Forward Together: Listening for the Spirit
In the last seven months the upheaval brought by the pandemic has been constant, and deeply disruptive. We are plagued by uncertainty about the future. Planning for the short or long-term feels like an exercise in futility; we simply don’t know where things (case numbers, a vaccine, the economy, our health care systems) will be six weeks, six months or a year from now. Cases in many parts of Canada are trending upwards, and even Manitoba, a province which had weathered the pandemic with more success than other parts of the country, is seeing a serious surge. Lock downs loom once again, and fears about the health and financial security – our own and that of our loved ones – are a source of anxiety for millions.
In his message for World Mission Sunday, released earlier this year at Pentecost, Pope Francis wrote, In this year marked by the suffering and challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic, the missionary journey of the whole Church continues in light of the words found in the account of the calling of the prophet Isaiah: “Here am I, send me” (6:8). This is the ever-new response to the Lord’s question: “Whom shall I send?”
The dialogue between Isaiah and God is our dialogue too, as individuals and community. By our baptism, we’re all drawn into the missionary outreach of Jesus, invited to discern how we can best respond to the needs which our times presents to us. Pope Francis is clear, that even in the midst of fear and uncertainty, the invitation to step out of ourselves for love of God and neighbour presents itself as an opportunity for sharing, service and intercessory prayer. The mission that God entrusts to each one of us leads us from fear and introspection to a renewed realization that we find ourselves precisely when we give ourselves to others.
At our launch earlier this week of ‘Forward Together: Listening for the Spirit’, I sat before my computer and scrolled from screen to screen filled with the smiling faces of Oblates and Associates from across the country. As I watched and listened to the joyful exchanges between people who have been apart for far too long, I was filled with gratitude for the charism of St. Eugene which binds us together, and informs our missionary identity. I experienced also a deep hope; the same expressed by many of you in letters and emails after the event, that the process to unfold over the coming weeks and months will allow us to continue to come together, sharing our lives of faith, and discerning our missionary call for the coming 2 to 3 years, even in these pandemic days.
Again, from his World Mission Sunday letter, Pope Francis writes; Understanding what God is saying to us at this time of pandemic also represents a challenge for the Church’s mission… this situation should make us even more attentive to our way of relating to others…. ever more open to the need of our brothers and sisters for dignity and freedom, as well as our responsibility to care for all creation. Let these words guide us as we enter into this important moment of discernment.
By Ken Thorson, OMI