ON THE APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION
“AMORIS LAETITIA” (ON LOVE IN THE FAMILY) ISSUED BY THE GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ and all men and women of goodwill who live in our homeland Ghana, we, the Catholic Bishops of Ghana, bring you warm greetings. May the grace and peace of God the ‘Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its true name,’ be with you (Ephesians 3:15).
The Lord God has been gracious to us and to our nation Ghana and her citizens. Last year, we had a very peaceful transfer of power from one political administration to another following successful and peaceful elections in December 2017. Within the same year, we also celebrated with joy and gratitude to God our nation’s 60th Independence Anniversary, and this year, we are blessed once again as we celebrate the gift of a new year after our Diamond Jubilee. For these and many other blessings, we join all Ghanaians, home and abroad, and all peoples who reside in our land, to thank God for how far He has brought us. We pray that God will continue to look with a serene and kindly countenance on us and continue to bless us with His peace even as we join hands in working together to build our nation in the years ahead.
The Joy of the Family is Our Theme
In 2014 and 2015, our Holy Father Pope Francis, convoked two Synods on the Family in Rome to bring the Church together to reflect anew on the vocation and mission of the family. In the light of the challenges that the present-day family faces, the Synods on the Family discussed new and fresh pathways and made recommendations on how the Church can best assist today’s family to overcome the challenges it faces so that the family can continue to play its God-given role as the basic unit of Church and society.
On 19th March, 2016, following the end of the deliberations of these Synods, the Holy Father issued a post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, under the title, Amoris Laetitia (the Latin for ‘The Joy of Love’). Containing the fruits of the discussions that went into the two Synods, Amoris Laetitia was intended to be used by both the Universal Church as well as Particular Churches as an important guide on the mission and vocation of the family in today’s world. In presenting Amoris Laetitia to the Church and the world, Pope Francis considered the diverse socio-cultural contexts of the global Church and emphasized the need to incarnate and inculturate the document. He states: “Not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the Magisterium (the teaching office of the Church). For some questions, each country or region can seek solutions better suited to their culture and sensitive to their traditions and local needs” (Amoris Laetitia, 3). In this way, the Holy Father’s emphasis on the need to contextualize Amoris Laetitia is apparent and without doubt.
We, the Catholic Bishops of Ghana, are not only grateful to the Pope for his post-Synodal Exhortation but we are also grateful to him for his invitation to apply the document in a way that suits our local context as Church-family of God in Ghana. In the light of this understanding and having studied carefully the rich contents of this recent Church document on the Family, we wish to share with our Priests, Religious Brothers and Sisters, and with all Christ’s lay faithful and indeed, all people of goodwill, the joy of the family in this Pastoral Letter.
In issuing this Pastoral Letter, we are not only affirming the hope we have in the ability of the family to live up to its divine role amidst the numerous challenges it faces today, but we are also assuring all families in Ghana that they remain always in our prayers and can count on us and on our priests and other pastoral agents for the needed support and encouragement.
Amoris Laetitia in the Light of the Church’s Teaching on Family and Marriage
The post-Synodal Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, is but one more addition to the Church’s rich patrimony of documents on Family and Marriage Life. Previous Church documents on the Family such as the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et Spes, Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae (On The Regulation of Births) and Pope St. John Paul
II’s Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World), have all dealt with the vocation of the family according to the Gospel and as affirmed by the Church over time. Amoris Laetitia not only quotes extensively from these documents, but more importantly, upholds, reiterates and re-presents their perennial and unchanging teaching on the family based on the nature of man, but especially on Sacred Scripture and
Sacred Tradition. Faithfully following the Church’s traditional teachings on the Family and in conformity with these earlier Church documents, Amoris Laetitia emphasizes that:
- a) The family is the icon of God, when teaching that, “The triune God is Himself a communion of love and the family is its living reflection … for He has within Himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family, which is l That love in divine family is the Holy Spirit” (Amoris Laetitia, 11). By stressing the family as the icon of God, the document at the same time invites all of us to recognize that everything that impedes the family from playing its role as this icon ought to be addressed appropriately.
- b) God ordained marriage to be between man and woman. The document teaches that when God made man and woman and blessed them, He (God) intended marriage to be an exclusive union of man and woman (Amoris Laetitia, 9). “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” to buttress this point (Genesis 2:24).
- c) God intended marriage to be open to life, when “He blessed them and said increase
and multiply” (Gen. 1:27-28).
- d) God determined marriage to be indissoluble as Jesus affirms: “What therefore God has put together let no man put asunder” (Mat 19:6).
With these teachings on Marriage and Family, Amoris Laetitia reaffirms the importance of marriage and family life, and reiterates the Catholic Church’s unchanging doctrine that marriage must be between man and woman, must be open to life, must be faithful and must be ordained to the good of the spouses as well as the procreation and the education of offspring. In these teachings then, we see that Amoris Laetitia bears great testimony to all the previous teachings of the Church concerning family and marriage life, a long, consistent tradition that cannot be overemphasised.
Applying Amoris Laetitia to the Concrete Context of the Ghanaian Family
Everywhere in the world today, the family is undergoing significant challenges, challenges which continue to rock the very foundation upon which Church and society are built. The Ghanaian family is not exempt from these challenges. As elsewhere, family life in Ghana today continues to face many crises, including the following:
- a) Philosophy of Relativism – The emergence of new philosophies that seek to redefine marriage as a free union between two people who are attracted to each other, whether they are of the same sex or not. This situation threatens to cloud the true meaning of marriage;
- b) Infidelity of Couples – The development and maintenance of sexual relations with other people outside of lawfully constituted marriages continue to afflict many marriages and families with potential break-ups and divorce;
- c) Domestic Violence – The situation in which both married men and women suffer violence and abuse by their spouses continues to occur in many marriages, often leading to fear, oppression, alcoholism, amorous relationships, escapism and refuge in work, injuries, and even sometimes, death;
- d) Cohabitation/Concubinage – Some people continue to cohabit for long periods of time without any concrete plans of going ahead to regularize their marriages;
- e) Divorced and Remarried Catholics – The situation where lawfully married couples are forced by circumstances to divorce from living and lawful spouses to marry civilly, which subsequently leads to their non-admission to the Eucharist, causing pain and suffering to the whole Church; and
- f) Childlessness – When marriage has been for some time without children, and undue pressure is brought to bear on the couples, but especially the women.
