Ad Clerum for Holy Week from the Bishop of Edmonton
On Thursday night, many of us will be responding to Jesus’ imperative that we must wash each other’s feet, as we live out His new commandment that we must love one another, using Jesus himself as our role model.
This is not easy, especially when this command is almost immediately followed by Jesus’ supreme act of sacrificial love upon the Cross, whilst at the same time it divides the disciples as most, in their fear, go their own ways, in a desperate attempt to self-preserve, before they respond to the awesomeness of the empty tomb.
Love and service go hand in hand, and we are called to love and to serve the 1.2 million people that we minister to in the Edmonton Area, and we are also called to love and serve each other in the life of the Church.
As many will know, I have spent the last two weeks in Mozambique, participating in the Enthronement of +Vicente Msosa, the new Bishop of Niassa, and visiting parishes and projects in the two Diocese of Lebombo and Niassa. I have learnt much of what it looks like for Christians to love and serve their whole communities in very challenging circumstances. The drought of the past few years has taken a considerable toll, as has the unstable economic conditions of much of Southern Africa. This love and service has taken the form of credit groups, agriculture experiments, HIV AIDS support, education and training, clean water supplies and the intensive commissioning of Catechists. There was one parish where one priest oversaw 54 churches, and, to cope with the demands, has commissioned over 200 lay Catechists to work alongside him. The result was significant desire for church planting, growing churches and a very creative pastoral care for those poorest in the community. Indeed, this, and many other parishes, were places which live out Leonardo Boff’s challenge to the wider Church, in his excellent book ‘Come Holy Spirit’ that “Jesus’ mission must be nourished by love, the supreme gift of the Spirit, mutual caring, and mercy for those who suffer. What Jesus asks of us is not hierarchy (the power to command) but hierodulia (service to others).”
I am very grateful for the dedicated and hard work of Christians right across the Edmonton Area. I give thanks to God for you, and for the ministry which you offer, praying that what we encounter together is truly Missio Dei. I am grateful for our determined efforts not to, as Stanley Hauerwas describes, “domesticate the wildness of the Spirit”, but to be bold in love and service to the known and unknown, to that which I agree and that to which I disagree. Indeed, we flourish when we live in love, yet we diminish when we live in fear.
I pray that we will each be challenged by the command to love and to serve, as we all have much to learn from each other, and from the poor. I pray too that, as we renew ordination vows, and as we lead the people of God through the great events of the Triduum that our imagination might be enlarged, and God might be glorified.
Please also keep our partners in Mozambique and Angola in your prayers as we continue to support their witness through our Lent Appeal. I have seen how our efforts make a real difference in action. Let’s pray too for the whole Church of God, and in particular our brothers and sisters in Egypt following the attacks on Palm Sunday, as we join together in celebrating our Easter faith.
It is our privilege to love and to serve, for, in our joy, we are an Easter people and our song is Alleluia.