Social Justice as a priority
Good morning everybody, Kia ora!
1. Social justice is the Church at the service of the world. It is about looking past our own concerns and reaching out to others. It is about who we are and what we do.
Jesus said ‘You are the light of the world. Your light must shine in the sight of people, so that, seeing your good works, they may give thanks to your Father in heaven.’
2. Archbishop Oscar Romero, whose life was committed to social justice and who was assassinated as he celebrated Mass, has left us a contemporary version. ‘Know that you are God’s lamp. Feel obliged to speak, to enlighten like the lamp in the night. Feel compelled to light up the darkness.’
And there is much darkness in the world. When we come together as a Church community and are warmed by each other’s company, we have to remember that we are not just light for ourselves.
3. What does it mean to be the light of the world when 30,000 children die each day from poverty? The wealthiest 20 percent of our world is robbing the poor and future generations of what they need to survive, and we are in that 20 percent.
4. And what does it mean to be the salt of the earth when millions suffer through violence and war? On our televisions every night we see the suffering of people in places like East Timor and Iraq.
5. But as a light to us at this synod, in recent decades, lay people, bishops, religious communities and clergy from this diocese have spoken out about poverty and injustice. Those of us following in their stead have been left big shoes to fill. There is a great deal to acknowledge and celebrate. In both the areas of social justice and social services, there has been considerable work in this diocese for the poor and vulnerable.
Some examples that stand out for me are Cardinal Williams’ passionate opposition to the Employment Contracts Act; the commitment of the Wellington Catholic Peacemakers group to the foreshore and seabed hikoi; Archbishop John Dew’s involvement in interfaith issues when there were attacks on people of the Jewish and Islamic faiths; and the willingness of Petone parish to seek reconciliation with Te Atiawa over issues around the cemetery at Korokoro.
It’s interesting that the Prime Minister and politicians have become quite well informed about the social justice message of the Church – perhaps even more than some of us. My hope is that all of us will come to know and care about being part of this work.
6. Because the work of social justice is not peripheral to everything else we are discussing here this weekend, it is not an added extra only for those who are interested.
Pope Benedict’s first encyclical Deus Caritas Est [God is love] teaches that both love of God and love of neighbour are central to our faith. Pope Benedict explained that the Church has a three-fold responsibility: proclaiming the word of God; celebrating the sacraments; and exercising the ministry of ‘caritas’ which means ‘love’.
Something for us to consider: do our parishes give equal time to our social mission as we do for the other two responsibilities? Are social justice committees considered to be as important and necessary as liturgy committees, for example?
7. Pope Benedict doesn’t let individuals off the hook. He says: ‘Love of neighbour grounded in the love of God is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful.’ As the story of the Good Samaritan teaches us, we must still stop for the fallen stranger, whether they are in Hill St or at the top of Mt Everest.
8. But it does not stop there. ‘It is also a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community at every level.’ That means every parish, every school, every level of the diocese needs to be involved.
The Young Church
Good morning, I want to begin with a very short history of the Church… and technology!
Back in the very earliest days of the Church, St Paul led his fellow Christians out far and wide to spread the Good News. The Roman rulers of the time helped them out with a fantastic new technology – the road. Fifteen hundred years later, with a definite point to make, Martin Luther and his opponents, made ten times the impact thanks to the very latest in cutting-edge technology – the printing press.
Roads and the advent of printing – technologies that changed the world – quite literally.
Welcome to the 21st century! – the development in communications technology in our own period makes the road and the printing press almost pale into insignificance. The pace of change we are seeing today is simply staggering.
We know this – but do we understand its implications?
Hold that thought.
What is our mission as Catholics of the Archdiocese of Wellington in 2006? Is it:
to enliven our parishes?
to win back those many who have left us?
to preserve the church as we’ve known it?
These things may happen, but surely, they cannot be our aims?
No, in 2006, as in every era, we are sent to enable people to know God who came among us, and to explore and express this knowing. We are to heal, comfort, speak on behalf of, to encourage, and welcome. Just as Jesus did.
This is mission and this is our purpose.
In the early church this mission or ‘missiology’ shaped theology (our understanding of God).
From mission and theology gradually emerged our earliest ‘ecclesiology’ – our way of understanding ourselves as church.
