It was Bishop John Arnold’s turn to celebrate Mass for the sick, their families, healthcare workers and carers on Thursday 4 June.
In his homily, Bishop Arnold said he believed that we are being asked to “think globally” about health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. How we care for our common home as custodians of the environment, he said, was one of a number of inter-connected global factors impacting on our care for each other.
The Bishop of Salford, and Chair of the Catholic aid and development charity CAFOD, said he hoped we emerge from the pandemic thinking about the world around us and what we can do to make it a better place for all – especially the poorest and most vulnerable.
It is absolutely right that we show gratitude in this time of pandemic to all those who are working so hard to alleviate the sufferings of those who are ill. Primarily we think of course of our health workers, people who are showing great courage and put themselves in danger in order to care for the sick, and because of their dedication many lives no doubt have been saved, because we celebrate and rejoice with one of the best systems in the world. So, we are right to give thanks, and to all those who in this difficult time of exceptional behaviour and needs, have been tending to our needs by keeping supply lines open, and providing emergency services. It is right that we thank them, but I do not think we can stop there, can we?
In that responsorial psalm, the response was very clear, ‘Here I am Lord, I have come to do your will’. Might we dare to imagine what God’s will is in this time? What might he be prompting us to do and say and think about? Because it’s clear isn’t it, that when we emerge from this pandemic, that we can’t just go back to what we have been doing before and we have to face the world as it will be, changed. I think we are being prompted to think globally about so many things.
Pope Francis is very clear about this, and I think it is one of the central qualities of what he teaches is that everything is connected, and you cannot see anything in isolation and say “there’s a problem we will solve it”. No, it is connected to so many other things. He has done wonderful things in prompting us to think globally about the environment, which is the care for our brothers and sisters and our common home, and I believe in this pandemic we are being asked to think globally about health and wellbeing, and the care we have for one another, connected with our environment but also connected with so many other issues.
We have a global problem of human trafficking, we have a global problem of modern slavery, we have a global problem of migration and refugees, and in these recent days, we see that we still have a global problem when it comes to racism. That we have still not been able to accord people dignity for being who they are, regardless of their creed, their ethnicity, or their colour.
All these are problems that we need to face, and we will do so much more effectively if we do that globally. If we emerge from this pandemic thinking about the world in which we live and what we can do to make it a better place for all of us to thrive and have wellbeing.
So, let us turn this pandemic around. Yes, it is causing us so much distress, and we remember particularly the family and friends of those who have died in this very difficult time for bereavement. But let us turn it around so that we emerge with that global vision of all that we can do, of the resources that we have, and we see so much good work being done in exceptional circumstances by the volunteering that we see around us, by that care and compassion that people are showing to one another. Yes, we can build on that.
The Catholic Church has made a very big impact on our world in terms of health and wellbeing. There are over 5,000 hospitals around the world founded by the Church, there are 16,000 clinics around the world founded and funded by the Church, there are 16,300 Care Homes where chronically sick and elderly people are cared for. So much good work but more to be done.
Can we knit those things together, can we connect those problems and difficulties and face them with our own good will and initiative? I believe that we can emerge from this with new priorities and that strength of serving one another. That service that we celebrate today in the life, the ministry, the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ the eternal High Priest, who continues to serve us so that we might serve one another.