Catholic Archdiocese Of Accra

Connect with us on :

2018 Lenten Pastoral Letter from Ghana Catholic Bishops

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.

Family  Life

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.

The Legislature

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.

The Executive

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.

The Judiciary

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.

Religious Leadership

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.

Conclusion

“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.

Comment here