Some of us were privileged to listen to Rosie Batty at the Jesuit Social Services annual dinner. Her experience of domestic violence provided a moving context in which to consider the violence in our society, much of it perpetrated by men.
Her talk generated a gentle and respectful silence. It was as if she called us to be quiet, to listen deeply to what we are being called to become as men and women. And to further listen to those sounds of violence we can too easily dismiss.
She asked us to look at the expression of domestic violence in our country but also at the sources of that behaviour, and the shame that accompanies it and prevents it from being named and faced.
We are a privileged nation. Violence seems to be something that happens to other people in other countries. We can witness the March for Our Lives in the US, protesting against gun violence, grateful for our own gun legislation.
Or we see those suffering in war or from terrorism, thankful that it is not us. We can share some awareness of those suffering on Manus Island and Nauru, grateful that we are not vulnerable asylum seekers or refugees.
Even if we admit that domestic violence exists in our country, such that on average a woman dies every week at the hand of a current or former partner, we can find it hard to admit those other forms of violence that are modelled for the young to see and learn to imitate.
When the Australian cricket team went to South Africa they justified their sledging and verbal abuse of the opposition as normal sporting aggression. The abuse then escalated, with its long-term effects yet to be realised.
This week is Holy Week. It is a very special week in the year for all Christians who follow the courageous journey of Jesus.
He enters Jerusalem aware of the violence that lurks in the shadows waiting to attack him. He moves resolutely, at times alone, without anger or resentment. His way is non-violent, as he faces taunts, beatings, abuse and finally crucifixion.
There, at the cross, his male disciples mostly all gone, we find Mary and a group of women, spectators to what has been done but not afraid to stand with him.
May these gospel women, Rosie Batty, and many others we know inspire us not to be only spectators, but to stand with those who suffer violence.
The promise of the new dawn on Easter Sunday is that in Christ we can overcome violence and death. As we walk that journey of Jesus, we seek the grace to face the violence of our world and stand firm in opposing it, whatever form it takes and whatever justification it makes.
Fr Brian F. McCoy SJ, Provincial