These are some of the challenges facing the family in Ghana as elsewhere, but we are not oblivious to the fact that there are many others besides such as migration of spouses, lack of housing, the threat posed by pornography, the abuse of minors and housemaids, lack of respect and attention to the aged and neglect of the disabled, the growing culture of death which promotes abortion, masturbation and homosexuality, among others. All these continue to plague the Ghanaian family.
In the face of these many challenges, we, your Pastors wish to assure you that God does not abandon His people in their difficulties and His Church on earth will not abandon you. The Church in Ghana will continue to accompany all families, especially wounded and distressed ones, to help them not to despair but to trust in God whose Son, Jesus Christ, heals all our wounds (cf. Isa. 53:7).
Some Pastoral Recommendations
Against the background of the numerous challenges facing the Ghanaian family today and the urgent need for the Church in Ghana to help all families to deal with these challenges, we wish to offer the following recommendations as relevant guidelines of the Church in Ghana on Family and Marriage Life:
- a) Evangelization of families: Evangelization first takes place in the family where parents by word and example become the first heralds of the truth to their children (Lumen Gentium, 11). Amoris Laetitia also recommends that families should not only be evangelized, but they should also evangelize (Amoris Laetitia, 200). The
Church in Ghana assures all families that she will continue to assist parents to play their role as first evangelizers through effective pre-marriage, proximate and post- marriage formation programmes.
- b) A Structured National Marriage Programme: It has become urgent for us to repeat the call we have been making all this while about the need for the Church in Ghana to have a well-structured and sustained national catechetical programme for the on- going formation of all prospective and married We repeat our call to the National Catechetical Commission to lead the efforts in this direction.
- c) Annual Celebration of Family Week: The proposal to celebrate Family Week annually remains important to us, if not more urgent today. In this vein, we encourage all Dioceses, Parishes and Rectorates to give the needed attention to this programme and plan to celebrate it annually in a fitting
- d) Pastoral Formation on Marriage and Family Life: In acknowledging that ordained ministers and other pastoral agents often lack the training needed to deal with the complex problems the family faces today, we urge that formation in seminaries, novitiates and other houses of formation should help deepen their candidates’ knowledge in marriage and family matters while priests and religious should endeavour to update their knowledge on family and marriage issues through periodic on-going formation progra
- e) Ministry to Childless Couples: Marriages of spouses to whom God has not granted children present a challenge but they also radiate a fruitfulness of charity, hospitality and sacrifice. The Church in Ghana has a divine duty to minister to such couples, who must be encouraged to accept Amoris Laetitia’s broad understanding of family lif This includes “expanded fruitfulness” which appreciates and welcomes adoption as a good Christian way of welcoming new members into the family and promoting a culture of encounter with all (Amoris Laetitia, 178-179).
- f) Ministry to Divorced and Remarried Couples: Although the Church in Ghana does not intend to admit divorced and remarried couples to the Eucharist without first having had the opportunity for examining individual cases for pastoral and canonical remedy, she will not abandon Catholics who find themselves in this situation. She will continue to help them to understand that they are full members of the Church and very much part of the flock of Christ, the Good S The Church will continue to journey with them in a careful process of prayer and discernment to see the possibilities for rectifying such situations. Diocesan and inter-diocesan tribunals should be resourced and strengthened to deal adequately with these situations.
These recommendations are offered as general guidelines to help the Church in Ghana to make Marriage and Family Life issues one of the topmost priorities. We expect all our Parishes and Rectorates to adopt and use them as guideposts in their marriage formation programmes, and all Dioceses to help the National Catechetical Commission to develop a fuller and more comprehensive document on Marriage and Family Life for the use of the whole Church in Ghana.
Finally, the joy of the family is the joy of the Church and of the society as a whole. In the words of Pope Francis, all of us are called to keep striving towards something greater than ourselves and our families, and every family must feel this constant impulse. The work of building the family as an oasis of joy is a work that is entrusted to the entire Church to do. Both Church and society need to build strong families that can withstand the challenges that today’s globalized world presents to the family. Counting on the support and collaboration of all of you, Christ’s faithful, Priests and Religious Brothers and Sisters and the laity in Ghana, we hope to journey together to build our families to stay strong and faithful to their mission and vocation in the very complex and challenging world of today. We recommend that Catholics in Ghana, particularly Catholic families, would study and familiarize themselves with the contents of Amoris Laetitia, and live it.
May the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in whom we contemplate the splendour of true love, grant that our families may be places of communion and prayer and authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic churches. May Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer. May God bless us and grant us His peace. Amen.
Given on this Friday, June 29, 2018 (Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul)
from the National Catholic Secretariat, Accra
ISSUED BY THE CHRISTIAN COUNCIL OF GHANA (CCG) AND THE GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE (GCBC) ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 16, 2018
Dearly Beloved fellow-citizens, and men and women of goodwill resident in Ghana, receive warm greetings from the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) and the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
We, the members of the Christian Council of Ghana and the Ghana Catholic Bishops’
Conference, held our annual Joint Meeting at the Mary Mother of Good Counsel Catholic Church, Airport West, Accra on Wednesday, May 16, 2018. We also held an Ecumenical Service to pray for Christian unity, the wellbeing of the Government and People of Ghana, and we reflected on the theme: “Unity with Christ and with each other for peace and mutual upbuilding” (cf. Romans 14:19). In our Meeting, we discussed several issues of both Church and national interests. We deem it appropriate as Christian Leaders to speak to and bring the following issues to the attention of the Government and People of Ghana, especially to members of our Church communities.
Christian Spirituality in Ghana
We have observed with very grave concern various abuses in some worshipping centres in Ghana in the name of spirituality, prophetic revelations and divine intervention. These happenings in the Christian fraternity discredit the Gospel and cause people to despise the positive influence of the Word of God. We are concerned that the role of Christianity “as the salt of the earth and light of the world” (cf. Matt 5:13-14) is losing impact as a result of the self-serving practices of some Christian leaders. We abhor such practices and call upon such leaders to tend the flock of the Lord faithfully.
We therefore wish to draw the attention of Christians and the nation to the following:
- No human person or object should take the place of Christ as object of worship.
- Christians should put their faith in Jesus Christ alone to meet all their needs even in times of difficulties.
- Christians and all citizens should cherish the values of hard work, patient endurance, moderation and contentment.
