Bishop David Oakley of Northampton Diocese reflects on the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had in the UK and around the world, and how he plans to support CAFOD’s Summer of Hope in a simple but effective way. We can all do something, so why not get involved!
I’m delighted to share a few words with you about CAFOD’s initiative, the Summer of Hope.
Of course, all of us have experienced pandemic lockdown, something that has changed our lives and will change our lives moving forwards. We hear about the new normal, phrases like social distancing have become part of our everyday lives, and one of the fruits of the pandemic has been a tremendous amount of fear and anxiety in our society.
We wonder what the future holds and that is already a reality for many people who have been made redundant, who have lost their jobs and, in that, their hope. Here at home we have enough of our own to deal with.
But I want to share something about the developing world. Our brothers and sisters – and truly that’s what they are – who have experienced this pandemic in a very different way to ourselves.
For them, often living in very crowded conditions, social distancing is simply not possible. Neither is it possible for them to wash their hands regularly because there is no water, never mind clean water. Hand gel – that’s something beyond their imagination.
We need to think about them.
First of all, because over the last decades the lifeblood has been sucked out of their communities by their national debt to the so-called developed world [or the first world].
Secondly, we need to think about them because they are having a much harder time than ourselves and we are all meant to be in this together.
I do love all the stories that Jesus told in the Gospel but there are a few that come to mind at this time. The first is about Lazarus and Dives, the rich man who dressed in purple every day and dined in a fine way just simply did not recognise the poor man at his door. He didn’t notice him and then, in the next world, things become very different when that poor man Lazarus receives the reward that Abraham says is his due. And the rich man realizes his mistake but it’s too late. I find that story tremendously challenging.
Secondly, there is the story that Jesus told of the sheep and the goats. Again, the element of surprise. When did we see you hungry or in need of any kind and not attend to you. Now I know that those stories are ones that we listen to very often.
In this CAFOD Summer of Hope, I simply present them to you as I present them to myself, as a challenge to think about this. So let me finish by sharing with you what I intend to do about it.
I’m not one for the pubs, to be entirely honest with you, but I do like a lovely cup of coffee. I used to drink latte and then, a few years ago, a good priest friend of mine introduced me to the flat white and I’ve never looked back since.
I’ve managed to survive without any flat whites over the past few months because of the pandemic and the lockdown. But what I’m going to do moving forwards is give the money that I would have spent on flat whites to CAFOD. So there’s me making a bold statement!
I’m going to give my flat white money to CAFOD for those who are far less fortunate than we are. And I invite you to think about some simple little way such as that that you might be able to do the same. Thank you.