Fr MICHAEL SINNOTT – DAY 21
1 November 2009, 10:30pm Philippine time, 2:30pm GMT
Fr Patrick O’Donoghue, Columban Superior, Philippines
Today is All Saints Day and people here focused on visiting the graves of their loved ones. That was their primary focus. But Father Mick was not forgotten on this his 21st Day of his captivity. As I write this he is entering into his 22nd day, his fourth week. After yesterday’s ‘breaking of the silence’, we seem to have returned to ‘silence’ again today as the realization comes that we still have to wait.
Jesus is ‘on the hill’ again in today’s Gospel. This time, however, it is to teach – to share with the crowds what he has held in his heart during his nights of prayer on other hills. He opens up to them his Abba’s vision of true blessedness: ‘How happy are the poor in spirit, theirs in the kingdom of heaven . . . ‘ It might help us to try to imagine the voice, the facial expression and the joyful intensity of Jesus as he tries to draw his disciples into his Abba’s way of living. What he is teaching would be, in our terms today, counter-cultural to the prevailing understanding of divine favour and blessedness: wealth, children and security of tenure.
The person who is poor in spirit does not make any claims on God except that God be faithful to his promise. It is a radical dependency, which does not presume to tell God that I ‘deserve’ anything and yet, paradoxically, there is the real expectation of being given everything gratuitously and lovingly. ‘Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us by letting us be called children of God and that is what we are’ [1 John, 3]. Our security is in who we are, not what we have. What we have is changeable and vulnerable. Who we are is unchanging. God has made us his children, that is our truth and security and our trust is in God alone. Hence, with the confidence of children, we ask for what we want, for what we judge to be good, for what we believe would make us happy etc. And, no doubt, we will have the joy of receiving many of these things. But not always. And these moments of seeming refusal are also learning moments, when we are challenged to continue to believe and trust that, yes, we are God’s children, and God has not forgotten us. As we wait in trust we are in fact being led into the freedom of radical dependency. God and God alone is to be trusted, no matter what. ‘In the shadow of your wings I rejoice. My soul clings to you; your right hand holds me fast’ [Ps. 63].
Today we celebrate all those who lived this way, the multitude of ‘hidden ones’ whose ‘clinging to God’ was known to them and God alone. Through them untold goodness and love flowed into our world as the Spirit led them closer to the heart of the Son who cried ‘not my will but yours be done’ Beloved Abba. We should not doubt that this is the way God is leading Father Mick as he continues to wait in the radical dependency of this moment.
In the last 24 hours, Father Mick’s face has been seen around the world and his voice heard as he reads the prepared statement. What struck me as I looked at his picture (taken from this video) in the papers here was the difference between this picture and that which was used when he was first abducted. The gentleness remains, if not enhanced; the vulnerability is pronounced. I hope people will really look at his face. Many in Pagadian were delighted to see the video and to know that he was alive. There was rejoicing. But that was not all. Delight gave way to pain and tears as they felt deeply his predicament. They ‘double’ their prayers as they long for his speedy release.
While people pray, others continue to work for his release. There were a number of meetings today that lasted from 11am till almost 4pm. I believe that they were helpful, but there is no simple solution. Patience is still needed. But it helps to know that a lot is being done.
I reiterated my own statement of yesterday that we do not pay ransom. I again called on the abductors to ‘see that the best and simplest way forward is for them to now release Fr Sinnott without further delay.’ I will attach the statement which went out on the CBCP website.
Messages of support continue to pour in and the prayers go on worldwide. As we celebrate those already in the blessedness of heaven, let us ask for the grace of that blessedness for ourselves in this moment as we try to wait ‘poor in spirit’.
Tonight we move into All Souls' Day. May their prayers accompany Father Mick this night and keep him safe in the shelter of the Most High.