- We call on Christian leaders to intensify the faith formation of their members through teaching of the the Word of God in order to develop sustaining and sincere relationship with God, intimate prayer life and a life of selfless witnessing.
Fight against Bribery and Corruption
We commend the President of the Republic, His Excellency, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, for the call to fight and sustain same against bribery and corruption. We welcome the setting up of the Office of Special Prosecutor and congratulate those appointed to oversee the operations of the Office. We, however, urge strongly that this campaign cannot be another lip service. We call for transparency and integrity in investigations to ascertain corrupt practices and demand that culprits be duly prosecuted in accordance with the laws of our country. All Ghanaians, especially Christians, are called upon to work harder to eliminate the evil of bribery and corruption, to cherish fearless honesty, probity and accountability.
LGBT Rights in Ghana
We have observed, in the past months, that there have been strong calls and pressure by some international lobbyists on Ghana to consider the legalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights as well as same sex marriages and relationships. We commend the Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Honourable Prof. Mike Ocquaye for his stance against the legalization of LGBT rights in Ghana. We call on Government never to be cowed down nor succumb to the pressure to legalize such rights.
As Christians, who uphold the Bible as our principal guide, we consider same sex unions as unacceptable unions that our God frowns upon (cf. Leviticus 20:13-16). In addition, we state unequivocally that same sex unions are alien to the Ghanaian culture and cannot be tolerated or accepted. Our cultural values uphold the family system as an integral part of the survival of communities and the nation at large. Therefore, we shall not and cannot accept the orientation towards same sex unions and relationships as a fundamental human right.
We, the members of the Christian Council of Ghana and the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, state that we shall resist any attempt, either latent or manifest, by any individual, Political Party, Civil Society, Human Rights’ Activist or Government to legalize LGBT rights in Ghana. We are however willing and available to provide the needed pastoral care and support to persons with LGBT tendencies in a non-condemning manner. We pledge to treat such persons with unconditional positive regard at all times.
2018 Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE)
We congratulate all the candidates scheduled to take part in the June 2018 BECE. We pray for God’s grace for each candidate and for success in the examinations. We call on the West African Examination Council (WAEC) to ensure that all challenges that had arisen in past have been dealt with in order to facilitate the smooth process of the examination this year. We urge the Examination Council, Invigilators, Parents and the candidates to take caution to avoid any embarrassment through examination malpractices.
Free SHS Programme
We commend Government for making secondary education more accessible and affordable to Ghanaians through the implementation of the Free Senior High School (SHS) programme. We are aware that the implementation is facing some teething challenges. There are incidents of some Senior High Schools in distress as a result of late disbursement of funds for food and accommodation facilities for the beneficiaries of the Programme. We urge the Ministry of Education to accept in good faith genuine feedback on the challenges facing the implementation. As stakeholders, we are ready for further engagement in the sustainability and success of the programme.
New Reforms on Colleges of Education
We welcome the efforts of Government to improve the quality of teacher training in the country. This move will convert Colleges of Education into Degree-awarding institutions as Affiliates/Satellite Campuses of some Public Universities for a transition period of four years.
While we praise Government for this reform, we wish to state that many of the Colleges of Education in Ghana are owned by the Churches. We repeat our earlier call for a comprehensive consultation and participation in the implementation of the new reforms. We cannot abandon Church-State partnership in education at this critical time. We state that:
- Government should continue to dialogue with the Churches that have Colleges of Education for mutual understanding on the affiliation of the Colleges to the Public
- Government should facilitate and even expedite the process of approval for the Presidential Charter for Universities owned by the Churches to enable them have the capacity to take charge of and manage their Colleges of Education as affiliate- institutions of such Universities.
Illegal Mining (Galamsay)
We have taken note of various efforts by some individuals, members of the Security
Services, Politicians and Chiefs to thwart the fight against illegal mining. We demand that
Government, the Media Coalition against Galamsay, concerned Agencies and Institutions, and all Ghanaians should be bold and courageous to sustain the campaign and deal ruthlessly with the perpetrators of the menace. Our sources of livelihood (water bodies, farmlands and livestock) are being sacrificed for selfish interests. While we ask God to change the hearts of these nation wreckers, we shall not tolerate such sinful acts against nature and posterity. We urge all Christian leaders to preach against the perpetration of the menace. Let us protect our common home – our water bodies and lands – from collapse and degradation.
Carnage on our Roads
Another very worrying concern is the spate of accidents and the resultant carnage on our roads. We cannot but agree that the best and most valuable asset of any nation is its human capital. We therefore plead with all who must ensure safety on our roads; the Motor and Traffic Police and Guards, drivers of both public and private vehicles, the DVLA, mechanics, pedestrians and, indeed, all road users in this country must endeavour to respect the rules and regulations regarding vehicular traffic, and maintain their vehicles to curb very drastically the high rate of accidents and deaths on our roads. Every human life is precious to God the Creator and is an asset to the person, to the society and to humanity as a whole.
Finally, we plead with the Government, Members of Parliament, Politicians and the Media to be decorous, guarded and timely in providing relevant information to Ghanaians on policies, initiatives and international engagements. The integrity of Ghanaians should never be taken for granted. We urge everyone to promote the peace, stability and development of our country Ghana.
We, your Christian leaders, renew our commitment to demonstrate true Christian leadership in all spheres of our lives. We encourage you to pray for us and support the spread of the Gospel especially in your life of witnessing. Be assured that we shall continue to provide support for the Government and the People of Ghana through our public education, advocacy and dialogue, social interventions and relentless prayer for the peace, stability and development of Ghana. We ask God to enkindle in us all the gift of the Holy Spirit and make us truly Christ-like.
REV. DR. CYRIL G. K. FAYOSE REV. FR. LAZARUS ANONDEE
General Secretary, CCG Secretary General, GCBC
- REV. DR. SETH S. AGIDI MOST REV. PHILIP NAAMEH
Chairman, CCG President, GCBC
APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS ON THE CALL TO HOLINESS IN TODAY’S WORLD
- “REJOICE AND BE GLAD” (Mt 5:12), Jesus tells those persecuted or humiliated for his sake. The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence. The call to holiness is present in various ways from the very first pages of the Bible. We see it expressed in the Lord’s words to Abraham: “Walk before me, and be blameless” (Gen 17:1)
- What follows is not meant to be a treatise on holiness, containing definitions and distinctions helpful for understanding this important subject, or a discussion of the various means of sanctification. My modest goal is to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities. For the Lord has chosen each one of us “to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph 1:4).
