I have just returned home from a weekend on the Gold Coast, attending the musical Anything Goes at one of our grandchildren’s schools, at which she was in the orchestra playing several woodwind instruments. It was a fabulous production with the actors seeming older than their years as they performed with confidence and excellence. I was joined by a number of my children and grandchildren and so we had a lovely family weekend, sharing story, time and food.
Early on Sunday morning, I accompanied four of my grandsons for their weekly swimming lessons at which there were many other parents, mainly fathers, who were proudly involved in their children's swimming lessons.
So, upon returning to Newcastle to attend our regular Sunday evening Mass at the Cathedral, I was once again left pondering our readings for the weekend Feast of the Ascension. I know in my weekly messages I frequently refer to the reading we heard from Matthew’s Gospel (28: 16-20) about Go, Make, Baptise and Teach disciples:
The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commandments I gave to you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’
This is our role as parents, as part of the worshipping community and as teachers. However, my children along with many other people in their positions, of working and bringing up a family, are just so stretched. I am not excusing them, but their worlds are so busy with trying to do the best by their children and each other as couples. I know they are not anti- religion or faith, and yet they just find it difficult to make it a priority to connect to the worshipping community. I know this is a common story for many of us.
I suggest that the key to understanding this Feast of Ascension is to be found in today’s second reading from Ephesians (1:17-23) where Paul wrote:
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers.
In Australia, the week between the Ascension and Pentecost Sunday is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. You can find the resources for this week on the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) website - NCCA Resources .
This year the theme for the week is “Do good; seek justice” from Isaiah 1:17. The image for the week is an aboriginal painting called “Invasion” from John “Munnari” Hammond A’Hang which was presented to the National Council of Churches in 1994. The explanation for the painting reads:
White man came to this country in their ships. With their guns the black man has no answers. They were poisoned, shot, hung and put in chains as punishment. Then along came religion, Christianity, the Bible was read at campsites by white man and later black and white. Now we walk side by side burning bridges of the past. The chains of the past are broken and black and white walk on equal ground through this rugged wide land. Their spirit finally free through Christianity.
The Australian context for this week is taking the scripture about doing good and seeking justice, rescuing the oppressed, defending the orphan and pleading for the widow, and applying that to the legacy in Australia resulting from European settlement.
When we stop talking and listen, we hear that the church in Australia is built on stolen land, Indigenous land, and shares in a history of racism, massacre, abuse, stolen children, imprisonment and death in custody, and ongoing disadvantage. We hear that this legacy is really ours because we have explained, justified or remained silent in the face of this reality. When we stop talking and listen, we make space to realise anew that we have acted in ways that deny the worth of some of God’s people, equally made in God’s image. (Rev. Radhika Sukumar-White’s sermon from Day of Mourning service, 19th January 2020, Leichhardt Uniting Church).
The following words form part of the beginning of the prayer service for this week:
We need God’s grace to overcome our divisions and to uproot systems and structures that have contributed to the fracturing of our communities.
We gather to pray to reinforce the unity that we have as Christians to “open our hearts, that we may be bold in finding the riches of inclusion and the treasures of diversity among us. We pray in faith.” (Rev Martin Luther King)
Finally, here are the words from the prayer card for this week:
God of justice and truth,
we seek your guidance to embody
the prophet’s call
to do good and to seek justice.
May we grow with the courage and
compassion of Christ,
and walk in the way of
peace and reconciliation.
May God’s Spirit enliven and embolden us
to stand in solidarity with others
until all are treated with dignity and worth.
May our holy living be a foretaste
of the mercy and blessing
of the reign of God. Amen
I hope you find that the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, provides you with the space to seek out our call to grow disciples of peace and justice.
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