Seeking cooperative globalisation
Published Eureka Street 17 June 2018 https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=55937
Homily, 11th Sunday in Ordinary time, The Oratory of San Francesco Saverio, Rome, 17 June 2018
Frank Brennan SJ
What a week it's been. We started with the publication of the photo at the G7. Friends and allies standing over each other and eyeballing each other. Then came the tweets and the insults. A few days, later sworn enemies met in summit in Singapore with inflated rhetoric of friendship and trust, disguising truth and verification, their flags fluttering side by side.
These last few days, I have been here in Rome attending the roundtable of a slightly pretentiously named 'Global Foundation' meeting at the splendid Casino Pio IV in the Vatican gardens. We've been discussing 'cooperative globalisation'. We heard a challenging address from Cardinal Parolin focusing on immigration. He told us:
'The current global political situation could well fill us with worry and fear. There is a growing trend for populist political agendas, which is due, at least in part, to the inadequacy of the multilateral system, in particular of the United Nations Organisation and its inter-governmental bodies. This trend is accompanied by a strong feeling of distrust among the members of the Family of Nations, which, all-too-easily, leads to a search for closure within the perceived safety of national boundaries.'
Larry Summers explained that economics and politics no longer seem to be moving in the same direction. The global common good is moving further away after three decades when it seemed to be drawing us closer together, bridging all sorts of inequality gaps. We are all worried; we're all uncertain. We're anxious and we wonder what the future holds.
That was the situation of the Marcan community who heard today's two simple parables about the seed sown in the field yielding a large crop and the seed planted in the ground producing the tree which is large enough and inclusive enough to offer shade and security to birds of all sorts no matter what their plumage. The broad field ready for harvest and the tree which reaches to the heights with roots going deep into the ground are images of the kingdom which is to come — a kingdom of broad bounty and promise, of deep fruit and of heightened peace and security. Human labour is required to do the planting and the harvesting. But human labour of itself is not enough. What's produced comes to be through mystery. The yield is beyond the wildest expectations of the planter.
The Marcan community knew persecution. They were powerless. They were afraid. They fretted. Their gospel contained none of the resurrection flourishes of the others. The stark account of the passion and death was yet to be augmented by the literary flourishes of the resurrection. These two simple parables of biological growth and promise not only spoke to the listeners about Christology but also about their own call to discipleship. They were called to plant the seed in hope and to labour for the harvest. They were not unreal optimists but hopeful realists. They saw the seed sprout and grow but knew not how. 'Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.'
For many years in Australia, I have been privileged to work with Aboriginal communities, sometimes in the most remote parts of our vast continent. One day, I walked along a remote beach and saw the largest mango tree I had ever seen. The Aboriginal community there at a place named Mapoon had been established as a Presbyterian mission in the 19th century. Under the tree I saw Jean Jimmy who had just become a great great grandmother. As ever she was rolling a cigarette. I admired the tree and asked if the missionaries had planted it.
'No', she replied, 'I planted this tree. I am very blessed to sit under the shade of the tree that I planted and to see it bearing fruit.' The kingdom is 'like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.'
This day as we approach the table of the Lord, we dare to hope that friends and allies will speak amicably with each other again and that enemies will negotiate honestly and verifiably. Seeking cooperative globalisation with people from north and south, east and west, of all faiths and none, we dare to hope while committing ourselves to labour for the kingdom to come here on earth and hereafter as did Matteo Ricci on his deathbed in Beijing when he said, 'I leave you at a door open to great merits, yet not without many perils and labours.'
With the Lord's help we might cultivate that tree of justice and truth, mercy and joy which will 'put forth branches and bear fruit, and become a majestic cedar. Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.'