13 February 2023
Dear Friends in Christ,
As I participate in conversations about what are our priorities in the Diocese of Belleville, I frequently hear about the importance of evangelization, and the need for Catholics to live as “missionary disciples”. I find such conversations beg a question or two: What does a “missionary disciple” look like? How can I live as a “missionary disciple”?
As we move into the Season of Lent, I am advocating that we Catholics live as “Missionaries of Compassion” in order to be credible and effective missionary disciples. I encourage our readers to think back to the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy initiated by Pope Francis in December 2015. The Holy Father himself was a “Missionary of Compassion” as he frequently took time on Fridays of that year to reach out to the poor, the sick and people living on the margins of society. “Mercy Friday” activities by Pope Francis included a surprise visit to people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Such surprise visits by the Holy Father were wonderful signs of God’s kingdom opening up in our world.
I invite you to join me in taking time in Lent to open our hearts with compassion for people who are hurting and suffering, many of whom suffer quietly and alone. Let’s take the time to visit a person in a nursing home who has few visitors or serve a meal to the homeless. Prayerfully consider what you might do and plan ahead to accompany our brothers and sisters in their need, if possible, in person on a Friday of Lent or as you can best manage to be present.
Many years ago, Fr. Jean Danielou, SJ a French Jesuit, wrote a book: The Salvation of the Nations.
Danielou noted that: “Our Lord assumed humanity in order to penetrate it with divine life.” He continued “…the purpose of the Incarnation is to bring about, by reason of the union of divinity and humanity in Christ’s person, the transfiguration of our nature, through which we are liberated from what St Bernard calls its “miseria”, that is, not only sin but also all the consequences of sin, …all limitations such as death, sickness, suffering, unbalance. Christ is even at this moment bringing this transformation about in humanity.”
Recognizing how the Lord in his Mercy is lifting us up, can we be slow to extend his transforming power to the poor and the hurting? Let us embrace the mission Christ is entrusting to us. Let us be Missionaries of Compassion beginning this Lent. Please join me in allowing the Lord to use us to be surprising signs of God’s kingdom in our world for those who are looking and longing for the loving presence of our Lord.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop Michael McGovern