Friday, 11 October 2013


In many of our parishes and dioceses where the Small Christian Communities have been successfully promoted in the AMECEA countries, there is a strong sense of belonging/bonding to the Church, responding with new dynamisms of being disciples and witnessing to greatest commandment of loving God and neighbor. In these communities, the SCCs have become places where Christians live, experience, witness and show care of the neighbourhood environment. This neighbourhood environment includes: the life of faith in the parish community, the fellowship with people who live in the neighbourhood, the response to the common socio-economic-cultural need and attention to what is affecting their daily life.
Fr. Joe Healey, MM renowned crusader for SCC
Many of our SCCs have become very vibrant and promote an active participation of all their members. There is a good sense collaborative ministry between the ordained ministers in the parishes. On the other hand, we also have some SCCs which were once vibrant but their light is glowing deemly by the day. The question we may ask ourselves is, “What makes some of the SCCs Vibrant?” I will reflect on some hints that would be helpful to keep our SCCs dynamic, vibrant and productive with fruits of the Holy Spirit.

1.                 Celebration of Life: The SCCs can be vibrant if they are not divorced from the actual life and context of its members. As we establish these SCCs, it is important to keep in mind that they are the incarnation of the Church of the New Testament at the most grassroot level of the community, where the ordinary life of the people takes place. The AMECEA Bishops during the 1979 Plenary Assembly said, “The SCCs are supposed to be linked to the traditional community structure in villages, family units, township compounds and neighbourhood where life is received, shared and nurtured in common.” The African traditional society has always held that, it is in these communities where life is received and enhanced, the cultural values are passed on, the common challenges are addressed and bonds of relationships are strengthened. Those SCCs that live, experience and attend to the actual daily needs of the members will always be dynamic because, “like Christ, the Church becomes incarnate in the life of the people.”

2.                 Communion of the Family of God: The SCCs is supposed to be a communion (Koinonia) of fellowship and friendship among the members of the particular community. When the members, having been baptised and endowed with diverse gifts, are made to feel they are part of this fellowship they will be more willing to do their part. Every effort ought to be made to build a fellowship among member of different families, ethnic groupings, status and roles in society. In those communities where all barriers have been broken down, there grows a communion of faith, hope and love that is supposed to be at the heart of the Church. In such a community, members will experience the love of God and concern for those who are in the neighbourhood, and become active.

3.                 Communion of Worship and Prayer: When members of the SCCs are helped
to put prayer and worship at the centre of their way of life and meetings, they become very dynamic. It is through prayer, sacramental life and devotion that people express their faith in God and consolidate the bonds of fellowship with one another. I have seen in some parishes where the SCCs animate the celebration of liturgy and the sacraments. During their SCC meeting, they are guided to prepare hymns, readings, petitions for at Mass, offering and other responsibilities. At the liturgical celebration, they are actively involved and recognize their role as fully part of the celebration. Such communities look at themselves as a fellowship and place of an encounter with God and become conscious that God continues to reveal himself to them through a life of prayer. Such communities become very vibrant and dynamic because they pay attention to the animating power of the Word of God and the love of the Spirit of God in their lives.

4.                 The Communion Nourished by the Word of God: Most SCCs meet once a week and together reflect on the selected scripture readings. Following the steps of reflection and discussion, the Word of God remains as the centre of their meetings. They read, reflect, share, discuss and resolve to put the Word of God into practice.

The Word of God becomes for them the foundation on which to build the community life and the commitment of the members to the service of one another and of God. To the members, the Word of God gives support and vigor to their life, it becomes a real confirmation of faith, food for the soul and the fount of spiritual life. It challenges them to live the love of God and of neighbour within the context of the SCC. Those communities that are striving to build their fellowship on the Word of God remain very vibrant and dynamic.

