We do not live on bread alone but … 

The work of transforming the world begins at home. Recent research conducted into Catholic school staff members’ perceptions of the mission of their school showed that the sense of mission began long before those interviewed began their work in the school. Their sense of mission was nurtured in their homes. Their wanting the best for their students reflected their parents wanting the best for them. For all of them, “the best” was connected in some way with God.

Elise Kinsella, an ABC journalist living in Melbourne, posted an article on air pollution, a silent killer in Australia. She chose as her starting point in the article the experience of one man living below the West Gate Freeway. Drawing on the findings of research in Australia and overseas, she paints a picture of a society in danger and provides some solutions that have been proposed by scientists and people engaged in industry and commerce.  

Kinsella’s article can be seen as an example of the need to engage the truth of experience. In a talk he gave in 1935, Fr Joseph Cardijn defined the truth of experience as “The terrible contradiction which exists between the real state of the young workers and this eternal and temporal destiny.” I would like to broaden the perspective to include the whole of society and every person’s terrible contradiction which exists between what they experience and their eternal and temporal destiny. Kinsella describes some insights into aspects of people’s temporal destiny and the reality of air pollution impacting ordinary people’s lives. Sadly, I could not detect an awareness of our eternal destiny. 

Cardijn reminded his listeners of the experience of life in Europe, which he described as “a wave of neo-paganism unexampled in history.” The danger of pursuing one’s temporal destiny is to lose sight of one’s eternal destiny. Cardijn’s perspective is incarnational: just as people’s temporal destiny is rooted in their immersion totally in life, so, too, is their eternal destiny. The transformation of people’s temporal existence will only be achieved when they come to accept and seek their eternal destiny in their everyday lives. As Cardijn said in his talk, “We must remain with our eyes fixed to heaven and our feet on the earth….” 

The mission Jesus accepted from his Father was to announce the presence of God in the world. To prepare himself for his mission, Jesus spent forty days fasting and praying. In the Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Lent, Year A, we learn from Matthew (4:1-11) that Jesus was tempted by the devil to accept the temporal destiny described by the devil and to reject his eternal destiny. Jesus knew that his life received its meaning from the presence of God in his life. “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,” he said to the devil. 

The temporal destiny of every person, which I have interpreted to be the very best for each and every person, will come about when we attend to “every word that comes from the mouth of God.” But how can we do this? Perhaps Lent is timely, with its emphasis on fasting, prayer and almsgiving. One possible source for action might well be a personal examination of the habits that prevent us from listening to God. The truth that familiarity breeds contempt can apply equally to the eternal and the temporal dimensions of our lives. Starting at home, meaning beginning the process with what happens in our daily lives has proven to be helpful to so many saints. Why not us also? 


Pat Branson


Air pollution causes thousands of deaths in Australia each year. Residents and scientists are fighting back, by Elise Kinsella. ABC News, 25 February, 2023. 

The Three Truths – Joseph Cardijn. In the Joseph Cardijn Digital Library.

Let go and let God …

Yesterday’s reflection focused on the parish and the young worker, indeed a timely reflection for me. I have been reading some of the stories told through the government report on the underpayment of workers in Australia and it has left me distressed. The committee behind the report gathered evidence from around Australia, including evidence of the underpayment of young workers. One regional organisation reported that 65% of the young workers being assisted by them reported wage theft issues impacting their lives. 

A young worker’s life is about more than just the wage they are paid. In yesterday’s reflection, a quote from a talk given by Fr Joseph Cardijn highlighted “the dangers to which they [young workers] are exposed” and he named areas of their lives where they are tempted to be less than themselves. Cardijn said on another occasion, “Left to themselves, young workers cannot possibly recognise their own dignity and fulfil their mission. They are incapable of understanding it with no one to help them, form them and uphold them.”

When I think about the young workers I see at Mass every Sunday evening, I wonder, “What does my parish do to help them, form them and uphold them? Our parish priest has invited them to form a young adults group. Some have responded to the invitation. And some have undertaken to be leaders in the youth group that meets after the evening Mass every other Sunday. This is an action that has flowed from the group that has been formed by him.

Cardijn committed his life to accompanying young workers and training young leaders as apostles to the workers. His faith in Jesus motivated him and he sought to communicate with young people about the centrality of Jesus in their vocation as workers. He said of them in the first lecture of the 1949 Godinne series of lectures, that “they are not criminals sentenced to a life of servitude, but the sons and daughters of God who have a magnificent, sacred, divine mission in their life and work.” I hope this is the message the young in our parish hear from our priest. 

The Gospel reading for today’s Mass (Mark 7:24-30) presents us with a story about the power of faith in Jesus. A Syrophoenician woman appeals to Jesus to save her daughter. The story seems to focus on the verbal jousting that goes on between Jesus and the woman. I think Mark was inspired to write about “faith without borders.” God is passionate about everyone and he invites each into a relationship that is both human and divine. The distressed woman was responding to that invitation from the depths of her despair. She knew that she had to “let go and let God” be creator, redeemer and saviour. Jesus recognised this in the woman’s appeal and he told her to go home to her daughter who had been healed. 

God is present in our world and is engaged in the work of overcoming the power of evil. The temporal destiny of all workers is a life lived in the presence of God, a life marked by productivity and the joy of contributing to the wellbeing of others. This cannot be achieved without God. To act without God is to slow the progress of the triumph of good over evil. God intends us to act in ways that, upon reflection in the spirit of the Creator, we can say, “And it was good.” 

When I continue with my reading of the report into the underpayment of workers in Australia, I will look for signs of the presence of God and be thankful for the work being done to overcome evil. Being thankful in prayer; expressing appreciation for the work of those who participate in God’s work of completing creation through acts of restorative justice; and responding as God’s instruments of salvation to the needs of people around us: these are actions that we can all undertake each day as we work in God’s presence.


Pat Branson

Read more 

The Senate Economics References Committee – Unlawful underpayment of employees’ remuneration

The young worker faces life – The 1949 Godinne series of lectures