CHAPTER ONE : THE CALL TO HOLINESS
THE SAINTS WHO ENCOURAGE AND ACCOMPANY US
- The Letter to the Hebrews presents a number of testimonies that encourage us to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (12:1). It speaks of Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Gideon and others (cf. 11:1-12:3). Above all, it invites us to realize that “a great cloud of witnesses” (12:1)
impels us to advance constantly towards the goal. These witnesses may include our own mothers, grandmothers or other loved ones (cf. 2 Tim 1:5). Their lives may not always have been perfect, yet even amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord.
- The saints now in God’s presence preserve their bonds of love and communion with us. The Book of Revelation attests to this when it speaks of the intercession of the martyrs: “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, ‘O sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge?’” (6:9-10). Each of us can say: “Surrounded, led and guided by the friends of God… I do not have to carry alone what, in truth, I could never carry alone. All the saints of God are there to protect me, to sustain me and to carry me”.
- The processes of beatification and canonization recognize the signs of heroic virtue, the sacrifice of one’s life in martyrdom, and certain cases where a life is constantly offered for others, even until death. This shows an exemplary imitation of Christ, one worthy of the admiration of the faithful. We can think, for example, of Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu, who offered her life for the unity of Christians.
THE SAINTS “NEXT DOOR”
- Nor need we think only of those already beatified and canonized. The Holy Spirit bestows holiness in abundance among God’s holy and faithful people, for “it has pleased God to make men and women holy and to save them, not as individuals without any bond between them, but rather as a people who might acknowledge him in truth and serve him in holiness”. In salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in a human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people.
- I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them “the middle class of holiness”.
- Let us be spurred on by the signs of holiness that the Lord shows us through the humblest members of that people which “shares also in Christ’s prophetic office, spreading abroad a living witness to him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity”. We should consider the fact that, as Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross suggests, real history is made by so many of them. As she writes: “The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night.
But for the most part, the formative stream of the mystical life remains invisible. Certainly the most decisive turning points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points in our personal lives on the day when all that is hidden is revealed”.
- Holiness is the most attractive face of the Church. But even outside the Catholic Church and in very different contexts, the Holy Spirit raises up “signs of his presence which help Christ’s followers”. Saint John Paul II reminded us that “the witness to Christ borne even to the shedding of blood has become a common inheritance of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants”. In the moving ecumenical commemoration held in the Colosseum during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, he stated that the martyrs are “a heritage which speaks more powerfully than all the causes of division”.
2018 CHRISM MASS HOMILY BY ARCHBISHOP PALMER-BUCKLE AT THE HOLY SPIRIT CATHERAL, ACCRA
Sermon: My dearly beloved, the tradition of our Holy Mother Church recommends that today’s Liturgy take place preferably on Holy Thursday, the day in we commemorate the two inseparable gifts of the Lord Jesus Christ to his Church, namely, the Institution of the Holy Eucharist and of the Ministerial Priesthood at the Jewish Passover.
Today’s Chrism Mass is taking place this Wednesday, as has become our tradition in our Archdiocese in order to enable all our priests (throughout the Archdiocese) to participate in this all-important liturgy, and be able to return thereafter to your parishes and your flock/parishioners for the Sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Paschal Vigil and Celebration of the Resurrection.
It is at this Holy Mass of Chrism, that the Bishop is required to bless the Oils, namely that of Catechumens, and that for the Anointing of the Sick, and then together with his priests, the Bishop consecrates the Oil of Holy Chrism. It is at this Holy Mass also that all priests, both Diocesan and Religious in this Archdiocese, are expected to make the Renewal of our Priestly Commitment.
Now, taking cue from the theme of our 125th Anniversary: “Renewing our commitment to Evangelization”, I see some connection or resonance with the Renewal of our Priestly Commitment that will take place soon after this sermon. But before then, a reflection on the readings!
1.1: My dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, the readings of today, taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, and the Book of Revelation and the Gospel of St. Luke, all focus on God’s call to his service. In all three readings, we see how God anoints with oil and with his Spirit, those he calls to his service; making them into the priestly, kingly and holy people; and he also gives them a specific mission. This is how the Prophet Isaiah puts it:
“The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up hearts that are broken;
to proclaim liberty to captives,
freedom to those in prison;
to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord…
Of those God has anointed, Isaiah prophesied: “you will be named ‘priests of the Lord’, they will call you ‘ministers of our God’… all who see them will admit that they are a race whom the Lord has blessed”.
1.2: This special calling and anointing and blessing and sending on mission as prophesied by Isaiah in the First Reading is what Our Lord Jesus Christ took upon himself at the start of his earthly mission, his sending by the spirit to bring the good news to the poor… his mission of evangelization. Yes, when God calls us for a mission, he empowers us in the Holy Spirit, conforming us to his Son Jesus Christ.
1.3: This is what today’s Second Reading, from the Book of Revelation, declares and emphasizes: “…Jesus Christ… (the faithful witness, the First-Born from the dead, the Ruler of the kings of the earth…) has made us a line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father…”
1.4: And so my dearly beloved, today we are celebrating, yes, our calling and anointing as the priestly, kingly and holy people of God. We are “priests of the Lord”… and “ministers of our God”… We are indeed “…a race whom the Lord has blessed”. This is what we become in Christ Jesus, thanks to the anointing with the oils, most especially the Oil of Holy Chrism.
The Oil of Catechumens which is used before Baptism gives the catechumen inner strength and grace to be victorious over sin and evil, and the anointing with the Oil of Holy Chrism configures the baptized to Christ, the Anointed One of God. That is what the title Christos means.
My dearly beloved, it is this same Oil of Holy Chrism that the Church uses in the Sacrament of Confirmation and especially for the Ordination of Priests and the Consecration of Bishops. It is also used for the consecration of Altars and Church buildings, making them holy and sacred to the Lord (see Ex. 40:9-10).
The Oil of the Sick is blessed and used for the anointing of the sick and the infirm as was done in the times of the apostles of Jesus at his behest, (see Mk. 6:13 and 16:18; and James 5:14ff.) It points to the fact of our faith that Jesus the Christ and the Lord, and Saviour of humanity is among us, and is still at work in our midst thanks to the sacraments of the Church.
