Justice Reflections From Fr. Claude Mostowik

Feast of the Reign of Christ – the Cosmic Christ – Heart of the Universe

Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the country where we gather today……..

on land which was never ceded-

and recognise that it and all the people, the species, the mountains, rocks, rivers, lakes

continue to be sacred to them.

We hail them: as guardians of the earth and of all that grows and breeds in the soil;

as trustees of the waters

and the rich variety of life in those waters.

These places hold the memories of where ceremonies took place,

stories told, kinship enhanced and blood split.

We thank them for passing their wisdom and heritage to every people since the Dreamtime.

We acknowledge the wrongs done to them by newcomers to this land

 and seek to be partners with them in righting these wrongs and in living together

in peace and harmony with them and with the land.

As we do this, we must also acknowledge the loss of their hunting grounds,

the destruction of their ceremonial places and sacred sites,

and the great loss of life from all kinds of violence and disease.

May we acknowledge the voices of the people,

receive the gift of the Voice from the Heart

and strive together for a Voice in Parliament.

or

Today we stand in footsteps millennia old.

May we acknowledge the traditional owners

whose cultures and customs have nurtured,

and continue to nurture,

this land since men and women awoke from the great dream.

We honour the presence of these ancestors

who reside in the imagination of this land

and whose irrepressible spirituality

flows through all creation.

Jonathan Hill, Aboriginal poet

 

      

Blessed are you peacemakers

Blessed are you peacemakers,

who say no to war as a means to peace.

Blessed are you peacemakers,

who are committed to disarm weapons of mass destruction.

Blessed are you peacemakers,

who wage peace at heroic personal cost.

Blessed are you peacemakers,

who challenge and confront judges, courts and prisons.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who help those who are hurting.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who befriend perfect strangers.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who open doors for acting justly,

loving tenderly and walking humbly with God
and all people of good will.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
who welcome, encourage and inspire.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who offer hope and healing.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who care and comfort.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who help find answers.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who provide stability not insanity.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who help restore faith and love.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who delight in creation, art and creativity.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who see the good in others.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who never give up.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

who give and give and give.

Fr. Paul Milanowski Grand Rapids, Michigan

 

Reflections on the readings

A shallow engagement with this liturgical day could leave one with the interpretation that Christians celebrate Christ as an imperialistic ruler analogous to some country leaders.  If we want to think of Christ as a king, Jesus' actions must define what that means. Whatever it was, it was subversive in the world of politics and power where he comes only to satisfy those who hunger and thirst for justice, to welcome strangers, to clothe those in need, to take care of the sick, and to visit the lonely. As the personification of humility, Jesus meets violence, hatred, injustice, mockery, and the gross abuse of his body (just like millions of children, women and men, throughout history and in the present moment), by responding with the words ‘Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.’

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Whilst this solemnity was proclaimed to meant to upend imperialistic visions of leadership of people such as Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, and others it is still important to counter the impulses of empire in people like Putin, Erdogan, Orban, Stoltenberg, and other similar leaders whose impulses are about domination and control rather than transformation, fraternity, and sorority. Any attempt to make Jesus a supporter of empire or prosperity gospel teaching is challenged.  Every institution that is more concerned with appearance than with right or more concerned about survival and maintenance than care for God’s people and Mother Earth is critique. COP 27 is presently underway in Egypt where poor and vulnerable countries are crying out for attention and help from rich polluting countries. Leaders from powerful nations speak but not about the things the vulnerable want to hear which is about implementation and compensation for the damage and loss caused by severe climate change and manifested by rising seas, devastating floods, unprecedented heat waves, severe droughts, famine and formidable storms. Delegates struggled to agree on loss and damage when argued on how these should be put on the agenda. It is necessary to advocate for climate justice and bring to the world's attention the conditions of vulnerable communities and their sufferings as a result of climate change, despite not being responsible for it. It is the international community and States responsible for degrading our Common Home to act immediately. What does this have to do with today’s solemnity?