5.                 The Communion that Nurtures Ministries and Charisms:  The SCCs are the most basic level of being Church whose mission is to evengelize, to proclaim the Word of God, to share the sacramental life and to assume ministries for the lay faithul. In the SCCs, the lay faithful live, experience and express their share of the priesthood of Christ as prophet, king and priest. Some of them are catechists, prayer leaders, care-givers who visit the sick, providing charitable support to the needy and through some extra-ordinary ministry in the community. It is through these minitries that the members of the SCCs become more conscious of their role and share in the life, not only of their parish, but of the entire Church.

In those SCCs where members have been helped to realise and appreciate their responsibilities, we see them very actively involved in the various ministries and also in stewardship for the building of the Body of Christ. Therefore, purposeful nurturing of ministries at the level of Small Christian Communities will make the entire Parish or Diocese very vibrant, self-reliant and self-ministering. In this way the SCCs become a diakonia of service, care and stewardship among the people by being attentive to the social needs of the people.

I will end by making reference to the teachings of Bishop Patrick Kalilombe who stated that, The SCC is the smallest cell of the Church through which the Universal Church lives and breathes. It is the incarnation of the Church of the New Testament at the most basic level of people’s lives. Through the SCCs, the Church, like Christ, becomes incarnated in the life of the people. She is led by the local people, meets and answers local needs and problems, and finds within herself resources needed for her life. This must be our goal if the SCCs in our parishes are to be dynamic, vibrant, self-reliant and self-ministering.

Patrick Kalilombe (Bishop), Biblical Background of Christian Communities”, AFER 1980, p. 12.
Pius Rutechura, Paper presentation on Small Christian Communities in AMECEA Region, Germany Tubingen Conference, 17th – 20 January, 2013.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Pope Francis: On the Church as the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

During the Papal audience of 26th June 2013, Pope Francis continued his Catechesis of the Year of Faith with the theme: The Church as the Temple of the Holy Spirit. He carries the same them of last week when he talked about the nature of the Church as the Body of Christ. 

Taking the image of the Temple as seen is the Sacred Scripture, the Pope stresses that the Church is the dwelling place of God and a place of encounter with the living God. The Church is vivified by the life and power of the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis makes reference to the Old Testament understanding that Temple of Jerusalem was understood as the place of encounter with the God of Israel. He said, “In Jerusalem, the great Temple of Solomon was the site of the encounter with God in prayer; inside the temple there was the Ark of the Covenant, a sign of the presence of God in the midst of the people.”

In the New Testament, the communities of Christians, who are made into the Body of Christ by Baptism, are presented as the living stones of the spiritual house, who is Christ. The Pope says, “We are the living stones of God, profoundly united to Christ, who is the rock of support, and among ourselves.” It means that the communities of believers are the living stones who are brought together by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit dwelling in each of one of us that makes into the one Family, the People of God.

Since we are living stones in the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Church, it means that God grants to each one us a variety of gifts for the edification of the Church. The Pope says, “being living stones tell us that no one is useless in the Church – no one is useless in the Church! No one is useless in the Church. We are all needed in order to build this temple. No one is secondary: “Ah, I am the most important one in the Church!” No! We are all equal in the eyes of God. But, one of you might say, “Mr. Pope, sir, you are not equal to us.” But I am just like each of you. We are all equal. We are all brothers and sisters. No one is anonymous: all form and build the Church. Nevertheless, it also invites us to reflect on the fact that the Temple wants the brick of our Christian life that something is wanting in the beauty of the Church.”

