"We are Ambassadors for Christ"

(1Cor 5.20)

The title I have chosen for my Lenten Message for 2020 is "We are Ambassadors for Christ".  If I was to write on a piece of paper, the word ambassador', what kind of image does it conjure up for us? St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians calls his fellow Christians 'ambassadors' for Christ; and what an ambassador Paul became after his encounter with Jesus on the way to Damascus! 

So, what does it mean to be an Ambassador?  An ambassador is a representative- that is, one who represents another, such as a ruler, a king, or a president. Many countries have ambassadors in all major cities throughout the world.  In their person, they represent the country they came from. They have constant contact by whatever means of communication they need to remain in touch.  An ambassador is also a point of contact with ex-pats in a particular place who may experience difficulties in a foreign country. For example, through the ambassador’s presence, it is like Australia being in Italy; it is home for the ambassador.

In a biblical context therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ's behalf, "Be reconciled to God." By prayer, we can be in constant contact with the Throne of God.  How necessary this is for a true ambassador!

The Season of Lent for us, is a time of encounter every year with the One we are called to personify and represent every day in our lives of faith. It is impossible to do that without reflection and renewal.  Lent is that wonderful season and time for renewal in the Church, not a time for gloomy looks and pretense, but a time of grace and joy, a time for forgiveness and to be forgiven.

Jesus shows us the way for renewal in the Gospel for Ash Wednesday with three simple pathways to follow to help us grow closer to Him, through almsgiving, prayer and fasting. Pope Francis's Lenten Message this year is a short meditation on ..." continually returning to the great mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus."

Lent for us will see no change without an engagement to the best of our ability with these pillars of the 40 days of Lent, prayer, fasting and almsgiving mentioned above. In my reflection, I would like to focus on Prayer.

Prayer is about relationship, pure and simple. Without prayer we cannot develop a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Just as married couples need to spend time with each other to help their relationship with each other grow, so too with us, we need to spend time with Jesus, getting to know each other within this relationship.   Sometimes just 'being together' not even having to speak but being comfortable in each other’s presence is a wonderful way of giving ourselves to one another.

People might say "I encounter Jesus without Prayer through doing all these wonderful things caring for others and the environment." Yes, people do good things but with little connection with what it means to be Christian, that of being in relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Often there is a fatal trap in doing so many things caring for others, those who matter most in our lives are forgotten, including our connection with God. This is a good example of how relationships can become fractured.

Notice what Jesus did in the Gospels before important decisions or after difficult moments; he spends the night in prayer with God the Father to strengthen his relations with his Father. When our care for others hits roadblocks or we are rejected, a darkness of despondency and despair can overcome us. Jesus is a 'point of contact' for us in these times, and indeed at all times.  What can save us from this darkness, is ensuring our centre and meaning for life is beyond us. Christians believe it is their relationship with Christ.

The Benedictine  Monk, John Main in his book, "The Door of Silence" says...."The journey of meditation as we say our mantra (prayer of repetition) and let go of our thoughts and plans and ideas and imaginings, we learn the value of renunciation of non-possessiveness; we let go of our own images of self we let go of our own desires, we let go of our own fears and of our own self-consciousness. This renunciation enables us to enter into communion with the other and with others at a deep level of reality".  Often it is in the silence that we come to know and recognize this reality.

Pope Francis says..." Christian Joy flows from listening to, and accepting, the Good News of the death and resurrection of Jesus.... Contemplate his blood poured out with such great love and let yourself be cleansed by it".

  • Prayer is about listening to the movement and whispering of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds. Prayer will deepen awareness that we are loved despite our unworthiness. The time has come again to be immersed fully into the Season of Lent, the Season of Grace. The Pope says..." may we not allow this time of grace pass in vain, in the foolish illusion that we can control the times and means of our conversion to him."

I encourage everyone to read in full Pope Francis's Lenten Message because now..." now is the favourable time, this is the day of salvation" {2 Cor 6:2). May you receive many blessings through an encounter with Christ and with those in need in your community.

 Bishop Michael Morrissey

 Ash Wednesday 2020