Fr Brian McCoy SJ calls us to take inspiration from the sacrifice of those who have stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic, inspiring us to take up the call of service for others. Full transcript below.
We are now entering an important stage in addressing the coronavirus pandemic in this country.
It’s been nearly two months, and many of us have felt the experience of being locked down. And now, like athletes who are returning to the field after being away and suffering injury, we’re a bit tentative. We’re not sure how fast we can go, how well we can go, and we’re very much aware that these are difficult times, and we don’t want to be locked down again.
So we need things and values to sustain us as we journey out and with each other, attentive to our own health, and very much careful about the health of others.
We can go back to something Pope Francis said about a week ago, on May 14th. He was encouraging us to join with people of all faiths around the world in praying for an end of the pandemic.
He talked of three things: he talked of prayer, he talked of fasting, and he talked of acts of charity.
Now prayer is much more than saying prayers, it’s much more even than going to church or having devotions. Prayer is around nurturing our spiritual life, what Ignatius would say, ‘finding God in all things’. And over the coming months, it’s important that we continue to nourish our spiritual life, to find ways that our spirit life can support our mental health, encourage our physical activities, and our relationships with others.
So it’s important that we go back to what really nourishes us spiritually; contemplating, praying, and being aware that God calls us, at this time, to find that presence of God, that spirit of God, in new ways, and with one another.
Fasting can sound like we just give up food or alcohol for a period of time. But fasting is really about sacrifice. Being prepared to take what we have, to share what we have, to sacrifice something we have for others.
We can see the sacrifice in our health workers who risk their lives and spend many hours of the day caring for us and those who are sick. We can see sacrifice and people that have sacrificed their income to share it with those they’re working with, or even reducing the work days they have, so that others may work even more.
We see sacrifice expressed in so many ways. And it calls us, invites us, to be attentive to the pleasures, the graces, the gifts, the resources we’re so privileged to share in this country, and be prepared to sacrifice something for the good of others.
Acts of charity are, of course, something we know. We care for others, we are attentive to people in need. And at this particular time there are groups that are particularly asking of us, inviting of us, to be kind and generous.
We see it in Jesuit Social Services, always working with people on the margins of our society, people most at risk at this time with high unemployment. People at high risk with mental health issues, or at risk of losing their jobs. People coming out of the justice system.
We think of the Jesuit Refugee Service, especially working with people seeking asylum and refugees, who have had no financial support from this government, at high risk of their own mental health, but also for their families and their wellbeing.
And Jesuit Mission, reminding us once again that we are so privileged in this country with what we share. But if we can, together, share and offer something to those also across the countries, across the seas, and especially in Asia Pacific, our brothers and sisters there, who are also addressing serious issues around the pandemic. These are but examples of acts of charity, inviting us to think of others, share with others, be attentive to others, as we go forward.
So let’s take those three images that Pope Francis reminded us of last week, to support us. To help us be attentive, to be disciplined, be respectful of our own spaces and health as we move forward, to nourish our spirit life, to nourish our sacrifice life, and to nourish our life in generosity and care for others.
Let us go forward together, strengthening our nation and our church and our people, for one another, but also attentive to the needs of the wider world.
Fr Brian F McCoy SJ, Provincial