The Voice of My Faith

TOGETHER: Powerful and Authentic

On the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear excerpts from the pastoral letter of our Bishop, Felix Gmür of Basel. His letter is titled TOGETHER: powerful and authentic. / Gemeinsam kraftvoll und glaubwürdig. I ask you to carefully pay attention to his words and take them to heart. They are a celebration of life and unity with God. God wants to take part in the lives of His people. In the person of Jesus Christ, God comes close to us, He lives in us! Through the sacrament of baptism, we are firmly united with this power of God.

Repent!

In all the sacraments, God wants to show us his love and closeness. Jesus calls to his disciples, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" Jesus calls out to each and every one of us today, "Repent, now, for the kingdom of God is at hand!" To repent means to consciously turn toward God. To make room for Him, for his love and for his justice.

A Message From Our Bishop

Once a year, around this time, the Bishops of Switzerland publish a message to read to the faithful of their diocese. In the opening of his letter, Bishop Felix describes the life situation of many people on our common earth. Tensions, oppression, injustice, violence and war can raise doubts about the reality of the Kingdom from God. He writes: "The tension between being and hope, between misery and promise, is just as great today as it was then." "But what does it mean to repent today and at the same time to know that I myself cannot save the world?

I would like to share with you some excerpts from his message to us. I quote: “Today's Gospel takes place at the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. The setting is at a time when this world has the possibility to change in the way God intends it to be, because of his love for us. Of course, the Gospel does not provide a ready-made recipe for how this can happen. However, while contemplating this text, I came across four points that help to keep me from falling into a powerless stupor in the face of our current world situation.

First Point

The evangelist, Saint Matthew, reports that on two occasions, Jesus calls two people to follow him and be his disciples. Discipleship is a community project. Its success does not depend on the daily condition of a single person. What God has in mind for us is so great that it can only succeed in unity. This conviction is carried on through the first missionaries who delivered the Christian message. They were always sent out in pairs. Faith, hope and love are spread by carrying and sharing them together.

Point Two

Bishop Felix’s second point is this: “What do the disciples do? They immediately leave everything and follow Jesus. They follow a man who had not even introduced himself to them, let alone given them a convincing speech. When they did this, they put their livelihood at risk. Something so unheard of is only conceivable when one is captivated by something higher and touched in their deepest inner most being. Even if everything is changing, they do not give up on themselves. These fishermen are to become fishers of men. Even though their individual talents are in demand and much needed, yet they know that it is only for self- and family preservation.”

Third Point

In his third point, Bishop Felix goes on to say, “It is remarkable that Jesus calls only a few disciples at first. Unlike the worldly rulers, the kingdom of God does not begin at large events with countless numbers of people. It starts small, with very simple and normal people, and it can turn into something very big. That is why we can ask ourselves if it is worth it to start out with something small: Yes, we should. There is a saying from the Swiss author Jeremias Gotthelf who brings insight to this context: "What is to shine in the homeland must begin in the home.”

Point Four

Bishop Felix closes with the fourth message that: “Discipleship is a community project, conversion is a way of turning toward others, and the kingdom of God begins in small ways. These are points that are addressed to all Christians and not just Catholics. The slogan for the International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which ends this Wednesday, is quite fitting. “Do good, seek justice” (Isaiah 1:17). Jesus wants all Christians to be unified and to work together to bring about the Kingdom of God, to repent, to believe. Together we achieve more, together we have a greater charisma, together we are authentic.

With all good blessings for the year is still young!”

+ Bishop Felix Gmür of Basel.