WelCom September 2017:
Before and since Vatican II:
Tom Gibson, Stratford
Old time missionaries came to our parish of Manaia every three years during and after World War II. In deference to the dairy industry, where dairy workers made up 80 per cent of the parish, missions were held in the ‘off season’ ‒ May to July. Without fail, missionaries preached a sermon that commenced, ‘What would it profit a man if he gained the whole world and suffered the loss of his immortal soul?’ (Today Mt 16:26). These men were orators; their object was to scare the congregation from their sinful ways. They made a convincing plea for everyone to confess. Then it was confession, now reconciliation. The practical missionary would bribe the congregation, promising for every new sin he heard; he would give the penitent a fiver, causing concern among the parish elders, that Manaia would lack the necessary funds to compensate the missionary.
The missionaries returned every three years to re-instil the fear of God into Catholic folk. Pre-Vatican ll the church authorities emphasised Fear of God.
Today, we are reminded Jesus was ‘destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders, and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day.’ (Mt 16:21). Peter, who just a week earlier, had been inspired to proclaim Jesus as ‘The Messiah, the Son of the living God’ (Mt 16:10) now becomes fearful, rebuking Jesus about His realistic premonition. Jesus responds, referring to Peter as under the spell of Satan. Peter’s misfortune, reflected the congregation’s situation of 70 years ago, when accused by the missionaries of being under Satan’s spell. These missionaries appeared to overlook the two important verses that proceeded their earlier hair-raising objective; Jesus saying, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let them renounce them-self and take up their cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save their life will lose it; but anyone who loses their life for my sake will find it.’ (Mt 16:24-25).
How things have changed these past 70-odd years? Along came Good Saint Pope John XXlll and Vatican ll, placing the emphasis on Love of God. This, in return for Jesus’ great love for us, was demonstrated by His dying on the cross as a ransom for our sins. May we emulate Him by loving our neighbour even though that means inconvenience and self-sacrifice. Pray for this love, to gain a better understanding of Vatican ll. Life is not easy, and the option to follow Jesus appears more difficult than it really is. Think of what we do and think of who we do it for.