Thoughts December 2004

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

This month we prepare for Christmas

The world distracts us from what this time is really about. Consumerism and commercialism seem to go mad. Here are a few thoughts to encourage us to reflect quietly at this time.

The following reflections were complied by the Missionaries of the sacred Heart Justice and Peace Centre and the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Justice office.

Even the Smallest Seed

A seed in the ground. A flame in the darkness. A hand outstretched. A child in the womb. Hope starts small and overtakes us, stretching the borders of what we have known….

Hope starts small, even as a seed in the womb, but it feeds on outrageous possibilities. It beckons us to step out with the belief that the action we take will not only bear fruit but that in taking it, we have already made a difference in the world. God invites us, like Mary, to open to God’s radical leading, to step out with sometimes inexplicable faith, trusting that we will find sustenance.

Jan Richardson, Night Vision, pp 56-57

Without Justice there can be no Peace

“Peace is not merely the absence of war. Nor can it be reduced solely to the maintenance of a balance of power between enemies. Nor is it brought about by dictatorship. Instead, it is rightly and appropriately called “an enterprise of justice” (Is. 32:7). Peace results from that harmony built into human society by its divine founder, and actualized by men and women as they thirst after ever greater justice.”

Vatican II, The Church in the Modern World, #78

Open our eyes

Open our eyes, Lord,
especially if they are half-shut
because we are tired of looking,
or half open
because we fear to see too much,
or bleared with tears
because yesterday and today and tomorrow
are filled with the same pain,
or contracted,
because we look only at what we want to see.

Open our eyes, Lord
To gently scan the life we lead,
the home we have,
the world we inhabit,
and so to find,
among the gremlins and the greyness,
signs of hope we can fasten on and encourage.
Give us, whose eyes are dimmed by
a bigger vision of what you can do

even with hopeless cases and lost causes
and people of limited ability.
riddled by debt, deceit and disbelief,
yet also
shot through with possibility
for recovery, renewal, and redemption.

And lest we fail to distinguish vision from fantasy,
today, tomorrow, this open our eyes to one person
or one place,
where we – being even for a moment prophetic –
might identify and earn a potential in the waiting.
And with all this,
open our eyes, in yearning, for Jesus.

On the mountains,
in the cities,
through the corridors of power
and streets of despair,
to help, to heal, to confront, to convert, O come, O come, Immanuel.

An Advent prayer Cloth for the Cradle,
The Wild Goose Worship Group, 1997

Words for Advent –
Hope, Listen, Prepare ,Search, Light and Truth

The Advent call is to break down barriers that separate us from others: to find in others, including those different from us culturally, sexually, ethnically and people of other faiths the potential for a new humanity.

So Advent is a time of active searching searching for the ‘spark’ of Jesus in others and seeking hope when doomsayers say there is no hope.

Can we make Advent into an intense time of looking for, and listening for, the hope planted by God within us? Can we make it a time of refusing to accept darkness, despair, and violence as inevitable parts of our lives? Can we try to put some light and truth into places in order to overcome the deceit and lies around us? Though Advent falls during our summer and falls during winter in the Northern hemisphere, Albert Camus’ words are a challenge to us: ‘In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer’

And.. “The Word Became Flesh”…

This is a time for dreams and visions being made flesh in our lives. This is a time of hoping outrageously for peace now, for passionate repentance, for justice to come among us. It is about looking God in the eye, and rejoicing that this God is on the side of the poor especially when they are blamed for their situation; the immigrants, the persons seeking asylum who are blamed and targeted for their plight; the family struggling in the system and falling through the cracks and being blamed for being unemployed; the person living with AIDS in Africa and Asia and Latin America who cannot receive medication that would slow down the progress of his/her sickness.

What happens in the End Time will depend on our attitudes and commitments. No longer a threat from flood – but certainly nuclear disaster. If we have loved and served, if we have promoted justice and sought peace, if we have stood up when people are unfairly marginalized, if we have struggled for a more just world, we will have no reason to fear. Things will be different if we do not allow ourselves to be seduced by the vanity with which the merchants want us to celebrate these holidays: in feasts and drunkenness, in self-centred wastefulness, fights and quarrels, forgetting the poor and the little ones who are God’s favoured ones.

