WelCom July 2020:
“We may not have thought of giving thanks for this lockdown time, but maybe this is the time to give thanks and to see this as a gift from God who has given us new possibilities.”
Cardinal John Dew, Archbishop of Wellington, Administrator of the Diocese of Palmerston North
Readers of WelCom will have heard many times, either during the Covid-19 lockdown time or in the days following lockdown, statements such as:
- ‘Nothing will be the same as before’;
- ‘When we return to normal, if there is a normal’;
- ‘The world has changed so much in such a short time’.
There have been many similar statements and many questions about how we move ahead. These are questions for our world, our society, our Church, for our families and for us as individuals.
We know some of the plans that we have had for parishes, and some of the established programmes in our diocese and in many dioceses around the world have suddenly changed, as have the plans for businesses, individuals and families. We have been suddenly forced to think differently, to do things differently.
Online Masses would not have been thought of at the beginning of this year, but they suddenly became a reality and we wondered how people would respond. I thought we would probably have people just watching Masses. But I was pleasantly surprised to hear of the many ways people participated and looked for new ways to pray and engage with the Scriptures. From what I have heard, very few just passively watched what was happening on their screens.
Almost three years ago, our Archdiocesan Synod had already asked for this to happen. We didn’t think it would take a pandemic to make it happen. In the section on the Synod ‘Go you are sent to develop a spirituality of service’ the following are recorded.
- ‘Parishes are supported to develop new and inclusive forms of liturgy – worship (other than the Mass) which reflect the diversity of parish communities and encourage people to re-engage with their faith.’
- ‘Different forms of personal prayer are promoted as pathways to encounter with Jesus.’
People actually did this during lockdown. It didn’t take the parish to organise it. Some things were organised and promoted and in which people were assisted, but in many ways, people took the initiative themselves. I have heard of so many initiatives that individuals, families and groups of people took to pray together and to challenge one another about how they apply the Gospel to their daily activities.
Now that we have Masses again, I believe this is the opportune time to keep encouraging one another, to develop these ‘lockdown time prayers and reflections’ even more. We have been faced with a new and unexpected situation that really does help us to focus and develop new ways of thinking and praying, to mature in our faith, and to take initiatives that we should be taking as the baptised. These initiatives, of course, are not just about the ways we might pray together, they are also about the ways we serve one another and serve God’s people in our faith community and in the wider community.
“We have been faced with a new and unexpected situation that really does help us to focus and develop new ways of thinking and praying, to mature in our faith, and to take initiatives that we should be taking as the baptised.”
St Paul talks a great deal about God’s plan being to restore all things in Christ. Maybe this pandemic has been one of the ways that we work together to restore things in Christ. We know God works through us as we rise to the challenge to do things differently, to think in new and creative ways. This is about the way we pray together, the way we reach out to others in society, not just in our parishes but to anyone in need. That challenge to restore all things in Christ belongs to each one of us. The plan and the constant methodology of Pope Francis has always been about personal conversion. He knows he will never reform the Roman Curia by making plans for them to act differently – he is very well aware that will only come about through personal conversion. That is the same for each one of us. Our dreams for our parishes, our families, ourselves only come about when we listen closely to the Gospel challenges put before us each day, and when we choose every day to live as disciples and make a disciple’s response.
“That challenge to restore all things in Christ belongs to each one of us.”
The changes we need will not happen by just leaving it to parish leaders, or to directives from the Bishop, or from the Catholic Centre. They come about when every single one of us knows we can make a difference by being converted over and over again, when we commit to live our lives as disciples and to do something different in a way that influences others. Post lockdown time has given us the incredible opportunity for renewal, for constantly challenging ourselves to a new approach to life, to prayer, to caring for one another. We may not have thought of giving thanks for this lockdown time, but maybe this is the time to give thanks and to see this as a gift from God who has given us new possibilities. The words of the prophet Isaiah are as true for us today as they were for the people of his time. God says to us ‘I am about to do a new thing, now it springs forth. Do you not see it? I will make a way in the wilderness’ (Isaiah 43: 19).
God is doing a new thing in us and for us, and we give thanks.