Does being a Catholic make a difference? - Bishop of Lancaster

 Pastoral Letter from Bishop Pat O'Donoghue When Jesus was asked to name the greatest commandment, he replied: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself' (Mt 22::3 7-39). This is what the Good News is: that the human person is capable of being changed infinitely by love. Every experience of love opens us up and prepares us for new and deeper experiences of love. Through love we grow, develop and change. It is only when we experience the love of parents. Friends, relatives. spouse - God - that we have the security that allows us to admit there are some aspects of our character which are unlovable. Only then can we begin to open ourselves properly to God's love for us and let Him work with us through prayer, scripture and sacrament to heal us of that which is hateful. lt is precisely when, in deliberate response to God's call to love and against our instincts, our fears and our prejudices, we reach out to forgive someone who has hurt us or to make peace with someone who is quarrelsome. that God grows most strongly within us and changes us most powerfully. Why is this such good news? It is fantastic news because it means we are not imprisoned or enslaved by the sins and mistakes of the past. The thief can become a person of trust; the adulterer can become a pillar of family life; the man of violence can use his strength to protect the weak; the selfish can become compassionate; and the arrogant can become humble and gentle. Reflect for one moment on how different this is from the 'wisdom' of the world. We live in a culture which delights in raking over the past, in dredging up old sins -and why? - so that we may tear down and disregard the person of today. It is used as an excuse to deny that he has any value: once a thief, always a thief, the leopard cannot change its spots. It asserts our enslavement to the past; it denies any hope of our breaking free. The Good News stands in direct opposition to the 'wisdom' of the world. It has a vision of the human person with the capacity for learning from his mistakes, the capacity to grow in goodness. In wisdom, in holiness. It sees humanity, not as slaves, but as people filled with hope: the hope of a tomorrow that is in every way better than our yesterdays. And the engine that drives this transformation is love. My dear friends, when I wrote to you at Pentecost, I invited you to join me in seeking out God's plan for us. We do not know where it will lead, but we know where it starts: in proclaiming this Good News - and the first step in doing that is to live it. This is the great mission for all Christians and it is entrusted in a very special way to you, the lay members of the Church. To you is given the task of transforming the world by filling it with the practice of Christ's love. You do it in a wonderful way in your family life; it is, after all, in the family that we all first experience love, first learn that we are safe in putting our happiness and our life into the hands of others. More challenging is the world of work. When people look at us, they should see something different from the rest of the world. They should see Christ and that should make a difference. I am asking each one of you to put these questions to yourself In what ways can my Catholicism make a difference to my being a taxi-driver, shop assistant, farm worker, banker, lawyer, politician, pensioner - or whatever it is that I am? What is there about the way I do my job that is recognisable to other people and makes them say approvingly: "There goes a Christian."? Your first reaction may be to say that there is no connection between your faith and your job. I know of many who say that such a connection is impossible. "You have to compromise to survive," they say. "We live in the real world." I remember talking many years ago with a senior businessman who was passionate in his denial of this attitude. "Goodness," he insisted, "is good business." "You can get away with bullying, with cheating, with lying, with dishonesty generally for a while," he said, "but it doesn't take long for people to recognise you as a bully, a cheat, a liar and a crook. And who wants to do business with a man like that? What staff of decent calibre want to work for him? You may grab a promotion by stabbing a colleague in the back, but do you think your new boss will ever trust you - or let you get anywhere near his back'?" It is only fear that makes us think we have to compromise with the world. There is an old country saying that fear is like a cow: stare at it hard enough in the face and it will go away. Think instead of the sayings that Jesus has left with us. Do your job as if you were Jesus, do it as if you were doing it for Jesus, do it as if Jesus were working right alongside you. Have courage. Have faith. The Lord knows what he is about. Trust in him and follow him blindly, doing whatever he did. The whole point of Christ's crucifixion is that he refused to compromise. The only 'crime' he committed was to refuse to deviate in the tiniest degree from doing the will of the Father. This was worth God coming to live among us as Jesus Christ; this was worth his dying in agony on the cross. What is it worth to us? May God bless you always, Patrick O 'Donoghue, Bishop of Lancaster source: Diocese of Lancaster

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