The Original Text
Pope Francis Catechesis of the Year of Faith
Papal Audience of 26th June 2013.
Theme: On The Church as the Temple of the Holy Spirit
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Good morning! Today I would like briefly mention another image that helps us to illustrate the mystery of the Church: that of the temple (cf. Second Vat. Ecum. Council,  Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 6).
What does the word Temple make us think of? It makes us think of a building, a construction.
Specifically, many people's minds go immediately to the story of the People of Israel narrated in the Old Testament. In Jerusalem, the great Temple of Solomon was the site of the encounter with God in prayer; inside the temple there was the Ark of the Covenant, a sign of the presence of God in the midst of the people; and in the Ark were the Tables of the Law, the manna and the rod of Aaron: a reminder of the fact that God was always present in the history of his people, he had accompanied them on their journey, he had guided their steps. The temple calls to mind this history: we too, when we go to the temple [church] must remember this story, each one of us his own history, how Jesus found me, how Jesus has walked with me, how Jesus loves me and blesses me.
Here, what was foreshadowed in the old Temple, is fufilled by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the Church: the Church is the "House of God", the place of his presence, where we can find and meet the Lord; the Church is the Temple where the Holy Spirit dwells, who animates, guides and sustains it. If we ask ourselves: where can we meet God? Where we can enter into communion with him through Christ? Where can we find the light of the holy spirit that lights up our lives? The answer is: in the People of God, among us, who are the Church. Here we will find Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father.
The ancient temple was built by the hands of men: they wanted to "give a house" to God, to have a visible sign of his presence in the midst of the people. With the incarnation of the Son of God, Nathan's prophecy to King David is fulfilled (cf. 2 Sam 7:1-29): it is not the king, nor are we the ones who "give a house to God", but it is God himself who "builds his house" to come to live in our midst, as St. John writes in the prologue of his Gospel (cf. 1:14). Christ is the living Temple of the Father, and Christ himself builds his "spiritual home", the Church, made not of physical stones but of "living stones", which are us. The Apostle Paul says to the Christians of Ephesus: "You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also come built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God” (Eph 2:20-22). How beautiful this is! We are the living stones of God's building, deeply united to Christ, who is the cornerstone, and is also a keystone among us. What does this mean? It means that we are the temple, we are the living Church, the living temple and when we are together the Holy Spirit, too, is present, who helps us to grow as Church. We are therefore not isolated, but we are the People of God: this is the Church!
And it is the Holy Spirit with his gifts, who designs this variety, the richness in the Church and unites everything and everyone, so as to constitute a spiritual temple, where we offer not sacrifices, but ourselves, our lives (cf. 1 Pt 2:4-5). The Church is not an interweaving of things and interests, but is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the temple where God works, the temple where each of us with the gift of baptism is a living stone. This tells us that no one is useless in the Church, and if someone occasionally says to another: “Go home, you’re useless”, this is not true, because no one is useless in the Church, we are all necessary to build this Temple! No one is secondary. No one is the most important in the Church; we are all equal in God’s eyes. Someone among you could say: “Listen, Mr. Pope, you’re not equal to us”. Yes, I am like each one of you, we are equal, we are brothers! Nobody is anonymous: we all form and build the Church. This also invites us to reflect on the fact that if the brick of our Christian life is lacking, something is missing from the beauty of the Church. Some say, “I have nothing to do with the Church”, but in this way, the brick of one life is missing from this beautiful Temple. No one can leave; we must all bring to the Church our life, our heart, our love, our thought, our work: all of us together.
I would like then for us to ask ourselves: how can we live our being Church? Are we living stones or are we, so to speak, tired, bored, indifferent stones? Have you seen how unattractive it is to see a tired, bored, indifferent Christian? A Christian of this kind is no good, a Christian must be alive, joyful about being Christian; he must live this beauty of being part of the People of God which is the Church. Do we open ourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit to be an active part in our community, or do we close in on ourselves, saying: "I have so many things to do, it's not my job"?
May the Lord give us his grace, his strength, so that we may be deeply united to Christ, the cornerstone, the keystone of our lives and the whole life of the Church. Let us pray that, animated by his spirit, we may always be living stones of his Church.
Vatican City, June 26, 2013 ( [Translation by Peter Waymel]

Friday, 21 June 2013

Pope Francis: The Church is the Body of Christ

On the Church as the Body of Christ

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I will focus on another expression, with which Vatican Council II indicates the nature of the Church: that of the body; the Council says that the Church is the Body of Christ (cf. Lumen gentium, 7).

