Sister Susan Connelly hears the voice of John the Baptist through a friend, and calls us to the uncomfortable Christianity of the stable and the cross.


Susan Connelly is a Sister of St Joseph, the Catholic Religious Congregation founded by St Mary MacKillop.

Today's reading is Luke 1:57-66

Some time ago I stood on a pavement and spoke to passers-by on behalf of a man I have known for some years. He had been charged with damage to property, writing "Omid R.I.P" on the wall of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's office. He appeared in court a few times, as he did the deed more than once. I don't actually hold with property damage, and he knows this, but I was more than happy to speak on his behalf. I admire him and his commitment to justice and humanity enormously.

There is no damage remaining on the office wall, but alas, the damage to Omid Masoumali was terminal. He was 23, a proven refugee from Iran who was in detention on Nauru and who had been told he would remain there. A boat person. He set himself on fire and after a few days and lack of immediate treatment, on 29 April 2016 he died.

My friend was appalled, as were many Australians. He began to write Omid's name on the footpath wherever he went, to honour the name, to honour the man. Just like "Eternity Man" Arthur Stace, who wanted to remind people of what really matters, and spent his time beautifully writing "Eternity" in copperplate handwriting on the pavements of Sydney for decades. My friend then broke with political correctness and wrote the name on the office of the Prime Minister, more than once. Shock, horror, court, fine, whitewash, back to normal. And again.

Elizabeth declared, "His name is John". She broke with convention. The neighbours wondered, "What will this child be?" We know what he became. A thorn in the side of the authorities, a blazing, fiery man who chewed locusts and sipped honey. A man who bowed before only one other as they witnessed to God in the river together. A man who literally lost his head in the name of truth and goodness and justice. A man who calls us to the uncomfortable Christianity of the stable and the cross, the sort favoured by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, saint of our times.

My friend thundered, "His name is Omid". He defied convention on behalf of a 23-year old Iranian, as dear to God as any politician or pope, a human being caught up in the senseless, arbitrary decisions of fearful leaders.

I have no photo of Mr Turnbull's office defaced with the name of a dead man. But I hold in my heart the unexpected beauty of being friend to a man who bears a striking resemblance to John the Baptist.

Daily Reading Luke 1:57-66

The Birth of John the Baptist

57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60 But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” 62 Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came over all their neighbours, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

Unexpected Beauty: An Advent series from Common Grace