We are getting to the ‘sticky’ end of Matthew’s gospel in our Sunday readings, where the Pharisees and Sadducees are trying to trap Jesus, and once again this week they ask him about which is the greatest commandment of the Law.

Of course, you as readers know the answer:

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: you must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.

Jesus is reciting to them a prayer that they already know – the Shema Prayer – one that, as Jews they pray daily, to serve as a reminder that there is but one God – Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One (Deuteronomy 6:4). It reminds the Jewish people that they are called into a close and personal relationship with God.

Once again, Pope Francis has issued an Encyclical Letter – Fratelli Tutti on Fraternity and Social Friendship. He borrowed these words from Francis of Assisi when he addressed his brothers and sisters, and proposed to them a way of life marked by the flavour of the Gospel. In this encyclical, Pope Francis invites us to think of our world as one human family, as children of God. He is challenging us to think beyond ourselves, in order to worship God and to love our neighbour.

I share with you the powerful words used by Pope Francis in his appeal, and that of Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, for justice, peace and fraternity written in paragraph 285 of the encyclical:

In the name of God, who has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and who has called them to live together as brothers and sisters, to fill the earth and make known the values of goodness, love and peace;

In the name of innocent human life that God has forbidden to kill, affirming that whoever kills a person is like one who kills the whole of humanity, and that whoever saves a person is like one who saves the whole of humanity;

In the name of the poor, the destitute, the marginalized and those most in need, whom God has commanded us to help as a duty required of all persons, especially the wealthy and those of means;

In the name of orphans, widows, refugees and those exiled from their homes and their countries; in the name of all victims of wars, persecution and injustice; in the name of the weak, those who live in fear, prisoners of war and those tortured in any part of the world, without distinction;

In the name of peoples who have lost their security, peace and the possibility of living together, becoming victims of destruction, calamity and war;

In the name of human fraternity, that embraces all human beings, unites them and renders them equal;

In the name of this fraternity torn apart by policies of extremism and division, by systems of unrestrained profit or by hateful ideological tendencies that manipulate the actions and the future of men and women;

In the name of freedom, that God has given to all human beings, creating them free and setting them apart by this gift;

In the name of justice and mercy, the foundations of prosperity and the cornerstone of faith;

In the name of all persons of goodwill present in every part of the world;

In the name of God and of everything stated thus far, [we] declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard.

When I think about the issues raised by so many for the Plenary Council and our Diocesan Synod, I am drawn to this appeal, because this is what people are seeking. The kingdom of God is already present in our world. It is here that we practise the kingdom values of justice, honesty, love and compassion. It is here that we show our faith in action, work for love and persevere in hope.  When we contribute to the well-being of civil society, we are promoting the kingdom of God.

This reminds me of our theme for our Diocesan Synod, which is Building the Kingdom of God Together.

During the week, I was asked to be one of the presenters at the Exploring Best Practices for Pastoral Governance at the service of Christ’s Mission webinar. 235 people registered with 147 participants attending the webinar from around Australia and New Zealand. It was a great response to this Oceania event.

I have provided you with the links below to the talks prepared in the pre-webinar videos. I attempted to tell our story, of a diocese who has been exploring best practice for pastoral governance for about thirty years.  

I think you will find these both informative and formative. Our diocesan synod is inviting us to continue to explore how best to be Christ’s mission in this time and place. A diocesan synod website should soon be available, so as to keep you informed.

I hope you are able to stay warm and dry through this week of unsettled weather.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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