Since you spend so much time at school, you will be aware that we can learn in different ways. The internet, computer, different forms of technology, and visual aids such as DVDs, videos and educational games, make learning more enjoyable. On the other hand, though we know so much more, we still face many difficulties in our lives. If you look around, you will become aware of problems such as poverty, broken families, conflicts, unhappy children, children who have already started working in order to earn a living, and illnesses. In these situations, it may seem impossible to communicate the faith.
However, we cannot give up. If we take the time to think, we can arrive at a solution. If we have good teachers, and are willing to listen to what they tell us, rather than being stubborn, we can find solutions to the difficult situations we meet in life. Among the many different teachers, our prime teacher is God.
We believe that God teaches His people. God looks after us, as He looked after the Hebrews when they were suffering in the desert. In the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament, we read that God “shielded them and cared for them, guarding them as the apple of his eye. As an eagle incites its nestlings forth by hovering over its brood, so he spread his wings to receive them and bore them up on his pinions. The Lord alone was their leader, no strange god was with him.” (Deut. 32, 10-12).
During Lent, we stop to consider how God teaches us, heals us, and helps us grow and develop. God is with us in good moments, and also in moments of pain. God supports us all, and journeys with us at our own pace, such that gradually He can see us through our difficult moments. Just as the shepherd knows his sheep individually, and looks after them with so much love, God takes care of us and knows our individual needs. Just as the shepherd in the parable goes to look for the lost sheep, God too is closest to us in our difficult moments.
Our God remains with us when we do something wrong. Nowadays, we meet many problems and it is becoming increasingly difficult to live honestly. There are children who poke fun at their classmates, who hurt or bully others, who blame others when they do something wrong. Unfortunately, we encounter all this. We may feel ready to give up when confronted with these situations, but as Bishops we want to remind you, with great emphasis, that God never gives up on us, even in these circumstances. God has great faith in us, and He remains with us and continues looking after us. God keeps on knocking at the door of our hearts, asking to be accepted into our lives so that He can look at us “like the apple of his eye”.
Where can we find God’s teaching if not in Scripture?
In the Bible, not only do we find the message that was inspired by God, but also the events and experiences through which God communicated with His People. Through the written Word of God, we come to know the God who speaks to us in order to show us the way to Him. We read this story in the Old Testament, and it reaches its fulfilment in the New Testament, in the person and the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, who became man in order to save us through His death and Resurrection. In order to save man, God bought us at a price (1 Cor 6:20). He “humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross!” (Ph 2:8)
We can grow in faith by coming to know God through His Word. As young people, you may attend Catechism, groups of altar boys or girls, and other groups within the parish. It is vital for the Word of God to be the main focus and aim of these groups. Anything that does not have God as its source cannot bear good fruit.
The Church is a mother and a teacher. It is a mother because it loves, understands and is ready to welcome everyone. It is a teacher because it uses God’s Word to teach and to correct if necessary. The Church is loving and merciful, and thus it has to show us the right path which is found in the Bible. Lenten talks, the reading of the Word of God, live-ins, seminars, prayer, fasting and charity are all very powerful means to help us become better people. Thus, we can create a better environment around us: in our families, in school, in sports clubs, catechism centres, other groups we may attend, and any public places.
God’s word in the Bible is directed to everyone: people who already belong to the Church, those who have left the Church, and those who are looking for God outside the Church. Within the Church, we must create a space for those who do not believe or who feel they are cut off from the Church. Since Jesus died for everybody, the Church must welcome everybody.
This year, we would like Lent to be a special time of grace not only as a preparation for Easter, but also as a preparation for the visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Since Jesus left Peter as a model of faith for the Church, in the Pope we see a model and a teacher of the faith, and like Peter we say: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Jn 6:68)
We give you our pastoral blessing.
+ PAWLU CREMONA O.P.
Archbishop of Malta
+ MARIO GRECH
Bishop of Gozo
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