So, on this particular Sunday, having been to “virtual Mass”, I am contemplating the readings of the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time which call us to right relationships – with God, with each other and with creation. Jesus, in Mark’s Gospel (7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23) challenges his listeners to look deep within, about what is their motivating force - does it come from a loving heart or is it just about following the ‘law’? I believe today’s lesson is what we are presently trying to grapple with, in both the Plenary Council and our Diocesan Synod.
In the past week, I had the blessing of attending, online, the first of six Plenary Council conversations. The first topic was on Conversion. One of the questions that we discussed was:
How might the Church in Australia open in new ways to Indigenous ways of being Christian in spirituality, theology, liturgy, and missionary discipleship? How might we learn from the First Nations peoples?
I share this question with you this week because this Sunday was Social Justice Sunday and this year’s Social Justice Statement, Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor, invites us to:
- Listen to First Peoples
- Reflect on Theological Foundations
- Use the Laudato Si’ Action Platform
Please listen to some of the Bishops of Australia break open this Statement on:
It is a powerful 6-minute video. I then invite you to download the Statement and read it. If you can print it and have it on your coffee table that would even be better, because it will be worth picking up over the course of the next 12 months, reflecting on it, inviting others to read it, and then to take action.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge opens the Statement with the following words:
Pope Francis reminds us that encounter, dialogue, and listening with an open heart enable God’s transforming love to move more powerfully in the world. Yet when faced with complex interrelated crises – the pandemic, the ecological crisis, the economic crisis, hunger, threats to peace and security – we can find ourselves overwhelmed by information or bogged down in disagreements about details.
In the annual Social Justice Statements, we seek to discern the signs of the times and, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, to recognise how God is calling us to respond. As bishops our task is to bring the light of the Gospel to bear as we seek to respond to the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth.
With Pope Francis, we avoid getting “mired in theoretical discussions” and instead seek to “hear the true stories” of people’s experience, look at reality through the eyes of those most affected, and “listen with an open heart to the stories that they tell”. Our task is to listen to people, to the earth, and to all of God’s creation, since every created thing is interconnected, speaks of the wellbeing of each part and of the whole, and reveals something of the Creator.
This Statement draws from scripture, from the theological tradition, from Catholic social justice teachings and from the wisdom of the world, including insights of the First Nations peoples. All these are placed in dialogue with human experience. This year we offer some theological foundations for a genuinely Christian response to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor: creation in and through the Trinity; the sacramentality of all created things; the wonder and beauty available to the contemplative eye; and the need for conversion and change of life. Our hope is that these will ground and inspire comprehensive and effective responses not only from the Catholic community but from all who want to care for our common home in this time of great need.
As we begin the Season of Creation (1 September – 4 October), I invite you to think more intentionally about creation, to notice the beginning of Spring, to be grateful for the sun’s warmth and the beauty that surrounds you and to end the day in praise of creation.
I also share with you part of this week’s Plenary Council Reflection:
The journey of holiness into ever fuller communion of life with God and others is impossible without growth in the practices of the spiritual life, of attentive awareness, inner stillness, active listening, reflective reading and discerning action. The ‘prayer of the heart’ enables the life of the beatitudes to grow interiorly and to shape our relationships with others. (Instrumentum Laboris 88)
Our pilgrim Church can learn from Christ how to walk with all those who yearn for his company. “Unless we train ministers capable of warming people’s hearts, of walking with them in the night, of dialoguing with their hopes and disappointments, of mending their brokenness, what hope can we have for our present and future journey?” (Pope Francis, Meeting with the Bishops of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, 28 July 2013). (p.10)
Please consider joining the diocesan community over the coming five weeks, as we contemplate and break open the Plenary Council Agenda. Over 40 people came together, virtually, last Thursday for a wonderful evening of listening and dialogue. It is during this time of deep listening, encounter, journeying towards, transformation, personal conversion of heart, relationships, seeking etc. that God’s Spirit will speak to us, as she spoke to those gathered in the upper room at Pentecost. The people of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle will continue to gather, and together as the people of God, we will be called and we will respond – the hard part is journeying, waiting and being patient.
Blessings for the week ahead.
Director Pastoral Ministries
31 August 2021