14TH SUNDAY YEAR A 2023 ESSENDON
LOOKING AFTER THE LITTLE ONES
Mt 11.25-30 Zech 9.9-10 Rom 8.9,11-13
With all the controversy about so called Robodebt, and the findings of the Royal Commission just released, it could be argued that what was missing at the heart of the matter, was any sort of compassion or understanding of the human situation, where citizens on welfare were seen more as a burden on society, not to be trusted, with an underlying suspicion that they were not being truthful about their real financial circumstances.
It’s easy enough to make bureaucratic decisions, without thinking of the human consequences, but hardly good enough, in terms of providing essential services to those in need. What is more the findings were that the whole process was illegal, but implemented, because blind eyes were turned, in order to satisfy those who seemed to think that the priority was to generate more income for the government, without raising taxes, that word which can connote negative reactions, whenever it is spoken. And yet, in a fair and just society, should not tax be seen as a necessary good, supporting health, education, welfare and other aspects of a civilized community, where citizens are to be served, not oppressed?
The same principle could be applied to our indigenous First Nations people, as we celebrate NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee) week, acknowledging the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The theme for 2023 is “For Our Elders”, which highlights that “across every generation, Elders have played and continue to play an important role and hold a prominent place in communities and families.”
And whatever the controversies over the impending ‘Voice’ referendum, it seems only common sense, right and just that the Australian Constitution include a reference to those who were first here for millenia. Meanwhile, we all have a duty to be informed about what it all means.
Jesus speaks of ‘little ones’ today, and this could well be understood as referring to those in our community who have been left out and ignored, such as those I’ve mentioned here. He’s not only referring to size and age and just children!
On the journey of discipleship goes, as Jesus offers comfort, relief, reassurance and encouragement to those who feel left out in particular. These are words I regularly use when administering the sacrament of Anointing, which is often. So Paul’s words on love as patient, kind and forgiving, so often used at weddings and funerals are almost supplanted by today’s Gospel, in terms of frequency of use. While we can tire of hearing the same words over and over, or at least take them for granted without reflection, when we stop and try to take in the meaning, one can see why these readings are so commonly used.
Often enough, the burdens of life can weigh us down, and things are not easy, whatever reassurance the words of Jesus offer. At the same time, there is relief that comes from faith in a God who reveals himself in Jesus, accompanying us along the way. There is the obvious follow-on that we, as his disciples and friends, are to help ease the burdens of others on the path of life as well.
If we look at the innocence and openness of children, we can see what he is getting at here. It’s not a question of uncritical simple-mindedness, but more a call to hear his words as a guide to focussing on what is truly important in life and love. For the Pharisees, the Torah was the Law to be observed, with all its detailed prescriptions, such that the wood could well be lost for the trees, in terms of priorities. For Jesus, the fundamental and primary law he proclaims in the Gospel is about love, in all its dimensions, with the demands of the law coming a distant second. He changes the balance in a big way, although also acknowledging that the law, customs and traditions still had their place in the scheme of faith, worship and life.
At the same time, as the biblical commentaries point out, in qualitative terms, rather than quantitative, the law of love is all the more demanding as it knows no limits, putting the onus on the individual to apply it in all aspects of one’s life. And so, it involves a personal commitment in making decisions along these lines.
Claude Mostowik’s insights are helpful too: “Today’s readings capture the spirit and thoughts of Pope Francis in Laudato si and Fratelli tutti, that point out the unity of all creation and humankind. All celebrate unequivocal peace as opposed to war and disregard for and destruction of Mother Earth… Paul tells us that the rejection of war and violence manifest the Spirit alive in us. God’s Spirit is about lifegiving, not death dealing. It dwells within each one of us… Those of the Spirit see mercy and compassion, non-violence and peace as the realism of God… Pope Francis has reminded us that to really understand God’s Reign… It means listening to the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth whose future are entwined.”
And this weekend, we have the annual leaving collection for “Opening the Doors” to support indigenous education, so please contribute by using the envelopes provided or giving a donation at the doors after Mass.
john hannon 9th July 2023