Every day of the year, ordinary men and women from Centacare in the Archdiocese of Brisbane, will be found visiting a hospital or a prison to offer pastoral care to the sick and the suffering and to those whose lives are shattered though a lifetime of trauma and experiences of incarceration. Others provide committed service in supporting and sharing faith with people whose lives are affected by a mental health condition and who find the comfort of pastoral and spiritual care central to their lives.
In the Gospel of Mark, on the feast of the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, to sit at the right hand of God, all believers receive a non-negotiable directive to “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel”, to carry on, under the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ’s work on earth. St Francis of Assisi opens up the meaning of the command to proclaim by his often spoken words that when preaching the Gospel use words, but only when necessary.
In Jesus’s name, many good works are carried out by many good people in response to the call of discipleship to lift the burdens of others and be people of love in action, just as God loves all people.
Acts of service become proclamations of the Gospel when performed in the name of Christ and in the belief that the Holy Spirit is present and active in encounter with others. We use our best human skills, training and knowledge to be of service to others. However, when an act of service is intentionally motivated to be a proclamation of the Gospel, there is a transformative dimension in that encounter that belongs to God.
When sharing powerful stories encountered by pastoral carers whose lives are shaped by prayer and whose commitment to the sick and the marginalised is motivated by faith, the words in the Gospel of Mark on the feast of the Ascension are truly and unmistakably evident. Jesus’ promise to all those who will preach in his name that there will be ‘accompanying signs’ is the experience recounted over and over in the pastoral encounter. Something else, something more, something too deep for words happens to all involved – be it new peace, new courage, new meaning, faith renewed, forgiveness, a burden lifted, hope to go on – spiritually transformative gifts that only God can truly give.