We have come to the football finals.
For the teams and the supporters they have one thing in mind, and everything else falls in accordingly. Single mindedness is a quality we often associate with sport. It’s the very attribute that brings excellence of performance and success.
Some call sport the religion of Australians, but, of course, sport is a very different experience than faith. In sport we get what we put into it. Our skill grows in proportion to the amount of dedicated training we apply. In sport we master a range of techniques and then through the continual exercise of those skills we perfect them and have them in our arsenal to apply at any time.
Faith, however, is not something that simply grows the more we put into it. It is not in our control. We receive it and can never presume it. We never master it. It beckons us, invites us, goads us. We are never quite on top of it. It is far more elusive.
However, like sport faith does call us to be aware of what we are doing, how we are living, and even more – why we are living. Above all, faith calls us to be aware of where we are going. It is faith that challenges us to constantly ask where are we going? And, in the light of our answer, faith challenges us to reflect on the usefulness of what we are doing. Is the way we are living helpful or not helpful to where we wish to go in life? Are the things that make up our life fully ordered to our end?
If there is anything that is not, the gospel today dramatically calls us to cut it out.
For us as Christians, our focus is the Kingdom of God. This is where we are going. This is the standard by which we are called to question the place of everything else in our life. The Kingdom of God is the new order of relationships with each other and with God, taught us by the story of Jesus, which will be fully realized in the New Life. To what extent are we consciously aware of this as our life focus? How single minded are we about this end? Only the conscious awareness of it enables us to begin to question where our energies lay, to recognise even in the smallest opportunities a chance to realise it further.
Just as we are called into a personal awareness of where we are going as individuals, so are we called into social awareness. The promise of the Kingdom becomes the light by which we question and evaluate the social reality around us. To what extent do our society’s structures and policies work to promote the value of the Kingdom? Just as in our own lives, we are called by today’s gospel to cut out, at least to work against, anything which is not directed toward the Kingdom, so are we called to do is in our lives together as a society.
This Sunday is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Its theme is “Towards an Ever Wider ‘We’”. Therefore, we are invited to reflect on the quality of our welcome to the newcomer and the unexpected stranger in our midst, and how this might reflect the Kingdom of God or otherwise. As Pope Francis remarks in his reflection for this year’s commemoration,
“The present time, however, shows that [the] “we” willed by God is broken and fragmented, wounded and disfigured. This becomes all the more evident in moments of great crisis, as is the case with the current pandemic. Our “we”, both in the wider world and within the Church, is crumbling and cracking due to myopic and aggressive forms of nationalism and radical individualism. And the highest price is being paid by those who most easily become viewed as others: foreigners, migrants, the marginalised, those living on the existential peripheries.”
As the pope goes onto say, “the Holy Spirit enables us to embrace everyone, to build communion in diversity, to unify differences without imposing a depersonalised uniformity. In encountering the diversity of foreigners, migrants, and refugees and in the intercultural dialogue that can emerge from this encounter, we have an opportunity to grow as Church and to enrich one another.” Indeed, this is our special opportunity in such a multicultural community as ours here at Chatswood. To this we are committed
However, in Australia more broadly the situation requires critical scrutiny. For most of us who have not been in this situation, it is almost impossible to imagine the plight of the asylum seeker in our midst. Those seeking asylum in Australia are amongst the poorest in our society. Traumatised, dislocated, lost, confused. It would be an enormous failing if we had to add the word ‘abandoned’ to the list of words describing their situation. There are nearly 20,000 refugees who have been living with us for almost a decade but who do so only on temporary visas. This severely restricts their access to social services. It means prolonged family separation. Many of these persons are unable to work and are left destitute without access to Medicare. This is an enormous national scandal and disgrace. We must lament the exclusion of these vulnerable people from permanent protection in our country, from family reunions and from financial support when they are unable to work. Our Christian response cannot be one of indifference.
Today is a day to reflect on what is in our life, and what should not be in our life – as individuals, yes but also as a community. Let us not be too afraid of the discipline that faith requires, for the reward for us, and for all, is great indeed. Let us then pray:
Holy, beloved Father,
your Son Jesus taught us
that there is great rejoicing in heaven
whenever someone lost is found,
whenever someone excluded, rejected or discarded
is gathered into our “we”,
which thus becomes ever wider.
We ask you to grant the followers of Jesus,
and all people of good will,
the grace to do your will on earth.
Bless each act of welcome and outreach
that draws those in exile
into the “we” of community and of the Church,
so that our earth may truly become
what you yourself created it to be:
the common home of all our brothers and sisters. Amen.
 Pope Francis, “Towards an Ever Wider ‘We’”, Message of the Holy Father for the 107th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2021, (6 May 2021), https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2021/05/06/210506a.html
 Pope Francis, “Towards an Ever Wider ‘We’”.
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