Advent – not a matter of ‘killing time”. It is a time of hope, not just waiting. To wait with hope is to desire something so passionately that one gives all of oneself to make happen what we are waiting for. God has not promised us the Reign as a fateful sentence, but as an exciting task and mission.

This is a letter written a while a go but we felt it very appropriate for us to reflect on at this time.

Fr Ted Kennedy’s 1975 vision of the St Vincent’s Redfern community

A long march with a sacred purpose

Michael Long’s walk to Canberra is both symbolic and practical, writes Larry Schwartz.

A white four-wheel-drive pulled up on a Victorian country road. The driver waved a greeting at a small group of men who had joined ex-Essendon footballer Michael Long on his walk to Canberra. “Enough in that trailer for all of us,” Paul Briggs, 51, a Shepparton-based Yorta Yorta elder, said as he returned the driver’s smile. The blue trailer in tow was empty.

Briggs, who had joined the walk from Wallan after a call from Long, saw some symbolism in the journey. “We’re quite prepared as Aboriginal people to endure and to reach out and to put some sweat and toil behind making this nation a better one – if we’re given the right opportunity and consultations are real consultations,” he said.

The symbolic nature of the walk drew criticism from some quarters. “A long march that can solve nothing,” said an editorial in The Australian. Such an endeavour, it cautioned, “sends a signal to other Aborigines that there is a prospect of progress in symbolic gestures. But as the reconciliation bridge walks demonstrated, such statements do not solve practical problems . . .”

So what of the small group who came out to join Long? “I’ve never been part of something like this,” said Alan Thorpe, 36, senior coach of Shepparton’s Rumbalara football club. “It does a lot for your soul and your spirit, just walking the country . . . If we can get some good outcomes at the end of it, that will top it off.”

His long hair flowing from his peaked cap, 11-year-old Bunjil Lovett was with his father, Brian. “I’m walking to represent the country and myself, my family,” Bunjil said.

For Darwin-born Long, who had set out to see Prime Minister John Howard with a sense of desperation about the living conditions of Aborigines, the walk reflected traditional practices of his people.

Regardless of Long’s chances of success, it never occurred to me this might be some futile exercise.

“They used to walk to go to meeting places, dancing places, ceremonial places, sacred places,” he explained. “We walk. It’s a sense of belonging and connection to the land.”
The word “pilgrimage” is derived from the Latin “peligrinus”, meaning foreigner or wayfarer. In a 1998 book, The Art of Pilgrimage, author Phil Cousineau writes that it might also be traced to the Latin “per agrum”, “through the field”.

It was a sense that seems apt now, as I think back to the few kilometres I walked with Long and others on a hot day, flanked by farmland of central Victoria.

Cousineau writes that the earliest recorded pilgrimage was “accorded to Abraham, who left Ur, 4000 years ago, seeking the inscrutable presence of God in the vast desert”.

The author says the popular religious pilgrimages in the Middle Ages might be regarded as a forerunner of modern tourism and suggests that it is possible to “turn an ordinary trip into a sacred one”.

He cites examples including an American woman, calling herself the Peace Pilgrim, who from 1953 set out walking across the country, with a message of world peace, lecturing, talking and distributing pamphlets. By 1964 she stopped counting after more than 25,000 miles. “A pilgrim is a wanderer with a purpose,” she once said. “A pilgrimage can be to a place – that’s the best known kind – but it can also be for a thing. Mine is for peace . . .”

Long wants to meet the Prime Minister to urge him to take urgent measures for indigenous Australians. “We need action,” he said. “We can’t wait. People are dying.”

Regardless of his chances of success, it never occurred to me that this might be some futile exercise. Even if it is just a desperate act to draw attention to the distress of a marginalised people, it seems irresponsible to dismiss it as a “long march that can solve nothing”.

When Long thanked me for joining them (briefly, I must note) on the walk, I told him it was a privilege. It was. When he passed me his bottle of water and insisted I finish it, it was not with a view to symbolism but quenching thirst.

The Age November 26, 2004, by Larry Schwartz

Danny Gilbert ‘s 2004 University of NSW Faculty of Law Valedictory Dinner Address was distributed with the December issue of Thoughts for the Month.

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