The theme for our country meeting for this year is “Embracing the future together with hope”
We are encouraged by Pope Frances to:
- To look to the past with gratitude
- To live the present with passion
- To embrace the future with hope
We have chosen as our theme to “Embrace the future together with hope”. What does this mean for us in the light of our present realities? I suggest we can take up these three admonitions with great hope, courage and strength. There are two books written by the Nigerian author Chinua Achebe titled “Things Fall Apart” and “No Longer at Ease”. You will all agree with me that Covid-19 has turned our world upside down. And we are no longer at ease. Every aspect of our lives – socially, physically, economically, psychologically, spiritually etc. etc. has been affected.
At the initial stage of covid-19 our fears were great. The image that comes to me when I think of it is “the upper room” experience. (Jn. 20:19) The disciples were behind locked doors, trembling and praying. Much like the disciples we found ourselves locked down in our homes, uncertain, helpless, lost and afraid. The fear became great when we heard that Covid –19 was merciless on the old and people with health conditions and as such they should stay away from public worship, gatherings and avoid any visitors, etc. A sense of being alone overcame us and a heavy depression clouded our vision. We became confused and anxious as if we had lost our way on the cliff of a steep mountain side.
But the disciples did not remain in the upper room forever. As soon as they received the Holy Spirit their lives were changed, they could see things in a new way. They began to preach the gospel with boldness and in different languages. It is said that after any critical life experience we never return to who we were before. Much like the disciples we found ourselves isolated, uncertain and afraid. Yes, the pandemic has imprisoned us with great fear. It has brought untold hardships – we are confronted with pain and suffering. Many have lost their lives, families are grieving; there is economic hardship and in its most extreme form has hit the poorest people most severely, schools and churches closed for many months. There is increased domestic violence, human trafficking and abuse of women. We have become obsessed with hand washing, we cannot even greet one another with a hug or hand shake; we distance ourselves from each other. The things we always took for granted is calling us to appreciation and gratitude. We are no longer free in so many ways; we cannot walk into a store or places of worship without facial masks. We are not free to embrace one another in a gesture of friendship. The energy and togetherness we experience when we come together for meetings is missing, not even to speak of the fresh air we take in as we walk on the road.
In spite of everything, we should not despair. There is hope as we seek mutual wellbeing and holistic care for one another, and in the face of all these, God is calling us to faith and trust. We cannot remain in the upper room forever – caged in our fears. We are now becoming aware of its transmission and prevention. We are coming out of our fears and finding ways of living and working, taking precautions and keeping connected without taking unnecessary risks of traveling long distances. People are connecting through zoom conferencing, Masses are streamed online now for the vulnerable ones in our midst. There is creativity and innovation in doing business. People are taking more precautions.
There is a saying “never let a crisis pass you by without taking advantage of the opportunity to change, learn and evolve”.
In the midst of all these what is our call as MMMs for now and for the future? Do we sink or rise? What are we learning from our experiences? In what new ways is God calling us? I suppose some of these answers will emerge as we engage with each other during our discussions.
Pope Francis says “Covid -19 is not God’s judgment, but a call to live differently. He said that God is calling people to faith, which is not just believing God exists but turning to God and trusting Him”. It is a time to decide to live differently, live better, love more and care for others. We are being called to renew ourselves as new persons, as new families and as new communities and people. We are being challenged to form new habits through daily prayer. From this pandemic we have seen that our lives are interconnected and sustained by one another and that no one reaches salvation by themselves alone. I’m sure you noticed how much we cared and protected one another during the initial stage of the pandemic. We reminded each other to obey all the instructions put in place by the government officials to prevent contracting this deadly disease.
Our MMM Constitution urges us to be attentive to the cry of the poor (Const. 5.6); in faith and humility, respond to God with creative fidelity. We are called to reflect on the signs of time. In hope and love be ready to walk in paths that are new. (Cons. 2.5, 6)
What new life are we being offered in the light of our experiences?
We are being called to consciously reflect on what is happening in our world today in an effort to embrace the possibilities that lie ahead. To face our fears because, Fear taken to its extreme is crippling. We are being challenged to accept the new reality or the new normal which is not normal at all. To change our behavior to protect ourselves and especially to protect others; to reach out to the poor and vulnerable groups in our society.
Pope Francis calls us to reflect on how you, individually and as a community, might best make it possible for you to allow yourself to be open to the Spirit, making this time – one rich in grace and transformation.
I end this reflection by saying part of our chapter journey prayer.
“Loving God with our hearts burning we journey. With turmoil and uncertainty surrounding us, we trust in your grace to help us respond with wisdom and courage to our new realities. Help us to listen to the Spirit deep within our hearts and to share our hopes, fears and dreams with one another in faith. Grant us the courage to choose directions that lead to life in all its fullness for all peoples. Fill our hearts with compassion and love. We pray that we may have the power of the Spirit for our hidden selves to grow strong so that Christ may live in our hearts. Mary Mother of God and our mother pray for us to GOD, that this great suffering may end and that hope and peace may dawn anew. Embrace all your children in distress and pray that God will stretch out His all-powerful hand and free us from this terrible pandemic” Amen.
The author of this article is Sr Teresa who is a member of the Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM). She has served in Malawi, Nigeria and Kenya