This week in our Sunday Gospel reading, we have Jesus withdrawing to a lonely place after hearing of the violent death of his cousin John the Baptist. As I listened to these words, I imagined his grief and sadness, and just wanting to be alone.

I wonder how many of us are feeling this way at the moment – it may be a personal grief, or it may be the grief felt by living in the pandemic, or it might be to do with concerns for the environment, or it may be the commemoration of 75 years since the end of World War II and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I am in no doubt that the global community is experiencing a deep sense of loss and grief.

Over the past few weeks in our Sunday readings, the parables of Jesus have challenged us to consider our struggle with good and with evil. The image we are left with is very alarming; “The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” (Matthew 13: 49-50). I must admit to pondering the next few verses of chapter 13 during the week when Jesus says to his disciples:

“Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there.

I think this is what we might be presently doing, pondering the new and the old!!

During this week we commemorate Hiroshima Day on 6 August, the day in 1945, when an atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, followed on 9 August, by one dropped on Nagasaki.

The bombings effectively ended World War II by bringing about the surrender of Japan, but at a terrible price - the two cities were destroyed, and casualties, mostly civilians, were estimated at around 200,000, with many more people dying later from injuries and illness. The effects of this nuclear catastrophe and acts of violence are still felt, not only in Japan but around the world. Since then, wars have continued in and between many nations, and Hiroshima Day has become a day of prayer for world peace. The day is observed in Japan, and many other countries. In Newcastle, the prayers of remembrance have been led each year for 34 years, by Christians for Peace.

An ecumenical and interfaith prayer service will be held on line via Zoom on Thursday night at 6pm and you can register at https://actionnetwork.org/events/interfaith-service-for-nuclear-disarmament

Courtesy of Christians for Peace, I was sent a copy of the prayer service, that would have been held in Newcastle had we not have been restricted by COVID – 19. This prayer service can be found in this week’s Dio Update and I hope that some of you will print it off and pray it on both Thursday evening (6 August) and Sunday evening (9 August). We really do need to earnestly pray for peace.

The following story was included as part of this prayer service. It is about Sadako, a young girl in Japan and the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, by Eleanor Coerr:

It tells the story of a 2 year old girl called Sadako, who survived the bomb, apparently unscathed, along with her family. When she was 11 years old, however, she became ill with a form of radiation illness. She had to go to hospital. Her best friend came to visit her with a gift. She brought Sadako a folded paper crane, and reminded her of an old Japanese belief: if a sick person made a thousand paper cranes and made a wish on each one, she would get better. Sadako made 642 before she died, but her friends and classmates made the rest and she was buried with a thousand paper cranes. Her statue is in Hiroshima Peace Park — she stands holding an origami crane — and it is her story that has made the folded paper crane a symbol of peace the world over.

A song, Sadako from Hiroshima by Robin Mann, was inspired particularly by a short prayer that Sadako's mother whispers one night as she leaves the hospital bed where her daughter is sleeping “O flock of heavenly cranes, cover my child with your wings"

This song can be found on YouTube and I found the last verse to be a powerful prayer for us:

This is our cry, this is our prayer,
"May the crane of peace fly everywhere!"
This is our cry, this is our prayer,
"Crane of peace fly everywhere!"

During the past week, I had meetings with both the Identity & Community and the Mission & Outreach Focus Teams, who are attempting to begin the process of crafting words for the proposals in both of these foundations, to eventually be presented to our next session of the diocesan synod. This will only happen after consultation with the wider diocesan community. I also attended a Climate Pastoral Care Conference sponsored by Uniting, Common Grace and Five Leaf Eco-Awards.

I intend to write more about this next week, and am finding that I am identifying strongly with Jesus’ grief at the violent death of John the Baptist, and then his willingness to reach out to the crowd who followed him. The miracle that follows – the five loaves and two fish – is about the preparedness of people to share. This leaves me with the question:

How can I be Eucharist - bread broken and given for others, today?”

And from part of the Daily Meditation from Richard Rohr this week:

Peaceful change starts within us and grows incrementally from where we are. Our social and physical location will influence the problems we see and the solutions we can imagine. We must “think globally and act locally”

May our diocesan synod and the Plenary Council influence our diocese and the Catholic Church of Australia, but also our nation.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.