2Timothy 1 verses 6-14
There is an old legend which speaks of Jesus returning to Heaven and meeting there with the Arch Angel Gabriel. Gabriel sees the wounds on the hands and feet and side of Jesus. He remembers what Jesus has done and poured himself out totally for humanity.
So Gabriel asked Jesus, ‘Will they remember this love of yours, will they remember what you have done for them?’ Jesus said, well I have told Peter and James and John. Gabriel who knows Peter and James and John is doubtful. He asked Jesus, “but are you sure this is enough to bring to the nation how much you have done for them and how you have saved them?”.
Jesus replied, “I have told Peter and James and John.”
Gabriel is now very now doubtful for it seems to him that Jesus has left his message with doubtful characters. Is not sure that this message through these apostles will reach to all the nations and to the end of the world and to the end of time.
Gabriel again asks, “Jesus have you made any other plans?” Jesus replied, “No, I have told Peter, James and John.”.
1. This little legend brings out the fact that God has made himself depend upon us. Jesus trained Peter, James and John , he showed them his love for them, he brought them into his friendship and he died for them. Now he has send them into the world to encourage, to hear, to teach and to gather. And he now lives it to them to take this message on.
We are all Peter, James and John. God is looking towards us, God is wishing to work for us.
When Mother Theresa died one of the sisters place a little pencil on her coffin during the Mass. The sister has remembered that Theresa had said “I am the pencil in the hand of God”. We are pencils in the hand of God but we must indeed proclaim the word.
2. Pope Paul VI wrote, “People may find salvation through other ways and other people if we don’t preach. But we for us can we gain salvation if through negligent or fear, shame or false ideas we fail to preach it. That would be to betray the call of God who wishes the to see to bare fruit through the voice of the Ministers of the Gospel”.
Priests are crucial to the life of the Church. And facing you as you return to your diocese and parish is a tremendous challenge. But you go as a tremendous message which will indeed impact the life of many people around you. And Johannesburg being at the very heart of economic life not only in South Africa but of the sub continent what you do will have an impact way beyond your own parish.
3. Politics deals with the exercise of power in society.
It controls the relationships between governing, and Government. It lays down the laws of regulation which regulates society life. The market it controls the economic life of people. How … the living, how the foot put foot on the table and how they have other means of living. For many people the only the only important things are politics and money.
However, for us Christians there are other values such as truth, tolerance, honesty, family values, respect for the person and God, justice, friendship, mercy and caring. These values are the work of the church.
We can see this in an example. For example: Your niece comes to tell you that she wishes that she is about to marry a very rich young man. This young man has many houses, beautiful cars, he has lot of money in the bank, he travels a lot. He has lovely clothes, they have got parties and so on. You were happy to hear this. But then someone tells you that in fact this nice boy is a drug dealer. He has all this money and wealth because he is selling drugs. Thus even a lot of talk that he has eliminated and killed some of his competition. One day you meet the boy and you bring these suspicions to his attention, you challenge him.
He is angry and will say that may be true but I have money clothes and houses , cars of all kinds, what more do you want?. I do not think you will be satisfied for your niece to marry this rich young man whom is obvious has very little moral values. Is the work of the church to make sure that there are moral values in society and in private life. In fact society cannot survive, democracy is built upon truth, justice and respect of a person.
4. The Church in South Africa is at the moment trying to redefine its pastoral Ministry. In 1989 after a number of years of reflection and discussion the church issued a pastoral plan called Community serving humanity. In essence a boil down to building small Christian communities where people share prayer and life.
However there have been many changes in South Africa since 1989. These changes are of the political social economic media education dimension. Today we see Globalization. We live in the middle of a mall culture. People especially the youth have cell phones, twitter, they have face book, there is pornography everywhere. Women’s role in society has change radically. Independence has been achieved, there is corruption in society, there are new possibilities much more money and emphases on individual life today. And so we ask what now.
The church has held a number of fora since the year 2000. And now we are preparing a Synod of the church as a whole. We asking ourselves seeking for a renewed vision of our work in the present situation. What are we to do, where are we to do it, how are we to do it, how are the people to be involved participate in the life of the church.
In the forum the year 2000 meeting with the people of South Africa, the Bishops formulated the priorities of the South African church, the ongoing formation of adults in the faith , family and marriage apostle and youth.
And so as priest you may be busy in your parish and many things on your mind but you must also think about the general Ministry of the church. And this thinking you must do with your people. You must engage them. The laity of the … of holy spirit works in them there are baptized in that sense they are equal. Together with them we must analyze where we are, focus on activity, and move together to impact on our whole society.
We must see that the voice of the church is often weak in modern life. In parliament where is the voice of the Catholic Church? In the regional and provincial municipal areas of planning, where is the voice of the church? Where is the church in the media, is the church helping to define the soul and mind of the new South Africa. It is true that people are willing to act as funeral leaders and so various ministries in the church. But the laities central function part from worship of God is to transform our society. Are we creating catholic people who are going to speak the truth of the gospel in modern life? Are we creating Catholic people who realize that it is central to the religion to be good parents, to be good employees, to be good employers, and to reflect Christ in the surroundings in which we find themselves.
