World Day against Trafficking in Persons is held on July 30th each year. This year the theme set by the UN is “Victims’ Voices Lead the Way”. This focus aims to put victims of human trafficking at the centre of a campaign that will highlight the importance of listening to and learning from survivors of human trafficking.
The campaign portrays survivors as key actors in the fight against human trafficking and focusses on the crucial role they play in establishing effective measures to prevent this crime, identify and rescue victims and support them on their road to rehabilitation about this campaign Click Here.
People trafficking and modern day slavery remains a massive worldwide problem with very few countries immune to this injustice. Some of the information here has been published before on this website. For example the fact that today more people suffer the pain of slavery through human trafficking than during the entire 400 years of the transatlantic slave trade.
Human trafficking is not reducing, it is increasing rapidly. In the past eight years the estimated number of human beings enslaved has grown from twenty-seven million to over forty million.
FACTS ABOUT TRAFFICKING
Trafficking comes in many forms, including:
– Forcing victims into prostitution.
– Subjecting victims to slavery or involuntary servitude.
– Compelling victims to commit sex acts for the purpose of creating pornography.
– Misleading victims into debt bondage.
It’s estimated 80% of trafficking involves sexual exploitation, and 19% involves labour exploitation.
Nearly 70 percent of victims are female and many are children.
After illegal drugs and arms trafficking, Human trafficking is the third most lucrative international crime.
It reportedly generates a profit of $32 billion every year. Around half which is made in the developed world.
Victims come from all age groups, however many are female and under 18 years old.
Only 1-2 percent of victims are rescued.
Only 1 in 100,000 Europeans involved in trafficking are convicted.
Approximately 30 million children have lost their childhood through sexual exploitation over the past 30 years.
During the coming week a series of six short videos, produced jointly by the SMA and OLA Justice and Communications Offices will be published on SMA and OLA media platforms, including this website. These will focus on Ireland and its response to Human Trafficking.
The information in these videos is based on the latest edition of the Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) published in June 2021 by the US State Department. This is the world’s most most comprehensive report on Human Trafficking and ranks each government on its anti- trafficking efforts. The video series begins by defining Human Trafficking and then looks at;
Human Trafficking law enforcement in Ireland
Human Trafficking and the Pandemic
Human Trafficking and Protecting Victims in Ireland
Human Trafficking – Ireland’s TIP Ranking
Human Trafficking – Ireland’s prevention efforts
To view these videos please return each day over the coming week.
FRATELLI TUTTI & Human Trafficking “even though the international community has adopted numerous agreements aimed at ending slavery in all its forms, and has launched various strategies to combat this phenomenon,millions of people today – children, women and men of all ages – are deprived of freedom and forced to live in conditions akin to slavery… Today, as in the past, slavery is rooted in a notion of the human person that allows him or her to be treated as an object… Whether by coercion, or deception, or by physical or psychological duress, human persons created in the image and likeness of God are deprived of their freedom, sold and reduced to being the property of others. They are treated as means to an end… [Criminal networks] are skilled in using modern means of communication as a way of luring young men and women in various parts of the world”.
Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15 Ephesians 4:1-17, 20-24 Mark 6:24-35
Many of you, I’m sure, are familiar with Diana Ross’s popular song, ‘Do you know where you’re going to’. It is the theme song of the 1975 movie, Mahogany, in which Ross plays a character who struggles for fame and fortune, only to find that these have not brought her contentment or peace of heart. So she questions herself about her life and where it is going. The refrain of the song goes like this:
‘Do you know where you’re going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to? Do you know?
These words challenge us to ask ourselves if we have found what we are looking for in life. Have we found answers to the deepest desires of our hearts? These are the questions addressed in today’s readings.
Our first reading, taken from the Book of Exodus, tells the story of how the initial euphoria of the Israelites on being freed from servitude in Egypt evaporates when they face the inhospitable conditions of life in the wilderness. Predictably, they rail against their leaders, Moses and Aaron, and long to return to the ‘fleshpots of Egypt’. In response, the Lord sends them manna and quails to sustain them on their journey. In the words of today’ responsorial psalm: ‘The Lord gave them bread from heaven’. Still the people continued to complain about their circumstances, failing to appreciate the Lord’s loving concern for them, and to trust him.
