Last year our Bishops at their Australian Bishops’ Conference, had to deal with a lot of paperwork.. One of the Bishops looked at the heap, pushed it aside, and exclaimed: “What has this got to do with Jesus Christ and our pastoral work?”
This outburst encouraged the Bishops to organize something special for the Church in Australia, to give us hope and encouragement. And that is how the YEAR OF GRACE for the Australian Church started. It began on Pentecost Sunday.
The Church looks to the laypeople to co-operate with her to bring Jesus Christ to those around them. For Jesus said: “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
Pope Paul VI wrote a Letter to the World aboutEvangelisation and he asked:
1. In our day, what has happened to that hidden energy of the Good News, which is able to have a powerful effect on man’s conscience?
2. To what extent and in what way is that evangelical force capable of really transforming the people of this century?
3. What methods should be followed in order that the power of the Gospel may have its effect?
He made two special points:
A. People listen more willingly to people who witness to their Faith by their deeply Christian lives than to those who are simply teachers;
B. Nevertheless this always remains insufficient, because even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run if it is not explained, justified…..what Peter called always having “your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have”. We must learn our Catholic Faith in order to be able to explain it to others.Our Catholic Schools must teach us how to understand our Faith and be able to defend it! We need guidance, drive, enthusiasm, encouragement. The Holy Spirit is anxious and waiting to lead us.
There is an inspiring in the Old Testament in 2 Kings 7.3-16. There were four lepers at the gate of the City of Samaria. They had to live outside the city because of their leprosy. The Syrian army was besieging the city hoping to starve it into submission. And the citizens WERE starving. Now the lepers reasoned in this way among themselves: “If we go back into the city, we will die of starvation. If we stay outside the city, we will die of starvation. Let us go over to the Syrians. Maybe they will have pity on us. Maybe they will kill us, but we are going to die of hunger anyway. When they reached the camp of the Syrians, there was no one there.
What had happened? God had caused the Syrians to hear a terrible noise of approaching chariots and horses followed by a huge army. So in great fear they shouted: “The King of Israel has called in the armies of the Hittites and the armies of the Egyptians against us.” And they fled for their lives.
The lepers came across a large amount of food and clothes and valuables. Initially they took what they wanted and hid it. Then they said to one another: “Today is a day of good news and yet we don’t want to share it. That is wrong. Let us go back to the city and tell everyone.” At first the citizens were suspicious of a trick by the Syrians, but eventually they ventured out and found everything as the lepers said. And the people were saved from starvation.
We have a wonderful treasure in our Catholic Faith. We must share it with a world that is hungry for the consoling truth, though it may not realise it. Pope Paul VI wrote: “The Church exists (precisely) to evangelize.” Don’t forget that it was God, not the lepers, who sent the Syrians running for their lives. And don’t forget that God used four as-it-were hopeless men. Jesus said: “Without me you can do nothing.” Here is hope and encouragement!
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