We learn from the first reading that the Persian king, Cyrus was called by name and anointed by the Lord to subdue nations before him with a mission to free the Jewish exiles from captivity in Babylon. Similarly, by virtue of our baptism, we are called by name and anointed as priest, prophet and king and thus commissioned with a holy, prophetic and royal mission (1 Peter 2:9) to fulfil God’s holy plan.
We can look to St. Paul to emulate his great missionary effort. The letter to the Thessalonians shows us that Paul did not work alone, but together with Timothy and Sylvanus (1 Thess 1:1). So then, should we all work together in unison as community and church. In his letter, Paul writes: “We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction.”(1 Thess 5). What Paul and his companions reminded the Thessalonians also applies to us today in our particular situation; just as the Thessalonians were, we are also empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry out our missionary work.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus’ message to the pharisees and Herodians reminds us that in the course of living our lives, by giving back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, we need to transcend the challenges imposed by the secular in the course of any missionary work to give to God what rightfully belongs to God, by performing acts of love, hope and charity.
One particular challenge we are facing, stems from the COVID19 circuit-breaker restrictions which imposes a major disruption to the way we worship as a community. During phase 1 of the circuit-breaker, it almost felt like an “exile” from community worship as on 14th February 2020, all physical celebration of the Eucharist in church was suspended. Meanwhile, we were reminded by the archdiocese of the need to fulfil our obligation to keep the Day of the Lord holy. St. Michael’s started holding the Eucharistic Celebration on the Zoom platform. The Zoom masses attracted an attendance of roughly 100+ as compared with weekend attendance of 700+. Now that some of the circuit breaker restrictions are being lifted, and physical Eucharistic Celebrations with a restricted attendance is allowed, attendance at the Eucharistic Celebrations, whether physical or via Zoom is still nowhere near the pre-pandemic attendance of 700+ each weekend. That begs the question, “where are the lost sheep?” How do we gather the fold at the parish of St. Michael’s and grow our community of disciples?
Our challenge then is to make it our mission, to take positive action as a community, to gather the “lost sheep” from our fold back to our church, the holy temple of God, as well as to grow our assembly in strength and holiness as in the words of the responsorial psalm:
Give the Lord, you families of peoples,
give the Lord glory and power;
give the Lord the glory of his name.
Bring an offering and enter his courts.
Worship the Lord in his temple.
O earth, tremble before him.
Proclaim to the nations: ‘God is king.’
He will judge the peoples in fairness.
Written by Helen Yzelman, Valerie, Oswald and Henry.