In 2012 Pope Benedict inaugurated a Year of Faith to celebrate the half century since the beginning of the Second Vatican Council. In the same year Oxfam, in the light of the drought and poor harvests of the Sahel region of Africa and the food crisis that followed, collaborated with ROPPA, RBM, APESS, POSCAO and WILDAF to petition donors, governments, regional organisations, NGOs and UN agencies, to invest in a long-term commitment to break the hunger cycle amongst the most vulnerable. This reflection, written after he participated in the Conference that launched the year, was one of Fr Tom’s responses. 722 Words
In October two ‘years’ were launched. The Year of Faith (realising 50 years of Vatican II) and the Year of Food (called by Overseas Aid agencies from all the churches).
I was privileged to be invited to the conference which launched the Year of Food. In the course of two days we were challenged by competent speakers with experience from many countries, I came away with a profound sense of the kairos ‘hour’ we are living in, one of those moments of history in which almost all received understanding is shaken out of complacency. The agendas for a Year of Food include:-
Global Warming (caused so much by the wealthy)
Water depletion (suffered most by the poor)
Daily hunger (for millions of families)
Population increase (mostly where it can be least sustained)
Animal and wildlife species devastation.
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I sat in our chapel afterwards trying to interiorise these ‘signs of our times’ and relate them to a Year of Faith. My heart and head returned to a question I have lived with most of my life. I know it’s one I share with think many others.
Jesus spent his early ministry urgently persuading people to know his Abba, Father, not as a God who demands sacrifice (in the narrow sense), not as a God who is appeased by our self-justifying virtue, but as an Abba whose Spirit can work all things, given only our good will, trust and openness, for all people as his beloved.
How does such an Abba God will the death of his own son?
That is a real question. And it is created in part by the way our liturgy usually speaks of his death and resurrection isolated from any context which gave them meaning. “This is my Body”, “this my Blood” – but there is no reference to his death being the final kairos in the challenge he had given his people. Similarly in the Creed we jump from his birth to his death with no reference to the context of his life’s work and challenge.
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We are privileged today to re-visit the Paschal Mystery of Faith, the Death-Resurrection of Christ in a new and fuller way. We know more of the socio-political realities of Jesus’ day than Christians have for 2000 years. The endemic injustice, the widespread indebtedness of so many, the mind-set of wealthy, educated and authority-holding people – the mind-set that sees themselves as God’s blessed-and chosen ones. And so on.
We can know how Jesus’ own journey carried him from healing and charismatic beginning to ‘reading the signs of the times’, to his critique of and confrontation with the authorities.
We can understand more clearly how he saw that his people were at a critical moment of history. That either they learnt to free themselves from deep seated, self-justifying, vested interests – and be open to what he called God’s kingdom - or they would bring on themselves the downfall of what they had in place.
In his own way he was saying that every ideology, every self-justifying dominion, carries within itself the seeds of its own downfall. It will implode.
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At the end of the first century the disciple John, living at a prophetic distance, saw the same dynamic at play within the whole Roman Imperial world that Jesus had seen of the Jewish. The dragon, look alike of the Lamb, would dis-integrate, implode, in due course. And in great agony.
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We are being, today, invited to re-discover the Paschal Mystery, Christ’s freely dying into risen life, not as his Father’s will that he should die. But rather their united will that he see through to the end what he had lived for. When we ‘realise’ his paschal mystery in our Eucharist and Communion we are called to see and to hear the signs and realities of our soci-economic agenda in the same way that he did in his day.
A year of Faith and a year of Food speak to each other in a profound way.
Sadly most people who know of one are not aware of the other. Is it perhaps
a year for priests, parents and teachers to be in greater dialogue with our Justice and Peace Commissions?