I would like to start from a text of the Acts of the Apostles that we know well: the conversion of Saul, who will later take the name of Paul, one of the greatest evangelizers (cf. Acts 9:4-5). Saul is a persecutor of Christians, but while he is travelling along the road that leads to the city of Damascus, suddenly a light surrounds him, he falls to the ground and hears a voice telling him "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?". He asks: "Who art you, Lord?", and the voice answers: "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting" (vv. 3-5). The experience of St. Paul tells us how deep is the union between us Christians and Christ himself. When Jesus ascended into heaven he did not leave us orphans, but with the gift of the Holy Spirit the union with him has become even more intense. The Second Vatican Council States that Jesus "By communicating His Spirit, Christ made His brothers, called together from all nations, mystically the components of His own Body» (Dogmatic Const.Lumen Gentium, 7).

The image of the body helps us understand this deep connection between the Church and Christ, that St. Paul develops especially in the First Letter to the Corinthians (cf. ch. 12). Above all, the body brings to mind a living reality. The Church is not a care association, or a cultural or political one, but is a living body, which walks and acts in history. And this body has a head, Jesus, who guides, nourishes and sustains it. This is a point that I would like to emphasize: if you separate the head from the rest of the body, the whole person cannot survive. So it is in the Church: we need to stay connected to Jesus in an increasingly intense way. But not only that: as in a body, it is important for the lifeblood to pass through it, so we must allow Jesus to operate in us, must allow his Word to guide us, his Eucharistic presence to nourish us, animate us, we must allow his love to give strength to our loving our neighbor. And this, always! Always! Dear brothers and sisters, let us remain united to Jesus, let us trust him, let us orient our lives according to his Gospel, nourishing ourselves with daily prayer, listening to the Word of God and participation in the Sacraments.

And here I come to a second aspect of the Church as Body of Christ. St. Paul says that as the limbs of the human body, though different and many, form one body, so we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-13). In the Church therefore, there is a variety, a diversity of tasks and functions; there is not flat uniformity, but the wealth of gifts that the Holy Spirit distributes. However, there is communion and unity: all are in relation with each other and all combine to form a single vital body, deeply attached to Christ. Let us remember well: being part of the Church means being united to Christ and receiving from Him the divine life that makes us live as Christians, it means remaining united to the Pope and the bishops who are instruments of unity and communion, and it also means learning to overcome personal favoritisms and divisions, to understand each other better, to harmonise the variety and wealth of each one; in a word, to better love God and the people near us, in the family, in the parish, in the associations. In order to live, body and limbs must be united! Unity is superior to the conflicts, always! Conflicts, if they’re not resolved well, separate us from one another, separate us from God. Conflict can help us grow, but it can also divide us. Let’s not take the path of division, of fights among ourselves! All united, all united with our differences, but united, always: this is Jesus’ path. Unity is superior to conflicts. Unity is a grace that we must ask from the Lord, so that He may free us from the temptations of division, of struggles among us, of selfishness, of gossip. How much harm gossiping does, how much! Never gossip about the others, never! How much damage comes to the Church from divisions between Christians, from being biased, from petty self-interests!

The divisions among us, but also the divisions among the communities: Evangelical Christians, Orthodox Christians, Catholic Christians, why are we divided? We must seek to bring unity. I will tell you something: today, before leaving the house, I spent forty minutes, more or less, half an hour, with an Evangelical pastor and we prayed together, and sought unity. But we must pray among ourselves as Catholics and also with the other Christians, pray that the Lord may give us unity, unity among us. But how can we achieve unity among Christians if we Catholics are unable to achieve it among ourselves? To have it in our family? How many families fight and are divided! Seek unity, the unity that makes the Church. Unity comes from Jesus Christ. He sends us the Holy Spirit to create unity.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask God: help us to be members of the Body of the Church always deeply united to Christ; help us not to cause the Body of the Church to suffer with our conflicts, our divisions, our selfishness; help us to be living limbs linked to each other by a single force, that of love, which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5).
[Translation by Peter Waymel,]