1.5: Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour is not only in the world thanks to the sacraments of the Church, but also in the very institution of the Church, the priestly people, kingly people and holy people of God, also known as the Mystical Body of Christ. It is to us all, anointed by the Spirit through Baptism and Confirmation, and some of us ordained in the Holy Priesthood that the Lord God today gives the mission “to bring the good news to the poor…”
Christ’s mission of evangelization is for all, and this day calls on us all to renew our commitment to that mission. I began this sermon saying that I perceived a spiritual resonance in the theme of our 125th Anniversary and the liturgical rite that today all priests are required to perform religiously and conscientiously, namely, to renew our priestly commitment.
My dearly beloved in Christ Jesus, dear Priestly, Kingly and Holy People of God, my dear brothers in the Holy Priesthood and Religious Life, without any shade of doubt, I can say that “the spirit of the Lord is upon you and me, and he has anointed you and me, and he has sent us to proclaim the good news to the poor…” in the Catholic Archdiocese of Accra, as our theme says: “125 Years of Catholic Mission in Accra: Renewing Our Commitment to Evangelization”.
At the end of the Holy Mass, we all will pray the 125th Anniversary Prayer, asking God to “increase his gifts in us so that we may grow in holiness of life and be truly ardent disciples of Your Son..(to) Inspire us anew with a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit and (to) fill us with renewed zeal for the Church’s New Evangelization mission in our Archdiocese and beyond!”
1.6: Let me now, therefore, invite you, my dear brother Priests and Religious, to rise up and once more renew our priestly commitment supported by our beloved Parishioners, Religious Men and Women.
Through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, may our renewal this year also be acceptable unto the Lord our God. Amen!
Most Rev. Charles G. PALMER-BUCKLE,
Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra,
Wednesday, March 28, 2018.
LENTEN PASTORAL LETTER FOR 2018
THEME: PERSONAL AND NATIONAL RENEWAL THROUGH OBEDIENCE TO GOD
Dearly beloved in Christ Jesus, we, the Catholic Bishops of Ghana, wish to use this Lenten Pastoral Letter to call for personal and national renewal as we all work towards a more peaceful and prosperous Ghana beyond 60 years of Independence.
Personal and national renewal cannot be realized without true obedience to God. Providentially, the Gospel reading of the First Sunday of Lent (Mark 1.12-15) serves as a point of departure for a sober reflection on our obedience or disobedience to God. The latter is, invariably, preceded by temptations. In a comparatively brief account, St. Mark, narrates the temptation of Jesus. The place of the temptation and the length of time Jesus spent in the desert are corroborated by St. Matthew and St. Luke in their accounts.
The scene of the temptation according to St. Mark sheds light on the Christian struggle especially during this season of lent. Every Christian is invited to tame within his or her heart the wild beasts of disobedience and to learn through the discipline of fasting, prayer and good works to incline our hearts like the angels to perfect obedience.
In the light of the above, we wish to reiterate and reflect further on a point made in our 2017 Lenten Pastoral Letter which was issued at the beginning of the 6oth anniversary of Ghana’s Independence. We mentioned that it is very significant that our national anthem begins with the word “God”. Unless Ghanaians and all other inhabitants of Ghana learn to obey God and actually remain obedient to Him, the realization of our national dream for Ghana @ 100 will be a mirage. The angelic posture of obedience to God, rather than the unruly nature of wild beasts, should characterize all aspects of our personal, familial, socio-cultural, economic, legislative, executive, judicial and religious lives if the dream of a peaceful, prosperous and highly developed Ghana is to be achieved.
In what follows, therefore, we wish to highlight a few instances of obedience and disobedience to God in various aspects of our personal and national lives. It is hoped that we would henceforth desist from acts of disobedience and progressively embrace the life of true obedience to God.
From the very beginning of creation, God designed marriage as the foundation of family life and families as the basic units of society. We obey God when our choices and actions promote and foster marriage and family life in line with the purposes of God. On the other hand, we disobey God when our chokes and actions break down marriages, reconstitute marriages as unions other than what God established between a man and a woman, children disobey parents, parents shirk their responsibilities, etc.
Socio-cultural Aspect of Life
Each people or nation has its cherished customs and cultural values; and our beloved country is no exception. Some of these customs and values may be modified or changed with time. The critical questions, however, are: does the original custom or value contradict the will of God? Is the modification or change in line with the will of God or it contradicts it? If we take, for instance, the cultural value of respect for the elderly, this certainly rhymes with the will of God. Therefore, the present trend of disrespect for the elderly is a social change which amounts to a disregard of the will of God.
Economic Aspect of Life
As mentioned on, temptations may lead us to disobey God. One of the temptations which befell our Lord Jesus Christ was to turn “stones into bread”. Happily, the Lord overcame the temptation by remaining obedient to His Father’s will because His actual “food is to do the will of’ His Father (John 4:34) and not physical bread.
The temptation to turn “stones into bread” is still with us today. As stones are not the natural raw materials for making bread, so any economic gain or advantage from an unnatural (illegal or illegitimate) source could be referred to as turning stones into bread. In other words, all actions of bribery and corruption amount to turning stones into bread.
Like the Lord Jesus, who overcame the temptation in His forty days of fasting and prayer, and remained forever obedient to His Father, we should use the forty days of Lent to seek the grace of mastery not over the hardness of physical stones or over our hunger for physical bread but rather over the desires of greed, discontentment and the like which lead to bribery and corruption etc.
Another temptation that Jesus experienced was a call to worship the devil (Matt. 4:8). But, once again, He set the records straight: only the Almighty God deserves worship. This temptation also implies any sort of compromise that goes against the will of God. For those who have the duty to make laws for our country, the question is: do internal (local) or external (foreign) pressures tempt them to compromise in the law-making process? How do they act when the voices of their consciences are loud and clear that such compromises contradict the will of God?
When our legislators thus compromise, it is the dreams of the pressure• givers that are likely to be realized and not our collective glorious dream of Ghana@ 100. Our legislators must, therefore, not allow such persons or organizations to set and drive the agenda for the future destiny of our country.
Like the members of the legislature, members of the executive arm of government in Ghana are not immune from internal and external pressures for compromise. On the other hand, the next temptation connotes sensationalism or the lure of the spectacular or achieving vain popularity or fame may be experienced also by the executive. Jesus was tempted by the devil to put His Father to the test by throwing himself down from the pinnacle of the temple of Jerusalem and expect angels to hold Him up (Matt. 4:5-6). Once again, Jesus overcame the temptation by putting the will of His Father first, instead of putting God to the test.
