“Bear much fruit and … be my disciples.”

I was sitting on the train, waiting to leave the station on the journey home. I noticed an advertising panel on the other side of the carriage. The poster highlighted the service to people with disabilities who travelled on the trains. The image spoke to me of kindness, generosity and encouragement. And I remembered an incident on the train in the recent past, when a passenger alerted the train guards of a medical incident in the carriage. We hadn’t yet left the station. Three guards came and cleaned up the mess. They spent time with the man who had been sick. They accompanied him for the next two stations and were replaced by other guards. And the man who reported his medical incident stayed with him, too, until he had to leave the train. 

There are so many stories about Good Samaritans in our society and of groups and organisations committed to help the needy, so why do our governments pass laws to allow for abortion and euthanasia? Which narratives do they use and which values do they promote to shape our culture? What sort of mind does it take to seek to help the needy and then support people to deny the unborn the right to live and the terminally ill to end their lives at a time of their choosing?

The Christian ethic is pro-life and is founded on the belief that all people are created in God’s image. Fr Joseph Cardijn delivered the 1949 Godinne lecture series. In his third lecture, titled “The Mystery of Vocation,” he said: “We must bear witness to Christ, not by words only, not by some deeds only, but by the whole of our life. by our generosity and charity in all the acts of our life. As was said above, all the acts of our daily life are completely changed once they have become apostolic acts. We bear witness to Christ in all the actions of the day, witness to His charity and generosity, to His desire to save people.” Cardijn emphasises the totality of the Christian’s commitment to Christ. 

Today is the feast of St Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, who lived in the eleventh century. A humble man, he shared what he had with the poor. He lived a life of penance and prayer. Like Cardijn, he believed that God gifts people with their vocation to live apostolic lives, bearing witness to the love of Christ for all people. In the Gospel reading for Mass in St Peter Damian’s memory, Jesus tells us, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:1-8). Those who seek to be in union with him will bear fruit. 

If Jesus’ image of the vine and branches was the dominant narrative of our culture, then our focus as a nation would be the good of all not only now but also in the future. Cardijn emphasises actions that are generous and charitable, that is, actions that reflect the love of God for all of creation. These are actions that unite rather than divide, such as the actions of that Good Samaritan on the train, who, like his model in Jesus’ parable, stayed with the sick man until it was time to move on. And St Peter Damian reminds us that such charitable deeds need to come from a life lived in God’s presence, that is, a life of prayer. As Jesus tells us, “It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples” (John 15:8).  


Pat Branson


The young person faces life – the 1949 Godinne lecture series delivered by Fr Joseph Cardijn 

Let us make man in our image

In today’s first reading (Genesis 1: 20 – 2:4), we find the passage: 

…God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild beasts and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth.’ 

…God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God, he created him, male and female, he created them. 

Cardinal Cardijn made this clear to young workers.  

“Young workers must always be faced with the great truth of the eternal destiny of the mass of young workers. How often have I cried out at mass meetings: You are not machines, beasts of burden, slaves; you are human beings, with an eternal destiny, a divine origin, a divine purpose. You are sons of God, partners with God, you are heirs of God; this is true, not only for a select few but for the masses and the whole of the working class, without exception.” 

Cardijn (1945) A YCW of the masses to the scale of the world


The world today is better than it was in the past. Despite the systemic environmental degradation, the quality of life of billions is improving. Yet, billions are also suffering. 

The abundance of God’s creation is insufficient for the wants of many. This imbalance between the desires of a significant population against the needs of others desecrates and violates the truth that all humans are created in the image and likeness of God. 

Pat’s reflection on 4 February 2023 captures this imbalance in rich and abundant Australia.


Do I/we believe in today’s first reading — that we are all created in the image and likeness of God, and therefore we are all equal no matter what our station in life is? 

Do I/we believe in Cardijn’s exhortation that we are not machines, beasts of burden, slaves … to employers, to consumerism, to materialism, to an ideology…

Do I/we believe that i/we are children of God, partners with God, and heirs of God? 


