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Christ’s great mission PDF Print E-mail

Sunday 15 July 2018: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Going on missionHe called the Twelve, and began to send them out

...We who take part in this liturgy have all been called to share in Christ’s great mission to the whole world. As we ponder this we should recall that God’s call is mysterious, originating in the eternal designs of the Father – as Paul writes, ‘Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ’. God’s call does not match our human expectations. Amos, the 8th century prophet, was a farmer who found himself charged with the daunting task of challenging the hypocrisy evident in the worship of the northern shrine of Bethel. The Twelve Apostles called by Jesus were an unlikely group, with backgrounds as varied as fishing, tax collecting and terrorism. Jesus sends them out with instructions that make very clear the seriousness of the task he is sharing with them: absolute reliance upon the ‘authority’ they have received from him, and an unselfishness and single-mindedness that will commend them to their listeners. Their mission reflects the mission Jesus has been engaged in: the call to a ‘repentance’ which is open to what God is about to do, ‘casting out devils’ and healing the sick. (The modern reader should not be distracted by the gospels’ frequent references to exorcism. The culture of the society in which Jesus lived assumed – as many cultures do, even today – that ills and maladies, physical and psychological, are due to the influence of evil spirits. Jesus’ mission to triumph over all evil was inevitably seen as a conflict with evil powers.)...

Extract by John Thornhill sm - read more at The Emmaus Series | Image courtesy of Hermanoleon Clipart

Anniversary of Spanish Flu (1918-2018)

2018 is the centenary of the Spanish Flu epidemic. In 1918 it took many lives than did the four years of war just ended that year. July came in a lull after its violent onset, before it’s even more lethal and dispiriting return later in the year. Its virulence reflected its power, but also testified to the connection between the injustices and inequalities of human society and the victims of epidemics.

It is easy to think of medical science in 1918 as relatively ignorant of ways to block and treat a dangerous virus. Yet previous experience and medical discoveries had taught that the virus was spread by air, and so from the nose, mouth and hands of people infected by it. Its spread could be limited by washing, masking one’s nose and mouth, and avoiding the opportunities for people to meet in crowds.

Governments, however, shrunk from enforcing these measures, under pressure from businesses that would lose profit and from workers who needed money to live. People who were poor often lived in squalid and overcrowded quarters with poor sanitation, an ideal environment for the spread of the disease. The death toll in India and other colonies which were deprived of food and medical resources in order to support European wars was particularly high.

The spread of the disease was also facilitated by soldiers returning from war. Often ill fed and vulnerable to infection, they carried the infection to their homelands. In Europe, too, the war had led to rationing of food and the lack of basic services, leaving people open to infection. Flu was yet another of the evils inflicted on their people by rulers who went lightly to war.

More people died of pneumonia and other complications after the flu than from the flu itself. The people most vulnerable were those whose health was already weakened by inadequate food, shelter and access to medical care. The flu virus sowed death; poverty and inequality reaped the harvest.

The flu epidemic reminds us that the way in which bad relationships feed the destructive power of epidemics, hurricanes and other so called acts of God. The safety of human beings depends on the quality of the network of relationships that connect them to one another and to the world. When inequality and violence and reign, people are vulnerable.

In churches and in organisations like Jesuit Social Services building good and respectful relationships is the foundation of our work. It enables people who are disadvantaged to connect with society and draws attention to effects of gross inequality on health and the human spirit.

Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ

 
Rejected by the people PDF Print E-mail

Sunday 08 July 2018: Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

A prophet is despised only in his own country

Jesus in the synagogueLong neglected because of its brevity, the Gospel of Mark is now recognised to be a work of genius. Mark’s was the first gospel to be written. Combining something of the freshness of the earliest memories of Jesus’ life with an ordered presentation of his material, Mark intends to provide a guide to authentic discipleship – as a following of the crucified Saviour. Today’s incident – which tells of the rejection of Jesus by the people of his own town, at the end of his ministry in Galilee - illustrates this. Mark’s telling of the story of Jesus comes to its climax with the Saviour’s passion – the rejection of the Messiah by God’s own people. It seems that Mark was writing for the Christians of Rome in the decade of the first persecutions, calling them to be true disciples of the crucified Christ.

