Real Revolution

As an Australian, we can often feel small and forgotten, because we seem to be so far away from where all the action is happening. Our population is relatively small, we don’t have a huge army, or nuclear weapons to protect our vast land area. Yet we are also one of the wealthiest nations, with high income, good health, long life, and enviable lifestyle. And we have an alliance with and the protection of one of the greatest military superpowers the world has ever seen. Which means that we often miss the point of many things in the bible.

For the bible was written by a tribe of Jewish people that had experienced hundreds of years of suffering and abuse living under a whole series of more powerful and oppressive empires. And the Jewish prophets kept reminding both people and leaders that the oppression they experience and the freedom they seek is for a specific purpose – to maintain justice and righteousness and to care for the weak – the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the refugee.

Apart from many trips overseas, I have lived in Australia my whole life – which means that the capitalist system has been whispering subversive messages into my ears my whole life.

The main message is: More… You need more…

You need more stuff. More money. More land. More influence. More power.

Because more, we are told, is always better than less.

Except when more is actually destructive and damaging. Sometimes more is in fact evil.

So, when we read this confrontation between the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus today with this question about taxes – we need to wade through all of our social background first as members of the victorious dominant western culture rather than the underclass.

A few revolutionaries had tried – and failed – to overthrow the Roman occupiers. Most people hated having to pay so much in tax, leaving almost nothing to feed your family. So, the question that Jesus is asked is explosive.

He begins to answer by asking for a coin. The Jews knew that they were created in the image and likeness of God, so it was wrong to put images of people or gods on things, because it could confuse people.

But the coins that people had to pay their taxes with not only had an image of Caesar on them, they also had an inscription around the edge that proclaimed him “Son of God … high priest.” So, his questioner has to admit that he carries around these hated coins that bear such a distasteful and terrible picture and title.

Jesus answers this specific question brilliantly: give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God. He doesn’t provide a policy for all time about how we must resolve every economic question that we will face as we navigate our way in the world.

The mission of Jesus was not to be another revolutionary like the others around. The kingdom of God would defeat the kingdom of Caesar, but only because the love and power of God will always conquer not only Caesar but the even greater power of death and destruction itself.

+ Jesus, help us to be reminded of your constant call to care for the weak and oppressed, and to always make serving your kingdom our first daily priority. Amen.

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Sunday 29, Year A.


** Please pray for me as I undertake an Ignatian thirty-day retreat during this month near Boston, MA **

Wedding Party

Organising a party takes a lot of work. There’s the venue to be set up; the catering, entertainment and music; the invitations. If it’s a wedding then there’s all the ceremony stuff as well. When we throw a significant party, we’re happy to do lots of work and planning so that it will be a great event that everyone will totally enjoy. But sometimes things don’t go quite to plan.

When Jesus travelled around Israel, he announced that God, his Father, was throwing a huge party – the wedding of his Son. Everyone was invited. But people in Galilee and now people in Jerusalem refused the invitation. Although God was inviting everyone, there is a sting to this inclusivity that is totally uncomfortable for us in a politically correct world.

We don’t want to hear anything about the wicked being judged, or about high standards for holiness, or a place with weeping and gnashing of teeth. Yet God wants us to be grown-ups, not babies. Part of being a grown-up is that we learn that our actions have consequences, and that character and moral choices matter.

So although everyone is invited to this amazing party and God’s love will always reach us exactly where we are, his love will refuse to let us stay where we were. When the blind and the lame went to Jesus, he didn’t say to them “You are all fine as you are.” No, he healed them. So when prostitutes, murderers and corrupt officials went to Jesus – his love welcomed them so that their lives could be healed and transformed.

When we are invited to be part of the kingdom party – we need to wear the clothes of love and truth and mercy and justice. If we don’t want to wear these clothes, then there really isn’t a place for us at this wedding. Which is such a shame. But this is the reality.

+ Jesus, help us to be so overwhelmed by your love that we long to let you continue to heal us and change our hearts to grow into your original redeemed image of our lives.

Grace and peace!

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Sunday 28, Year A. 


** Please pray for me as I undertake an Ignatian thirty-day retreat during this month near Boston, MA **

The Vineyard and the Stone

I remember always being a little annoyed and scared by this parable. We are used to Jesus talking about the landowner as God, his Father. But as the story goes on and the wickedness of the tenant farmers becomes clearer, I want to shout out to the landowner – no! Don’t send your son. They are not going to respect him either. Sure enough, they grab him, drag him outside and murder him.

When Jesus asks the religious leaders what the owner will do, I have to wonder about our own church and other leaders like me – have we returned the owner’s share of the harvest or tried to keep the estate for ourselves? It’s such a huge question!

This powerful and sorrowful story was told by Jesus just after he had arrived in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He knows that he is going to be rejected by the religious leaders and he will be taken outside the city of Jerusalem and be put to death. He came to Israel – his own people – and called them to repentance and to be the light that God wanted it to be. But his own people rejected him then – just as so many of us continue to reject him now. Even so, God will remain faithful and Jesus as the stone rejected by the builders, will be vindicated as the cornerstone – the stone that will only fit in the highest place in the building – the place with the highest honour.

+ Jesus, you are the cornerstone. When everyone around us rejects you, help us to return our gaze back to you and to honour you as the centre of our lives. Amen.

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Sunday 27, Year A.


** Please pray for me as I undertake an Ignatian thirty-day retreat during this month near Boston, MA **

Doing the question

After Jesus had made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem at the start of chapter 21 of Matthew’s gospel, the question that everyone was wondering was – is he the one? Is he the long awaited anointed king, the one the Jewish people and leaders called the Messiah? So, Jesus tells a parable to the religious leaders. The parable is in answer to their question: ‘By what right are you doing that?’ For country bumpkin Jesus from backwards Galilee had come into the temple and acted with great authority. In fact, he behaved as if he owned the place.

Two sons are asked in the parable to go and work in their father’s vineyard: one says no but then ends up going; the other says yes but doesn’t in fact go. At a simple level, the parable emphasises that doing is more important than mere words.

On a deeper level the religious leaders imagined that they were doing the will of God yet they refused to believe in both John the Baptist and now in Jesus. But those who seemed to be a long way from God like the tax collectors and other sinners who were regarded as deeply sinful and as violators of the law – they had responded to the call of John to repentance.

The challenge of this passage for us today is partly this: to make sure we are responding to Jesus, allowing him to confront us at any point where we have been like the second son and said ‘Yes’ to God while in fact going off in another direction.

Secondly, the powers of that age were deeply challenged by the things that Jesus was doing. So a good question to ask as the followers of Jesus today is: What should we be doing that would challenge the powers of the present world with the news that Jesus is indeed its rightful Lord? What would provoke people to ask us similar questions? What stories should we be telling that would help people to find the source of true life?

+ Jesus – we have said yes to you by being part of the Church. Help us say yes again by actively welcoming and encouraging others to join us in this field hospital for all the sick and needy in our world.

Grace and peace.

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Sunday 26, Year A.


** Please pray for me as I undertake an Ignatian thirty-day retreat during this month near Boston, MA **