03 November 2009

3 November, Day 23: update on kidnapping of Fr Michael Sinnott

Still of Fr Michael Sinnott from video of 24 October, released 31 October

3 November 2009, 11:00pm Philippine time, 3:00pm GMT

Fr Patrick O’Donoghue, Columban Superior, Philippines

Fr Mick Sinnott is 23 days in captivity today. It is also the feast day of St Martin de Porres, a ‘dispenser of medicines’ who used his skills with a heart full of love in helping the most destitute and abandoned. He also had a great love for the Eucharist – the two go together. His gentle loving presence to the people he cared for not only made him beloved of them, but even now, four hundred years later, he is a much loved saint throughout the world. May he join his prayers to ours this day.

‘I will hear what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace, peace for his people and his friends’ [Ps. 85]. Peace, God’s peace, the peace the world can never give us, runs through the Liturgy today. If this peace is to enter our hearts and take hold of us, we have to listen: ‘You keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you’ [Is. 26]. There is little peace in our world these days. There is a lot of conflict and division and the seeking of advantage wherever it can be gained. All of us get caught up in these forces of the ‘anti-kingdom’ – all that obstructs and seeks to destroy the beauty of God’s creation and the human community that is to reflect the Trinity itself. If God’s peace is to permeate our world, it can only do so to the extent that we are willing to become people of peace, people who are willing to reach out to others with God’s word of peace as a way of life. Love, truth, justice, forgiveness and peace are all part of this way of life. It is demanding as it allows no ‘vacation days’ when we can be otherwise! ‘Bless those who persecute you: never curse them, bless them’ [Romans 12: today’s readings] . It’s not easy. So, like the psalmist, Paul and Martin de Porres, we need to keep our mind ‘stayed on God’ so that God’s peace can enter and gradually transform us into people of peace. These days, as we earnestly pray for Mick’s release, let us also ask God to work in our hearts so that we, too, may be released from whatever is preventing us from truly being people of peace.

There was a day of Eucharistic Adoration at San Jose Church (our parish church here in Pagadian) from 8am to 6pm today. My sense is that this is reflective of so many other places in the world where people, either on their own or gathered in groups, continue to ask God untiringly for Father Mick’s release. The goodness of so many people of peace becomes more and more evident. A number of times today I found myself thinking of and praying for the British couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler, who were captured by pirates last week in the in the Indian Ocean. They are now believed to be in Somalia. I’m sure that our prayers for Father Mick will, in God’s eyes, also include this couple and all others in unjust captivity, whether we are conscious of it or not. May God bring peace to all their hearts as they live in uncertainty and, perhaps, fear. May they all be released safely and soon.

In between some visitors and phone calls, I attended to some regional business today. In a way, I found myself ‘settling down’ into another week of waiting. There continue to be hopeful signs but nothing that would indicate how long more Father Mick will have to wait to be released. I hope that the willingness of the Crisis Management Committee (CMC) to continue to keep lines of communication open with those who sent the video will enable Father Mick to have all the medications he needs. That was something that we followed up today.

Rachel and Paul Chandler
But we are all waiting on those who are holding him. They have the ‘power’ at this point. I was contacted by a number of reporters today. I repeated to all of them that, for me, ‘compassion’ is the best and easiest way out of this. When talking to a reporter from the media here in the Philippines this morning, I emphasized that whatever our judgment on them for abducting and holding Father Mick, if they were to ‘look at the man they are holding’ and see him for who he is and not as a means for making money and in compassion release him immediately, then we would remember them as ‘men of compassion’ and not as ‘kidnappers’. Later in the afternoon one of the agencies in Rome contacted me and in the course of that conversation asked me did I really think that these men were capable of compassion? It was an honest question that deserved an honest answer. I replied that if I were to answer simply from a ‘human’ point of view, I would have to say ‘probably not’. But I prefer to continue to see this from the horizon of faith. And from that perspective what is impossible for us is possible for God. God can change hearts, despite our firm resistance. I believe that all the prayers being offered are changing hearts and maybe the hearts that will change first are not those of the captors themselves, but the hearts of those who may have influence over them. A mother can change the heart of her son, a wife that of her husband, a brother that of his own brother. Let us ask Mary our Mother to particularly intercede these days that the hearts that need to change will be opened to compassion.

We are called to be people of peace and of hope. If we are willing to reach out to those who are holding Father Mick with the love of Jesus, then I believe that all things are indeed possible. God has not given up on these people, nor should we.

Father Mick is now in his 24th night. May the gentle St Martin de Porres bring his companionship to him this night, just as he brought it to so many others in his lifetime. May Father Mick have peace.

May we, too, have peace as we continue to wait remembering another line from Ps 68: ‘God leads the prisoners forth into freedom’.

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