Greetings to you as we begin this time of Holy Week and Easter. I hope you had a graced time over these weeks of Lent and are now ready to fittingly celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
These first three months of 2022 have again presented us with the challenges of living with the Covid virus. Many of you will have been sick, had to isolate, or have supported those who have been affected. Our ability to gather together in the parish family has continued to be curtailed. We have also seen much tension over the continuing government mandates. We are constantly being reminded that we are not the authors of our own lives, but that the world is in God’s hands and we place our hope and trust in that first. All other parts of our lives flow on from that.
It can be difficult for us; humankind has always struggled with the reality of suffering and its place in our lives. However, we are God’s children and we are called to place our trust in him, knowing that his Son Jesus also suffered for us for the sake of our salvation. We are especially reminded of this as we enter into Holy Week. It never ends with death, it is the beginning of life through the resurrection. This new life is promised to us as well. When Christ is at the centre of our lives, we can endure the hardships that come and know that the promise of eternity with God is ours.
The war in the Ukraine also reminds us that peace is fragile. The ability of human beings to kill others, to seek to control others, and to disregard the sovereignty of nations is disturbing. We want to do all we can to work for peace in our world and when there is war and strife, we are called as Christians to support those affected by it in whatever way is possible.
Caritas is our most practical means by which our financial support is able to reach those in need. The same is true in times of disaster, such as the effects of the recent volcanic eruption on the people of Tonga. Sadly, there are many places in the world where people are at war or suffering from sickness and disease. Our Lenten call to give alms finds its practical expression through support for Caritas.
On the first Sunday of Lent, I had the privilege of celebrating the Rite of Election for those Catechumens and Candidates seeking to join the Church at Easter. Part of this process involves these people writing to me, outlining their faith journey and why they wish to join the Church. As I told them on the day, I am only sorry that all people don’t get to read their accounts of God at work in their lives.
In a world which seems so resistant to faith and religion, seeing these people responding to God’s invitation is heartening and inspiring. It reminds me of how fortunate I am to be raised in a Catholic home and nurtured in our community of faith. We can so easily take it for granted, or become blasé about our relationship with God and the practice of our faith. I encourage you to thank God each day for his love for you and keep looking for ways to express your faith more explicitly.
In February, the Royal Commission into Abuse in State and Faith-Based Care conducted a case study into the Marylands Institute, which was part of our diocese. It was a very sad chapter in the life of our Church. Young boys, who were in need of care, did not receive the care they should have, and a number were abused by those who were responsible for caring for them. The damage of abuse on people is horrific, and the effects can last all through life. We have apologised to those who survived this abuse, and we are working to ensure that such abuse does not happen again. It is part of the safeguarding programme we operate for all who work for the Church. The sins of our brothers and sisters from the past are part of who we are, and we must acknowledge that and work to ensure that all people are safe in our Church.
One of the key components of the renewal of our diocese through Our Faith Our Future, is the life of the parish outside of Sunday Mass. Over these last two years, it has been very difficult to bring people together. As we begin to gather again, I want us all to consider what is happening in our parishes and school communities to support our faith lives from Monday to Saturday? If someone is looking to deepen their faith, what is happening in the parish to help support them? If a person wishes to express their faith through practical action and reaching those who are in need, what is available to do this?
The temptation is to say ‘well, the parish should do something’. However, the parish does not exist outside of me. If I never make any time available to help, to participate, to be trained, or be part of a group, then nothing will ever happen. If we each examine our lives and see how much time we give to our children, sport, entertainment, leisure, and what we give to our faith lives, it may mean a change in some of our priorities.
We do lead full lives, but the life of our parish won’t be vibrant if none of us contributes, and our brothers and sisters won’t grow in holiness and faith, and therefore want to bring others to the Good News, if we only give one hour a week to Mass on Sunday. I encourage you to reflect and pray on this question and see what you might be able to do in your circumstances to help us be a Church that is alive with people working for the spread of the Kingdom of God.
May you be blessed this Easter, and enjoy the time together with your family and friends as you celebrate the Lord’s resurrection. May you take the opportunity to see where God is calling you to greater holiness and participation in the life of our faith community.
Paul Martin SM,
Catholic Diocese of Christchurch