TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: The Ear of the Heart

I found this weekend’s Gospel reading from Matthew (13:1-23) about the sower, the seed, and the soil most apt for the visit of Noel Pearson to the diocese, to speak to us about the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the Voice referendum. This week we are also hearing from Common Grace about Listen to the Heart.

As I listened to the gospel being proclaimed in the dark in the Cathedral on Saturday night (the lights had gone out just as Mass was about to begin and the key to the meter box was not quickly found), I heard the words, spoken by Jesus, clearly, “Listen, anyone who has ears!”.

Hearing these words got me thinking about the almost 400 people who would gather on Sunday evening to listen to Noel and to ask questions of him, Aunty Louise Campbell, and Aunty Dianne Langham. What would they be hearing and would they be listening with, in the words of Saint Benedict, “the ear of the heart”?

Jesus explains to the disciples about why he speaks in parables by using the words of the prophet Isaiah, because people look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding:

You will listen and listen again, but not understand,
see and see again, but not perceive.
For the heart of this nation has grown coarse,
their ears are dull of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes,
for fear they should see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their heart,
and be converted
and be healed by me.

And then Jesus says, “But happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear!”

In our Christian context, Jesus is the sower, the seed is God’s Word, and we are the soil. The work of our parishes, agencies and pastoral ministries is to provide opportunities for soil, in which seeds are scattered and sown. Who knows when the harvest yield will be a hundredfold, or sixty-fold or thirty-fold. We are being called to do our bit, to be workers of the harvest.

I found that the following words, from Br Julian McDonald cfc for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, capture well what I am trying to portray:

Sowers come into our lives in countless guises. They come as parents, carers, encouragers and friends. They often sow liberally and harvest in abundant, medium and small measure. What matters most is the quality of the seed they sow, the generosity of their sowing and the fact that they sow in the first place. This parable might be inviting us to assess ourselves as sowers, to look at the seed we sow and to examine the quality of the soil in which we are sowing that seed.

We are continually being invited to open our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds to the generous opportunities offered to us by our good and gracious God. We risk closing our ears and eyes and developing a hardness of mind and heart.

In the introduction (paragraph 12) to the documents sent to Rome from the Plenary Council the following is written:

The Plenary Council has recognised the call of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and the need for the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics in the life of the Church as crucial signs of the times for the Church in Australia.

The Fifth Plenary Council seeks to foster a Christ-centred Church in Australia by focusing on eight themes, the first of those being:

Reconciliation: Healing Wounds, Receiving Gifts.

It begins this section with the following words:

All Australians have much to learn from the cultures, spirituality, and knowledge of country of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. However, our society is yet to recognise fully Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of the lands and waters now known as Australia, or to achieve right relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

The Catholic Church in Australia has been caught up in this history of dispossession, Stolen Generations, racism, and the undermining of language and culture. Dioceses, eparchies, and religious institutes have made sincere efforts to share faith, education, and pastoral services with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. However, much suffering has been inflicted by the historically misguided attempts of those who were ignorant of the cultural richness of these peoples.

We know that we will not be ‘fully the Church that Jesus wants’ us to be until Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have made their contribution to the life of the Church and “until that contribution has been joyfully received by others” within the Church.

The Plenary Council joyfully receives the following recommendations of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC), which were submitted “in the hope that the Catholic Church in Australia will more resemble the Church that Jesus Christ wants her to be in relation to Australia’s First Peoples” (John Paul II, Address to the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, 29 November 1986)

I have now arrived home from the ‘Evening with Noel Pearson’, which was amazing. Noel was very gentle and gracious, as were the more than 300 people who gathered. Just to capture a few key words which Noel spoke:

  • This referendum will decide our destiny as a nation.
  • Politics is like a box full of magnets, and trying to sort them (I invite you to think of the struggle to do this and the pull of the magnets on each other).
  • The referendum is not a Federal election.
  • It is up to the 97% of Australians who are not indigenous to vote for the question about the Constitution.
  • The question that will be asked will be a decision for our country and the soul of our country.
  • Australia has three stages in its story:
    • The first 60,000 years of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.
    • The coming of the British in 1788 and the years after.
    • The arrival of the multicultural communities and the gifts they bring.

These movements or stages give us our identity.

I continue to invite you to read, to have conversations and to find out all you can, about the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the Voice referendum.

As Fr Greg Barker pointed out at the end of the evening, we need to vote on this from an informed conscience.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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