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Wednesday, 04 April 2012 16:37

Standing for justice at Easter

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I was pleased to say the Grace at the beginning of the Jesuit Social Services Annual Fundraising Dinner in Melbourne on Saturday, the eve of the Fifth Sunday of Lent and thus the eve of Passiontide. I read out Peter Steele’s poem ‘Taste’, recalling St Matthew’s account of Jesus’ last Passover meal (below).

The dinner included plenty of food for thought. The guest speaker, former Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse, spoke with down-to-earth and touching honesty about his early life, the poor area where he was raised, and the opportunities that allowed him to enjoy a long and fruitful career in football. We were also given a presentation of 35 years of Jesuit Social Services work, highlighting the many lives that have been touched and changed over the years.

Later that night, as I walked home to Parkville from the city, I passed a poster about the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’ birth. I found myself reflecting on questions of child poverty and injustice in our world. Today we look back harshly on practices such as child labour, the keeping of slaves, and the removal of mixed race children from their Aboriginal mothers. But what are we doing as a society that others will judge us for in the future?

On Monday Eureka Street published an article with an arresting title: ‘The slow torture of kids in detention’. I suspect that our keeping of refugee children in detention is one area where history will judge us harshly. We remember at Easter how Jesus placed himself with detainees, prisoners and others throughout history who are reviled and tortured. Where are we when this is happening in our world today?

Peter Steele’s poem reminds us that when we sit down to share a meal, particularly a meal with Christ, a lot more is communicated than what is shared aloud. In similar fashion, when we speak out for justice, and when we reach out to those in need, we are sharing more than our ideas and talents. What we are doing is bearing witness to our faith, and helping bring Christ into the world.

TASTE by Peter Steele sj

Matt 26: 26-28
After some weeks of compassion and of scorn
He took a spell to pray and muse alone,
Surprised that, early he should feel so worn –
The much expressed and yet the little known.
His mother’s wisdom was to praise their food,
That benediction from the hand of God,
And so he found the coriander good
And blessed the little broad beans in the pod.
Almonds, pistachios, mulberries, new cheese,
He told them over as a psalmist might:
Mustard, and lamb, the husbandry of bees,
And pomegranate gleaming to the bite.
Well now, he thought, perhaps they’ll know me best
As bread and wine delivered with the rest.

This article was first published in Province Express. You can find more Jesuit stories here.