Today’s gospel passage, from John, recalls the experience of the Israelites. Following his miraculous feeding of the five thousand with five barley loaves and two fish, Jesus was forced to escape the crowd who wanted to make him king, but on their terms. They set out to look for Jesus again and find him in Capernaum, puzzled as to how he got there. Jesus, aware that they are seeking him for the wrong reason, says: ‘I tell you most solemnly, you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs but becauseyou had all the bread you wanted to eat’ (Jn 6:26). He challenges them to look beyond their physical hunger to the deeper hunger of the human spirit: ‘Do not work for food that cannot last, but work for food that endures to eternal life’ (Jn 6:27). Then, in an astounding statement, he says that he, the Son of Man, is the one who can satisfy their deepest hunger: ‘I am the bread of life’ (Jn 6:34). This is the first of seven great ‘I am’ statements in John’s Gospel, in which Jesus reveals his true identity as the Son of God. The words, ‘I am’, echo God’s name as revealed to Moses (Ex 3:14).
When Jesus says that he is ‘the Bread of Life’, he is saying that he is the answer to the deepest longing of the human heart. Besides our physical hunger which is easily satisfied, we have other more profound hungers like the need to feel accepted, to feel wanted, to be loved and to love – hungers that may not be easily satisfied. But deeper even than these hungers, we have a hunger which only God can satisfy, as St Augustine, after many years of fruitless search, discovered for himself: ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless till they rest in thee’. It is this hunger for God that Christ promises to satisfy: ‘The one who comes to me will never be hungry; the one who believes in me will never thirst’ (Jn 6:35).
In our second reading today, from his Letter to the Ephesians, St Paul exhorts us not to let ourselves be led astray by the illusory desires of our hearts but to focus our lives on Christ so that we can ‘put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth’ (Eph 4:24). The illusory desires Paul is referring to are the desires that captivated the hearts of the pagans – the desires for fame, prestige, wealth and power. These are like junk food that kills instead of nourishing. Only Christ, the true bread of life, nourishes and transforms us, enabling us to live in a new way, in God’s way.
In today’s Eucharist, Jesus is inviting us to let him into our lives fully and unconditionally, to let him be as close to us as the bread we eat. He will nourish and sustain us on the journey of life, and fulfill the deepest longing of our hearts. As ‘the bread of life’ he wants to give himself totally to us. Then we, in turn, will learn to give ourselves to our brothers and sisters. In this way we, too, become bread broken for a world hungry for that Love which is God’s way of being. And this is our mission. So, let us pray in the words of Ivan Nicoletto, OSB:
‘May we be always hungry and thirsty for Love. May our hearts and minds be soft and receptive to God’s abundant life. May our bodies have open doors and windows to welcome the approaching, unknown future. May we welcome, bless and share this Universe, this earth, this time, as a lavish banquet of grace God is setting’
Christ, the Bread of Life broken for the life of the world
There is famous mosaic on the floor of the ‘Church of the Multiplication’ at Tagbha in Israel that commemorates the event recounted in today’s gospel. The mosaic depicts two fish with a basket of loaves between them. We notice that there are only four loaves in the basket and wonder where is the fifth? Is it Jesus himself, the bread come down from heaven to be the life of the world? Or is it the Eucharistic community, fed by Christ and called, in turn, to be food and sustenance for a hungry world? All our readings today resonate with Eucharistic themes and give us a deeper appreciation of this great sacrament, the pulsating heart of the Church’s life.
Our first reading, taken from the second book of Kings, tells us the story of how Elisha, during a time of destitution and famine, feeds 100 men with twenty-five barley loaves and some ears of corn. Today’s gospel passage, taken from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel echoes while surpassing the miracle of Elisha’s. It recounts the familiar story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish, common to all four gospels. John, the only evangelist who has no account of the institution of the Eucharist, models his story of how Jesus feeds the five thousand on what happens in every Eucharist. Jesus takes the bread offered by a young boy, gives thanks for what has been offered, and shares the food with all present. In the second reading, taken from his letter to the Ephesians, Paul, writing from prison, reminds the community at Ephesus that they have received one Spirit and form one body. Hence, he exhorts them: ‘Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the peace that binds you together’ (Ephesians 4:5). This unity in the Spirit is the fruit of the Eucharist, our partaking of the Body of the Lord.