Question – Have we today not, in fact, reversed this order?
Are we not standing within an enormously well-developed, yet false ecclesiology – ‘church system’ if you like;
defining God and God’s presence in terms of this system, and eventually, hopefully getting to mission – all too often understood as about making more Catholics?
Today, we risk standing within our churches, warily and wearily beckoning to people to come in out of ‘the world’.
We seem to live in mortal fear of allowing that ‘world out there’ to become visible, tangible within our communities.
Instead, they are havens for those that remember and love past ways of ‘being church’. Welcome, real welcome, is reserved for those who are prepared to become like us; to ‘do faith’ our way.
This is not mission. It is ministry, but it is ministry of maintenance – limited to the ‘other’ who is like me. We welcome those who are like us. It’s comfortable.
True mission is to take the Good News out to all, especially, the young.
It is to ask how God, how Jesus Christ is present and active in young lives.
Haven’t we tried just about everything to entice and cajole the young into being with us?
Are we ready to accept the reality that the vast majority do not, cannot find a home there?
Bluntly, sitting in our churches, we are not Good News for them. And they don’t find it good news when we coerce them into being with us.
Yes, there are exceptions and many of us here have been active in ministries that have successfully catered – for some. But aren’t we reversing the parable, nervously guarding the one remaining sheep at home while ignoring the 99 who have run off?
Who are, and will be, the experts in this modern world exploding with communication technology?
If the gospel is to be preached 10 years from now – who will do it?
Why would we dream of forcing them to adopt the ways of the Catholic late middle-ages – because, let’s face it, so much of what we hold dear is more about familiarity than Gospel. ‘This is the norm and that is youth.’
We simply must accept and make room for new expressions of faith, for the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable.
What do we have to fear? Why should we be afraid?
Imagine a posse of 16 and 17-year-olds turning up in your parish. They repaint the church building, remove the pews, unplug the organ, contemporise the artwork, install multimedia systems, reduce the frequency of Mass. If they met there regularly, during the week; socialised, discussed, prayed… because they’d really made the place theirs – would you be upset? If it looked like their kind of place and not yours – could you cope?
The answers we get will depend on the questions we ask. A truism – and a good one. Be careful, therefore, what questions you ask this weekend.
What lifts young hearts to thinking about ultimate meaning?
How does God look and feel for the young today?
Where do the young find God?
Why is the spiritual attractive but the institutional less so?
How do young people want to celebrate God’s presence?
How can we assist them?
Who is Jesus Christ for today’s young person?
The young are not ours and we have no right to insist on their presence.
But the gospel is theirs and we do have a responsibility to see that it reaches them.
I believe what will follow will be immeasurably rewarding.
Education and Lifelong Growth in Faith
To live in the SPIRIT is to allow ourselves to be transformed by the SPIRIT – to be transformed into a people who are a freeing and healing presence in the world. The readings for Pentecost Sunday help us to imagine what that transformation might look like for ourselves, our parishes and the world – to imagine and dream about what it means to be people of the Spirit – to be spiritual people.
What is SPIRITUALITY? There are many definitions. I like to think of it as ‘the journey inward that takes us outward’. It reminds me that discipleship involves a double movement. We can only transform the world to the extent we are transformed ourselves.
Writing as an old man at the end of his life, Pope Paul VI longed and dreamed for a Church that would be transformed into a place where the only boundaries were GRACE – what a beautiful vision. The idea that discipleship is a double movement is a central theme of his wonderful encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi: There we read that:
‘The Church is an evangeliser, but she begins by being evangelised herself. She is the community of believers … and she needs to listen unceasingly to what she must believe… She has a constant need of being evangelised if she wishes to retain freshness, vigour and strength.” (ENn. 15)
The divide that exists between the Gospel of Life and the-secularism, consumerism, humanism and individualism is NOT a divide that runs between the Church and the world – it’s a divide that exists within the hearts of each of us. WE are right to identify and Criticise all the “ISMS” – but they are part of the Church and part of us all.
In other words, our ability to bear effective WITNESS to the GOOD NEWS goes hand in hand with our own need to be continually transformed – with the constant, ongoing, lifelong need to grow in faith through education and prayer.
How can we be more effective in our witnessing? What does effective witnessing look like? How can we be better witnesses? These are important questions. In the first instance Paul VI talks about the power of wordless witness.
