Father John Joseph Fenelon
“Go therefore, make disciples of all the nations and baptise them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19-20). Christ’s Great Commission is echoed at the Eucharistic celebration when the priest dismisses the faithful at the end of Mass with the words, “Go in peace glorifying the Lord by your Life/ Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.”
The Church is missionary by nature. In a world ravaged by the ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic, many of us are unable to attend Holy Mass as often as we would like. What does this mean for our identity as Catholics and our mission as Church?
Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the Eucharist “as the propeller at the centre of the entire evangelising activity of the Church, somewhat as the heart is in the human body. Christian communities, without the Eucharistic celebration in which they are nourished by the two-fold meal of the Word and the Body of Christ, would lose their authentic nature.”
Without the Eucharist, he warned, believers would not be able to transmit Christ to others; they would only be able to propose ideas or values.
Our liturgical worship is both communion and mission. Every time we gather at Mass, we are empowered by the Eucharist for mission. The communion we share is a reflection of our mission. “Just as the Father sent me, so am I sending you.” (Jn 20:21)
For most people doing mission work means going to a Third World country and reaching out to the material poor. No doubt this is important, but we are also called to focus on those in material and spiritual poverty in our families, communities and workplaces. This should be our priority now as most of the world’s borders are closed. As the Eucharistic Prayer III in Masses for Various Needs says:
“Grant that all the faithful of the Church, looking into the signs of the times by the light of faith, may constantly devote themselves to the service of the Gospel. Keep us attentive to the needs of all, that, sharing their grief and pain, their joy and hope, we may faithfully bring them the Good News of salvation and go forward with them along the way of the Kingdom.”
Covid-19 is one of “the signs of the times.” During this time of pandemic, while we may have to distance ourselves physically, communicating via online platforms lacks the personal touch. Social distancing doesn’t mean we have to be unsociable or anti-social. We can still listen and pray with those in spiritual need face-to-face while wearing masks and in groups of five or less. We can share our common struggles in parenting, working life, serving the church or simply getting by day by day. We can participate in parish activities, especially reaching out to those in even greater poverty of spirit. This issue of The Catholic News offers some concrete examples of how we can continue to be on mission as Church during Covid-19.
Above all, we can encourage one another to go back to Mass and receive the healing power and strength of Christ in Holy Communion.
As we are in the season of Advent, the season of hope, and with Christmas soon approaching, may we, propelled by communion with Jesus Christ and each other in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, continue to be on mission as instruments of hope for others. St Paul’s words to the Church in Philippi 2,000 years ago are still relevant to us today:
“The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4-7)