Dear MSSP brothers and sisters
The reality of the pandemic has been with us for quite a while and we are still seeing no way-out. We all have been through all sorts of challenges and had to adapt according to the different levels of threat that this virus presented to us. As communities we have risen up to the expectations, tried to be creative in our response and stay pro-active. We may have also started to feel the physical strain on our bodies and organizational structures, and the psychological stress from the continuous changes we had to make to adapt to unprecedented circumstances and restrictions that limit our usual freedoms.
Maybe the theme of this year’s mission Sunday sounds strange to our ears: “Here am I, send me!” Movement and new endeavors are out of synch with our present-day situation of lockdown. We might even feel tired and even discouraged paddling upstream against a current too strong for our tested energies. These words taken from the prophet Isaiah were uttered by a man who, like us, felt overwhelmed with what he was seeing both inside himself and in his people.
Yet, like the prophet we were touched by that burning coal from the Divine fire when through our baptism we were given a new life in Christ and a clear mission to let his Kingdom manifest itself rain or shine. When the prophet offers himself to be sent, it is much more about availability to God and a love towards the people, rather than about doing exceptional things. Isaiah, most of the time, was overwhelmed by the realities that surrounded him and the currents pushing against his mission.
In a time of pandemic, the wounded along the side of the road can be anyone, starting from family and community, going as far as the stranger or the enemy. We do not need to go far and wide to realize that there are people around us who will not make it, who linger behind or are lost.
In his latest encyclical letter, Fratelli tutti, Pope Francis touches on another image, this time concerning the parable (the Good Samaritan) of a beaten man on the side of the road, left to die: the result of the greed of some and the indifference of others. The message this letter tries to convey, by human standards, is impossible. Proposing a different outlook towards human relationships, conflicts, poverty, politics, and economy in the midst of a pandemic, might easily be sneered at and taken as a utopian fantasy. But this is not about transforming the world with one stroke of a brush.
The Christian way takes a different approach. We missionaries know that most of our repeated efforts will go unnoticed and with no definite results! Becoming more aware of those on the side of the road needs to be our expertise. This is the pounding heart of our call. Without much fanfare, as lay and religious missionaries, we are called to stop in our daily activity and travel the less beaten path towards a different direction – sideways. We can call this: dying to ourselves, reaching out, embracing the different, choosing the periphery …
This moving towards the road-side of life will eventually make the difference that Pope Francis speaks about. In a time of pandemic, the wounded along the side of the road can be anyone, starting from family and community, going as far as the stranger or the enemy. We do not need to go far and wide to realize that there are people around us who will not make it, who linger behind or are lost.
This Missionary Sunday, let us make it special for somebody who would have never thought that someone will notice him or her on the side road, and stop to check and even share from the little strength that we have. This would make some difference in a very small part of the world, but enough to crack the hard crust of greed and indifference which are the high road of our culture.
Let us join together as a Pauline missionary family to beat a different drum and make possible God’s kingdom amongst us. Wishing you, your communities and families a blessed Mission Sunday and let us keep each other in our prayers.
Fr Mark Grima mssp