The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the model on which we ought to base our lives. As part of the celebrations for the Feast of the Sacred Heart hosted by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (Blackburn, VIC), Heart of Life Spirituality Centre (Box Hill, VIC) and St Thomas Apostle Church, Blackburn, Sr Angela Reed RSM was invited to speak during Mass, about one of the pressing justice issues that haunt our society: human trafficking, and in particular, the sexual trafficking of women and children. She spoke of the ‘hiddenness’ of the issue, since unlike poverty or mental health for example, human trafficking is often far less visible. Thankfully there is an increasing awareness on these issues, through organisations such as ACRATH (in which the FCJ Sisters are active), which explains that:
Trafficking does not require an illegal border crossing, nor is it necessarily transnational, such as in cases of internal trafficking, whereas people smuggling always involves an illegal border crossing.
Such is the example of Lani, whose story Sr Angela shared with us.
Lani’s Story: The Suffering and Survival of Humanity
It was after her first client that Lani wondered about her fate: was she to be forever bound to the feelings of shame, anger, guilt, confusion, sorrow, fear and helplessness? She had first known these feelings when she was raped by her own father in their home in Mindanao, Philippines. Her mother had gone to Cebu City in the north to work and was only home a few times a year.
As a teenager Lani worked from 1 to 5 o’clock in the morning as a vegetable vendor, and from 6 o’clock readied herself for school. What was abandonment drove her and her younger sister, to flee Mindanao in search of their mother in Cebu. It was at the entry point that she was approached by a woman who offered them work, food and lodging. Little did they know that this woman was forcing them into the corrupt world of sex trafficking.
Where was God in that?
Lani and her sister eventually found refuge at the Good Shepherd Welcome House, an organization in Cebu City that looks after the women and children victims of sex trafficking and prostitution. On regaining her wellbeing, Lani expressed that she was proud of herself for seeking out help. She remarked on the generosity of the staff at the Welcome House, who cared for these women, even by giving up their own comforts for those to whom they ministered. Lani realized that despite the ordeals she went through, her dignity was still intact, and she was able to experience the love of God in a new way.
Lani’s story reminds us of the deep-set brokenness that exists in our human community; of so many people’s great thirst for justice, compassion and recognition. So much suffering occurs, but as expressed in the Second Reading, in the Letter to the Romans:
Hope does not disappoint us for
The love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
For Christ, while we were still helpless,
died at the appointed time for the ungodly.
It is the love of God, ‘poured out into our hearts’ that reaches farther and deeper than any evil can. In the ministries of those who care for the helpless, in the tireless efforts of people who tell others about this important work, God’s love abides and pierces through the dark hiddenness.
MSC Provincial Superior and celebrant, Fr John Mulrooney described the Feast as “one of the most important feasts”, because we celebrate the humanity of Jesus. Quoting St Teresa of Avila, Fr Mulrooney reminded us of our part that is essentially missionary:
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
The Sacred Heart therefore, by the humanity of Christ also lives in our hearts. To help those in need, to work for justice and attend to the suffering of those around us is part of living the gospel. In the sharing of Jesus’ heart that is the seat of compassion, we too are called to live for others, in the service of God.
This, Marie Madeleine d’Houët knew and lived so well and so intimately throughout her entire life. In her mystical experience on the Feast of the Sacred Heart that gave her initial direction, the words of Jesus, “I thirst”, would ultimately become the foundation of her mission. For Marie Madeleine, to be in the midst of the reality of human suffering and turmoil was God’s desire for her, her own mission of faithful companionship.
We bear the name of Jesus and from the cross have received the gift of His Heart and the outpouring of His Spirit…We unceasingly seek, in the spirit of our foundress, to make known and loved the name of Jesus, His Spirit, His Heart and His Mother. (FCJ Constitutions 6)
Indeed the Feast of the Sacred Heart is a feast for all humanity. It burns with the love of God and radiates through our core. Compassion then, and justice and peace, to be authentic, needs to come from our own hearts, grounded in God. By living our lives as upholders of justice, liberators of the oppressed and friends of the lonely, we make known the heart of God on earth, across every nation, culture and barrier. Far from a devotion of the past, the Sacred Heart is alive within us:
We will welcome all your people without favour, without fear
We will ease the heavy burdens, and attend to every tear
We will draw with bonds of kindness, we will see the last are first
In our loving, in our living, we will be your heart on earth.
Your Heart on Earth (James Maher MSC)
FCJ Mission and Identity Promotion (Province of Asia-Australia)
- More information about how you can help and raise awareness of human trafficking can be found on the ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans) website at: www.acrath.org.au
- For more information about the work of the Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ Sisters), please visit: www.fcjsisters.org.au