By ZENIT Staff

Bishop Mark Davies, Bishop of Shrewsbury, celebrated a special Mass for front line NHS workers and social care staff last night, 21 May, to offer prayer and thanksgiving for their dedicated service in combating COVID-19.

He also highlighted the invaluable contribution of the ‘hidden’ workers such as volunteers, refuse collectors, cleaners, shop and transport workers:

“Today we can see, perhaps more clearly than ever before, how the dedication of our doctors, nurses and care workers and the labors of so many key workers in the emergency services and in the often hidden work of cleaners, shop and transport workers and innumerable volunteers have shown this same desire to serve. In them we can glimpse today how all human work can be so undertaken and transformed by love.”

Speaking on the feast of the Ascension, Bishop Davies continued to focus his homily on the theme of love and care for the most vulnerable:

“In the mystery of the Ascension, we celebrate how love with a capital ‘L’, has, in Christ, raised up all humanity to unimaginable dignity, in the hope of everlasting happiness. It was this same love more than a millennium and a half ago, that in the evangelization of England first inspired a preferential love for the sick and the most vulnerable in this land.

“Christ taught that what we do in our care of the sick is done for Him. Our nation’s vision of healthcare did not begin by an initiative of the state, rather by this imperative to love and serve those in greatest need. In their modern forms our medical and nursing professions would be inspired by such charity without boundaries.”

Bishop Davies celebrated Mass in Shrewsbury Cathedral on the feast of the Ascension. Special weekly Masses for health and social care workers continue throughout June and July 2020.

Each Mass is celebrated by a bishop in his Cathedral for these important intentions as the fight continues to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Full Homily

Six weeks ago, we celebrated the Mass of Holy Thursday evening in the uneasy silence which had fallen across our land. Yet during Mass, an unusual sound could be heard outside the cathedral. At first, the sound was faint and indistinct, yet as I repeated Christ’s words at the altar, “This is my body given for you. This is my blood poured out for you”, the noise became louder with rhythmic clapping and less than rhythmic clashing of pans. These sounds, or rather the thanksgiving which inspired them, didn’t seem discordant as we did what Christ commanded us to do in his memory. An action which Christians soon named the Eucharist – thanksgiving. The sacrifice of the Eucharist is the sacrifice of the Cross, in which the cruel suffering and death of Calvary were transformed by love – a love that goes to the end. And our response can only be praise and thanksgiving.

In ways that reflect the mystery of faith, we have seen how some of the cruelest effects of the global pandemic have been gradually transformed by self-giving love. Recognizing such love and sacrifice in front-line workers have brought crowds onto the streets each Thursday evening simply to give thanks. On Ascension Thursday our prayers and thanksgiving are united to the offering of the Mass.

In the mystery of the Ascension, we celebrate how love with a capital ‘L’, has, in Christ, raised up all humanity to unimaginable dignity, in the hope of everlasting happiness. It was this same love more than a millennium and a half ago, that in the evangelization of England first inspired a preferential love for the sick and the most vulnerable in this land. Christ taught that what we do in our care of the sick is done for Him. Our nation’s vision of healthcare did not begin by an initiative of the state, rather by this imperative to love and serve those in greatest need. In their modern forms our medical and nursing professions would be inspired by such charity without boundaries.

Today we can see, perhaps more clearly than ever before, how the dedication of our doctors, nurses and care workers and the labors of so many key workers in the emergency services and in the often hidden work of cleaners, shop and transport workers and innumerable volunteers have shown this same desire to serve. In them we can glimpse today how all human work can be so undertaken and transformed by love.

We also pray at this time for those in government and public office who face unprecedented choices. This crisis has surely taught us that the God-given insights into the laws and workings of the natural world, which form the body of knowledge we respect as science, can never serve as a sufficient guide to the life and choices of human society. We have need of something greater. That moral vision of the value and the dignity of the human person which helped form this nation from the very beginning. If we ever lose sight of this vision, we do so at our peril.

In the days to come, we have some searching questions to ask as to how we value the frailest members of society, whether the elderly – dependent upon our care – or the unborn, whose lives and the well-being of their mothers were together assaulted by a sinister measure of the Department of Health to promote ‘Do-It-Yourself’ abortion in the very first days of this crisis. Human life is truly valued only to the extent to which every human life is valued.

Amid the shadows, it is the light that shines through. We have been moved to applaud, not so much a system, however efficiently operated, still less our own self-preservation. What inspires our thanks is the love and sacrifice recognized in our health and key workers, especially in their service of the weakest.

In this we glimpse a shared vision of our human good rooted in moral and spiritual truth. Its source found in the love revealed in the Eucharist on a Thursday evening. Never forgotten. And in the hope celebrated on this Thursday of the Ascension.

And so when the happy noise of these Thursday evenings finally fades from our streets, may this thanksgiving remain in our hearts.

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