WEEK ONE: 2009
[Third Order, Society of St Francis, Australian Province)
A journey, a couple, a star, shepherds, a birth, and a child. We pause to remember a story that is thousands of years old, and which echoes the hopes and longings of many peoples and places. It is not a nostalgic reminiscence of times gone by, but a dynamic, divine challenge to enter into the mystery of God’s desire born among us. Walter Brueggemann, Scripture scholar, calls it prophetic remembrance: we look back to remember in such a way that we are compelled to live differently into the future.
God’s promise is revealed not only in the serenity of the child in the manger, or in the wonder of angels and stars, or shepherds and sheep, since to look only at the externals we risk missing the explosive enormity of the event. Rather, our remembrance of the birth of the babe in a cattle stall is an invitation to reflect again on the greatness of God’s gift to us and for us. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ child, we cannot forget that it is our story too! We too are called to bring Christ’s reign of justice and compassion to birth in our own lives.
Mary and Joseph lived at a time when the Israelites were an oppressed people longing for that new world that God had promised. They waited in hope for liberation, for a world where lion would be at peace with lamb, where the lowly would be lifted, and the hungry fed. They longed for a world where the desire for power and control, wealth and possessions, self-fulfillment and pleasure would be transformed to a world where equality, inclusion, justice and peace prevailed.
They longed for more than the birth of a child. They longed to see that new creation born of God’s dream for all. They waited on a promise. We too wait for God, and God waits for God’s promise to be fulfilled in us, and God’s reign to embrace with peace every corner of our world. With St Francis we come to know that we are the mothers of Christ when we bring him forth in lives that are gift for the Other. Christ is born again and again in our world, and God’s gift is enfleshed each time we participate in an act of birthing a new humanity, a new world, and a new future.
Now is the time to turn our eyes to see the oppressed; our ears to hear the cries of hundreds of millions living in extreme poverty. Now is the time to reach out our hands to draw back those excluded and marginalized. Now is the time to proclaim the Good News not only with our lips, but in the choices and decisions of our everyday lives.
What is the promise that you wait to see fulfilled?
What is the promise that you will fulfill in your life?
India Waits for a New Tomorrow.
In the towns and villages of India God’s people are oppressed and bend low beneath the weight of grief, suffering and fear. They long for God’s promise to come true. They long for a new world where justice and equality, peace and inclusion are more than dreams.
The government of India has failed to protect vulnerable communities including Dalits, tribal groups, and religious minorities. Since 2008, supporters of Hindu militant groups in Orissa have attacked Christians, many of them tribal minorities or Dalits. The militants have burned churches, beat priests and nuns, and destroyed property. Several policemen were suspended for dereliction of duty after a nun alleged that she was raped. At this time at least 40 persons have died in the violence, with scores injured and thousands displaced.
Failure to secure justice for the 2002 Gujarat riots-in which more than 2,000 Muslims were killed following an attack on a train carrying Hindu pilgrims-has fueled anger amongst Muslims who face discrimination in access to housing and jobs. The Indian government does little to protect them.
Despite a scheme launched four years ago to provide universal education, millions of children in India still have no access to education and work long hours, many as bonded laborers. Many children continue to be trafficked for marriage, sex work, or employment. Others languish in substandard orphanages or detention centers.
Human Rights Watch Report, 2009.
Recently, in a joint statement read at the General Assembly of the UN, Franciscans International spoke out on behalf of the persecuted and suffering peoples of India, making known their story: On 1 August, seven Christians including women and children were burnt alive, several dozens injured and around 177 houses were looted and destroyed mainly by fire using special chemicals. These killings and widespread violent attacks happened on unsubstantiated allegations…..The administration repeatedly failed to protect minorities …
Franciscans International, is an NGO working with the United Nations in the name of the whole Franciscan Family. It is a voice speaking to the powerful decision makers of the world bringing about the change we long to see in our world. For over 25 years Franciscans International has worked to fulfill God’s dream, facilitating systemic transformation in the world on behalf of the most vulnerable and our wounded planet. Franciscans International works for that justice without which there can be no enduring “Peace and Earth”.