Mercy Hub offers a Winter Season on ‘Searching for Home’
On Wednesday July 31, Mercy sisters and sisters from other religious congregations gathered at the Mercy Hub in Carlton North for the first of three sessions reflecting on the experience of searching for home.
Dr. Elizabeth Dowling RSM led a reflective and enriching journey through the scriptures, beginning with the prophetic cry of Isaiah to let the oppressed go free (Isaiah 58:6-7). Isaiah’s words highlight the call to respond to the multifaceted experience of poverty, exclusion and displacement – by sharing bread with the hungry … bringing the homeless poor into our homes … clothing the naked. Elizabeth illuminated the prophets’ repeated challenge to act justly towards three groups who did not fit within the patriarchal society of the Hebrew scriptures: the orphan, the widow and the stranger (Jeremiah 22:3; Zechariah 7:10).
Moving to the New Testament narrative, Elizabeth drew the group’s attention to the contrast between Jesus, a leader who will shepherd of the people, and the ruthless power wielded by Herod (Matt 2:6). Jesus also knew homelessness and displacement, fleeing with his parents from Bethlehem to Egypt (Matt 2:13-15), and returning first to Judea and then to Galilee (Matt 2:19-23). Elizabeth invited those present to consider issues raised today which find their parallels in the biblical text: Who are the vulnerable who fall through the cracks today? Who or what are crying out in pain in our world today? How do our leaders use power – as shepherds or as tyrants? Elizabeth also reminded us that the cry of earth and the cry of the poor are interconnected. Like Jesus (Matt 8:19-20), the earth’s creatures today do not always have a home. The environmental crisis is felt by people, by creatures, and by the land, and disproportionately affects the poorest.
The remaining gatherings in the Winter Season explored three different practical expressions of mercy in our world today. We heard first from Anne Mitchell, Manager of Steps Outreach Service in Melbourne, which supports young people who are homeless by first spending time getting to know them on the steps of Flinders Street station. The essence of Steps is relationship with someone they can trust who will be there for the long-term. Listening to Anne enabled us to delve deeply into this particular experience of displacement and the creative response of the Steps service as they support and encourage people into positive pathways out of homelessness. In the final gathering, Judith Jackson (Aunty Jacko) shared the story of the Wominjeka BBQ in St. Kilda, which has reached out to indigenous people experiencing homelessness since 2005, and has helped many on the road to stable housing. Teash Taylor, a volunteer resident at the Indigenous Hospitality House in Carlton North, also spoke about their experience of offering hospitality to indigenous people, and the paradox of doing so while living on stolen land.
These diverse expressions of mercy reminded us that the seemingly simple actions of sharing a meal, and spending time hearing another’s story, are as powerful and as necessary today as they were when Isaiah issued his challenge to ‘share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house’.
Messages to: Anne Pate