Today’s gospel also conveys the sense of immediacy often present in Mark. We have an echo of the reaction of those who witnessed the event (the ‘disciples’ who accompanied Jesus to his “home town”) – they are surprised and disconcerted by the very human reaction of Jesus. Rejected by the people of ‘his own country’ and ‘his own relations’, Jesus seems to be disarmed, so that ‘he could work no miracle there’. A very human situation and a typical human reaction – Jesus truly became one of us, our brother. What the gospel describes is so true to life that Jesus’ summing up has become a proverb: ‘No honour for prophets among their own’...

Extract by John Thornhill sm - read more at The Emmaus Series | Image courtesy of Hermanoleon Clipart

NAIDOC Week

The origins of NAIDOC Week (07 - 15 July) came out of a Day of Mourning for the destruction and despoliation of Indigenous Australians which followed the arrival of the first fleet. It later became also a celebration of Indigenous and Islander culture. Each year it offers a theme that points to a key part of Indigenous culture. It offers space for reflection not only by Indigenous but by all Australians.

This year the theme proposed for NAIDOC week is ‘Because of her, we can’. It points to the central role played by women in the nurturing of Indigenous culture and celebrates the strong women who have fought for their people’s rights. It is timely for all Australians. Recently the #Me Too movement has drawn attention to the ways in which many women have been sexually abused by men in positions of power over them. It has called out disrespect.

We have recently become more aware, too, of the extent of domestic violence in Australia, and that it is mostly perpetrated by men against women and children. This form of disrespect, once wreathed in silence, has been spoken of courageously and effectively. In this area, as in the #Me Too movement, we have been struck, not only by the outrageous treatment of women, but also by their strength and resilience and by the courage of those who have described their experience.
Disrespect for Indigenous women has been part of the national DNA. As part of policy for generations many women’s children were routinely taken away from them, and this remains the default response to domestic problems in Indigenous communities. Government policies and administration have consistently ignored women’s part in holding together families and communities often under great pressure.

For these reasons it is the right time to celebrate the strong women who have spoken truth to power in Australia - from Truganini to Evelyn Scott, Mum Shirl and Pat O’Shane, to name some of the best known. Often dismissed because they were female as well as Indigenous, they gave hope to others.

In the Jesuit Social Services Men’s Project we attempt to address the systematic reasons for the domestic violence suffered both by Indigenous and other Australian women, in the hope of changing the toxic male culture which lies at its root. Violence to women is rooted in the weakness of men and not in their strength. The Indigenous women of great strength and commitment to their people whom we meet in our work inspire us.

Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ

 
Talitha Kum! PDF Print E-mail

Sunday 01 July 2018: Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus heals Jairus' daughterYoung girl, I say to you, arise

...Today’s Gospel reports two stories of healing. One story tells us about a father’s great love for his dying daughter. The other story tells us about a desperate woman who risks much as she seeks healing from Jesus. In each story, the request for healing is itself a courageous act of faith, and yet very different circumstances are represented by the lives of each suffering person.

Jairus is described as a synagogue official, a man of considerable standing in the Jewish community. Distraught over his daughter’s poor health, he approaches Jesus and asks him to heal her. Although Mark doesn’t provide many details, we can imagine that his daughter has been ill for some time and that her condition is deteriorating...

Read more at Sunday Connection, Loyola Press, A Jesuit Ministry | Image courtesy of Hermanoleon Clipart

 
Prophecies of the prophets PDF Print E-mail

Sunday 24 June 2018: Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Nativity of St John the BaptistYou will be called prophet of the Most High

...John the Baptist, the last of the prophets of old Israel, was a figure of immense significance. He was the one who pointed out the way, as the figures and shadows of the Old Testament gave way to their fulfilment, in the life, death and resurrection of the Saviour of the world. As Jesus himself declared: ‘A greater than John the Baptist has never been seen. It was toward John that all the prophecies of the prophets and the Law were leading’. However, what he adds to this remarkable praise startles us: ‘Yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is’ (Mt 11:11-14). These words refer, not to John’s personal standing before God, but to the fact that his role belongs to the old order which is now passing away. If he was a figure of the old dispensation, his selfless dedication and final heroism will be an inspiration to Christians of every age...

Extract by John Thornhill sm - read more at The Emmaus Series | Image courtesy of Hermanoleon Clipart


 
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