Just imagine Jesus descending from the pinnacle of the temple and being surrounded by the majestic wings of angels in full view of the thousands in Jerusalem; if this had happened surely the saving mission of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection would have been thwarted.
Similarly, sensationalism or the lure of being spectacular or achieving vain popularity or fame by the managers of the affairs of the nation only leads to short-sighted decision-making often to satisfy apparent short-term needs which actually do not feed into achieving the long-term dream of Ghana @ 100 .. Members of the executive and legislature of our nation should therefore learn from Jesus and act only in accordance with the will of God.
Members of the judiciary, like the legislators and executive, are also not immune from the temptations of turning “stones into bread”, of compromising and of vain glory. In recent times, unfortunately, instead of choosing the path which portrays obedience to God, some have succumbed to one or more of the above-mentioned temptations. Our nation can make good progress only if, while the other two arms of government are complying with the will of God, members of the judiciary also do same. We, therefore, urge them as well as the members of the legislature and executive to emulate the excellent example of Jesus Christ in the face of temptations. In a word, the guiding principle of all should be always God, and by implication, His will for Ghana must be first.
Are religious leaders exempt from the three temptations mentioned above? Not at all! Unfortunately, many religious leaders have fallen prey to the temptations of turning “stones into bread”, sensationalism or vain glory and compromising in matters of faith and morals.
For instance, on the Christian scene in Ghana, Christian leaders are turning “stones into bread” by demanding “consultation fees” and selling so-called “anointing oil and water”, etc. Is this in line with the will of God? We certainly doubt that it is.
With regard to sensationalism, some pastors or evangelists or prophets “stage manage” miracles. We urge all those involved in such acts to seek true spiritual renewal. For, by their present actions, they are leading too many people astray.
This is clearly in contradiction to Christ’s mission of gathering together the scattered children of God and not losing anyone whom the Father had entrusted to Him.
As regards compromises by Christian leaders, may it suffice to mention the following: some married Christian leaders have divorced, some have allegedly obtained “miraculous” powers through unchristian means and others sometimes interpret the Bible in ways that contradict fundamental Christian beliefs. We urge, our fellow Christian leaders as well as ourselves to strictly follow the example of Christ who never compromised.
Indeed, it is very sad to note that because of the failure of many Christian leaders to overcome the trio of temptations, the “brand” of Christianity being paraded today in Ghana promotes all kinds of vices. Certainly, this trend, if it does not change soon, will make the dream of Ghana @ 100 a mere mirage even if the three arms of government play their part very well.
“Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments and return to the Lord your God.“ (cf. Joel 2:12-13a). Dear beloved, as the Prophet Joel states, we appeal to all and sundry to use these forty days of Lent for personal and national renewal. We have underlined the fact that fundamental to this renewal is obedience to God.
We, therefore, pray that most (if not all) Ghanaians will embrace the call to obedience to God, so that our nation will steadily develop in the course of years and decades, and that those who live to see Ghana @ 100 will become great “exporters” of the unique Ghanaian product of “obedience to God is key to national excellence”.
Have a spirit-filled Lenten season.
Most Rev. Philip Naameh
Metropolitan Archbishop of Tamale &
President, Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
2018 LENTEN MESSAGE OF POPE FRANCIS
“Because of the increase of iniquity,
the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24: 12)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Once again, the Pasch of the Lord draws near! In our preparation for Easter, God in his providence offers us each year the season of Lent as a “sacramental sign of our conversion”. Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.
With this message, I would like again this year to help the entire Church experience this time of grace anew, with joy and in truth. I will take my cue from the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (24:12).
These words appear in Christ’s preaching about the end of time. They were spoken in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, where the Lord’s passion would begin. In reply to a question of the disciples, Jesus foretells a great tribulation and describes a situation in which the community of believers might well find itself: amid great trials, false prophets would lead people astray and the love that is the core of the Gospel would grow cold in the hearts of many.
Let us listen to the Gospel passage and try to understand the guise such false prophets can assume.
They can appear as “snake charmers”, who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go. How many of God’s children are mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness! How many men and women live entranced by the dream of wealth, which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests! How many go through life believing that they are sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness!
False prophets can also be “charlatans”, who offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless. How many young people are taken in by the panacea of drugs, of disposable relationships, of easy but dishonest gains! How many more are ensnared in a thoroughly “virtual” existence, in which relationships appear quick and straightforward, only to prove meaningless! These swindlers, in peddling things that have no real value, rob people of all that is most precious: dignity, freedom and the ability to love. They appeal to our vanity, our trust in appearances, but in the end they only make fools of us. Nor should we be surprised. In order to confound the human heart, the devil, who is “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44), has always presented evil as good, falsehood as truth. That is why each of us is called to peer into our heart to see if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets. We must learn to look closely, beneath the surface, and to recognize what leaves a good and lasting mark on our hearts, because it comes from God and is truly for our benefit.
A cold heart
In his description of hell, Dante Alighieri pictures the devil seated on a throne of ice, in frozen and loveless isolation. We might well ask ourselves how it happens that charity can turn cold within us. What are the signs that indicate that our love is beginning to cool?
More than anything else, what destroys charity is greed for money, “the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6: 10). The rejection of God and his peace soon follows; we prefer our own desolation rather than the comfort found in his word and the sacraments. All this leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own “certainties”: the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbour who does not live up to our expectations.
Creation itself becomes a silent witness to this cooling of charity. The earth is poisoned by refuse, discarded out of carelessness or for self-interest. The seas, themselves polluted, engulf the remains of countless shipwrecked victims of forced migration. The heavens, which in God’s plan, were created to sing his praises, are rent by engines raining down implements of death.
Love can also grow cold in our own communities. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I sought to describe the most evident signs of this lack of love: selfishness and spiritual sloth, sterile pessimism, the temptation to self-absorption, constant warring among ourselves, and the worldly mentality that makes us concerned only for appearances, and thus lessens our missionary zeal.
What are we to do?
Perhaps we see, deep within ourselves and all about us, the signs I have just described. But the Church, our Mother and Teacher, along with the often bitter medicine of the truth, offers us in the Lenten season the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting.
By devoting more time to prayer, we enable our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception, and then to find the consolation God offers. He is our Father and he wants us to live life well.