5. But it is good to remember that you are not just a diocesan priest, but a diocesan priest of …. Diocese of Johannesburg. When we look for religious orders we see from the outside that they have many common features. They have three vows, they live in community, they can be changed from one place to the other, they have retreats and days of recollection together. In a sense from the outside from the outside all the religious orders may look the same. But in fact if you live within one of them then you are aware that it is very different from the other religious orders. And so it should be in diocese. You are the priest of the diocese of Johannesburg and thus in itself will make you different from priest, diocesan priest in Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town. It is difficult to define what a difference is but it is very real.
Now we read from the document on the formation of priests by Pope John Paul II, PDV 31. “The priest relationship with his bishop in the one presbytery , sharing in the bishops ecclesial concern. And his devotion to the evangelical care of the people of God in the specific historical and contextual conditions of a particular church are elements which must be taken into account in sketching the proper configuration of the priest and his spiritual life. In this sense incardination cannot be confined to a purely juridical bond , but also involves a set of attitudes as well as pastoral decisions which help to feel out the specific features of the priestly vocation. The priest needs to be aware that he is being in a particular church constitutes by its very nature a significant element in his living a Christian spirituality. In this sense , the priests find precisely in his belonging to and dedication to the particular church a wealth of meaning criteria for discernment and action which shape both his pastoral mission and his spiritual life”.
6. It is necessary to understand something of the history of Johannesburg and above all the historian grown of the church. It can be very helpful to know of the spiritual fathers and mothers of that Archdiocese. Johannesburg began in 1887, soon very generous priests to live in great poverty and simplicity and gather the Catholics together and so the church slowly began to grow. Many sisters left home overseas forever to come here and establish hospitals, schools and clinics for the minors and their families who had little of the comforts of this world. They are part of the family of the church of Johannesburg. There were many Catechists, many parents, many wonderful people who contributed to the building up of the structures of our church. This mine in town composed of tents is now a vast and modern city, yet it was built on mines, migrant labor, on a lot of suffering, on a lot of sacrifice and on a lot of work. Here the church is bonded with these people and serve them well. In living with these people sharing their memories, their traditions the culture that is growing up about them will have a part to play in your own spirituality and in how you respond to your ministry.
You were almost the first generation of the diocesan priest in Johannesburg. I say that because in numbers you are the first sizable felt group who together make up the college around the Archbishop of this diocese. And your behaviour, your attitude, your relationship to each other, your faith will determine the ethos, the homeliness, the personality of this unique particular church. You will be different from any other diocese.
7. One of the great aims you must have is fraternity among yourself. You belong to each other. The French revolution trial equality and liberty and fraternity. Fraternity in the modern world has been forgotten. It is anyway the province of the church. This sense of the fraternity of belonging means you must attend to each other, you must assist each other. Top man living like cowboys and living alone in an individual life have no future in the church and no basis in theology or spirituality. Sometimes you must speak honestly and directly with your brothers if you find them going off the road. Many priests destroy themselves because of friend who drinks with them , who joke with them and never points out how they are destroying themselves. Again you will encourage their vocation to this Archdiocese, and you will welcome a young student and priest when they come to work and learn from you. It is very important to avoid cliques which excludes other priests. Your fraternity must be open and inclusive.
Again as priest of one household in mostly show confidentiality to each other. You must be loyal to each other and not gossiping on cell phones about each other.
You remember the story of the ship’s captain. One day the captain got drunk and the first officer had to write up the ships diary. The first officer hated the captain so in the diary of the ship which cannot be erased he wrote, “the captain of this ship was drunk last night”. When the captain read this the following day he simply wrote the first officer of this ship was not drunk today. You must be loyal and show confidentiality to each other. We must support our bishop. We must remember the negative side of our behaviour. If we fail we have scandal in the church and the whole courage of priests in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg is going to feel it and be ashamed by your activity.
Continually the agencies which work throughout the diocese of country complain that time and time again their work is inhabited by the local priest and clergy. As priest of the diocese of Johannesburg we work together on a common policy. When the diocese offers help in Marriage, Prison ministry, Justice and Peace, Catechetics we must avail of this. We must contribute to the formulation of the policies of the diocese and then obey that policy in our own parish. We must be very conscious by making changes when we are appointed to new parishes. We must respect with gentleness and courtesy the work and arrangements of the previous priests. Of course we will work with the people and encourage them in every way particularly to the finance council and parish pastoral councils.
A diocesan priest is not a lonely isolated individual. Sometimes in a religious orders in the past in formation programs when the superiors found the student who refuse to cooperate or work with peace with anybody they advise him to live. They said you should become a diocesan priest. This was a very stupid advice. No one needs to be more social an community minded than the diocesan priest. He must be able to bond with the people. They are as it were your new companion in life.
Again as a diocesan priest visitation of our people, being there for them , sharing their life is of extreme importance, visitation of homes is often called the 8th sacrament. Is often said we should not preach a man from the pulpit if we have not first met him in the kitchen.
We need to have devotional practices in the diocese. Recently you had the remains of St Theresa of Liseu. This was wonderful but pilgrimages for the youth, but pilgrimages to shrines, celebration of the Rosary, Benediction in all the churches of the diocese at least occasionally, Holy hours all these give soul to the devotional experience of people and we must be very careful to offer this to our people.