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A message from the bishop

Witnessing to our Catholic Faith (May 2016)
 
My dear friends,
 
These days you see people wearing rubber bracelets of various colors inscribed with messages supporting a  diversity of causes and activities. The first such bracelet that I became aware of, and perhaps one of the most popular of all time, bore four letters: WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? More than a decade has passed since WWJD bracelets became popular. They served as a visible sign of a person’s connection to Christ and the Christian faith.
 
The WWJD bracelet, it seems, has come and gone. That
doesn’t matter! Christ continually invites us who are baptized to be His “very public” messengers of God’s love. Whether we realize it or not, we answer the
WWJD question every day by how we live and act as ambassadors of our Catholic faith.
 
In today’s society, religion is predominantly viewed as a private matter. You can believe what you want; but don’t try to impose your values on anyone else. Faith belongs within the privacy of one’s home. It is to be practiced only within the four walls of a church building. It should refrain from engaging in public issues. It should stay out of the marketplace. It should remain hidden from view. It should make no ripples in society. So much for the corporal works of mercy and the Gospel imperatives of Matthew 25! A Christian who dares to make religion part of public life, who desires to share God’s love and truth with others, will sooner or later be met with indifference, intolerance or a degree of bullying.
 
Contrast this view with what we hear proclaimed during the Easter season from the Acts of the Apostles. The apostles are arrested because they are publicly teaching about Jesus, “filling Jerusalem with their
teaching.” Even after warnings from the Sanhedrin (the religious leaders), they persist in doing so. Peter speaks for the group when he says, “We must obey God rather than men.” The apostles were persecuted,
expelled from towns, arrested, imprisoned and sometimes tortured. Ultimately, all but St. John were put to death. That’s what happened when they made their faith public. But how else could there be more than 2 billion Christians in the world today? The apostles did not stay huddled in fear behind closed doors
for long! Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they obeyed Jesus’ final instruction to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching
them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Christianity, then, is not about “me and Jesus.” It’s about “we and Jesus.” Christ’s mission has a Church, and we are its missionaries.
 
Christianity is meant for the world. It will always present a challenge to the ways of the world. One thing is certain, though. Christianity can never employ violent means when it seeks to influence or engage in the public sphere. Such an approach would undermine the integrity of the Gospel that Jesus preached! If Christians fight, they fight with the weapons of the Spirit. We read in the Gospel of Matthew: “… [Y]ou will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Mt 10, 18-20)
 
So whom do we obey – the current of popular societal opinion or God? Dear brothers and sisters, remember to believe, teach and practice your faith. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you! That’s how you will be a disciple of Christ. That’s how you will obey God rather than men. You are in my prayers!
 
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak