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Archbishop’s Lenten Pastoral Message 2004

My dear People,

We live in exciting but challenging times. The western world has never been more advanced in areas of science and technology but never less aware of the presence of God. As a consequence we enjoy remarkable freedoms and choices but often without the responsibility that previously accompanied our God-driven view of reality. Western culture today is in great danger of losing its experience of the transcendence at the heart of life, that has accompanied and underpinned all the great civilisations of history. As a result many people today are lost and confused, and seek inappropriate comfort in drugs, promiscuity, or consumerism, which merely re-enforces their sense of alienation and loss. In such a vacuum, because we yearn for transcendence, the growth of the Islamic faith with its strong emphasis on God, prayer and worship should come as no surprise. For too many people today Christianity has lost its delicate balance of prayer and action manifest in the life of Christ himself, and repeated in the life of the Church. Even a cursory examination of the gospels indicates that Christ gave over-arching importance to the presence and will of God, from which logically flowed all his Kingdom-driven action, as he reached out with promises of justice, peace and freedom for all. Today’s Church culture seems to have embraced the latter and forgotten the former. We cannot claim to believe in the God of Jesus Christ without becoming people of prayer and action, as he was. That is the challenge for all of us in the aftermath of our Archdiocesan Synod with its nine priorities for action. Under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit the Synod gave us a strategy that must now be implemented lest the Synod process itself remain only half finished. Certainly it will take time, as do all worthwhile projects, but I am convinced that the Synod’s theological framework of “Jesus, Communion, and Mission” is capable of challenging the secular nature of our society, so damaging to the lives of many people, especially young people. Sadly, generations are growing up now for whom the word “God” is merely a pious curiosity of the past, with very little relevance to the present.

The liturgical season that we are about to enter, like John the Baptist of old, calls all of us to repentance. This Lent I would hope that all parishes in the Archdiocese will reach out to all their Catholic people, not only those who worship regularly, but also all those who have been baptised into the Church and are still searching for answers, as well as that multitude of people who have never yet heard the Good News. I would also hope that all the parishes might focus as well on the material needs of people, especially the poorest in our communities. One of the very best ways of doing this is to contribute to our Church’s Lenten Appeal – “Project Compassion” whose appropriate focus this year is “Building Peace, Bringing Hope”. I strongly recommend this appeal to your generosity. It is a most effective way of assisting all those in need, especially those in countries crushed by poverty, or torn apart by war.

Finally, in this season let us make sure that, at least in our own lives, we will heighten our awareness of God’s presence by linking our lives to God through prayer, fasting, and appropriate action for the Kingdom. Within that context I cannot recommend daily Mass too highly. Moreover if we are able this Lent to open up the possibility of faith for even one other person, then the Archdiocese will be richer indeed, and the Kingdom of God in our midst will be recognized just a little bit more widely.

May God bless you all this Lent as you participate in the mission of the Church, and may Mary, the Mother of Jesus be our model and guide, as we seek to live out in our time the vision of the Kingdom that she lived so convincingly in her own.

Sincerely in Christ,

Most Rev John Bathersby, D.D.


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