Discover what we must do
"Actions speak louder than words", goes the old saying. People sit up and pay attention when we make a choice and act on it, and they are often sceptical if we talk and talk but never actually get round to doing anything. This month in the Archdiocese we are pondering just what it is the Pope has asked us to do in the new millennium. We ask, as the people asked Saint Peter in Jerusalem, "What must we do?" (Acts 2: 37).
Many people in the Church are filled with good will and a real desire to serve and to rededicate themselves to Christ. It is easy to ask: "What is the new rule we must follow, the latest word from Rome?" But as the Pope says: "We shall not be saved by any formula but by a Person, and the assurance which he gives us: I am with you!" (NMI, 29). Our Christian faith is not faith in a magic formula but faith in Jesus Christ. By knowing and loving him we will discover what it is we must do.
The Pope writes that we do not need new programmes for the Third Millennium: "The programme already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living tradition, it is the same as ever." This is a tremendously important statement. We do not need a new master plan or strategy for the Third Millennium. The plan is already there. It is a re-encounter with the Scriptures and the living Tradition of the Church. We are to base our actions on Revelation — God’s communication to us of the truth about himself and so the truth about ourselves.
Of course, God’s greatest communication with us is his Son. "Christ is the Father’s one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything" (Catechism, 65). Our actions then are to focus on Jesus "who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem" (NMI, 29).
The Christian programme of actions based on Jesus does not change. It is the same at all times and for all cultures. Naturally, we must pay attention to what people in our own culture think if we are to communicate Christ effectively and have genuine dialogue with the wider community. But we must never compromise Christ, never reduce him or alter him to fit local fashions. We have "a programme for all times".
Of course, a "programme for all times" still has to be enacted in our particular time, here in Melbourne, 2002. This will mean all sorts of exciting new initiatives in parishes and in Archdiocesan agencies. But what all of these plans have in common is adherence to the Pope’s vision and to the truths taught by the Universal Church. Our programme for 2002-2004 is God’s programme for Melbourne, not Melbourne’s programme for God!
I hope many of you will take time to make yourselves aware of what our Archdiocesan agencies and our parishes are doing during these months. I am deeply grateful to the heads of agencies and to our parish priests for the work they are undertaking to familiarise people with Contemplate - Launch Out! Soon our focus will shift to the great questions of holiness, prayer, and the sacraments. For now, we might all ponder the question our brothers and sisters in the faith once put to Saint Peter, our first Pope: "What must we do?"
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.