‘Eucharist’ comes from a Greek word and means ‘thankgsiving’. In the Eucharist, we give thanks for Christ present as the food that nourishes and strengthens us. The Eucharist renews the deepest springs of our humanity, unites us to one another, and enables us to become sources of nourishment for others. The Eucharist is Christ’s communion with us. It is, at the same time, our communion with one another. Christ loves us so much that he wants to be with us and wants us to be with him. Love tends towards union. When we love someone we want to be with them always. We never want to be separated with them.
Christ desires to be with us in the most complete way possible. This is what happens in the Eucharist. He comes to us. He enters into us. He takes possession of our hearts and minds and bodies. He becomes one with us. And he wants to make us one with him. The moment of communion in Mass, when we eat the body of Christ and drink his blood, is the greatest moment of intimacy that can exist between God and us. However, we cannot be in communion with the Lord without being in communion with one another. This recognition of the oneness of all who partake of the Body and Blood of Christ is expressed in several ways in the Mass: in the common acknowledgement that we are sinners, the common responses, the songs of praise, the Gloria, the Creed, the acclamation of faith, and the Great Amen (At the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, just before the Our Father). We act as one body because we are made one body in Christ. St. Augustine used to say to his Congregation as he held up the Body of Christ: “See what you are and become what you see.”
Every Eucharist ends with a sending out on mission: “Go in Peace to love and serve the Lord”. We have to bring the Eucharistic Christ to the world. Just as Christ has become our Food, giving himself completely to us, so too we must give ourselves for the sake of the world. We are challenged in this mission to live the love we have experienced. We have to become sources of nourishment for the world as Christ has become a source of nourishment for us. There is a contemporary hymn, based on a prayer attributed to St Theresa of Avila, which expresses this challenge quite beautifully:
‘Christ has no body now but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.’
We become the body of Christ when we receive Christ, the Bread of life, in Communion, and our mission is to be, in turn, the body of Christ for others.
Fr Joseph Zimmermann SMA is acknowledged as the Founder of the Irish Province.
After 28 years in Ireland, he was transferred to Savannah, Georgia, USA, where he died on 19 July 1921.
To mark his contribution to the SMA, and particularly to the Irish Province, the Irish Provincial Leader, Fr Malachy Flanagan, celebrated a Mass on 17 July at St Joseph’s SMA Church, Wilton, Cork, followed by the unveiling of a Memorial Plaque in the SMA community cemetery.
Fr Tim Cullinane preached at the Mass, basing his homily on Ecclesiasticus 44:1,9-13, Ephesians 2:19-22 and John 12:23-26. Following Fr Tim’s homily (below) we have two videos relating to this celebration, in Ireland and the USA.
We are gathered together this afternoon to remember and honour the memory of Joseph Zimmermann, who died 100 years ago next Monday, 19 July. He is, as the first reading tells us, among a list of generous people whose good works have not been forgotten and in their descendants there remains a rich inheritance, in this case, the Irish Province of the Society of African Missions [SMA]. His story is God’s story working through human beings to carry out His mission to the most abandoned spiritually and materially.
One of the most famous buildings in central London is St Paul’s Cathedral, where most of the country’s important religious events take place. The architect of the cathedral was Christopher Wren and in the crypt of the cathedral there is a plaque dedicated to his memory with the words, “If you seek a monument to this man look around you.” If you seek a monument to Joseph Zimmermann you can begin by looking around this church (pictured below). It was Fr Zimmermann who bought 72 acres of farming land from a Mr James O’Connor for £1000 pounds on which this church, the shopping centre and the SMA House behind us are built. It was Fr Zimmermann who engaged the architect and was responsible for the building of the Church, opened in 1897. It was built in the style of churches back in his own country of Switzerland. As we gather here this afternoon in this eucharist we can sense his presence for every Mass is part of the heavenly liturgy so he is with us in spirit.
However, his most important contribution to the SMA was not this church but the SMA Irish Province itself. As most of you know the SMA was founded in Lyon, France, by Bishop Melchior de Marion Brésillac in 1856 for mission to the most abandoned in Africa. At first it was a French-speaking Society. By the 1870’s a need was felt to recruit and train English-speaking members to work in English-speaking countries in West Africa, like Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia. As a result, Fr Augustin Planque, Superior General, turned to Ireland to respond to the challenge and an Irish branch of the Society was founded in 1878 in the hope of getting priests to answer this need. Very few suitable candidates came forward and since the training was in France where they had to adapt to a new culture and a new language, very few persevered. The cost of sustaining the SMA project in Ireland was becoming prohibitive and it was facing closure unless drastic action was taken. Into the situation entered the Swiss-born Fr Joseph Zimmermann who was sent to Cork in 1883 to see whether the whole project could be saved.
