It is Mission month and Mission weekend. In all my rambles in Nigeria, Korea, Brazil, Japan, Scotland, England and even Finglas, there has been a God who has danced into my life, full of surprises, full of poetry, full of wonder and full of laughter. I am on a mission to collect more and more such surprises and I need to find that treasure daily.
I’m a believer:
My Mission here may distract me, out to the byways and highways where the Church is forgotten and where the gibberish of sacred language is irrelevant. But I cannot go out there, unless I am enjoying the living God, where I am. I need to be taking off my shoes, seeing the burning bush, hearing the gentle breeze and finding the teasing- God of the caster-oil plant (Jonah.) I need to be telling people and showing people that God and Church, isn’t like the scarcely remembered version, which is a caricature of the Christ-picture from the Gospels. But I shouldn’t tell anyone, anything, if I am not alive myself. Possibly, the only Mission I have now, is to create some kind of oasis, where the refreshment of God, makes a little sense in the desert of our modern world. I have to do this with total humility and must exude some personal serenity, believing that nothing can ever happen, that is beyond the goodness and love of God. Mission now might just mean: Believing and living as if I/we believe.
Kevin Lowry (priest in Lancaster Diocese and a long time Augustinian and friend) died unexpectedly. His funeral was on Wednesday (18th October) in Lytham St Anne’s. We gathered. It was an extraordinary gathering. I smiled too that there were road works everywhere towards the Church (roads closed) and challenged us to find a way through. We managed to break through (a message and metaphor!) Brian Lawlor osa was the homilist and he spoke powerfully and very affectionately. He said that the funeral of a priest is different. I am hesitant about that thought. But he went on to say that there is something strange about a priest’s funeral which means that the occasion is bigger and wider than the individual or even the family. (Brian did it well). There was a very public Godliness about it all. A history of events, moments, places and people was happening. In some ways, all of us were recalling, the mosaic of Kevin’s life and weaving the tapestries of that story into a God-story in our own lives. Maybe it was very appropriate that his dying was delayed as the family waited for matching recipients to receive his donated organs. That summed up the giving-in-his-life or the mission-of-his-life.
A coffin is blessed:
There was a huge overflowing congregation of people from several countries and many parts of the UK. Something bigger than Kevin and bigger than any of us, was happening. I saw his father Tom (95 years old) bless his son finally in the Crematorium and it was powerful and humbling and tearful. We then did likewise. The blessing and the touch on the coffin somehow reached the depths of ourselves and the guts of faith. Grace, Faith, affection, love, God stirred in us. We were reminded of our own Mission. A very strong presence and absence was Shelagh (Kevin’s mother who died a short time ago). I have described her (previously) as a beautiful woman and a saint. She was all of that.
Christ be our Light:
One moment among many, stayed with me as we processed out of St Joseph’s. The song being sung was ‘Christ Be Our Light.’ It was explosive. Everyone was screaming (tunefully) but powerfully to the heavens, demanding that Light for ourselves/themselves. The conviction was incredible. What did Kevin do, to have evoked such a response? Was it Kevin? Was it Shelagh, Tom and Anne? Was it the various Congregations and Communities that surrounded him and supported him? Or was this occasion, an opportunity for all of us to excavate what is within us and find the deepest ambitions of our hearts? Was Kevin the excuse that we all needed and craved?
Called and sent:
Mission weekend or Mission time, is surely the reminder to Celebrate what we have received and to Hand On what has been our legacy. The faraway Mission continues. The local Mission is profound. Francis tells us of his Mission – it is the simplicity of the Gospel and the immediacy of Jesus Christ. The Mission of the Bishops and Priests surely is to throw around Hope. It is to scatter the beauty and wonder of God. It is to dump the paraphernalia that corrodes the spirit (ancient garbs, titles, false solemnity, fears and ancient language). The Mission in every Church has to be – to Celebrate the experiences of life, and the presence of God. Bread and Wine; food and drink; nourishment; feeding and being fed; humility and gratitude. Listening and hearing God speak; knowing and believing that God still speaks Now and to us and in every situation. The Presentation of Gifts. The Word made flesh. Grace – being touched by God. Thanksgiving. Eucharist.
Free at last:
Our Mission is to strip back the accumulated formality and the dust of the centuries. It is to run away from the corroding rust that has rotted the structure. It is to dump the showy nonsense of outdated practice, dress, title and false protectionism (of God). It is to get away from being problem- centred or overflowing with negativity. It is to realise and accept that priesthood is not stagnated into maleness or into celibacy. It is to learn a little from Martin Luther King (28th August 1963) – ‘I have a dream’: ‘Thank God Almighty. Free at last. We are free at last. ‘ It is to move on and to move out full of Confidence (full of faith) knowing that yesterday is dead and gone but that a new day is dawning and it will be different. We are Believers or nothing. That is our Mission. And only that. As we protested our convictions like an erupting volcano yesterday in Lytham – we have to continue to act as if we believe ‘Christ is our Light. ‘May that volcano erupt from each of us and fire up our world.
Seamus Ahearne osa