Fr MICHAEL SINNOTT – DAY 25
5 November 2009, 10:40pm Philippine time, 2:40pm GMT
Fr Patrick O’Donoghue, Columban Superior, Philippines
Today’s Gospel [Luke15] is also filled with hope. Using the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, Jesus tries to convince us of the intensity of God’s desire to hold all of us safely in his embrace. Jesus told these parables in response to the complaint of the Pharisees and Scribes that he ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them’. God does not just forgive; God goes in search of the ‘lost’ with determination and does not give up till he has found the one he is searching for.
Reading the Gospel I immediately had the image of God going off into the mountain area where Father Mick is being held and bringing him back with rejoicing. I feel that God is indeed doing something like that. But as I re-read the parable about the lost sheep I began to see it differently. ‘What man among you . . . would leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one?’ I don’t know how many would. The word wilderness struck me forcefully. The ‘good’ sheep were left in the wilderness while the Shepherd goes after the straying one. They are not left in pleasant pasture lands but in a ‘wilderness’ and they have to wait for the return of the Shepherd with the ‘lost’ one on his shoulders. And they don’t know how long the search will last. One might reasonably question the shepherd’s sense of responsibility. But the shepherd knows what he is doing.
It has been a relatively quiet day and the internet was again out of action for the afternoon. There were few phone calls from the media – not a bad thing in itself. Father Mick is still very much in the news, however, as the on-going ‘exchange of words’ between some government people and the MILF continues. It is to be hoped that this will not delay the efforts to have Father Mick released quickly. Some diocesan priests called today offering their support. Father Mick is the Spiritual Director of one of them. I also had a conversation with the bishop. We continue to do what we can. Everything counts in these efforts. I am reminded of a song that Fr Frank Nally (a Columban based in London who has worked in Mindanao) included in an email today called the ‘The Power of One’. Part of it is as follows: ‘One vote can change a nation, one sunbeam lights a room. One candle wipes out darkness, one laugh will conquer gloom . . . One voice can speak with wisdom; one heart can know what is true’. Yes, everything counts, especially the little, and not so little, efforts of many anonymous people, and the multitude of prayers from so many others whom Father Mick or we will never know. But God knows all and that is enough for now.
Fr Kevin O’ Neill emailed me to tell me about their Special Day of Prayer last Wednesday in Wuhan, China, the ‘cradle’ of the Society. Frs Gerry Neylon, Dan Troy and Kevin did a full fast. They also used the chapter on the ‘Spirituality for Columban Mission’, from the 2006 General Assembly, as part of their prayer and reflection. Fr Eamon Sheridan (a member of the Columban General Council, based in Hong Kong) also emailed me from Fiji, where he is on visitation. I quote:
A shrine in Fiji
God does hear all these prayers gladly. Many thanks once more to all of you who continue to hold Father Mick in your hearts and prayers with unflagging energy. Thanks also for your prayers for us here.
Your editor today had an email from Sr Maria Forrestal FMM, based in the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic, where I worked in the summer of 2000, who , like Father Mick, is from County Wexford, Ireland. The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary and the small Catholic community in the Faroes are praying for him.
And so Pagadian, Wuhan, Fiji, the Faroe Islands and Wexford are all caught up in prayer for a man who is living his missionary priesthood to the full.