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Archbishop’s Lenten Pastoral Message 2006

My dear people,

Once again we enter the season of Lent as we prepare for the great feast of Easter. Even though we try to live the Paschal mystery every day of our lives it is entirely appropriate that the Church picks a special time of the year when we can focus on it, free of distractions. The season of Lent is a good reminder that religion is not all froth and bubble, but comes at a cost both for Christ who redeemed us, and for ourselves who seek to follow in his footsteps. There is no resurrection without the suffering of Calvary, nor is there any suffering of Calvary without the joy of the resurrection. They fit together at the climax of Christ’s life where the Paschal mystery reaches completion and his death and resurrection are held in tension. In this season the Church encourages us to practice both prayer and penance and we do so by attending worship more regularly, praying more frequently, and for many of us sacrificing in some way, even if small, quite legitimate areas of eating and drinking. Nevertheless the cross that we sometimes insert in the culture of Lent does not have to be contrived, because it is already there. Indeed it flows naturally from our faith and our attempt to live as Christ would want us to. This Lent, “Mission”, the third theological focus of our recent Synod, is the centre of our Lenten study program. This study is meant to remind us that our Trinitarian God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is both a God in Communion and a God on Mission, and that if we believe in such a God then we too will be caught up in God’s communion and mission. No Christian is ever meant to rest comfortably merely contemplating the magnificent mystery of Christ, or lost in an ecstasy of communion with God and others. To stop there is to forget that our God is also a dynamic God of love who of his nature reaches out in mission. Because we are linked in communion with this God, every Christian is therefore called to do the same, reach out in mission with God to other people and to the world. Not merely do we share the good news of God by word alone, but we also need to live the good news of God’s loving presence in the world by deeds as well. Only then, as Christians living together in the loving communion of the Church – the Body of Christ, and reaching out in mission to the world by their words and deeds do they become a sign to the world of God’s powerful presence among us. However, trying to live in this manner, as Pope Benedict XVI constantly warns us, comes at a cost. Why would we ever think as Christians and followers of Christ, that we could escape the cost of mission that even Christ himself experienced. Mission can be as easy as a smile, or as difficult as protesting the loss of innocent life in our society, or the unacceptable gap between affluence and poverty in the world. Once we take mission seriously the cross will come, as certainly as it came in the life of Christ.

A recent survey of this Archdiocese indicated that people are generally more comfortable studying the mystery of Christ, or practicing the challenge of Communion, than going out on mission to others, in families, workplaces, and places of recreation. All of us are tempted to leave religion in the Church each Sunday and forget about it for the rest of the week. But religion can’t be dismissed as easily as that, because religion is meant to fill every moment of our lives, to be lived 24 hours a day and seven days a week. We cannot be intimately linked to God without being sent out, as the second person of the Trinity and the Holy Spirit were sent out. We are made to be missioners, and in today’s very secular world merely living the Christian life will provide all the crosses we need without searching for artificial ones, helpful as they may be.

This Lent my dear people I recommend the study course on Mission to each and every one of you. I’m sure there are study groups in your parish and I encourage you to join them. By the incredible fact of being baptised into Christ we become missioners as Christ was. By all means let us expand both our prayer and penance this Lent, but above all let us be determined to be missioners to the world as Christ wanted us to be. Only then will the paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ become a living reality for us, not merely for six weeks of each year but for each and every moment of our lives. This Lent may the Holy Spirit enlighten us about our vocation as missioners to the world, and may Mary, the Mother of Jesus, walk beside us as she walked beside her son 2000 years ago when he was sent into the world for our salvation. Let us not only tell the good news of God to others but live it every moment of our lives. May God bless you all.

Sincerely in Christ,

Archbishop John Bathersby

Released by the Catholic Communications Office

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