 

It presents us with an image of God through Christ who is the heart of the universe. E. M. Forster wrote, ‘I believe in aristocracy…. not an aristocracy of power, based on rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky. Its members are found in all nations and classes, and through all the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one queer victory over cruelty and chaos.’  There is nothing triumphal with Jesus on a cross between two prisoners, surrounded by excluded and despised people. What is revealed is liberation, mercy and reconciliation – not power, exclusion and vengeance.  The figure on the cross answers how we are seen by a God who cares who for us; embraces us; keeps coming to gather us – even when others dismiss, forsake or distance themselves from us. Colossians (1:12) states that all can claim full rights as God’s sons and daughters and be confident that God is in our midst. It affirms that the marginal ones are at the centre, as Pope Francis keeps repeating as sons and daughters of God with full dignity and rights also have an important role in the work of gathering and reconciliation, ‘Through Christ, God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross’ (1:20). The word ‘all’ can be disturbing because it includes the convicted criminal and every living thing. We are interconnected and Jesus shows us that peace is possible where we are drawn more and more into friendships and companionship even among ’enemies.’ It takes work and these do not happen at large conferences and gatherings but in everyday engagements with one another.

 

Jesus died, as he lived, by using nonviolence to implement God’s reign. This is alien to our country and many others who use imperial power to dominate other countries. The justification for this is what is self-righteously called a ’rules-based order’ where we can dominate others culturally, economically, and sometimes militarily. It is part of our history and continues to be so as we seek to re-colonise and dominate other countries as we did in the past in India, China, the Pacific. It should prompt us to reflect on the manufacture and proliferation of arms; the inequitable distribution of the world’s resources; the depletion and degradation of our Common Home - God’s gift - given to us to care for.  It should prompt us to realise that whenever we ignore, neglect, or dismiss another, another opportunity to extend God’s reign of sympathy and compassion is lost. In the gospel narrative today, Jesus is not only opposed but scoffed and mocked: ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’  How often have people living with disability, transgender people, the unemployed, people of colour and asylum seekers been mocked by people who profess to be Christian or who have remained silent, inert, or support injustice. In recent weeks bishops and priests have vilified people who are transgender. From the cross, Jesus confronts these leader as he did then by turning to the vulnerable one alongside him. He confronts unjust leaders whether they are politicians, clerics or corporate executives when he promises solidarity with the outsider: ‘you will be with me.’ 

 

Jesus’ leadership emphasises relationship characterised by service, not domination; where priority is given to those who have no power, those on the margins of society, those others prefer to ignore. Covid 19 has made it possible to respond to one another in two ways. We can do it in two ways. We can do it with a spirituality of escapism where we close the doors of our hearts and homes to the poor and hungry and homeless; close our borders to people seeking asylum; shut our eyes to the consequences of relying on the military-industrial complex and the fossil fuel industry which ravish poor nations. We can do it with a spirituality of engagement that includes all living things because we recognise who is at the heart of all things and we respond with humanity and care. 

 

Our call is to be in sympathy with God’s purposes - the way of Jesus. We cannot truly form community – God’s reign on earth - if we do not pass on God’s sympathy/compassion/nonviolent engagement with people. No amount of faith, orthodoxy, and prayer can replace the call to gather people into our circle. Christ makes friends with the wrong people, and that is our call if we want to extend the peace of Christ’s coming reign

 

The image of Jesus is the face of mercy. The second reading offers a vision of God’s spaciousness. Though we may feel overwhelmed with the problems before us: war, hunger, poverty, and damage to the environment, as well as the ‘small,’ personal disasters of our lives (never small to us), we find here the roots of our hope: God in Christ is at work in the whole universe, our churches, and our lives. We find that hope in people who participate in that work. We find it in our commitment to the one who calls us to make choices away from injustice, alienation, loneliness, and death to deeper, kinder, respectful, and inclusive relationships. It means that we share bread. It means that we move our bodies to the places of power and demand freedom for others. It means loving without counting the cost of its impact upon us. It means extending our view beyond racial, tribal, or national concern. It means seeing things from the bottom up rather than top down which allows us to empathise with the struggles of others. We are called to build that reign of mercy and love. But, until we see the crucified and resurrected face of Christ in the faces of those on the margins, we will not and cannot understand today’s feast. Are we willing to see him in the faces of refugees, the unhoused, those living with mental illness and addiction, people of other faiths or no faith, LGBTQIA, in those we disagree with and those who have hurt us or that we have hurt, in the stranger, the prisoner, the wanderer, and in those who struggle to care for and protect the Earth? May we become more merciful, more loving, and ready to build God’s reign here and now.

 

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