Fr Oskar Wermter: I Am Not Myself On My Own
The coronavirus pandemic lockdown has isolated us and cut us off from one another. But we are still a community. We are still one, Fr Oskar Wermter SJ explains.
Though not yet fully united and able to share the Eucharist, we pray for one another. I promise my prayers. And you will include me in your prayers.
We are members of families, of communities of consecrated women or men. We are never alone. The Holy Spirit is in all of us and joins us together. We learnt to say “Our Father”, not just “My Father”.
“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own” (1 Peter 2:9). We are a “priestly people”. A priest prays for others. He represents the Lord before the people and the people before the Lord. Ordained ministers are not the only “priestly people”. We all are priestly since we all are baptised and confirmed. We all are priestly in praying for all who belong to us.
A priest makes an offering. He gives gifts. He gives himself as his Lord did. Any prayer is self-giving.
Who is the ‘self’?
Who is this “self”? Is it just me, me alone? No, we have said we are never alone.
My “self” consists of me and all the brothers and sisters, friends and co-workers and companions I have ever known, I have taught or cared for, all those I have healed and been reconciled to, all those whom I have ever loved and that belong to me still, even if our communion was a long time ago.
When I was in isolation, quarantined and cut off, celebrating the Eucharist apparently made no sense because there was no community. But I was wrong. Even when “breaking the bread” of the Eucharist alone, I was not just one, but we were many.
I was in the one living Body of Christ and bound together with all whom I had ever shared Holy Communion with. Together with all whom I had ever proclaimed the Good News to, all I had ever cared about as my pupils or students, as readers of my papers, all with whom I had ever shared a meal with in friendship and kindness.
Maybe life took us to faraway places, maybe we had to say farewell to them, maybe our friends and companions said farewell to us. No matter. They still belong to me and I belong to them.
“If one part suffers, all the other parts suffer with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). And if one has great joy, he shares the joy with all others.
A space for many
I am my “self”. This self is like a hut, a house, indeed a village or a city. It is my heart which offers much space as a refuge; it welcomes refugees and homeless people. Love makes space for many. And love lasts. I take them along, those whom I have loved, as I walk with Jesus, the Son, to his Father. Just as Jesus never abandoned one of his own, so we, if we have the Spirit of Christ, will never abandon our loved ones or leave them alone on the road. Can a loving wife leave her husband out of her prayers? Can parents pray without including their children?
My “self” — that is the history, or the story, of my life. It is a long story, like a drama with many actors. My “self” — that is my memory which is like a big storeroom where all my actions of kindness, compassion and justice, my deeds of charity, my words of truth are held like rare treasures. My “self” — that is all the good relationships I had with different people, that is a network of love and bonds of friendship and compassion.
My “self” — that is countless people who still live in my heart.
Jesus said at the Last Supper: “If I go and prepare a place for you. I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am, you also may be” (John 14:3).
If the Holy Spirit lives in me, he will widen my heart and make it big enough as a home for all the people I ever knew and loved and welcomed. In prayer I open my heart to the Lord to show him all my brothers and sisters, my friends and companions, even my opponents who have hurt me or rivals with whom I now live in the peace of Christ (John 20:21).
“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
Fr Oskar Wermter SJ is based in Harare.
This article was published in the October issue of The Southern Cross magazine
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