Posted on 1 March 2016
Catholic Outlook, Volume 19, March 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I have previously raised in this column the changing landscape in terms of modern communication. It is not only the omnipresence in our lives now of the World Wide Web, smart phones, tablets and the tools provided to communicate an instant opinion on everything through online channels such as Facebook or Twitter, but the fact that such exposure can make an ordinary person into a ‘social media’ hero or pariah in what sometimes seems like a nanosecond!
Further to that, we see that overall such communication is often hostile and angry and we have witnessed the emergence of so-called internet ‘trolls’ and the destructive phenomenon referred to as ‘revenge porn’. ‘Online’ bullying, particularly of school-age children, continues to be a concern to parents and school authorities.
Are we as a society becoming more discontented and angry about our lives and the world we inhabit? There is little doubt that rampant individualism has led to a self-obsessed and selfish cohort of people who show little regard for others and simply ‘live for the moment’.
Some commentators would suggest that this has always been the case with the human race, and that we are only more aware of it now because of social media and the constant bombardment of information hitting us 24/7!
The Church too has come into the foreground of comment in recent weeks, much of it connected to the Royal Commission, and the attempt by some to close the Church down from participating in any debate relating to the social structures that underpin our way of life and which provide stability and social cohesion.
It is true that Christianity, and in particular the Catholic Church, is under assault on various fronts, and given our vulnerability as a result of the proceedings of the Royal Commission we are perceived to be in a position of moral and institutional weakness.
The enemies of the Church know this and are exploiting the moment to inflict maximum damage on our credibility and our place in society.
In the midst of all this we find ourselves once again on the journey of Lent and our annual walk to Calvary. It is a time for serious spiritual introspection, a time to review lifestyles and life choices, a time to focus particularly on the dignity of our own Baptism and how we have measured up to Christ’s call to each of us to be authentic disciples in the world.
At the same time we look at our Church as a human institution and recognise that there have been serious deficiencies because of past mistakes and a certain inertia leading to cautiousness prevails as we look to the future.
And some may rightly wonder, where is God in all this?
But of course the Lenten journey doesn’t end with Good Friday, as important as that day is in the scheme of salvation, but rather it ends (or begins) with the empty tomb on Easter morning.
On the First Sunday of Lent I had the privilege of presiding at the Rite of Election where 110 adult men and women were formally elected as catechumens to be fully initiated at the Easter vigil through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.
What a blessing to the Diocese of Parramatta and our parish communities! God is still at work in drawing people into living faith through Jesus Christ.
The Second Sunday of Lent saw the commencement Mass for our diocesan Seminary of the Holy Spirit. I was pleased to welcome two young men to begin the process of discernment that will hopefully lead them to the ministerial priesthood. They join our existing seminarians at various stages of formation who will, in time, be the future priests of our Diocese.
These are signs of the new life that are celebrated liturgically in the ceremonies around the Easter Triduum.
As I reflect on the life of the agencies, parishes and schools that constitute the Diocese of Parramatta it is very evident that many good things are happening on so many levels.
There is clear evidence that the Spirit of God is alive and manifesting Divine Presence and working mysteriously as the lives of young and old are being transformed.
In all this the Church of Parramatta remains committed to proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. As we approach the holiest time of the year, may all the people of the Diocese encounter in their lives the risen Christ and take Him with them wherever they may go.
With my prayers in this Holy Season,
Very Rev Peter G Williams
Diocese of Parramatta