Spring Lake, NJ. Cloudy rainy morning. In a few short days, our street missionary team will be back in SoHo, engaging passersby about matters of faith and eternity. After nearly two long years of lockdowns, and even with the rumblings of yet another Covid resurgence looming, nearly 75 of us will be there. Seeking souls.
Our theme this year, appropriate we think for both the season and this unique place in time, is “A New Beginning.” We trust that through the intervention of the missionaries and the grace of the Holy Spirit, next Monday night will truly become a new beginning for many lost souls in the city who have somehow lost their path to God. The mission will also serve as a new beginning of sorts for the parish of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, that has bravely held strong through the two year long Covid storm, and yes, is still standing. Next Monday will see its missionaries out stirring up the neighborhood again, reminding all that however traumatic a crisis we encounter in this life, the Lord is still there for us, always offering a fresh start. And it will be a new beginning for the missionaries. Some of us have also lost our way in the long dry months of 2020 and 2021, our missionary fires often dampened to mere glowing embers. This mission will represent our chance to re-light the flame.
For all of you out there who are coming, and for those who can’t come and will be praying for the mission’s success, we’re going to focus this very special mission on three key elements of our faith:
Joy. The last two years have seen too much heartbreak and tears. Deaths of loved ones, isolated sufferings, social unrest and disruption. And for many Catholics, loss of our sacramental lives, as we turned– at first by necessity and later by newly formed habits—away from the sacraments and the Eucharist and towards “live streamed Masses.” Our personal relationship with Jesus has grown cool. Spiritually, a grim resolution hangs in the air. On Monday night, above all, our missionaries’ goal will be to bring joy to SoHo. Not the kind of “joy” that comes from a nice evening on the town or a pleasant meal or a one night stand, but rather the deep, confident joy that exudes from a person of faith, who knows her place in the world, who believes he is a beloved son of God. This Christian joy stands firm; it’s the joy that conquered an empire many centuries ago. If we do nothing else on Monday night, it will be to bring joy back to the streets of New York. A new beginning.
Hope. Hope has been another virtue in short supply these days. The seemingly endless struggle against this indomitable foe called Covid has ground all of us into something less than our true selves. Somehow, we seem haunted by the horrors the future might bring rather than excited by the promises it offers. All of this de-humanizes us, reduces us to something less than God created us to be.. Even the faithful among us have lost our certainty about Him, our sense of place in the world, and our confidence in our eternal future. On Monday, our missionaries will re-ignite hope out on the streets. Yes, as we joyfully engage others on the highways and byways of SoHo, we will be witnessing hope to them. Reminding them that all is far from lost. That life is meant to be more than a short-lived, “happy”, banal celebration of another day passed without being killed by the Covid. Nothing about the last two years has changed the eternal truth of our creation by God, and our future with Him for eternity. That hope in Him gives us our inner strength, our peace, our fearlessness. On Monday, we will be giving that Hope to others. We will be giving them a new beginning.
Love. Every mission is different, and after two long years away, none of us know what to expect out there. Will the crowd be even more indifferent than ever? Perhaps. More fearful of interacting with a stranger? For sure. More doubtful that someone as loving and tender as Jesus ever even existed? I don’t know. But what I do know is this. We will not bring them home with reason, and argument, and logic. We won’t out-think them, or out-debate them, or out-smart them into that church. But what we will do, regardless of how they react to us initially, is out-love them. Love them in a way perhaps that they have not been loved in a long time. Love them as they are, our brother or sister in Christ. Love them unselfishly, without regard to our own pride or dignity or even safety. On Monday, we are going to love them in. To a new beginning.
December 18, 2021