If I/we believe in today’s first reading and in Cardijn’s exhortation:

  • What could I/we do not to become a slave to an employer, to an ideology, to consumerism, or to materialism? 
  • What could I/we do to help those suffering from injustices that deprive them of their humanity?

Priority for the poorest

In today’s Gospel reading, Mark records that a leper came to Jesus and “kneeling down begged him and said, ‘If you wish, you can make me clean.'”

“Moved with pity,” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.’

In this context, it’s interesting to recall the words of a former French JOC leader, Joseph Wresinski, who became a priest and later the founder of a movement dedicated to the very poorest, the Third World living in the First World, or the “Fourth World.”

This movement is now known as ATD-Quart Monde or ATD-Fourth World and works to empower the poorest and most excluded.

In a 1987 speech entitled “God’s rights, human rights,” Fr Wresinski explained the vision of his movement:

Throughout human history, God himself has established a priority to the poorest. God has always demanded of his people that they honour and protect the poorest amongst his children and respect them. But his people did not listen to Him. 

In the past, the Jewish people did what we ourselves are doing today. They created a society where some people had knowledge, wealth, and power, while others learned little, gained little, and had nothing to say. These people lived in poverty. However, below them there were the poorest: despised, rejected, and counted for nothing. 

In Israel there were slaves, both Gentiles and Jews. However, the Law of Moses permitted that Jewish slaves be set free after six years of servitude. But there was worse than slavery, for, in the name of religion, the Jewish people established a worse condition of servitude, without recourse, without possible redemption. These people, who had no means of appeal, were the men and women who were declared impure because of their trade or their infirmity. Such were the shepherds looking after the flocks of their masters, those possessed by demons, the lepers, and the tax collectors. All such people were judged irredeemable just as those who today are living on what they can recover from trash bins or rubbish dumps. In the same way, other people are judged as undesirables in our cities: families who have not learned to live in modem apartments and families who never have the means to pay their rent. Similarly, they are regarded as untouchables, like these mothers who because of extreme poverty have been forced into prostitution in the ports of big European cities in order to feed their children. 

Thus, in Israel, many of God’s children were despised, often from father to son. But in worse conditions still were the homeless people and beggars who sometimes formed gangs of criminals in Jerusalem, like the good and the bad thieves: “the dregs of the population,” as described by the historian Josephus; “society’s refuse,” as we might say today. 

So what became of God’s love for the poorest? How could the poorest still love God when it was in the name of religion that they were despised? How could they love their neighbour, excluded as they were from the rest of the people? The Right of God to be loved and to see all of his children equally respected and loved was rendered null and void. Through humiliation and disenfranchisement, and by denying them responsibilities, rights, or freedom, the Jewish people denied the Right of God. Through the poorest people in Israel, just as through the families of the Fourth World today, we see that we cannot talk about people without talking about God. To humiliate a person is to humiliate God. 

It was to put an end to this intolerable humiliation of the poorest and of himself that God caused his son to be born. He caused him to be born where the children of unclean parents were born, whether they were shepherds, bandits, or the destitute roaming about the roads. In his son, God invested all that he could offer that was most precious; his son, the saviour of the world. He invested his own son where people were the most humiliated. Through him, God himself assumed the condition of the outcast; he himself became an outcast. He did so in order that no one could ever question his will that all people be recognised as his children and that they receive the rights that ensue. 

In this way God not only proclaims, but re-establishes his justice. He reminds people that they have to invest the most precious thing they own, their whole self, amongst the poorest. This is what Jesus did. He shared his divine and his human nature amongst the poorest. This is the very mystery of the Mass which we celebrate every day. Jesus takes things upon himself; he lives out before our eyes the justice he rendered first of all to the most unwanted people.

Let us then reflect on the message of Fr Wresinski and today’s Gospel in our own lives and communities.


Who are the poorest of the poor in our own communities? Who are those regarded today as irredeemable or untouchable? Who are the despised?


In light of God’s love for the poorest and most despised, what is our responsibility today?


Think of a concrete action that could you could take to make a difference.


Stefan Gigacz


Joseph Wresinski, God’s rights, human rights (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

ATD Fourth World