In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to be people of welcome, people who love, nurture and welcome others in his name – particularly children – who perhaps represent those who are ‘smaller’ than us, those who are most vulnerable and in need. We are invited to be people who love in practical ways, to stop our own arguing and bickering, in order to open our eyes to the needs around us. To be open to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of life, and its promptings in our hearts to take concrete steps to creating a world that is just and equitable; that considers the greater good, and where all have equal opportunity to prosper and flourish.
One way of addressing this is to look at and reflect upon the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Social Justice Statement for 2021-22, which draws upon Pope Francis’ 2015 ‘encyclical’, Laudato Si, (which means ‘Praise be to you’).
In this writing, Pope Francis responds to the ecological crisis we are living through and reinforces the message for our need to care for our common home – the Earth we live on and in – and its people, particularly the poor and vulnerable, as these two actions are inseparable. When the Earth suffers, so too do people, and it’s usually the most vulnerable among us that suffer the most. Pope Francis reminds us that our practises and understanding must reflect this link: caring for people means we must care for the world which sustains personal and communal life, and in which all relationships are held. This is an ‘integrated ecology’ which Pope Francis speaks about often.
Both today’s Gospel and this latest Statement help us all to think about how we, as Parishioners, are responding to this challenge of caring for the ‘little ones’ – the most vulnerable within our communities.
Social Services Sunday is an opportunity to reflect upon the systemic conditions which means that our Catholic social service organisations need to be attending to the needs of so many people. Why are homes too expensive for so many Victorians to afford to rent, and pay for life’s necessities at the same time, let alone purchase? What are the drivers of violence that women and children are so often the victim/survivors in domestic settings? Why is it that we continue to deny so many of those who are refugees here in Australia the ability to bring their families over here to live with them, and so cause much pain and suffering?
With this in mind, Social Services Sunday, provides an opportunity for the broader Catholic community to give thanks and pray for all who stand with and provide support to those who are marginalised and vulnerable within our communities. It is a day to recognise with deep gratitude, those working within Catholic Social Services Victoria’s 43 member organisations, the 7,000 staff and 17,000 volunteers, who together, serve more than 200,000 people in need each year. It is also a day to give thanks for all in our Parishes, who are so often at the forefront of providing practical support and care to those in need within their local communities, and beyond.
Catholic Social Services, Victoria