As I write, the restrictions in various parts of the country in order to stem the spread of the Covid-19 are changing. The Government have introduced a three-level response. We are attempting to adapt and live life to the full as much as possible under these conditions. On this Mission Sunday, Pope Francis has sent us a message. He writes “In this year marked by the suffering and challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic, the missionary journey of the whole Church continues in the light of the words found in the calling of the prophet Isaiah: “Here I am, send me” (6;8). This is the ever-new response to the Lord’s question: Whom shall I send? This invitation from God’s merciful heart challenges both the Church and humanity as a whole in the current world crisis”.
Some of you remember the extraordinary moment of prayer presided over by Pope Francis gave on 27th March this year in St. Peter’s Square.
Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realised that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realised that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.
Despite our fear and feelings of disorientation which remind us of our human fragility we have a deep desire or life and freedom from evil. The call to mission which Jesus extends to each of us is an invitation for us to step out of ourselves for the love of God and neighbour. This is an invitation for us to respond to the opportunity for sharing, service and intercessions prayer. The Pope reminds us in his message “The mission that God entrusts to each one of us leads us from fear and introspection to a renewed realisation that we find ourselves precisely when we give ourselves to others.” I have just received my copy of the Pope’s Encyclical Letter “Fratelli Tutti on Fraternity and Social Friendship, which he signed on 3 rd October at Assisi. Here he offers his reflections on fraternal love, he considers its universal scope and openness to every man and woman. Hopefully in the coming weeks I will read this prayerfully and let it challenge me in my understanding of mission. May God in my prayer touch and move my heart to make me more open to the needs of my brothers and sisters’ dignity and freedom.
I leave the final word to Pope Francis:
“Understanding what God is saying to us at this time of pandemic also represents a challenge for the Church’s mission. Illness, suffering, fear and isolation challenges us. The poverty of those who die alone, the abandoned, those who have lost their jobs and income, the homeless, and those who lack food challenge us. Being forced to observe social distancing and stay at home invites us to rediscover that we need social relationships as well as our communal relationships with God. Far from increasing mistrust and indifference, this situation should make us more attentive to our way of relating to others. And prayer, in which God touches and moves our hearts, should make us more open to the needs of our brothers and sisters for dignity and freedom, as well as out care for all creation.”