This week’s message comes to you from Brendon Mannyx, Manager Mission and Outreach.

Last Sunday, 6th November, was Prison Sunday. During the Year of Mercy in 2016, Pope Francis announced a Jubilee for Prisoners, and since that time the Bishops Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service has continued to encourage dioceses and parishes to mark the first Sunday in November in recognition of those in prison and those who provide pastoral support to them.

Our Diocese currently supports two full-time prison chaplains and, through them, hundreds of incarcerated people and their families every year.

From 2013 – 2016, I was privileged to serve as a sessional chaplain, attending prison one day a week. In 2015, I shared the following reflection with my parish community.

There’s a bit in the New Testament where St Paul writes about his personal struggles. And he writes:

I have pleaded with the Lord three times for it to leave me.

We can imagine St Paul’s cry as one similar to our own:

Lord, take away this thorn in my side. Take away my weakness, my pain, my sorrow, my brokenness.

And God’s reply:

‘My grace is enough for you: my power is at its best in weakness.’

God dwells in our weakness. God is at home in our brokenness. This is the place where God’s presence is often made known. Why is that? What does that mean? It goes against everything the world tells us. It goes against everything we learn at school, through work, in the media. Do better, be the best, be strong, be independent. Be beautiful, be rich, be popular. We hide from pain. We pride ourselves in being successful, in not needing any help. Yet God says my power is at its best in weakness. My Spirit is able to do so much more in your brokenness and your struggles. God turns worldly wisdom upside-down. And we can learn much from what God is saying.

Some months ago, I was flicking through an old prayer book when I came across the line:

One of the devil’s main tactics is to convince us that we don’t need God.

There is great pressure today to be self-sufficient; to manage all on our own. It’s up to you to work harder, to work longer and to be productive. We may find we have little time or space for God as we can barely find enough time to keep up with the demands of life. Our worth is measured by what we can do, and what we achieve. And when we fall short of such high expectations, we are made to feel that it is our own fault, that in some way, we have done wrong.

The reality is that our weaknesses, our brokenness are necessary for us to know God and to love others. Without our need for God and others, we would turn away, turn towards selfishness, and self-fulfilment. And it is in our brokenness, it is on the cross, that our God comes to meet us. It is in the pain of our suffering humanity, made so real in the crucifixion, that God’s love for us is felt most powerfully. Our brokenness is good. Our weaknesses are beautiful. And let’s be honest, we’ve all got a ‘thing.’

God gave me my weaknesses so that I will need others. God gave me my strengths so that others will need me. This is why together, as a community, we more fully become the Body of Christ.

God dwells in our weakness. God is at home in our brokenness.

If this is true, if this is where God chooses to be, then, as a Church, we need to be there too. We are called to carry God’s love and his mercy – his forgiveness – into the brokenness, the mess, the chaos of our world. If God’s love is eternal, unbreakable, penetrating to the darkest of places, then that’s what our love will be too. There is no one so despised that we won’t walk beside them, there is no one so broken that we won’t offer healing, there is no one so lost that we won’t offer a way back home. This is why our faith is counter-cultural; this is why the Church is so often misunderstood – because we will choose to love when the world stops loving. We will choose to forgive those deemed unforgiveable.

It’s not easy. Taking love - real self-giving love - out into the world is not an easy thing to do. Not on our own strength anyway. But this is what God is calling us to do, to be his presence in the brokenness of the world. And sometimes, that’s all we can do, stand alongside those who are hurting and say ‘we are here.’

On Wednesdays, I have the privilege to serve as a chaplain in one of our state’s correctional facilities. Much of my day is spent just listening to the men who have been locked away. Many have made choices that were wrong. Some just made stupid mistakes. Others have been caught in a system that doesn’t understand them, or doesn’t care. These men are serving the punishment that society has declared appropriate for their actions. And our Church wants to be there beside them during this time. In a typical day I will cross paths with convicted drug dealers, perpetrators of violence and even murder, fraudsters, thieves and sex offenders. In those same men I encounter sons, fathers, brothers, the confused, the anxious, the searching, the repentant, the hopeless and the hopeful. I encounter sons of God. We share a short time of conversation, in which religion rarely comes up at all, but in this shared sacred communication, God’s presence can often be felt. This is where God chooses to dwell. This is where God is asking us to be. Not to excuse. Not to gloss over what is real. Actions have consequences, there’s no ignoring that. Some days, the only thing that gives me the grace to journey alongside these men is the realisation that I too am broken. By letting God into our own weaknesses, we are then able to take his presence out to those who so desperately need to receive it, in our families, in our places of work, in our community, in areas of need – the poor, the oppressed and the vulnerable. We are called to bring God’s presence into the broken places.

At a time in history when so many are feeling the pain and suffering caused by a broken world, through economic hardships, systemic abuse, environmental turmoil, alienation and broken relationships, God continues to speak through the Church - his hands and feet in this world - asking us to go out and heal, forgive and to mend what is broken. This is how our world will be restored, not through working hard and being the best, but through the cross, through the broken love of Jesus poured out for us all.


In this week following Prison Sunday, let us pray this prayer provided by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference:

A Prayer for Those in Prison Ministry

God of all life,
Your son called us to be compassionate, just as You are compassionate.
And so we pray:

For our generous Earth,
Who, even when mistreated, continues to nourish and sustain us.
May we grow in mutual care.

For our suffering peoples,
Who, even when facing injustices, teach us resilience and hope.
May we grow in mutual care.

For each one of us,
Who, in times of vulnerability, draws on divine love and strength.
May we grow in mutual care.

For our prison ministries,
Which, in times of change, find new ways of reaching out and in.
May we grow in mutual care.

And may we be blessed and inspired
As we hear these words anew:
“For you had compassion for those who were in prison.”1

In the name of Jesus, gentle and humble of heart,


1 Heb 10:34



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