Thoughts October 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

Francis of Assisi

A saint for today

Our theme for this month is St Francis of Assisi. There are many areas of this man’s life we could dwell on. We are all familiar with His love of all living things of God’s creation. Who could forget…….

Praise be You, my Lord, through our Sister
Mother Earth,
Who sustains and governs us,
flowers and herbs.

Francis of Assisi,
The Canticle of Brother Sun

We read in the SJ Statement 2002 A NEW EARTH – the environmental challenge "A relationship exists among all of God’s creatures."

This is what St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint for ecology, celebrated in his life and in his Canticle. He sang of the sun, the moon, the stars, the wind, the water and fire as brothers and sisters, and of our sister, Mother earth.

St Francis is one who comes to mind when we think of cultivating peace and the words – Make me a channel of your peace.

The SJ Statement 2004 says, "Peace is our vocation. We are called to cultivate peace wherever possible – in our families, communities, in national life and even globally. The values of truth, justice, love and freedom, when made real in people’s lives, are dimensions of the abundant peace that the risen Christ brings to his followers and to the world."

Another aspect of St Francis is that he bore the Stigmata – the wounds of Christ. St. Francis’ life was a call to bring the church back to simplicity and to respond to the needs of the wounds of all the earth. He saw Christ in all the wounded. Remember the story of St Francis meeting the leper and instead of turning away he reached out and kissed him.

In our church we have an altar which was made by Tom Bass for the celebration of his daughter‘s wedding. On it are carved the wounds of Christ – a reminder to us that we must never forget the wounded of the world. It is our call to respond to the needs of the people who enter our lives, especially the Aboriginal people of Australia. Also, it is a reminder that when we stand with the “made poor” – the people on the edges of our society, the ones ignored and denied justice, we too will suffer the wounds of rejection, seen as fools and attempts will be made to silence us. As we stand before this beautiful altar we have the wounds of Christ before us to strengthen and give us courage to be the Jesus of the gospels.

St Francis of Assisi was deeply sensitive and gentle and yet showed courage and strength when he was called to speak out and challenge wherever he saw injustice whether in the church or society.

If the members of a local community want their community to cohere, to flourish and to last, here are some of the things they [should] do:

  • always include local nature – the land, the water, the air, the native creatures – within the membership of the community;
  • ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources;
  • see that the old and young take care of neighbourly acts;
  • always care for [your] people, and teach [your] children
Wendell Berry, Farmer & Philosopher
Quoted in "Naked Ape to Superspecies", David Suzuki & Holly Dressel

At Mary’s, Tahmoor, Maryland

Sheila, Mary, Dom and Marnie help plant the tree

On Thursday 23rd September some of Redfern’s Reflection Group – Mary, Marnie, Clare, Dom and Sheila met at Maryland to plant the ‘Peppermint Eucalyptus’ which Sheila had carried in the offertory procession at our Christmas Mass. Rhonda had supplied the tree. It was nine months with Sheila before it was born into the earth of Maryland.

Peppermint Eucalyptus watered, fertilized
and mulched ready to continue its life

We named it the Redfern Tree. As we planted it we prayed that this tree would be a symbol for us of growth and a reaching out to all those in need. As its roots grow deep into the earth and are nourished and fed, we pray that we at Redfern will be nourished and made strong, rooted deeply in the faith and the gospel of Jesus.

Twenty-fifth Sunday of Pentecost, 19th of September 2004

A reflection by John Hill

What beautiful readings we are privileged to listen to in our Eucharist sharing this morning. They reveal to us so much about who we are and the way we act and how we deal with conflict. Amos is surely a prophet of the 21st century. His words were as sharp then in his time as they are for us today. The situation is no different. Times of rapid change ensured that the rich got richer and the poor became poorer. The rich could exploit the changing situation to their advantage. Amos addressed their greed—here they wanted the Sabbath to be over and done with so that they could go on with their money dealings. For them as for many today the flavour of the month was and is the Gross National Product, a new and uglier name for the old god, Mammon. The last sentence of Amos rings loud and clear. “Never will I forget a single thing that you have done.” The memory of our God is long. It is eternal. This is something those with power and prestige so easily forget.

The responsorial psalm blends in so well with the readings. “Who is like our God?” Who is it that stoops down from the heights to look down upon heaven and earth? The psalm concludes with God’s exquisite kindness to the poor. This in marked contrast to those whose conduct Amos condemns.

Timothy’s words are clear and down to earth. He asks for prayers for those in authority. It is for them to live in peace and quiet, which implies that they forgo arrogance and hubris, for such are the work of the devil. When someone wields absolute power for their own advantage we know the message of the Gospel is lost to them. At the same time it affects the life of the community. This is easily seen in the distain those in authority so often display. Their mates are the media giants who give the world the message that wealth and power are essential for the good life.

All of this dovetails into our Gospel story. Although it is good to remember that this Gospel reading is a bit tricky. The steward is asked to make contracts for his master. He did not want to be seen as a usurer, that is someone who charges interest on money loaned at an exorbitant rate, so in his shrewdness he took decisive action for himself. Here Jesus is encouraging decisive action on the part of his disciples. So that when the day comes they will be ready for the kingdom.

Jesus contrasts the wisdom of the steward in the ways of the world with the failure of the disciples to be equally active in discipleship. The final sentence of the reading sums it up. “No servant can be the slave of two masters.” Here he is telling us that the hardest road to travel is where you experience your own vulnerability. At the heart of this story is the recognition of possibility. This is a very far cry from ‘we can do nothing’ approach. Here the steward recogni ses what his responsibility is to himself and to others. He knows that he must act decisively. It is the poor in our society who are fearful that they will not be accepted if they reach out. They see themselves as powerless and so they react accordingly. They speak out of fear because rejection is at hand. When are the poor not rejected? It is when fear gives way to empowerment. That happens when those who have something, enough of the things of this world come to the land, to the turf of the poor and in entering into their territory sit with them. They share their food and become one with them. They enter into the soul of the poor and view life from their lens. It is then that both parties are lifted up. One is able to move away from arrogance, the other is able to move away from fear. It goes to prove that the richness of God’s love is unfathomable. We can always be ready for the Kingdom; or rather the Kingdom is ready for us, for even if we fail to see Jesus he continues to offer opportunities. With such an assurance we will gradually move into the territory of the other, step into their sandals and begin to see that the beauty of dialogue does in fact work.

We will not allow the core material of our own indoctrination, our conditioning, and our looking only through the lenses that we have constructed for our own convenience to shape our lives. Like the steward we too will be confronted with the choices that are necessary for the Kingdom to become a reality. We too will use the worldly wisdom of the steward to make decisive our actions. Pope JohnXXIII summed it up when he described his role in life; “I am the servant of the servants of God.”

Amos, Timothy and the Steward of today’s Gospel are the vehicles for us to find the Kingdom, a kingdom found initially when we learn the meaning of genuine sharing. For this to happen we are exposed to the many paradoxes of life – the baffling combination of attachment and detachment, of solidarity and non-conformity, commitment and openness. This for some may seem a tall order but for those in search of the kingdom it becomes a reality.

Thank you dear God for the seed of prayer that you
Have planted in the heart of each of us.
Prayers, like people come in different shapes and sizes.
Some are long and tall
And some are short and small.
Some are round and layered
And others are as small as a tear drop.
Some are cried out lod
And others are wordless.
Whatever it’s size or shape
You hear us all.
We thank you for the seed of prayer you
Have planted in the heart of every being in creation. Amen

Maureen Flood, 19/09/2004
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