They cannot chain up God’s news
Week by week now there has been an easing of restrictions. This has brought some relief as we have all struggled over the past three months. Small things have come to mean so much: having a cup of coffee at a café, going out for a meal, travelling to our shack. While many rules still apply and there is always the danger of a fresh outbreak of the virus, we are all experiencing some degree of relief. Life is returning to some degree of normality.
For most of this year so many things have been put on hold. We have been uncertain about the future situation. We are still unable to book overseas flights. Many have holiday plans on hold. However, we all hope that in coming months we will see the usual patterns of life return to what they have been.
This, of course, includes the life and mission of the Church. We have been able to resume attending Mass. Parish life can resume most of its activities. Before we simply return to what we have always done, this period of restriction can have also provided us with the chance to look at things afresh.
In particular, before simply taking up where we left off, we can reflect on the mission of the Church here in Tasmania. We can ask how we can be more effective in bringing Christ to our society. This must always be the focus of each Catholic and each parish community.
St Paul commented to Timothy that while he was in chains himself, he said, “They cannot chain up God’s news.” (2 Tim 2:9) Even under the restrictions of a house arrest St Paul continued to work to spread the Gospel, especially by writing letters. During the COVID-19 lockdown the Church turned to livestreaming of Mass. We also saw a proliferation of online Catholic conferences. In a way the restrictions saw a significant increase in the reach of the Church’s ministry. We learnt new ways of engaging with people using online technologies. We will never know how many people who would not normally come to a church or attend a religious event may have been reached via the Church’s increased presence on the internet.
One event that will benefit from this increased use of and familiarity with online gatherings is a national Catholic men’s event organised by the Bishop’s conference to be held on Saturday, 15 August. I have been part of the committee organising this event (information about which can be found in this edition of the Standard). When it was an in-person meeting we had hoped to attract around 150 men nationally. However, now as it will be offered online, we will be able to have significantly more men take part from more regions across the country. In Tasmania we are planning at least seven centres where men can gather to take part in the one day conference. This is one of the few benefits that has come out of this very unfortunate and difficult situation we have experienced.
As we begin to return to a more normal way of life, we can bring some things that we have learnt during the lockdown period. The time of isolation can result in new energy and enthusiasm to live the Christian life and advance the mission of the Church.
Archbishop Julian Porteous
July 5, 2020