In the Gospel this weekend we hear the account of Jesus asking his disciples the question, “Who do people say I am?”. After some discussion Jesus poses a follow up question: “Who do you say I am?”. It seems to me that the question from the Gospel is one that is being asked over and again by many people and organisations today. The global pandemic has forced us all to look more deeply at who we are, what we believe, what is important to us and what priorities we are going to focus on.
This week has been one in which I have witnessed a number of people sorting out that question in various ways. I had the privilege to be with a family who are nursing their dying mother at home. Being able to love those who are close to us through to the end of their lives is a privilege. While this often cannot happen, and many people die suddenly or unaccompanied, the opportunity to be with loved ones during their final days and hours is an experience that stays with us forever. It can assist in the grieving process as we experience loss and emptiness. It can also assist in reorienting our own lives. Death brings us to our senses in many ways. It is one of those experiences that invites us to consider the value and direction of our own lives. It is one of those experiences that helps us answer the question: Who do you say I am? For a priest it is always an honour I do not take for granted, to be gathered with families at this sacred moment.
Also during this week, I was part of our Social Justice series where around 40 of our parishioners gathered together for the third time to reflect on and grapple with the experience of COVID and how we might respond through justice and mercy. We were fortunate to be guided by Sr Angela Reed (a Sister of Mercy and my own sister!) who assisted us in building up a picture of our shared experiences, our statements of belief and our future hopes for our parishes justice network. Angela assisted us to answer the questions: Who are we? What do we stand for? Who is with us? What shall we do now? I am looking forward to working with our newly formed Social Justice Network, which will meet for the first time next Thursday.
I have also been working with our Parish Councils on a ‘survey’ that we will launch today. Our parish leaders have worked with the Christian Research Association (CRA) in order to develop this survey. CRA is the preeminent research organisation in Australia in relation to Church life and faith issues. We have been fortunate to work with them. Our parish survey is an opportunity for all of us to respond to the question: Who are we? It is also an opportunity to collect feedback from as wide a group as possible as to what our parish can and should do to support our people, now and into the future. I invite you this week to consider giving up between 10 and 15 minutes of your time to complete our parish survey. I also invite you to share that survey as widely as possible with as many people as you can, even onto another person in your house or someone you know who might not be in touch with our parish as you are. In that way we will get to hear many of the answers to the question – who are we and what can we do?
Who do you say I am is a question posed by Jesus in the Gospel. There are many opportunities for us to grapple with our answer. Perhaps this lockdown period can give us the space and time to rethink our answer.
Fr Brendan Reed