July 26, 2020

View from the Faith Office

A Reflection for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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View From theFaith Office

Sawu Bona – “I See You”


Give me a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil (1 Kings 3.9)
Let your love be ready to console me (Psalm 118)
The unfolding of your word gives light. (Psalm 118)


Sawu Bona is a beautiful Zulu greeting that literally means, “I see you.” The conventional response is Shiboka, literally “I exist for you”.

The most confronting thing about everyone wearing masks is that it is so hard to “see you”. It is not what we are used to when we meet people. So much of the person,not just their identity, but their personality and disposition at that moment is conveyed through the face. How can we know the other and respond appropriately if we can’t see their face?

Perhaps today’s Gospel gives us some idea about how we can respond to this contemporary dilemma. The person opposite us is like a hidden treasure, to be discovered before they can be known. But worth the sacrifice of time and effort.

The mask is a reminder to us that we have to work on relationships. ‘Seeing you’ is more than the physical reality of surface sight. It requires, as the first reading from the First Book of Kings tells us, “a heart that can discern between good and evil.”

And how beautiful the response, “I exist for you.” Wearing a mask is not an impediment to self-giving and selfless service. Existing for the other, as the psalm poetically puts it, with a love that consoles and words that give light and life.

Behind the mask,we look for and discover nothing less than the ‘Kingdom of God’ deep within, hidden in the heart of the human person. Its worth “selling everything” to “buy this field” for the true, eternal “happiness” it brings.

In this strange world we live in, where with masks, stage three lockdowns and social isolation, it’s so difficult to “see you”, MickThomas, the inspired Melbourne singer songwriter, has collaborated with other great Australian writers/singers/poets to take up the spirit of ‘Sawu Bona’  in his new song, “I’ll See You On The Other Side.” Here are some of the beautiful,positive, hopeful thoughts of his friends from around Australia who contributed to this masterpiece of contemporary, collaborative writing, knowing that, even in isolation, “I see you!”

“Don’t let it bring you down, the storm will pass over. Just wait a few tomorrows and you can come around.” (Vikki Thorn)
“When I’m missing you, my mind just skips ahead. Standing at your front door we can finally start again.” (Darren Hanlon)
“Memories are bursting at the seams. Each night I hope that we’ll meet in dreams. And when it ends I know I’ll see you then.” (Alana Jagt)
“Touch your face as our eyes greet the same sun.We shall rise; all things we love shall be again.” (Alannah Russack)
“Stay safe my friend, and we’ll see you on the other side.” (Mick Thomas)


God of infinite wisdom and sight
Give us the inner eyes to “see you”
And “see” each other
Beyond the mask we wear
And the distance that keeps us apart.
In this dark and troubled world
Help us to stay positive,hopeful, happy.
May we exist for one another
Through our acts of love and kindness.
Keep us safe
That we may see each other
On the other side.

(Words, thoughts and inspirationall attributed to the Zulu nation, and Mick Thomas, The Roving Commission, andtheir friends in isolation around Australia.)

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