‘Christians who … show their capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good … through this wordless witness stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live.’ EN. n21
Nevertheless, Paul VI was adamant that such a witness, vital as it is, always remains insufficient:
WHY? The questions need to be answered.
‘… even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run if it is not explained, justified – what Peter called always having ‘your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have’ (1 Peter 3:15).
Among other things, that means RECOGNISING the questions:
Gerald Fitzgerald, a NZ priest, once wrote: ‘Ordinary people do not ask theological questions theologically. They ask and talk about God mostly in non-theological terms.’ His point, I think, is that people’s questions are very much hidden in what is asked and said about everyday matters.
Meanwhile another NZ priest and theologian, Vince Hunt, commenting on this, has written:
‘It is in dealing with everyday affairs that a nation asks its theological questions too; and its answers are hidden not only in what is said, but also in how that nation conducts its affairs, in its institutions and public life, in its customary ways of making a living, of working and relaxing, of coping with the critical stages of life, of dealing with its young pople, its elderly people, its sick and handicapped, in its whole approach to political and economic life.’
By definition, then, it is the ordinary person involved in the everyday affairs of the nation who finds him or herself faced with the responsibility of doing theology – of addressing the nation’s theological questions.
How well equipped are we to do that? How well equipped are the people in your parishes to do that? We are failing in our call to be disciples if we are silent in the face of these questions.
As Martin Luther King once said:
‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.’
The Gospels tell us time and again that Jesus amazed the crowds because he spoke with authority. Discipleship calls us to speak boldly and with confidence and authority on the things that matter.
What will our diocese look like if we are speaking the truth about the things that matter?
Catholics out there engaging in an INFORMED WAY with the issues surrounding social welfare, prison reform, care for the environment, education, health care, and other urgent moral questions.
Catholics out there witnessing to the power of the love of God in their lives, witnessing to the truth of what it means to be people who are saved.
How can we equip ourselves so as to be able to speak the truth with the same boldness and enthusiasm that characterised the lives of the first Pentecost Christians?
We need to know our tradition. We need to know the scriptures and understand them. We need to be people committed to community and committed to celebrating the presence of God in our lives. We need to be people who are well FORMED and well INFORMED.
How does that happen? It will involve close partnerships between school and parish; between parish and diocese, between parish offices and parishes.
It will happen – and already happens – in a variety of ways – formally and informally, individually and collectively – and in a variety of places and times.
It will involve identifying and breaking down all of the boundaries that separate and exclude people – and, let’s face it, the toughest boundaries to break down are often those in our minds and hearts – those created by ignorance and prejudice and misunderstanding and fear.
If education and growth in faith is to be lifelong, it needs to be age appropriate – it also needs to be accessible to all. Who are we reaching? Who are we not reaching? How can we reach more people? How can we put technology at the service of the gospel and evangelisation?
In the gospels we read that the wise virgins were those who carried spare oil for their lamps.
Without oil there is no flame and without flame there is no light.
Education and Lifelong Growth in Faith is to Discipleship what the oil is for the lamps of the wise.
A Community that is welcoming and inclusive, that reaches out to everyone
Tena koutou kautoa. malo ni. talofa lava, jan dobry. These are the words of greeting that we hear each time we gather to celebrate the Eucharist in my home parish. Today I add namaste. Xin chao. kumusta. A jewel from this weekend together will be the meeting of people of other cultures that make our archdiocese such a vibrant community. We are many and varied, each of us unique, gifted, how could we not be. when we are made in God’s image.
From the earliest time, people have lived in communities, in relationships. Our lives are a journey of relationships, our relationship with our God and with one another and these relationships call us into community, with our family, those in our neighbourhood, our parish family, our pastoral areas, our archdiocese, in fact with all of God’s creation.
Through our baptism we are called into intimacy with Christ and into community. How can we be intimate with Christ if we cannot feel intimacy, be loved and valued in the community we gather with to celebrate Eucharist. How can we feel strong enough to go out beyond the safety of our smaller community into the wider area if we are not nourished bv love from those who we break bread with.
The challenge is how do we draw all into this intimacy, the old, the young, the in -between, the lost, the broken, the fearful, the hesitant, those that have been discriminated against, those who are strangers in a new land, those who feel alienated in their own land.
