Wellington Archbishop Paul Martin, SM, called on the graduates of Te Kupenga – Catholic Theological College to reflect on going where God is leading them for the sake of the Gospel.
Archbishop Martin made this call in his homily at the college’s graduation Mass celebrated on May 26 at Sacred Heart church in Ponsonby.
The archbishop highlighted the journeys of Saints Peter and Paul, both of whom suffered and were persecuted as they followed the call of God to spread the Gospel.
“It is part of the mystery of suffering and persecution in faith that often really confirms our faith, when we have to make choices about what we believe, and what we really stand up for,” he said. “Not that we ask for it (persecution), but it actually does bring out our choice and our conviction.”
Archbishop Martin said that St Paul’s journey “reminds us, too, that God’s plan for us is often not straightforward. It may lead us to places that we wouldn’t choose. It may ask of us things which we would actually rather not do”.
In St Paul’s case, his journey to Rome allowed the Good News to spread beyond Israel “into the very heart of the Roman empire”.
“The question for us is: what is God asking each of one of us . . . in our lives? Where is God asking or calling us to go? What is God asking us to do for the sake of the Gospel, for the call of the discipleship?” he said. “We don’t know the answer to where that would lead us, but we have to ask ourselves: do we have that basic open disposition to be willing to do that?”
Archbishop Martin then delved into the Gospel in which Jesus asked Peter, “do you love me?” three times.
The archbishop pointed out that, while this reading is often used to focus on Peter’s role and leadership within the Church, it also shows two things: first, that there is nothing we can do that God’s love for us cannot forgive and second, loving Jesus “will by necessity mean caring for one another, to help each other remain in that love”.
“This is what that call has asked of [Peter], ‘feed my flock’. His love for Jesus, which he professed, was to be expressed in the action or call : the commission to care for and love his people,” the archbishop said.
Peter was then told by Jesus that he (Peter) would be going where he might not want to go, a reminder that he would suffer and give up his life for Christ.
This part of the Gospel, Archbishop Martin said, raised three things which all Christians should ponder deeply.
“Firstly, if Jesus asked me, asked you, ‘do you love me?’, what would my response be? How is that [response] evident in my life? The second is, am I willing to go where I would rather not go for the sake of the Gospel?,” he said. “Thirdly, do I trust in the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in my life and God’s love for me so as to be free to respond to God’s plan for me?”
Before the end of the Mass, Archbishop Martin thanked Dunedin Bishop Emeritus Colin Campbell for coming out of retirement to temporarily take the leadership of Holy Cross Seminary.
“We are very grateful for your willingness to step in this time to be in charge of the Holy Cross seminary. Thank you and welcome back to the North Island again,” he said.
In the meantime, Archbishop Martin hopes that the Archdiocese of Wellington will embark on a “renewal in our spiritual lives”, even as he acknowledged his predecessor, Cardinal John Dew, for his (cardinal’s) faithful service to the Church.
The eighth Archbishop of Wellington released his first newsletter on June 2. In it, he introduced himself to his new flock and gave an indication of what his plans are for the archdiocese, adding that he knows that people always wonder about the agenda of someone new in a position.
“One of the things that I hope we might embark upon in the archdiocese is a renewal in our spiritual lives. If I am not in love with Jesus Christ then I won’t be motivated to build the Christian community or be a proclaimer of the Good News to others,” he said. “If I am to fall in love, then I need to
know Jesus and share in his life and allow the Holy Spirit to set me on fire.”
Archbishop Martin said that this could be very challenging for some, as it could take them out of their comfort zone.
He said that he wants Catholic Wellingtonians to pray beyond the Sunday Mass, to pray every day and be closer to God.
“We need to nourish ourselves with the sacraments – of the Eucharist, and to make the most of the wonderful gift of Reconciliation, to read spiritual books, articles, or listen to podcasts – to feed our soul and our minds,” he said.
He hoped this would lead them to “build community and become evangelisers”.
“This is especially true for those of us who have leadership roles in our Church,” he said. “I hope we can do much more in this way to help one another grow in our faith and relationship with God.”
The archbishop said that one of the great gifts of our Church is structure that “allows us to know where we stand and what we believe”.
“There may be times when we might struggle with some of this, but the strength is in our unity of belief, prayer and teaching,” he stressed. “It isn’t my personal opinion that actually decides things, it is what the Church believes and teaches, and this is actually a protection for us.”
He said that those who are leaders or in positions of authority within the archdiocese should always ask themselves if they are teaching and living what the Church believes.
“A Catholic institution, if it is going to bear that name, needs to be faithful to what that means. Each of us needs to ask ourselves if we are witnessing to this in our ministry, leadership and participation,” he said.
Archbishop Martin asked the faithful to keep Cardinal Dew in their prayers.
“I know that he was a very pastoral shepherd, and one who wanted his people to grow in their relationship with God, and for the Church to be a place for all,” he said.
He also called on them to thank and encourage the many good people in the diocese.
“They are living witnesses to faith and show what it is to truly believe,” he said.
Archbishop Martin also announced he had appointed Monsignor Gerard Burns as vicar-general.
“I am grateful to Msgr Gerard for his willingness to carry on in this role. He brings good continuity and pastoral wisdom,” he said.