The Church in Ireland at that time was very inward looking. It had little interest in any mission outside of Ireland except to supply priests and sisters for the Irish people who had emigrated to places like the USA, Australia and New Zealand. So they were not very interested in the SMA and its work for the most abandoned in Africa. A man of great passion and energy, Zimmermann set out with great commitment to change that and to save the Irish branch of the SMA from closure. There are people in our own time, like Sr Stan and Jesuit Fr Peter McVerry who have the gift of being able take on a project with passion and inspire others to join them and become as passionate about it as they are themselves. Fr Zimmermann had such a gift. With his considerable powers of eloquence and persuasion he gradually won over the local Church to the missionary cause of the SMA. To re-ignite the missionary spirit in the country, he made use of the great missionary tradition of Ireland in the 6th and 9th centuries with people like Columba and Columbanus being instrumental in the evangelization of Europe.
He also had a vision of the SMA which became attractive to the Irish Church, wanting to establish, not an outpost of a French missionary congregation but an independent Irish missionary Institute staffed by Irish missionaries, educated not in France but wholly in Ireland, supported by Irish funds. Gradually, he won the support of a number of bishops, priests and lay people. He reached out in a special way to the laity and attracted a number of important benefactors including Count Llewellyn Blake, who is buried beside this church as you climb down the steps to the house. Over a number of years, Count Blake made a number of substantial financial contributions to Zimmermann’s missionary project as well as giving two substantial properties in Galway and Mayo to the Society to be used for training students in Ireland rather than having them go to France.
With an increasing number of candidates, growing financial support and certain structures in place, the canonical requirements for a Province now existed: three separate houses, financial security and the ability to get vocations. With the support of some Irish bishops, friends in Rome to promote his cause, Zimmermann’s case for recognising the Irish branch of the SMA as a separate Province was hard to turn down. Despite opposition from his French Superiors, the Irish Province of the SMA became a reality on 15 May, 1912.
Pictures of Zimmermann show him with piercing eyes, a long white beard and a giant cross across his chest. Today’s gospel says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it yields a rich harvest.” The cross was very much part of Zimmermann’s life as it was of the life of Jesus. Writing to Fr Planque in June 1890, he wrote, “I’ve had a rough year; how many times I went to bed without eating, and how many nights I passed without going to bed at all except on a railway station bench, without mentioning the other annoyances that were, for me, ten times harder than these deprivations and annoyances that often caused me to cry bitter tears.” The hardest cross of all that he was called to bear must have been that, after working tirelessly for 28 years to establish an Irish Province, when it was erected, the first Superior was not to be Fr Zimmermann but Fr Stephen Kyne. The news was conveyed to him in a curt letter from the successor to Fr Planque as Superior General, Bishop Paul Pellet. Part of it reads as follows, “Dear confrere, in agreement with the Congregation of the Faith, we have decided not to renew your term as Superior. We are sending Fr Kyne to replace you… and the letter ended with the words, “You are to leave Cork and Ireland by the latest the 1st of January 1911 and come here to receive new directives. The new directives were to take up a new post in the Unites States, in the SMA African-American parish of St Anthony in Savannah, Georgia, where he was to work for the remaining ten years of his life.
In April 1921, the SMA Superior General at the time, Fr Jean-Marie Chabert, was on a visit to America. He brought with him a letter from the Irish Province inviting Zimmermann to return to Ireland. He was very happy to receive it but his health did not allow it and he died less than three months later and is buried in Savannah.
Today, 100 years after his death, there is a certain sadness, as part of us would like to see a man who was so much part of our history for 28 years buried in the adjoining cemetery so it is good that today we are unveiling a plaque here in his honour. I’m mindful that on 9 December, 2018, the refurbished SMA House in Claregalway was renamed “Zimmermann SMA House”. Yes, there is sadness but our predominant feeling should be one of gratitude to God and to Fr Zimmermann. The seed he planted has borne much fruit and has made, and is making, a difference to many people in different parts of Africa.
