26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 30th September, 2018

Liturgical Reflection

Nm 11:25–29; Ps 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14; 2 Jas 5:1-6; Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

The last Sunday in September is Social Justice Sunday. Today’s second reading might have been written specially for it. We can all think of categories of people to whom we would like to send it.

What if we try to hear the readings’ subtler messages and let them conjure up some justice issues of our day, without our nitpicking about the aptness of the matches? Take the end of the reading from James. Interpretations differ, but the New English Bible has: “You have condemned the innocent and murdered him; he offers no resistance.” This may allude to a passage in the Jewish Bible about deprivation of livelihood


—such as our government’s project of terminating basic cost-of-living payments to asylum seekers who previously qualified for assistance under the Status Resolution Support Service. My mind, however, went straight to the man acquitted even of manslaughter for running down a fourteen-year-old Aboriginal boy on a motorcycle with his powerful Nissan Navara. The literal innocence or otherwise of the victim is beside the point. The same applies to those Aboriginal deaths in custody that can be directly linked to maltreatment by police or other custodial personnel, as well as to what the entire record of Aboriginal deaths in custody—at least 407 since 1991—reflects about Aboriginal experience at the hands of white power.

The other two readings speak of exclusion—the exclusion of outsiders to the circle from participation in supernormal religious activity. In the Gospel reading, the offence was to “drive out demons” in the name of Jesus without being a member of the club; in Numbers, the question was who was allowed to “fall into a prophetic ecstasy.” Well may we heed the rebuke of Moses: “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would confer his spirit on them all!” (NEB translation).

This year’s Social Justice Statement is about homelessness. It is an excellent document and deserves close reading not only by churchgoers but also by politicians of all faiths and none. It is absolutely appropriate that the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference should call on governments to take realistic measures to address the housing crisis.

What happened to the homeless people who made the same point in their own way—by camping in Martin Place? Even the campgrounds on the fringe of Belmore Park were closed. Prophets from outside the circle met with silencing.