Nguyen Van Mah is one of eight sons. In 1978 his poor farming parents had to decide which one of their 12 children would be sent on a boat from Vietnam. They knew there was a great risk that they would be sending their son to his death on the South China Sea.

At 4.00 am a knock on the door of the family home came and Mah said his goodbyes. He has not seen his parents since. Mah was blindfolded and travelled in the back of a truck for eight hours. He was led through the jungle to a beach where the blindfold was removed. Mah told me that sometimes at this moment people are shot by evil traders who collect the money without any intention of dispatching a boat. That families never hear from their children is no surprise.

Mah told me, ‘We were lucky, we made it off the beach.’ There were 29 adults in a boat built for 10. Inadequately prepared for the two week trip, all the boat people were sick, hungry and exposed. Thai pirates attacked their boat, executed three men and raped all the women on board. They were to bury another six people at sea who died from the effects of the journey.

On sighting land, the remaining 20 people in Mah's boat thought hope had arrived. But the Malaysian Navy, under orders to fire on all Vietnamese boats, forced it to return to international waters. Mah told me, ‘At this point I almost lost my faith in God and human beings. I was going to die.’

The boat began to take water and was noticed by a Dutch trading ship which rescued them and deposited them in the Philippines. Mah migrated to Australia 12 months later and is now the local doctor in an outback community that could not get a doctor for two years.

Isaiah tells us today ‘You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.’ Jesus tells us in the Gospel that the love of God is fulfilled precisely in as much as we love our neighbour.

No pressing issue in the Western World, it seems to me, invites such hysteria as does immigration. Until recently, most western countries have been good in offering hospitality to people who have chosen to leave, or have had to flee their country of birth. Given our comparative wealth this hospitality is entirely appropriate. And it is also appropriate for our countries to have a threshold number for the sake of the common good.

In today’s Gospel, however, Jesus does not promise us that the love of God and neighbour is going to cost us nothing. Jesus’ law of love involves sacrifice for us individually and as a nation. Through the acceptance of this teaching we are committing ourselves to being our neighbour's keeper. In another part of the same Gospel, Jesus tells us that ‘those to whom much has been given, much will be required.’ Sadly, many of us want the good life for ourselves, while doing very little to help other countries become more liveable, and then we can reject people who want to share in the blessings we have worked for and inherited.

The Gospel of Matthew gives us the story of Mary, Joseph and Jesus being forced to flee Israel for Egypt as refugees. If the Holy Family were coming our way these days, they might be sent back to King Herod. May this Eucharist see in us a change of heart that enables our faith to act justly toward all people everywhere. May our goodness and hospitality mirror on earth the welcome we hope to enjoy from Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the kingdom which is promised to all, irrespective of where any of us has been born.

© Richard Leonard SJ.


Ex 22:20-26
Treat all people with generosity.

1 Thes 1:5-10

The Thessalonians have become a model for others.

Mt 22:34-40
A lawyer asks Jesus which commandment is greatest.

Vibrant Parish Survey
The Parish Council seeks your feedback on Parish Life, Practice and Needs. The Survey asks you to rate the importance of various aspects of parish life and then your assessment of how St Francis Xavier St Clare parish addresses those aspects.  The survey is now available on line for you to fill out on your PC, Tablet or Smart Phone. http: //bit.ly/1u20DKp


We, the people of St Francis Xavier - St Clare parish, seek to live Christ-centred lives, celebrating God’s presence & our faith values through worship, outreach, service, justice & hospitality.

Read our Vision Statement


Next meeting: 6 November 2014

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