Bishop Drainey hails Key Workers as the ‘New Icons of Esteem’

CBCEW » Our Work » Department » Social Justice » Health and Social Care » Coronavirus » » Bishop Drainey hails Key Workers as...

Speaking in his homily during the latest weekly Mass for the sick, their families, care workers and NHS staff, Bishop of Middlesbrough Terry Drainey said he believed the increasing desire to foster the common good seen in recent months will last beyond the current pandemic.

Bishop Drainey welcomed the way key workers have replaced the rich and famous as “icons of esteem” in the eyes of society as the importance of their roles has become increasingly evident.

“Values seem to be changing, as do icons of esteem,” he said. “No longer the rich and famous, no longer the A-list celebs. Rather nurses, doctors, care-workers, teachers, those who feed us and supply everything we need for daily life; those who inspire us and uplift us and give us hope.

“The present crisis has forced people to dig deep and they have been surprised at themselves and others to find that there is a well of empathy and a desire to foster the common good in most of us.”

Bishop Terry examined the day’s Gospel reading, commonly known as “Christ’s High-Priestly Prayer” when Jesus gathered his disciples knowing that the next day he was to be crucified.

 “In the face of his imminent death he offers them and us his last will and testament,” he says. “He prays for the gift of unity.

“As Christians we believe that living out this unity, this love, solidarity, fellowship, this communion is the greatest witness to God’s presence in our lives and in our world.”

He said God’s love is the source of the kindness, generosity, compassion and empathy that have uplifted us over recent months, despite the hardships, grief and sickness many people have been experiencing.

And he said they would continue to uplift us because it was the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper that they should do so.

“They are the fruit of the love of so many people – all those nurses, doctors, care-workers, teachers, those who feed us and supply everything we need for daily life,” he said.

 “All those individuals and organisation to whom we wish to express our thanks here at Mass and outside our homes afterwards.

“But the question I ask myself is, I wonder, will all these be part of the ‘new normal’ or is it just a passing phase?

“My answer to my own question is I am certain that they will continue.”

The service took place in St Mary’s Cathedral in Middlesbrough and was streamed all over England and Wales.

The special Masses for health and social care workers, each celebrated by a bishop in his cathedral, continue each Thursday throughout June and July.

Bishop’s Homily

I’m learning and using a lot of new words these days which till a few months ago I would never have employed in my daily conversation. Like “Pandemic”, for instance – not part of my normal vocabulary. Or indeed “Coronavirus”, “Covid19”, “quarantine”, “lockdown” and “new-normal”.

Sadly, they paint a dark and unprecedented landscape to our lives.

But as if to bring some balance, some light into the picture there is a further set of words which has been introduced into conversation; “generosity”, “kindness”, “service”, “compassion”. The present crisis has forced people to dig deep and they have been surprised at themselves and others to find that there is a well of empathy and a desire to foster the common good in most of us.

Values seem to be changing as do icons of esteem. No longer the rich and famous, no longer the A-list celebs; rather nurses, doctors, care-workers, teachers, those who feed us and supply everything we need for daily life; those who inspire us and uplift us and give us hope.

The Gospel reading assigned for today is taken from what is commonly known as “Christ’s High-Priestly Prayer”. Jesus gathers together with his disciples knowing that the next day he is to be killed by crucifixion. In the face of his imminent death he offers them and us his last will and testament. He prays for the gift of unity:

May they all be one, Father, may they be one in us,
as you are in me and I am in you,
so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.
At the end of this passage he adds:
I have made your name known to them
and will continue to make it known,
so that the love with which you loved me may be in them,
and so that I may be in them.

Christ’s prayer focuses on the unity brought about by the love which has its origins in God – solidarity, fellowship, communion. When you are facing death and stating your last will and testament what you have to say matters, it’s important. It’s your legacy. This is precisely what Jesus left to his apostles, his disciples, his Church. His gift to the world.

As Christians we believe that living out this unity, this love, solidarity, fellowship, this communion is the greatest witness to God’s presence in our lives and in our world. Just as the love of God took flesh in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, so also does that same love become flesh, through Christ, in us, his followers and indeed, in the lives and loving actions of all people of good will.

Now I believe that this is the source of the kindness, the generosity, the compassion, the empathy, the service and the desire to foster the common good – all those new words, or really not so new words that I spoke of a moment ago – which bring us motivation, light and hope and which have inspired us and uplifted us so much over these last months. They are the fruit of the love of so many people – all those nurses, doctors, care-workers, teachers, those who feed us and supply everything we need for daily life. All those individuals and organisation to whom we wish to express our thanks here at Mass and outside our homes afterwards.

But the question I ask myself is: I wonder, will all these be part of the “new normal” or is it just a passing phase?

My answer to my own question is: I am certain that they will continue. I pray that they will continue. Yes, I am pretty certain, not because of my prayers, or even yours – all of which count, of course – but because of what Jesus himself prayed at that Last Supper, the night before he died, when he proclaimed his last will and testament, when he prayed for us:

Holy Father,

I pray not only for these,

but for those also

who through their words will believe in me.