How do we make our parishes the warm, inclusive communities that the stories in our synod booklet talk about? Those moments when people recalled times in their lives when they felt uplifted by a real sense of belonging.
I think tlie answer is simple. We must learn to LISTEN.
A member of our Māori community taught me the importance of listening when she expressed her gratitude for the support they had received from the leadership team. We listened and heard what the whanau needed to do and be and supported them to make it happen. We did not tell them what the parish needed, the pretties to make a ceremony right, we asked them what they needed to do to make it right for them. Even though they are only a small group, that gave them strength to move on and enabled them to share their toanga with the whole of the parish.
Recently I found myself in another situation which required listening. A young mother came to enquire about baptism for her three children . Her situation was complex as her husband was a Muslim, and unsure of what we would do to the children – perhaps we were going to brainwash them. I assured her that when we got together to prepare for the baptism, we would be very- gentle.
The first thing we did was to establish that there is only one God, but many paths to God, in this case, the Christian path and that of a Muslim. As we went through the ceremony we asked the father to talk to us about symbols from his faith that spoke to him about what was to happen.
He shared with us the ritual of the killing of an animal and placing a spot of the blood on the child’s forehead for protection. He then proceeded to tell of the story of the father who was asked to sacrifice his son. At this point the mother said ‘we have that story, the story of Abraham and Isaac’. The rest of the time together we were able to discover similarities and leave behind the differences that cause division. As a result the father happily took part in the baptism, able to support his wife in the commitment she was making that day surrounded by many families from the parish school who she looked to for support as well. He also felt that he could share with his children aspects of his faith as they grew up.
As we work together collaboratively this weekend, and in our parishes and pastoral areas, we must learn to listen to one another, to trust the Spirit to guide us, sometimes gently, sometimes like a giant tornado, as we carve the pathway ahead. This is just a continuation of the path God’s people have’ travelled since the beginning of time always into uncharted waters, but with the surety of God being with them.
Together we can be salt and light, as we reach out from our vibrant, inclusive parish communities, strengthened by the Eucharist and all that we share together, to be strong pastoral areas, a strong archdiocese, as together we continue to build the Kingdom.
Ministry and local leadership
Mary Ann Greaney
There has been a lot of story telling in the build up to this synod and I am going to tell you another one.
Some years ago a woman in her early 20s, who was not a church going catholic, asked to be confirmed – we shall call her Mary. Mary was deaf and used sign language to communicate. Vinnie, a woman in our community said she was able to sign and volunteered to prepare Mary for confirmation. Mary started coming to Mass and so she could participate more fully Vinnie started signing the homily and prayers of the faithful etc for her. As time went by Mary’s family started coming to Mass regularly and became involved in the community.
The community was very aware of hospitality and tried to be inclusive of everyone. Mindful of this Vinnie and Mary taught the children simple sign language while their parents chatted over a cup of tea after mass. They also taught the congregation how to sign some of the songs so everyone could join in.
The story grows! A number of people in our community were intellectually disabled. Several were unable to speak and we had terrible trouble trying to understand them. Someone noticed that they were signing the songs too and we found they knew sign language. The relationship we had with them was transformed once we could communicate better.
Word got out that the community at St Peter Chanel could sign and deaf people from all over Wellington started to come and join us for Sunday Eucharist.
There are many things we can draw from that wonderful story of ministry and local leadership. To me it’s a story that starts with hearing difficulties but became a story about how people LISTENED to the promptings of the Lord. Here are a few lessons for me from that story:
1. Ministry is about service to the needs of people. Here (initially) it was service to the needs of a deaf person, but it also met the needs of other people to partidpate and the need of the community to grow In all ways in Christ.
2. Good ministry is local – in the sense that it has to be effective in a particular time and place. In this case the ministry began with a deaf person in Upper Hutt, but it was open to the needs of people from other places (ie, it was both local and universal). It built on a created new relationship.
3. Good ministry and leadership snowballs: it draws others in and gets them involved in leadership: the person being served goes on to minister to others. Good ministry goes out to meet people where they are. This means it’s not just about what happens in the church buildings, it’s also about how we bring the Good News to our families, our workplaces, our trades and professions, the culture of our land, the political world. We have a common task of evangelisation or bringing about the Reign of God and so ministries have to be many, varied, vigorous and (of necessity) collaborative.