Fr Zimmermann is not only part of the story of the Irish Province of the SMA. He is also part of the story of the Irish Province of the OLA Sisters. It was he who introduced them to Ireland in 1887 and organised accommodation for them. That seed too has borne much fruit in Africa and in Ireland.
I said at the beginning that Zimmermann’s story is God’s story. It is also our story, as an Irish Province, and in our own time, we are called to write a new chapter in the story. The 100th anniversary of his death is a good time to ask the question, “Where is the Irish Province that he did so much to establish going into the future, considering that the Irish Province has had no ordinations in the past ten years”. Gerard Hughes, SJ, in a book called, “The God of Surprises” gives good advice, “Look at the facts, the facts are kind and God is in the facts.” Fr Arrupe, the former Superior General of the Jesuits, said on many occasions as he went around visiting Jesuit communities in different parts of the world people would often ask him, “Where is the Society of Jesus going?” We are asking a similar question, where is the SMA Irish Province going? Regarding the Jesuits, Fr Arrupe would answer, “I don’t know… but God knows … and we have to hear the answer from God. That is why we have to be open to the signs of the times. God is leading us today to live the Gospel in new ways. We have to be open to that and ask God to enlighten us and follow his lead.” This too is what the SMA Irish Province has to do at this time. As the prophet Isaiah said to his people in his time:
“See I am doing a new deed, even now it comes to light, can you see it?” (Isaiah 43: 18-19)
And as the Letter to the Hebrews says, “Remember your leaders, who preached the word of God to you and as you reflect on their lives, imitate their faith.”
Click here to view a short video of the unveiling of the Memorial Plaque.
Click here to see a video prepared by Sr Pauline O’Brien at the grave of Fr Zimmermann in Savannah, Georgia.
The Centenary of the death of Fr Joseph Zimmerman took place on 19 July, 2021 and this occasion was marked by a memorial event in St Joseph’s Parish Wilton on Saturday, 17 July.
Fr Zimmermann is rightly seen as the Founder of the Irish Province of the Society of African Missions (SMA).
Mass was celebrated by Fr Malachy Flanagan, the SMA Provincial Leader, with a Homily delivered by Fr Tim Cullinane SMA. A memorial Plaque was later blessed and unveiled in the SMA Cemetery. Afterwards, Fr Edmund Hogan SMA delivered a Talk on the life and role of Fr Zimmerman in the Wilton Parish Centre.
In 1882 Fr Joseph Zimmerman took charge of the Irish branch of the SMA. It had been founded four years earlier to attract vocations for work in the Society’s British West African missions. But very few suitable candidates were coming forward and those that were did not persevere. The cost of maintaining this unproductive SMA enterprise was becoming prohibitive and it was clear that drastic action needed to be taken. In January 1883 Joseph Zimmermann was named Superior and arrived in Cork with a mission to see whether anything could be salvaged.
Over the next 28 years, he not only saved the Irish branch of the Society from closure, but built it up until it was to become the first Province of the Society. He achieved this by winning over the local Church to the missionary cause. At the start, little by little, he made friends among the clergy and laity, helping out wherever he was needed. Then, using his considerable powers of eloquence and persuasion, he began to preach the missionary message to a Church which at first did not want to hear, but gradually began to listen. He struck a chord deep in the heart of modern Irish Catholicism, invoking Ireland’s illustrious missionary past between the 6th and 9th century and urging that once more Ireland should take its place among the great missionary nations. He was Founder of the Irish Province of the SMA and one among a handful who can be titled: Founders of the Irish Missionary Movement. The Irish Province of the Society of African Missions was formally established on the 15th of May 1912 with Fr Stephen Kyne SMA as its first Superior.
Just one year earlier, in June 1911, Joseph Zimmermann had left Ireland to take up a new post in the United States, in the SMA African-American parish of St. Anthony, in Savannah, Georgia. There he was to remain for the remaining ten years of his life. He died on 19 July 1921.
Click Here to see a short video made at the grave of Fr Zimmerman in Savannah, Georgia, by Sr Pauline O’Brien, sister of Fr John O’Brien SMA.
To view the unveiling of the memorial plaque to Fr Joseph Zimmerman in the SMA Cemetery in Wilton, Cork Click Here.
