Justice Reflections From Fr. Claude

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Solidarity is the kind of presence that costs you something.

Cole Arthur Riley

 Humankind has not woven the web of life.

We are but one thread within it.

Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.

All things are bound together.

All things connect.

Chief Seattle

We are one in heart and many in mind.

Spiritual unity is possible

when people do not have to agree with one another to love one another.

Our kindness, compassion and support come from the heart

as we live together in peace.

At the same time, our ideas, visions and opinions

may vary widely as we continue our creative work together for the common good.

We are one in heart and many in mind.

Steven Charleston, Episcopalian Bishop and Native American Elder


God is constantly enlarging the boundaries of love, and we are invited to adapt our lives to ever inclusive patterns of love. In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ entire teaching is summed up in ‘love one another as I have loved you’ (Jn 15:12). It is the love which moves out to give of oneself for others. We need to answer what love of neighbour looks like in the face of genocide and ecological breakdown? Pope Francis tried to do this in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ – On Care for our Common Home, which he addressed to ‘every single person living on this planet.’ Francis pleads with us to embrace an ‘ecological conversion,’ whereby the effects of our encounter with Jesus Christ take shape in our relationship with the world around us. (LS, 217).  


Jesus preached a radical love which urges us to act for anyone who is oppressed including people suffering the disastrous effects of an unrelenting ecological crisis. The gospel calls us to be mindful of our connection with one another which means reconnecting with creation. We are invited into a real movement of the heart where we can begin to see the Risen Christ in all of creation, to see God’s fingerprints in the forest, in the tree, in marine life, and to see the face of God in every person. His parting words in the gospel summarise the call to love the ‘others’ - especially the most vulnerable. Jesus blurs the boundaries between himself and the disciples. He remains in them; they remain in him. They all remain in God. There is a reciprocity, a greater mutuality, and a shared vulnerability. Jesus’ relationship with his followers are models for Jesus followers to emulate in their relationships with one another. By putting himself among the disciples, he becomes the point of reference enabling us to see the world with the eyes of God. It is about taking another direction. When this is uppermost, our relationship to neighbour, the excluded, the unheard, takes on a different meaning. This makes it less likely that our decisions will be determined by greed, revenge, prejudice, the need to control and dominate.


Jesus today enjoins us to remain in his love. It is active, not passive. Remaining in God’s love is the work of transforming our world into a safe, compassionate, just home for every one of us. This love is foundational to our work to transform our world into a just, compassionate, safe home for all those who are vulnerable to harm in the present system. Remaining in God’s love is not about guilt management for the privileged, propertied, and powerful where troubled consciences are silenced. Dr. Emilie M. Townes says, ‘When you start with an understanding that God loves everyone, justice isn’t very far behind’ (Dr. Emilie M. Townes; Journey to Liberation: The Legacy of Womanist Theology) and that justice is, Cornel West says, what love looks like in public. Where belief in a universal love only serves to achieve privatised, individual, internal well-being without moving us to work publicly for justice, then it should be abandoned as James Baldwin suggested, ‘If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.’ (James Baldwin; The Fire Next Time, p. 47). We are called to a disrupting love in a world that needs disrupting and waking up. Through joy and a commitment to loving one another, we subvert isolation, we build bridges rather than walls. We dare to care. God’s love in Jesus for us cannot stop with us. Thomas Merton also said, “A theology of love cannot afford to be sentimental. It cannot afford to preach edifying generalities about charity, while identifying ‘peace’ with mere established power and legalized violence against the oppressed. A theology of love cannot be allowed merely to serve the interests of the rich and powerful, justifying their wars, their violence and their bombs, while exhorting the poor and underprivileged to practice patience, meekness, longsuffering, and to solve their problems, if at all, nonviolently. A theology of love may also conceivably turn out to be a theology of revolution. In any case, it is a theology of resistance, a refusal of the evil that reduces a brother or sister to homicidal desperation.” (Thomas Merton; Toward a Theology of Resistance found in Thomas Merton: Essential Writings, p.121)


Today, we hear that no one is beyond God’s reach and concern. After being caught in a conflict between popular opinion and the presence of the Spirit, Peter makes a powerful response by assuring all, ‘You are filled with the Holy Spirit!’ The ‘you’ is inclusive– Jews and gentiles. Peter’s encounters with gentile or non-Jewish people (originally considered beyond God’s concern) forced him to reexamine his own history, his training, and his prejudices. After his own resistance, Peter can now say, ‘I get it. He understands that God’s heart is open to all and does not play favourites.  He realised that what God has made clean should not be considered profane or unclean. This explodes the ‘us and them’ mentality towards a ‘we and they’ mentality. Exclusiveness continues and more vicious these days towards Asian people, Muslim people, Black people and people of colour, gay, lesbian and particularly towards transgender people. It is a painful reminder that we need to continue to work to understand and embrace the radical inclusiveness of God’s reign.  We realise that our solidarity with others does not depend on a particular language because solidarity has many languages.  No one is beyond God’s concerns. God’s love is for all people and creation. It is as if Peter is responding to anyone being marginalised, ‘They’re with me.’ Jesus’ appearances are constant affirmations that we are loved and because of this encouraged to enlarge our hearts, break-down barriers. We are encouraged to enlarge our horizons in order to ‘incarnate’ or ‘enflesh’ God’s merciful and compassionate love for us into concrete expressions of love for others, and keep asking ‘Who's missing?


Pentecost is two weeks away. Love is the passion/energy of God's justice, and joy is its mark. This love and joy should mark our worship and witness. We are called to reflect God and mirror God’s love. The image of the beloved disciple, John, who placed his ear close to the heart of Jesus is profound. Though his ears and attention focus on the heart of Jesus, his eyes and attention are caste outwards to the world.


As we look out towards that world, we are aware of that our world is facing a devastating biodiversity crisis as the vast ecosystems of our planet are unravelling. A genocide is being perpetrated on a people (Palestine) who have until recently been invisible and religious and faith leaders are largely silent. People still die in Myanmar at the hands of a brutal junta whilst countries still trade with them and provide them with arms. The people of the Philippines have for centuries lived with Spanish and American colonialism and brutal regimes supported by our government with military aid and oppress the people with. The facts and statistics continue and leave us helpless, but Jesus preached a radical love that urges us to be in solidarity for anyone who is oppressed – to hear the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth as Pope Francis says in Laudato si’ and more recently in Fratelli tutti.  It is in this solidarity and action that hope comes.


The Easter Story is one of transformation and calls us to hope which is found in action. When we start to act, hope is everywhere. Let us not look for hope but look for action – and then hope will come. Here are the signs of resurrection where people are living out this call to love one another and our Mother Earth.


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