ARCHBISHOP JOHN BATHERSBY of Brisbane says the major problem in the world today is a lack of belief in God
THIS archdiocese has many different problems, no better no worse than many of the problems that the Church has experienced during its long history of 2000 years.
We certainly don’t have the problem of the 4th century when the heresy of Arianism swamped the Church proclaiming that Christ was not God, and being so successful that St Jerome could write in 359 that ‘the whole world groaned and marvelled to find itself Arian’.
Nevertheless the major problem today in the Western world is not lack of belief in Christ but rather lack of belief in God. Lack of belief in an all loving God who created the world, created each and every person, and loves each and every person individually and eternally.
It seemed good to me to ask the archdiocese to pray about this particular problem.
Indeed we pray about individual needs, so why don’t we pray that God will unleash the Holy Spirit not for an individual need but for the need of a whole archdiocese, for a flowering of the faith in its midst.
Individual needs exist — the need for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, the need for peace, the need for a less violent society, the need for a drug-free culture, but all of these needs exist against the backdrop of a lack of faith in God.
Because of Jesus Christ we live in the time of the Kingdom, when the power of God is unleashed for our benefit, as it was in the time of Christ and has been ever since through signs and wonders.
We see marvellous healings when individual prayers are answered, so why can’t we expect to see these signs and wonders in the whole archdiocese and the whole of society when we pray for it?
Can’t we pray that the whole archdiocese might be healed in an outpouring of God’s power? If this happens then the other minor problems will fix themselves up.
Therefore I ask the prayer groups of the archdiocese and indeed everyone to pray for this outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit in the weeks and months that lie ahead.
Until we can fix up the faith question, or the God question, then all else will be in vain.
Moreover I am not talking about just a vague intuition that there may or may not be a God, but rather a full blown belief in a God of love, without whom we can’t possibly live a meaningful life, much less a happy one.
It is no wonder therefore that the recently elected Pope Benedict XVI, for whom we pray, said as a cardinal before the recent consistory that the biggest challenge that the world faces today is the ‘tyranny of relativism’.
I was interested therefore to read the words of an American scholar, Michael Novak, who wrote recently, before the Pope was elected: ‘In the meaninglessness of relativism, Cardinal Ratzinger counter poses respect for the distinctive, incommensurable image of God in every single human being from the most helpless to the seemingly most powerful, together with a sense of our solidarity with one another in the bosom of our Creator.
‘This fundamental vision of the immortal value both of the individual person and the whole human community in solidarity has been the motor power, the spiritual dynamic overdrive, of an increasingly global (Catholic) civilisation.’
I couldn’t agree more with Cardinal Ratzinger in this analysis.
Warning bells about the predicament of the world and the Church were posed in the late 1920s by a group of brilliant French theologians who found themselves surrounded at that time in France by a galloping Godlessness.
They therefore returned to St Paul and the Fathers seeking a solution, to discover there a richer understanding of Christianity than was then being preached. They found in the Fathers and in St Paul a theology of Koinonia, or communion, that saw the human person joined through relationship with God, to all people, and to all creation.
It is a brilliant, exciting understanding of Christianity and the French theologians, together with German theologians Frs Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and Rahner, and a Polish theologian Karol Wojtyla, later Pope Paul II, made this theology the spiritual foundation of the Second Vatican Council.
Deeply understood by Pope John Paul II it drove his mission to the world, and please God will drive Pope Benedict XVI in his footsteps.
First of all however we need the very deepest belief in a God of love who loves each one of us individually and eternally.
We are made to live forever, and death does not interrupt our existence.
Once we forget our eternal destiny then we become people driven by entertainment, power, money, possessions, pleasure, drugs or alcohol, because if death is the end of everything then why shouldn’t we make the most of this life in whatever way possible.
Christianity has a magnificence in its vision that we must understand and grasp if we wish to convey it to others. I’m sure the new Pope will waste no time in conveying this good news of Jesus Christ to the world.
As we come together to pledge our loyalty and support to Benedict XVI let us pray that the Holy Spirit will lead the world back to faith in God through his leadership.
In this archdiocese let us pray that this will happen and let that be our prayer as we gather with one another, with the angels and saints, and with all creation to pray so that the Kingdom of God will continue to come in our midst.