Homily: Social Justice Sunday
By Mons. Peter Jeffrey:
Social Justice Sunday – A PLACE TO CALL HOME
MAKING A HOME FOR EVERYONE IN OUR LAND
There is a big surprise in today’s first reading. The Spirit came down beyond the expected recipients – the seventy elders. That has a challenging message for us as we prepare for the Plenary Council in Australia by asking ourselves “What is the Spirit saying to us in Australia today?”
This year’s Social Justice Statement is titled “A Place to call HOME – Making a Home for everyone in our Land”. We can look around us and see the challenges or, we can be like the rich in today’s 2nd reading who were challenged not to ignore the plight of those around them who were calling for attention and justice.
There was an article in the Shepp. News during the week where a woman spoke about the big cost involved for her in not leaving a violent marriage for fear of homelessness.
Many of you will realise that the dream of home ownership is increasingly out of reach for many in Australia. In 1947, 52% of Australians owned their own homes. By the mid-1960s, that proportion had grown to 72 percent. Since then however, home ownership rates have fallen to around 65%. Australia now lags behind many other nations in terms of home ownership.
This is the challenge as a nation we need to address – viz for many the situation is that the cost of a roof over one’s head and for one’s family is either beyond their reach altogether or only achieved at great cost either financially or in terms of the ability to participate fully in the life of the community. This issue is very real both in large cities and in rural areas like our own.
The 2016 census revealed there are 116,427 people in Australia who are homeless. That figure is up from 102,439 in 2011. It is estimated that 875,000 households experience housing stress – having to pay more than 30% of their income on accommodation. Low-income households are particularly at risk!
These issues are not remote from our own community. People who work with St. Vincent de Paul meet people who get behind in rent and for whom gas and electricity bills are too much as they try to make ends meet. As one single mum said “it not only causes stress, worry and anxiety, it also shatters self-esteem and causes humiliation”.
Domestic violence is one of the main reasons why women and their children seek housing assistance. What will be our response to people who have fallen into homelessness? It is not enough to ‘sympathise’ with them without searching for solutions.
There are some challenging words in today’s Gospel –John said to Jesus “Master we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him” Jesus replied “You must not stop him!”
I find that dialogue with Jesus very challenging as we consider this prevalent social issue in our community. We need to look around and acknowledge those people and organizations who are seeking to alleviate this blot on our community. Practical assistance is given to many by people working with St. Vincent de Paul.. Some of our parishioners are working with Government bodies working in the field.
In “Gaudete et Exsultate” Pope Francis says:
“If I encounter a person sleeping outdoors on a cold night, I can view him or her as an annoyance, an idler, an obstacle in my path, a troubling sight, a problem for politicians to sort out, or even a piece of refuse cluttering a public space. Or I can respond with faith and charity, and see in this person a human being with a dignity identical to my own, a creature infinitely loved by the Father, an image of God, a brother or sister redeemed by Jesus Christ”
* This is a copy of Mons' homily from the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 2018