Almsgiving sets us free from greed and helps us to regard our neighbour as a brother or sister. What I possess is never mine alone. How I would like almsgiving to become a genuine style of life for each of us! How I would like us, as Christians, to follow the example of the Apostles and see in the sharing of our possessions a tangible witness of the communion that is ours in the Church! For this reason, I echo Saint Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to take up a collection for the community of Jerusalem as something from which they themselves would benefit (cf. 2 Cor 8:10). This is all the more fitting during the Lenten season, when many groups take up collections to assist Churches and peoples in need. Yet I would also hope that, even in our daily encounters with those who beg for our assistance, we would see such requests as coming from God himself. When we give alms, we share in God’s providential care for each of his children. If through me God helps someone today, will he not tomorrow provide for my own needs? For no one is more generous than God.
Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth. On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure. On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbour. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.
I would also like my invitation to extend beyond the bounds of the Catholic Church, and to reach all of you, men and women of good will, who are open to hearing God’s voice. Perhaps, like ourselves, you are disturbed by the spread of iniquity in the world, you are concerned about the chill that paralyzes hearts and actions, and you see a weakening in our sense of being members of the one human family. Join us, then, in raising our plea to God, in fasting, and in offering whatever you can to our brothers and sisters in need!
The fire of Easter
Above all, I urge the members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer. If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God! He constantly gives us a chance to begin loving anew.
One such moment of grace will be, again this year, the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative, which invites the entire Church community to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation in the context of Eucharistic adoration. In 2018, inspired by the words of Psalm 130:4, “With you is forgiveness”, this will take place from Friday, 9 March to Saturday, 10 March. In each diocese, at least one church will remain open for twenty-four consecutive hours, offering an opportunity for both Eucharistic adoration and sacramental confession.
During the Easter Vigil, we will celebrate once more the moving rite of the lighting of the Easter candle. Drawn from the “new fire”, this light will slowly overcome the darkness and illuminate the liturgical assembly. “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds”, and enable all of us to relive the experience of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. By listening to God’s word and drawing nourishment from the table of the Eucharist, may our hearts be ever more ardent in faith, hope and love.
With affection and the promise of my prayers for all of you, I send you my blessing. Please do not forget to pray for me.
HOMILY OF BISHOP ADANUTY ON 125TH ANNIVERSARY OF FIRST MASS IN ACCRA
31 JANUARY 2018
Exodus 13, 17-18, 21-22.
Hebrews 13, 7-16.
Luke 8, 22-25.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We are celebrating today the 125th anniversary of the first Catholic Holy Mass in Accra.
As we gather here for this event, we cannot but think of the handful of people gathered in the house of Chief John Quartey on Accra High Street and try to imagine what was going on in their thoughts and imaginations.
The two SMA fathers, Otto Hilberer and Eugene Raess, sent by their religious superiors, were here to carry out the missionary mandate of Jesus Christ (Mt. 28, 19-20) to go and make disciples of all nations … They must have understood, already then, that the Christian Church is, by its very nature, missionary. They were convinced about the need of their work of evangelization and were not daunted by the fact that missionaries of other Christian denominations had preceded them to the then Gold Coast.
We admire their zeal, their courage to accept hardships, their readiness to embrace this mission in a territory where they were very likely to meet early death through yellow fever. We admire above all their faith in Jesus Christ and their commitment to promote his saving work.
Today we commend to the Lord the souls of all the departed missionaries, of the lay faithful who helped them settle down and facilitated their work in various ways to plant the seed that has grown to be the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Accra. We pay special tribute to the lay faithful whose perseverance kept the Church alive when, barely two and a half years after the first Mass was celebrated, Accra had to remain without resident priests for some 30 years because the two resident priests had to move to Fanteland where yellow fever had caused havoc among the missionaries in the older Churches around Cape Coast. There is no doubt that through those lay faithful the Lord assured that the torch of faith, lighted by the missionaries, kept burning.
Although this sounds like a vote of thanks, I can assure you that it is not meant to be so. I only want to draw our attention to the obvious fact indicated in Is. 26, 12 that all that has been accomplished by these people, each in their own significant and insignificant ways, have been accomplished by the Lord. To the Lord, therefore, be the glory and thanksgiving.
It is indeed the Lord who decides who should do what in this world and he enables his sons and daughters to carry out the missions assigned to them. He is the Lord of the past, of the present and also of the future, the Lord of history.
Let us look at the first reading from the book of Exodus. When God led his people out of Egypt towards the promised land, he did not lead them by way of the shortcut along the coast, but rather by the roundabout way of the wilderness towards the Red Sea. The shortcut would have brought them very soon face to face with the warlike Philistines. With Egypt so near behind them, the temptation to go back there would have been too compelling for the people. That was one reason. Another reason, as we can gather from looking back on the past, was that God wanted to train them by means of all the experiences they went through in the wilderness. By following the long way chosen by God, the people of Israel have learned that the attainment of freedom and independence is a gradual, painful process through which God’s people must pass in order to appreciate freedom.
God made his presence felt during the journey, leading the people by a pillar of cloud during the day and especially by a pillar of fire by night. Lions would not have needed the pillar of fire in order to see. God satisfied the need of his people.
God is in control of our life, he is truly interested in our well-being and will help us achieve his goals in us.
Each generation in the Church must experience God’s presence and renew its faith in him. Each generation must experience the exodus and declare its faith in the God of freedom. Each member of God’s people, each one of us here, will be given the chance of realizing that God is not only our God, but my God, as Thomas did. Each will be educated by the Lord to come to the realization that it is he, the Lord, who accomplishes all that he, the creature, accomplishes.
The Gospel reading tells us of Jesus and his disciples crossing by boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee when a storm arose, putting their lives in serious danger. We know very well that the gospel narratives are not newspaper reports of events, like the sort you would read in the Daily Graphic or Ghanaian Times. They are selected and reported in order to teach something relevant to the good news that Jesus has brought to the world.
Here we find the boat on a stormy sea; Mark tells us the crossing started in the evening; so they were now in darkness. They were crossing over into the territory of the Gerasenes, who could certainly not have been Israelites, because, for one thing, we know from the episode which follows today’s reading, that the Gerasenes were breeding pigs, which were unclean animals for the people of Israel. What happened that night was of great significance in the mentality of those days, because the sea was considered as the home of all the evil spirits; well, we in Ghana know that mammy water is also there.