Friday, 26 April 2013

Pope Francis: On Christ's Second Coming

THEME: On Christ's Second Coming
Pleas find the original translation of this text on the Year of Faith Page of thie Blog. Here below is an overview of the original text by Fr. Febian Pikiti Mulenga.
During the Year of Faith Catechesis of 24th April, 2013, Pope Francis looked at the theme: On Christ’s Second Coming. This is one ot the articles of the Creed we profess that Jesus "will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead." Our human history begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and ends with the final judgment of Christ that leads to eternal life with God. In order to amplify this theme, Pope Francis reflects on some Parables and teachings of Jesus from the Gospels: that of the ten virgins, the talents and the final judgment. In actual fact, all the three texts are part of the Jesus' discourse on the end of times, in the Chapter 25 of the Gospel of St. Matthew.
1.      Be Prepared for the the coming of the Lord: To explain this topic, the Pope refers to “The Parable of the Ten Virgins’ (cf. Mt 25:1-13). In this Parable, Jesus speaks about the ten girls who are waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom, but he delays and they fall asleep. At the sudden announcement that the bridegroom is coming, all prepare to welcome him, but while five of them, who were wise, have oil to trim their lamps, the others, who are foolish, are left with unlit lamps because they have no oil. They go out to find some when the groom arrives and the foolish virgins find the door closed that leads to the bridal feast. They start knocking persistently but the groom replies, I do not know you.

Pope Francis applies this to our life of faith that “the groom is the Lord, and the waiting time of arrival is the time He gives us, all of us with mercy and patience, before his final coming.” As we live our daily life, we are challenged to be vigilant. It is a time in which we need to keep lit the lamps of the faith, hope and charity. It is a time to keep alive our faith through prayer, with the sacraments, to be vigilant in order not to sleep, not to forget God. The Christian life asleep is a sad life, it isn’t a happy life. To be a Christian is to be happy and have the joy of Jesus. Let’s not fall asleep!

2.      We are answerable to God for our Vocation: Here, the Pope refers to the Parable of Talents in Mt 25:14-30. He makes us reflect on the relationship between how we use the gifts received from God and his return, when he will ask how we used them. In the Parable, the master departs to some foreign land and leaves each servant some talents, to use well during his absence. To the first he gives five, to the second, two, and to the third, one. While he was away, the first two servants multiply their talents/money, while the third prefers to bury his and deliver it intact to the master. When the master returned, he commends the first two for generating more talents/money and condemns the third who is kicked out into the darkness, because he kept his talent hidden out of fear.

Pope Francis wants to emphasise that a Christian who closes in on himself, who hides everything that the Lord has given him isn’t worth the name Christian! He is a Christian that does not thank God for all that he has given him! Therefore, we need to live our Christian life of action today and use the talents/gifts God has given us for for Him, for the Church and for others. It is time we commit ourselves to try to increase the good in the world amid the times of crises that surround us. Have you thought about the talents that God has given you? Have you thought about how you can put them at the service of others? Don't bury your talents!

3.      The Lord will come to Judge the Living and the Dead: In this final part of the Catechesis, the Pope looks at the Parable of the second coming of the Lord in Mt 25:31-46). This is popularly refereed to as the parable of the last judgement. Jesus uses the image of Shepherd separating sheep from goats. On the right hand are thos who adhered to the divine command of loving God and neighbour. They acted according to the will of God by helping their neighbor who was hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick or imprisoned. While on the left are those who haven't come to the aid of their neighbour. 
Pope Francis is challenging us that we will be judged by God on charity, on how we loved him in our brothers, especially the weakest and neediest. But at the same time keep in mind that we are justified and saved by grace. That is, by an act of God's gratuitous love which always precedes us; we alone can do nothing. Faith is first of all a gift that we have received. But to bear fruit, God's grace always requires our openness, our free and concrete response. Christ comes to bring us the mercy of God who saves.
Dear brothers and sisters, may we never be afraid to look to the final judgment; may it push us rather to live better lives. God gives us with mercy and patience this time so that we may learn every day to recognize him in the poor and in the little ones, may we strive for good and we are vigilant in prayer and love. May the Lord, at the end of our existence and history, may recognize us as good and faithful servants. Thank you!