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Monday, 15 December 2014 10:25

Amazing grace

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Fr Adrian Meaney msc 150As a parish priest in Alice Springs many Christmases ago, Father Adrian Meaney msc experienced a moment of intimate grace. He looks back at this memory and reminds us to let our hearts be open to the cry of the poor who need the most basic of services such as water, sanitation, or health or educational facilities.

One Christmas day while I was Parish Priest of Alice Springs, a group of us visited an Aboriginal Camp behind Anzac Hill. We had already celebrated joyfully at Mass and at the dining table and now we were taking food and presents to our friends. As we approached the camp we heard much laughter with people sitting, standing and some swaying around the camp-fire. We were greeted by friendly flies, some of them coming from meat hanging nearby. After we arrived and settled down we were handing out our gifts, when an elderly woman stood up, she folded her arms as if she was holding a baby and began to sing an aboriginal lullaby. A wonderful silence fell upon us all. Even those somewhat inebriated listened respectfully to the singing. It was a memorable moment of intimate grace. We were all drawn into the company of Mary the mother with her baby Jesus. In fact it was by far the best gift I was given that Christmas.

We have heard the saying ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS. Pope Francis has encouraged us to be open to understand the actions of people. He spoke gently about the Pharisee who rebuked Jesus when a sinful woman washed His feet with her tears. The Pope said the Pharisee was unable to understand her gesture of loving repentance. “He cannot understand the simple gesture: the simple gestures of the people. Perhaps this man had forgotten how to caress a baby, how to console a grandmother. In his theories, his thoughts, his life of government - he had forgotten the simple gestures of life, the very first things that we all, as newborns, received from our parents.”

When people are preparing to go overseas and work in another culture I like to remind them of advice I received many years ago should I live with people of another culture.

  • Be patient with us as a people; don't judge us backward simply because we don't follow your stride.
  • Be patient with our pace; don't judge us lazy simply because we can't follow your tempo.
  • Be with us and proclaim the richness of our life which you can share with us.
  • Be with us and be open to what we can give.
  • Be with us as a companion who walks with us - neither behind nor in front - in our search for life and ultimately for God! Remember Jesus is one like us.

This advice is important for us to-day. Often people live in fear of one another. We seem to have to carry so many keys, and spend so much money on locks etc. We are reminded by the media that terrorists are everywhere and of their evil intentions. But as Christians we must be aware that so much hostility can be the result of injustices suffered.

It would be a folly to think that our society is the best possible, so progressive and advanced, or that we are better than others. We should try and be open to the graces we can receive from others. It is in giving that we receive. Let us not forget the example of Christ Jesus who had no-where to lay his head.

He was born into poverty. It remained his style all through life. He reminded the rich young man that if he wanted to be a follower he should sell all his goods, and give the money to the poor and then he could be free to follow Jesus.

So much of what we offer to each other by way of gifts becomes tomorrow’s waste.

Perhaps as we read through this Newsletter we might consider the basic needs of people without water, or sanitation, or basic health or educational facilities. An essential part of our MSC Mission Office endeavours concern the following global areas of unbelievable need. We are a small office but we think and act globally. At least let our hearts be open to the cry of the poor. And don’t forget the Lord loves a cheerful giver.

This article was first published in Issue 58 of the Mission Outreach newsletter of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in Australia (MSC).

Find out more about the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) Mission Office and how you can support their projects to assist poor communities all over the world.