4. Good ministry and leadership enables the whole community to be changed/transformed/converted. At St Peter Chanel’s in learning to “sign” they became A SIGN of God’s presence/Kingdom/Reign!
Mary Ann Greaney
All our parishes have a rich diversity of gifted people each with their own wisdom.
How can we tap into these gifts so we may be a people who minister to each other in the ordinariness of everyday life?
Underpinning all the topics we have been talking about this morning is our call to build the reign of God. This is the only mission the church has – it is why the church exists. And this is why we are all here. Building the reign of God demands that we explore ways of being more inclusive. By working together we can build a future far beyond anything we could ever dream possible. We really can be salt and light to each other.
LITURGY, PRAYER AND SPIRITUALITY
In the centre of this photo there’s a small cross: the oldest Christian symbol of Jesus Christ’s total gift of himself for humanity.
The hands holding the cross remind us that our faith is incamational faith in Jesus who is fully human, our God who dwells among and in us.
The hands are well-used – like those of Jesus the carpenter – cupped hands holding the cross and at the same time reaching out to us. Hands touch and hold. They remind us that our liturgy comforts, strengthens and nourishes us so that we can live the gospel in our world.
Our interview material shows a real response to the Church’s call for all Catholics to participate fully and actively in the liturgy. People want to be involved -that’s how we know we belong. Young people are especially clear about the importance of belonging, being recognised and valued in the worshipping community.
This Synod is our opportunity to build on these insights, to propose ways of deepening our understanding of the liturgy, the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. We already participate – how can we participate more fully, consciously and actively? The stories from the interviews show us the power and depth of our liturgy. They tell us that hospitality and inclusiveness are essential. We are already hospitable and inclusive. We can be much more so.
Our liturgy grows out of and deepens our spirituality. We have learned that spirituality is not remote from our lives but is the whole of who we are, our wholeness and holiness. As Fr Eddie Condra puts it in Welcom: ‘Spirituality is our hunger for love and belonging – our search for truth, meaning and purpose…. Our deepest fears, beliefs, yearnings and understandings.’
Spirituality unites us with all people whether they acknowledge the existence of God explicitly or not. For us who know God, spirituality is a relationship with our God, who ‘lavishes love upon us’, as Pope Benedict says so beautifully, ‘so that we can love our neighbour’. It may take our whole life to really understand this truth.
Prayer is the expression of our spirituality. It can use words, spoken or unspoken, sung, chanted, written, painted, embroidered, sculpted, danced. It may not involve words at all but be simply listening, opening one’s whole self to God.
Liturgy is the public, communal expression of prayer. Our liturgical tradition unites us with all Christians – they share our Creed, our scriptures, even our lectionary. As Catholic Christians, however, we share a distinctive tradition of worship, with a ritual structure which has developed over 2000 years from the simple gatherings of the earliest Christians. Within the familiar ritual, however, there is plenty of room for creativity – plenty of land between the source and the summit, as Fr John Greally puts it.
Our celebration of the Sunday Eucharist, which is the heart and centre of our liturgical prayer, can seem to be a predictable, structured, endlessly repeated ritual. It’s essential that it be so. This is how we Catholics celebrate Eucharist, all over the world. Yet within the ritual structure so much is new and different each time – our liturgies can be truly creative and certainly life-giving while always being faithful to the rubrics. The familiar gathering of parishioners in the same church with the same priest presider comes alive with new energy as we speak, sing and hear words we know well, prayed and sung every Sunday, and new words, proclaimed by different lectors, sung by different voices, gathered in a context that is the same yet always new.
In the same way our sacramental rites of reconciliation have a ritual structure while, as many have noted in interviews, the communal second rite, especially, offers freedom for a rich experience of acknowledging our shared sinfulness and celebrating God’s reconciling love.
In Eucharist, we come together as the Body of Christ to thank and praise God, to remember Jesus’ total gift of himself for all people, to open our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit of God, to receive Christ’s sacred body and blood.
As Pope John Paul said, however, our liturgy is only authentic to the extent that our mutual love and, in particular, our concern for those in need shows us to be true followers of Christ. Our liturgy must send us forth to make the Gospel real in our world.