which added to the burden of guilt and obligation or perhaps, self righteousness of the 50’s super- scrupulous Catholic, but, the entering into our lives and hearts of a divine spirit that loves us just as we are. Prayer is about being open to that spirit, to that gift.

The gospel from Matthew gives us more insight into the issue of judgement. Today’s reading includes some parables, a common device used by Jesus. Current scriptural scholarship sees parables as a way of putting one thing alongside another by way of comparison and illustration. Rabbis used parables, before and after Christ’s time, to clarify and drive home their message, to make truth understandable. What a parable is not – is an allegory. An allegory is a point-by-point matching up of each aspect of a story with a fixed meaning. It is thought that the explanation of the parable is not Christ’s words but was added in by the early church. In fact it seems to contradict what is the core theme of the parable.

Today’s parable shows that the task of the disciple is to sow the right seed and not to judge the weed from the wheat. And why shouldn’t they judge?

Because, the reading tells us, they might get it wrong and destroy good seed, not that they might let some bad seed through. The harvest is God’s and we shouldn’t assume that we could go around judging others, or even ourselves, and assume we have it right. We can never know the heart or mind of another so it is not our place to judge and condemn. The apparently small and unremarkable mustard seed has the capacity to provide shelter. It is not for us to imagine we understand the kingdom of heaven and who or what is important in it. So when we look at the essence of today’s readings we see a reminder that it is not for us to judge others but equally not to fear the judgement of God. For our God is a God “ of mercy and compassion, slow to anger, abounding in love and truth.”

Anne Hudson

Fr.Frank Brennan SJ celebrated the vigil Mass for the community of St. Vincent’s Church Redfern on Saturday 24th.

(See also the Journal article)

It was celebrated in the grounds of Aboriginal Medical Service as the church had been locked. About 25 people gathered, with the music provided by Helen, and the Liturgical needs such as chalice, candles and cloth by Sr Dom. Clare placed sprigs of wattle into our hands. Clint, a security guard at the AMS, had opened the gates and provided chairs. He was able to celebrate Eucharist with us; also present was Shireen who sang a reflection song, ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ after Communion.

We know there are many paradoxes in the scriptures. It was there for us as Frank reflected on the present of good and evil in our world. He spoke of being in London when they celebrated the 60th Anniversary of WW2. The Lancaster Bombers flew over dropping thousands of red poppies. And yet, we know that it was these very planes that bombed the cities such as Dresden in Germany. This is the reality of the world we live in good and evil but we must not despair, as God is present with us all the way.

Frank spoke of his time recently in Jerusalem. He had bought a stole made in Bethlehem. He was told that Christians in Bethlehem once numbered 17% but now are merely 3%. They live in very poor circumstances. Their main source of income is art, craft and religious objects. It is a struggle for them but they stay as a “presence” – a witness. Frank decided to leave the beautifully embroidered stole with us, asking only that when it is used we remember in our prayers the small Christian community of Bethlehem.

It was wonderful to celebrate Eucharist on land of the AMS under the night sky in the presence of the spirit of the Indigenous people of our land.

60th Anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

To remember the past is to commit oneself to the future. To remember Hiroshima is to abhor nuclear war. To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to peace.

John Paul II, Hiroshima, Japan, Feb 1991

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