Solemnity of St.Patrick 


Jeremiah 1:4-9
Acts 13:46-49
Luke 10:1-12,17-20


When I was in what would now be called Year 10, at Marist Brothers, Penshurst, it was the 70’s. It was a time of momentous change in our world, and in our Church. I remember The Living Parish Hymnbook had been confined to the dustbin of history, along with the Catechism.

In our Religion class, I remember we were given these bright shiny magazines. They were an attempt, mostly successful, to me at least, to make our faith contemporary and exciting. I remember being genuinely inspired by the stories and articles they shared, all created with an amazing professionalism.

Over the years, the memories of the stories have been lost except one.

This particular article presented two different ways of how we can see Jesus and the Church. They looked at how Jesus would have been in the Old Wild West.

It was sort of like putting the Settlers, the townsfolk, on one side, and the Pioneers, the cowboys, on the other side.

The Settlers like their town safe. The Church was the courthouse; God was the judge, and Jesus was the sheriff. Wearing a white hat, he ensures that people keep the rules. Sin is breaking any of the town’s laws.

Pioneers, on the other hand, live their life on the trail. The church is the covered wagon, forever on the move. God is the trail boss, and Jesus is the scout. The trail boss is riding with the travellers, sharing their life, their whiskey, and their hard work. The scout, the cowboy, is out ahead, leading the way, finding those who are lost or broken, and, however, it must be done, bringing them back to the wagon, where they can be healed and restored in the community. For them, Sin is leaving anyone behind.

As a kid, I remember being actually excited about the imagery of Jesus being the cowboy, fighting for the widows against the ranchers, restoring justice, and healing the community. It might have been the allure of all boys wanting to grow up to be a cowboy, but it stuck with me.

Now, as I have aged, and matured, I hope, I see it as the reality of what our church could be, and who we, as Christians, should strive to become. To be the cowboys and cowgirls of today. Out on the plains, we see things that the townsfolk never see. The world is different there.

The sheriffs and the cowboys meet head-to-head in our readings today. We stare in the eye two accounts of awful injustice, the lies of holy men, the abuse of male power, the attempted brutal murder of two women, and the injustice of a system that preserves fear, greed, and lust.

Yes, we need a judge. We do need order and safety, but not at the cost of human lives and justice.

Cowboys rescued both these women. Daniel and Jesus. We need the cowboys. To show us what we cannot see, to reveal the truth, to unmask the outlaws, to risk their own safety for the life of the community, and to all those who belong. And leaving no one behind.

One day, I hope to be that kind of cowboy.

Peter Gardiner is a Passionist priest, living in Sydney. He is mostly involved in Outreach work, and teaching English.