In the interpretation given to this event the boat is seen as the Christian Church complying with the missionary mandate of Jesus and therefore going to the other side of the lake, into the territory of people Israel referred to as the goyim; since they did not know Jahweh, they were pagans. So the Christian community was going out to the whole world to proclaim the good news. The storm represents the various difficulties the early Church had to face: not only from outside but also from within its own ranks; from outside, such as suspicion, rejection, persecution and death; from within: weakness of some members, differences of opinion regarding the demands of the new life, etc.
The disciples of Jesus had to struggle hard in order to remain faithful to the Lord’s teaching; we know how they had to hold the first Council of Jerusalem to decide what demands to impose on the new believers who were not Jews; were they to undergo circumcision?
The strange situation of Jesus being fast asleep in the midst of all this turmoil shows how the disciples had to face the new situation in which the Lord Jesus was no longer physically present among them the way he used to be. They still had to come to terms with calling on Jesus as before, talking to him as before, in short, they had to remain in communication with Jesus, namely praying to him; the reproach of Jesus to the disciples about their faith indicates the need for Christians to express this faith in him always, not only in critical moments, not only to ask for miracles. It is an evil generation that knows Jesus only as worker of spectacular miracles.
Having faith in Christ does not show only when we are faced with troubles beyond us, not only when other helpers have failed us, not after we have vainly had recourse to humans and spirits who don’t know their right from their left.
Do we show faith only when God’s presence is seen through spectacular miracles? Or are we able to see also the miracles of every day and thank the Lord for them?
We learned from the first reading from the Book of Exodus that God is in control of our life, he is truly interested in our well-being and will help us achieve his goals in us. In the same way, we learn from the gospel episode also that Jesus, the Lord, is in control. He is the God who alone has power over the sea and the waves, over all evil forces. Our God does not sleep and does not need to be awakened.
The second reading of today, from the Letter to the Hebrews, brings us down to our Archdiocese, to our parishes and stations, where we try to give living expression to our faith in God and in his Son Jesus Christ. The sacred author tells us, among others: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever…”
If we are gathered here today, it is also to honour those valiant leaders who spoke the word of God to our grandfathers and grandmothers. We are committed to imitating their faith, which was the driving force that enabled them to face and surmount all the difficulties in their path of evangelization. At the same time, we are committed to keeping intact our faith in the person of Jesus Christ who remains the same, yesterday, today and forever.
It is in this spirit that the Archdiocese of Accra is committed to continuing the work of evangelization, mindful that while the faith remains always the same, the manner in which it is presented and preached may vary according to the times and places. The way people think and communicate keeps changing
It is also for this reason that the Archdiocese has been holding synods periodically in order to make sure that in carrying out the missionary mandate, she presents the unchanging Christ to a world that keeps changing. In Jn 14, 26 Jesus said to his disciples: “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.” In this context I see the task of the Spirit as one of reminding the Church of the unchanging truth and teaching her how to present that truth in the changing world. An example is what emerged from the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15.
Five years ago, when the Archdiocese of Accra celebrated its 120th Anniversary, the theme was: 120 Years of Catholic Mission: Honouring the past, Celebrating the Present, Building the Future.
This year, as we celebrate the 125th Anniversary, the theme is: 125 Years of Catholic Mission in Accra: Renewing Our Commitment to Evangelization.
In both celebrations, the motto/slogan is the same, namely: Arise, Catholic Faithful, Rejoice and Renew.
We have to conclude that the Archdiocese of Accra intends to engage all her Catholic faithful in an effort to renew her commitment to evangelization and doing so in a joyful manner, precisely as our second reading advises in the verse following today’s passage.
My brothers and sisters, we have always to keep in mind that the work of evangelization has been entrusted, by the Lord Jesus Christ, to each and every member of the Church. It is our mission because the Church is, by her very nature, missionary. It is an honour for us to be asked by the Lord to fulfil this mission. It is not we who give the faith to another person; God is the one who gives faith. Ours is, first and foremost, to bring people to meet Jesus as a person, just as John the Baptist did with his disciples, just as Andrew did with his brother Simon, just as the Samaritan woman did with her townspeople. Jesus knows best what to do with them. Ours is only a work of collaboration with God; and let us take note and remember that God does not need our contribution in order to proclaim the message. This is no heresy. We all remember that at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, God used an angel to proclaim the good news to the shepherds. We all know that God used a star to proclaim the good news to the wise men from the East. We all know that both at the baptism of Jesus and at his transfiguration, God proclaimed who Jesus was through a voice; and, finally, we all know that it was Jesus himself who evangelized the hostile Saul on his way to Damascus. God does not need our contribution in order to proclaim the message. It is an honour for us to be asked by the Lord to cooperate with him in evangelization. Coming down to our own context, we know the important role played by the British Governor, the Ga Chiefs and perhaps other non-Catholics in facilitating the establishment of the Catholic Church in Accra. It was the Lord himself who planned and executed his plan, using various human instruments to achieve his purpose. To him be the glory and thanksgiving and to the human instruments our appreciation for the fact that they allowed the Lord to make use of them.
Now, let nobody start thinking that if the Lord does not really need us, then we should allow him to do everything. Pope Paul VI has a question for anyone who thinks that way; listen:
“It would be useful if every Christian and every evangelizer were to pray about the following thought: men can gain salvation also in other ways, by God’s mercy, even though we do not preach the Gospel to them; but as for us, can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame- what St. Paul called “blushing for the Gospel” – or as a result of false ideas we fail to preach it? For that would be to betray the call of God, who wishes the seed to bear fruit through the voice of the ministers of the Gospel; and it will depend on us whether this grows into trees and produces its full fruit.” (E.N. 80)
The Lord does not need us in order to proclaim the gospel, but he has given us the privilege and honour to share in its proclamation. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, first of all, we have nothing to boast about, if we have the faith in God and someone else doesn’t have it or doesn’t have it the same way: it is the Lord who gives the grace of faith to a person, not we. Again, therefore, we have no business looking down on anybody or ridiculing anybody who does not have the faith we have. What have we that we haven’t received?
So, the Archdiocese calls on all her faithful to once more renew their commitment to evangelization and to do so joyfully and cheerfully. What you are being called to proclaim is good news, glad tidings. At the birth of Jesus, the angel said to the shepherds: “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.”
Therefore, Arise, Catholic faithful of the Archdiocese of Accra, Rejoice and Renew!
A M E N