WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Being an active disciple of Jesus

WelCom November 2018:

Cardinal John Dew, Archbishop of Wellington

When I was at a Synod in Rome in 2010 on The New Evangelisation, in his speech to the Synod one of the bishops spoke about how we are called to help one another ‘to be fascinated with Jesus, to be fascinated by Jesus.’ Those words have stayed with me and I keep wondering how we help one another to be fascinated with and by Jesus.

Following some of the interventions of the Synod in Rome on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, 3‒18 October 2018, I noticed that many of the speeches delivered have focussed on who we are as disciples of Jesus Christ. Many are saying what the Church needs today in this time of criticism of the Holy Father, sexual abuse revelations and cover ups, talk about the leaders of the Church not being ‘authentic’, is an emphasis on who we are as disciples of Jesus. Being a disciple is not just being a passive follower of Jesus; it is also being an active ‘learner’. To be a disciple means to ‘learn’ and that learning is a life-long journey. At a recent meeting I attended in Rome one of the other Cardinals nudged me and said ‘look at the Holy Father, he is the ultimate disciple. He is always learning.’ I believe that is true of him; is it also true for each one of us?

We know the Church has made mistakes; we know the Church is not perfect, because it is made up of imperfect human beings. We also know there must be some new ways of doing things for the Church to be purified and renewed. What was said many times over the last days at the Synod is true. Renewal starts in the hearts of each of us, and it starts by looking at our relationship with Jesus. A bishop from Poland, Bishop Marian Florczyk, said in his intervention, ‘we need to keep our eyes fixed on the person of Christ, in order to build relationships based on him. There is no better builder, there is no better architect for the edification of a community than Jesus Christ. He lays the foundations, and he is what build the community.’

We are all to Keep our eyes on Jesus Christ.

In a homily in January 2016, Pope Francis said, ‘in order to understand Jesus, we cannot have closed hearts, but rather need those that are courageous and forward-looking.’ They are wonderful and challenging words, which help us to move forward into the future. Therefore, I think we all need to ask repeatedly, ‘How is my faith in Jesus Christ?’ I always find it interesting we seem to have the Gospel several times a year when Jesus asks the question ‘but you, who do you say I am?’ Faith is always personal, we all must answer Jesus’ question, it is personal, but it is not private, it is to be shared.

“Faith is always personal, we all must answer Jesus’ question, it is personal, but it is not private, it is to be shared.”

Think of the people in the Gospels who met Jesus. Many people were ready to do anything to get closer to Jesus, even taking risks to make it happen. The woman who reached out and touched his clothing, Zacchaeus who climbed up the tree to see him, the Roman Centurion who asked Jess to heal his son, the blind man who shouted out to him. Many times, as these people called out or approached Jesus they were shouted down or closed out by others, but they were so confident in him ‒ and fascinated by him ‒ they sometimes overcrowded and surrounded wherever he was. Many of the things happening in the Church and in our world today can also close us out and prevent us from coming to him and staying close to him.

Today we need courageous, forward-looking and open hearts to stay close to Jesus and to enable our faith to grow. For me, the invitation is always to hear Jesus say, ‘Remain in my love.’ It is only when we remain in his love and keep our eyes fixed on him that we can be fascinated with him and grow in our relationship with him. When we stay with him, then we also grow to love his family, the Church. We grow to love the Church despite the difficulties and challenges the mistakes and sinfulness.

Recently, in these hard and challenging times I have found the following prayer, from an unknown source very helpful, I hope it helps you too.