Archbishop's Message

The Pastor Speaks …..

Apostles, lived and died for the Lord, and for the Mission!

We prayed in the Morning Prayer on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul saying, “Be with your Church, O Lord!” Well, this prayer should be our prayer every day! Church as the (New) People of God is founded on the foundations of the faith of the Apostles. Our Church today is the same Church that came into being at the Apostolic times but grew into the worldwide community of believes with all the complexities of an organization, with structures and institutions. What holds the Church together is the one Creed that is confessed and the direction this Creed gives to live one’s life as a believer. Let us take this occasion of celebrating the feast of Saints Peter and Paul and the commemoration of the martyrs of Rome to reflect on the Church that we belong to and how we are called to be the Church in these challenging times.

Church Universal and Church local: That the church lived through more than twenty centuries is true to the words of Our Lord, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (Mt 16: 18). Peter’s confession of faith is the rock on which the Lord declared that He will build His Church. This faith is handed on down the centuries and generations after generations across the nations and cultures make the confession of the same faith accepting and proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Son of the Living God. The believers in the present age as in the past generations are proclaiming Jesus Christ as the “Son of the Living God.” The Apostles Peter and Paul, and countless number of believers in Jesus Christ lived and died for the one whom they believed as Son of God and Saviour of the world. They died as martyrs for their faith in Jesus Christ. Not only those who died as martyrs but all the members in the Church strive (or called to strive) to live with and for faith in Jesus Christ, and be prepared to sacrifice everything, even to sacrifice one’s life. Though not every believer manifests the same levels uncompromising perseverance in their faith in Jesus Christ, there is that basic faith which keeps him or her drawn towards Jesus Christ the Son of the living God. This basic faith enables the believer to sacrifice or give up or put aside persons or things or attachments for the sake of Jesus Christ. For the Universal Church and every local Church this confession of faith is that which sustains in the exigency of the Church through the history. The manifestation of the life of faith in the /a given local Church – diocese, parish, village, locality — would depend on what the believers are ready to sacrifice or give up or put aside for the sake of Jesus Christ whom they believe and love. It is a “preparedness” to die for the love of Jesus Christ and His way. Thanks be to God, there are at regular intervals in the long history of the Church individual believers who fully live and die, or put to death, for the sake of their faith.The long list of Christian martyrs keeps telling the story of heroic Christian lives to inspire and encourage, strengthen, and challenge the rest of the believers in the Church. Martyrdom is not only by suffering physical violence and death but also there is the daily dying for the cause of faith and what faith expects of the believer!

Hope and love (Charity): Why an ordinary human being is able to sacrifice oneself and is prepared to die for a cause? It is the conviction coming from believing in the “worth” and the “value” of the “cause” before the given person and there is “hope” in the positive consequence for one’s sacrifice to the benefit of others or to one’s own benefit. Faith in action implies living in hope and love! One hopes in the greater good by living and doing things prompted by faith. Let us look at Saint Peter in this regard. He who was asked (and other apostles), “Who do you say that I am,” was also asked, “Do you love me more than these?” We know the response of Saint Peter, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you” (Jn 21: 15). It is also good to recall here what Saint Peter said when the Master asked the twelve on the occasion of His discourse on giving his body to eat and his blood as drink: “Do you also want to go away?” Peter’s response was, “To whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6: 66-69). We understand that faith in Jesus Christ makes the disciples and apostles to be with him leaving everything behind: to live with him and for him! Accordingly, Saint Peter and other Apostles lived and died for their faith, for their love for the Lord. Their engagement in the mission entrusted to them and persevering in that mission in spite of the physical violence, persecution, imprisonment, etc should have been possible because of the hope in the Lord and their love for the Lord. The first generation of martyrs proclaims the same message: live and die for their faith in the Lord. The book of Revelation says about them, “These are they who have come out of great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14-16). Today, that faith, hope and love found in the martyrs then and in successive generations of Christians should help us see how truly faith is at work in us the present day believers in Jesus Christ. Hope in the rewards of life beyond this life promised by the Lord and our love for the Lord should motivate us to live self-sacrificing lives, a daily dying for the Lord. Did not the Lord say, unless you are prepared to lose your life you cannot be my disciples? Saints who died as martyrs and other saints “lived victimhood of Christ in their lives!”

Self-sacrificing and self-securing discipleship: In today’s context of the Church and her evangelizing mission, we need to review our understanding of our discipleship and commitment to the mission. In the immediate background of celebrating the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, and the Solemnity of Saint Thomas, the Apostle of India, it is good to draw inspiration from these Fist missionaries for our mission in our present day reality. In carrying out the mission entrusted to Saints Peter and Paul, the rest of the apostles, and also the second generation missionaries of the apostolic times, bore personal witness to their faith. To the Jews and to the gentiles the message of salvation in Jesus Christ was proclaimed. The task was never easy and was not certain of the fruits of their missionary efforts. But, they persevered and through them the light of the Good News of salvation reached far and wide in a short span of time. Virtues of Faith, hope and love were at work in and through them. Security for their life was the least concern. These men and women were full of zeal for the mission; they trusted the Lord and His Providence. They were secure in their insecurity as regards food and drink, and shelter. True to the words of Our Lord Jesus when he sent the first group of disciples on mission asking them to take nothing with them on their missionary journey. For the apostles and their successors the priority was the mission of preaching the Gospel and baptizing those who believed, and accompanying the believers, to gradually form them into strong and stable Christian communities. Divine Providence accompanied them and provided what they needed for their life and mission. Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of Saints Peter and Paul, and others, give ample evidence to this fact, namely, they were secure and confident because of the Lord and His Spirit and not because everything was conducive or everything was readily given, especially, regarding their food and shelter. In that security in the Lord and His Providence they faced the challenges and suffered for their mission, and even died for the mission at hand.

Conclusion

In these days of Ordinations, Religious profession, vocation promotion (recruitment), celebrations of silver and golden jubilee year of Ordination or Religious profession, it is good to look into this aspect: How self-sacrificing one has to be or wants to be? How one is security seeking in the well provided life while attending to the mission. When seeking comfort zones, when one is more concerned about looking after one’s needs more than the needs of the mission, and when one is preoccupied with what one “wants or likes” to do, outbalances what one “has to be and has to do,” fulfilling the entrusted mission will be difficult! Synod 2021-2023 reitirates that church is Missionary communion, participate and Mission.

“Who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice , even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith being more precious than gold that, through perishable, is tested by fire may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1Peter 1:5-9), (1Thimothy 2:7-10).

† Prakash Mallavarapu, Archbishop of Visakhapatnam