I knew a mother who cared for a son for nearly 40 years. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and by his early teenage years he was almost totally incapacitated. Though he had not been expected to live for very long, through her absolute devotion to him, he lived far longer than anyone expected, even the medical people. Until her own death, some years before her son, she stayed at his side, day and night.
To live is an unselfish way is never easy. It’s far easier when we do our own thing, when we happen to be in good mood and it causes a minimum of inconvenience and disruption. But when the ction is not of our own choosing, when we don’t feel in the mood and it is sprung on us at awkward moments. In such cases we have to forget ourselves and set aside our own feelings and plans. A real sacrifice is involved. Isn’t it a great test of a person when, at the drop of a hat, they put aside their own plans to help another person?
It’s a consolation for us to know that Jesus too had to cope with interruptions. He too had his plans upset. Today’s gospel tell us that his disciples were in such demand when he sent them out to preach and heal that they had scarcely time to eat. They had seen this in the case of Jesus himself when he and the disciples could not even have a meal. So his relatives set out to take charge of him because they were convinced he was out of his mind.
In today’s gospel Jesus decides to take the apostles apart to a quiet place for a break. This time he wasn’t thinking of himself but of his apostles. They had just come back from the mission he sent them on. He saw that they needed rest. He took them to a quiet place apart. He knew that the carers too needed to be cared for.
However, things did not turn out as planned. The people followed him. How did Jesus react? Far from getting annoyed he welcomed the people. Doesn’t this tell us a lot about the kind of person he was? He was moved with pity for them. Don’t we all appreciate people who show compassion to us in a time of need?
The three readings today speak of God’s compassion. In the reading from the prophet Jeremiah, God speaks out against those who failed to care for those he had sent them to. Many of them failed, being more interested in their own well-being and a good lifestyle at the expense of those to whom they were sent. So the compassionate God promises that he himself will look after the sheep, his people, who have been dispersed. Furthermore, in the days to come, he will he raise up someone who will be a true shepherd for Israel, His son Jesus. In the Letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells us that God, through Jesus, will gather into one those who have been ‘far off’, that is the Gentiles who were regarded as not belonging to God’s people, and the Jews who ‘were near’, that is God’s people. Before Jesus, Jews could not accept that the Gentiles were also God’s beloved children. It is the compassion of God which will do all this.
Those of you parents with sick children or ageing parents will know this too. How often when the children were growing up and got sick at night or at others times did you not spend sleepless nights looking after them? Is this not compassion on your part.
It is very important to remember that when giving us the great commandment to love God, our neighbour as ourselves he also told us to love ourselves too. It is not a choice. Jesus knew that if we do not, we will not be able to care for others when necessary.
Is this one of our strongest images of Jesus, of God? A God full of tenderness and compassion? We will keep the commandments because we are saved by God’s compassion and grace and not in order to earn salvation. That is indeed Good News. Of course, it means that we too are expected to show tenderness and compassion to others in our turn.
‘Lord Jesus, thank you for revealing to us that you are a God of total compassion. Help us to be compassionate to others also, relying on the gift of the Holy Spirit to do so. Amen’.
Edited from a homily of the late Fr Jim Kirstein, SMA (RIP)
Click on the play button below to listen to an alternative homily for this Sunday from Fr Tom Casey of the SMA Media Centre, Ndola, ZAMBIA.
In the cold days of late winter and early spring an effort was made in the garden in Blackrock Road to prepare the ground, plant wild flower seeds and to do things in a way that cares more for creation.
We present the result of this work here as one example of the many things that have begun to happen in SMA Communities all around Ireland, in Dublin, Claregalway, Dromantine, Wilton and Blackrock Road. There is a growing consciousness of the need to do more in order to care more. There is also a growing awareness that this caring needs to be planned, sustained and become an active part of Christian living and of living more justly.
The efforts made in Blackrock Rd have, as you will see, had a beautiful result but all the other efforts in SMA Houses around Ireland are, although less visible equally important, the recycling, not mowing all the grass, growing vegetables, not using weed killer, reducing waste, composting, saving energy and so on. All are ways of caring for creation and for all who depend on it, ourselves, those living far away and those yet to be born.
All of us can do more to care more. We hope you enjoy this three minute video which was filmed one afternoon in July. We also hope it will be for you a meditation, a prayer on the beauty of God’s Creation – entrusted to our active care.
Filmed and edited by Paul O’Flynn Click on Full Screen for best viewing
The related themes of vocation and mission are highlighted in the readings of today’s Mass. Amos, the first of the great prophets, lived in the eighth century before Christ. This was a time of peace and prosperity in the northern kingdom of Israel but a time of wholesale corruption and exploitation of the poor. In the first reading, Amos is forced to defend his vocation as a prophet to Israel.
The Gospel recounts the call and first mission of the twelve specially chosen disciples of Jesus.
Amos, who came from a poor village in the southern kingdom of Judah, courageously denounced the injustices inflicted upon the poor and drew on himself the ire of Amaziah, one of the leading members of the priestly caste. Amaziah lived in the wealthy Royal Sanctuary of Bethel and was a lackey of King Jeroboam II. It was not in his interest to have the unjust practices of the political establishment questioned by Amos. So he orders Amos to go back to his own land (Judah) and prophesy there. In his reply Amos defends his prophetic vocation as a direct call from the Lord, not an inherited position with status, like that of Amaziah and the priestly caste to which he belonged. He was poor farmer, taking care of sycamore trees, before the Lord summoned him to go and prophesy to the people of Israel. This is the call he must obey, not the orders of a well-heeled flunkey of the royal court. The example of Amos reminds us of our prophetic vocation as members of Christ’s Body to speak truth to power, to point our and denounce the corrupt practices of powerful elites, and to defend the rights of the poor and exploited people of our time.
Today’s gospel passage from Mark continues where last Sunday’s left off. Following his rejection in his home town of Nazareth, Jesus summons twelve of his disciples and sends them out on mission, into the villages and towns where he himself had already preached. He shares his mission and authority with them – the same authority he received from his Father to cast out evil spirits, to heal and call to repentance. Jesus sends them out with detailed instructions, not about what they are to preach – though the call to repentance is mentioned – but rather on how they are to live. They are not to travel on their own, but two by two. This is in contrast to the individualistic style of the maverick preachers, self-appointed prophets and bogus healers who were familiar figures in first century AD. They are not to take anything for the journey except a staff: ‘no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses’; not even ‘a spare tunic’ (Mark 6:9). In other words, their lifestyle is to be marked by a radical dependence on God and on the generosity of the people to whom they minister. Finally, the locus of their ministry is to be people’s homes rather than the synagogues.
Mark’s account of the first apostolic mission may not, at first sight, seem very relevant to the complex challenges facing the Church in the twenty-first century. Yet it identifies the essential calling of the Church and all its members. Like the apostles who are its foundation stone, the Church is called to be a community of missionaries, continuing the mission of Jesus Christ in the service of God’s reign. Its authority and power resides not in itself, but in the word of the one who calls and sends it. It is challenged to travel light, putting its trust in divine providence rather than in material resources, and being open to receive as well as to give. It is required to confront the forces of evil and serve as the agent of God’s healing power in a sick and broken world. Above all, it is enjoined to witness to God’s power by a radical simplicity of life-style. Pope Paul VI underlined this challenge when he stated, over forty years ago, that witness of life is the primary and indispensable form of the Church’s mission – one that is especially relevant in our time when people are more influenced by witnesses than by teachers or preachers (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41). So let us, in the words of the American poet, Amanda Gorman, ‘step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid’ and bear witness to the healing love of Christ by the lives we live.
I will end with a prayer:
‘Jesus, teach us to live by faith and share in love, so that we may be free of cloying comforts and the protective padding of material goods. Teach us to accept without embarrassment the help that others give us. But help us to give ourselves in return, finding a family in all who need to hear your word. Risen Lord, who comforted your apostles when they had laboured without success throughout the night, show us the true worth of the human techniques we employ. Do not allow us to despise them, for even the miraculous draught would be impossible without a net. But neither let their constant use enslave us. Remind us rather that your presence is the power that changes hearts.’
(taken from the book, Catalysts, by Rene Dionne, MAfr., and Michael Fitzgerald, Mafr.)
Michael McCabe SMA, Cork, June 2021
Click on the play button below to listen to an alternative homily for this Sunday from Fr Tom Casey of the SMA Media Centre, Ndola, ZAMBIA.
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