Focus on what is necessary rather than pious denials

Social Development Goals

A New Zealand religious leader is calling on members of his congregation to focus on what is necessary for life rather than being caught up with pious denials; particularly during Lent.

He says he was cheered by a recent reading at Mass where a group is bewailing the fact that their “good deeds” go unnoticed when they fast.

“Part of the problem, as Isaiah is at pains to point out, are the double standards of the obsequious with their practices of denial’, says Fr Tim Duckworth, leader of the Society of Mary in New Zealand.

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

“Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”

“Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily.” (Is 58:1-9)

Duckworth points out to Marist priests and brothers that what might be labeled traditional “Lenten practices” like fasting, hanging your head, and lying down on sackcloth and ashes all get a sideswipe when compared to what is really necessary.

He is encouraging Marist priests and brothers to turn again to the needs of the disadvantaged, dispossessed, migrants, homeless and young people and to ask: “How is it that our ministry, prayer, our Lenten observance can make a difference?”

Duckworth says that he often hears young people criticise religion and religious people.

They say religion and religious people are “overly concerned with ourselves as related to God and not that much concerned with the gospel message that Jesus was at pains to point out.”

As a tangible expression of the Gospel and a response to Isaiah 58:1-9, the New Zealand leader of the Society of Mary, proposes that Marist priests and brothers use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to focus the attention of their community life and mission.

As Duckworth points out the Sustainable Development Goals receive the endorsement of Pope Francis who labels them “a great step forward”.

Economic and political objectives, Pope Francis stressed, “must be sustained by ethical objectives, which presuppose a change of attitude: what the Bible would call a change of heart.”

What is needed, Francis writes, is a commitment to “promoting and implementing the development goals that are supported by our deepest religious and ethical values.”

Noting the importance of the religious dimension, Francis says that “those of us who are religious need to open up the treasures of our best traditions in order to engage in a true and respectful dialogue on how to build the future of our planet.”

In presenting this vision to New Zealand Marists, Duckworth is realistic and acknowledges, for example, no one Marist community is going to achieve world peace alone.

However, he observes, joining with others across the globe makes it more possible.

“We do well to focus our attention on these huge issues so that we do not lose sight of all that is required to make the world a better, more just, more compassionate, more empathetic, more merciful, more loving and peaceful place”, he writes.

Acknowledging the Sustainable Development Goals are the product of the United Nations, Duckworth reinforces Pope Francis’ message that they are not divorced from the Christian message.

“The Christian Gospel brings additional insights and impulses into each of these Sustainable Development Goals. For us, they are all underpinned by our Christian understanding that as Children of God we are required to care for each other, for our planet and for the conditions and lives of others in our world.”

Duckworth notes the United Nations set these brave goals as a target for 2030 and is urging Marists to be bold.

“We could easily be overwhelmed by them and say — well that simply isn’t possible, rather than how can I add what I have into this effort.”

Sustainable Development Goals

  1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development


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News category: New Zealand.

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