“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Because Plan A is the ‘go to’ option. Plan A suggests ‘know how’: Plan B smells of suffering and failure. Any sports tragic will tell you why they lost: we had no Plan B! ‘You have to lose one to win one,’ is the truism most heard in the month of footy finals. But why? Because to acknowledge failure is to humbly admit one is not in control, and hence, as Richard Rohr reminds us, ‘suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to destabilise our arrogance and ignorance.’
Paradoxically, in week two of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, St Ignatius challenges the retreatant to voluntarily submit to the pain of Plan B by transforming it into their Plan A ‘go to’ option. Week two of the Spiritual Exercises is about committing to living out Christ’s lifestyle, hence the ‘Two Standards’ exercise confronts retreatants with a stark choice: conform to ‘the way the enemy of our human nature enslaves us,’ or humbly live out ways ‘other than those of instinct and convention.’
Refugee advocacy attracted my attention and as the centre dedicated to the cause is named after my favourite social justice saint, Oscar Romero, I had little option but to follow my heart. The journey of ascent / descent had begun.
Snippets of my advocacy at the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation Centre (BITA) will give an insight into the tragedy / joy of my experience.
•BITA 2007. Open gated temporary accommodation on Sugarmill Rd Pinkenba for asylum seekers.
Gradually the conditions became more restrictive. Access was less easy, interpreters no longer provided and prison like structures installed.
Frustratingly, despite my application of numerous Plan B’s, the prospect of ‘winning one,’ of seeing the peaceful resettlement of people lawfully seeking asylum remains a distant goal. It is with regret and painful realisation that I have come to accept Richard Rohr’s ‘truism’ that, in human history very little is really resolved or solved, settled or answered. The challenge is to accept the significance of ‘my story,’ within the framework of ‘our story’ in Australia, to achieve social justice for what is always true in the great patterns of ‘the story,’ the components of which make up what Richard Rohr has called the ‘cosmic egg.’ Superficially it is ego deflating to accept St Ignatius’s call to “humbly live out ways ‘other than those of instinct and convention.’” But in the bigger picture, the greater pattern, faith, as Oscar Romero reminds us, is acknowledging that, ‘we are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs.’
In memory of Oscar Romero (1917–1980)
A Future Not Our Own
It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession
brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.
This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.
This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests.
(Images by Steve Jorgensen, Michelle Smith (Brisbane Times) and https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/, main image from Pixabay by sciencefreak)