Becoming an ‘E’ Diocese

My Vision and Prayer for the Diocese of Klerksdorp

Two years ago I was in Rome at a special seminar for bishops. During that seminar I got an inspiration to lead our diocese to become an “E” diocese. During the Mass of the 200 years of Catholicism in South Africa and the 40 years since we became a diocese, I requested all of us to be part of turning this diocese into an ”E” Diocese. The programmes we have in the diocese must assist in this project: Catechesis, Marriage and Family Life, Youth Ministry, Sodalities, Lay Ministries, Committees, Caritas, Justice and Peace must contribute to this new venture.


We are called to be a diocese of Encounter. God deeply desires a personal relationship with each one of us. He desires fellowship and communion with each of us as He did with Adam, Eve and Moses among others (Gen 5:22, Job 29:4, Isaiah 41:8; James 2;23; Rom 5;10-11, Acts 13:12; Exodus 33: 17-23; Exodus 24: 9-11, 1 John 3:2; Numbers 12;1-8 and John 15). Our prayer and worship provide a place of meeting with God. Our Liturgy is a special moment of encounter. Psalm 100: 4-5 says ‘Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with songs of praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For Yahwe is good, and He is eternal; His faithfulness endures through all generations”.

On 15 November 2017, Pope Francis said during his audience: “Praying, as every true dialogue, is also knowing how to be in silence — in dialogues there are moments of silence — in silence together with Jesus. When we go to Mass, perhaps we arrive five minutes early and begin to chat with the person next to us. But this is not the moment for small talk; it is the moment of silence to prepare ourselves for the dialogue. It is the moment for recollection within the heart, to prepare ourselves for the encounter with Jesus. Silence is so important! Remember what I said last week: we are not going to a spectacle, we are going to the encounter with the Lord, and silence prepares us and accompanies us. Pausing in silence with Jesus. From this mysterious silence of God springs his Word which resonates in our heart. Jesus himself teaches us how it is truly possible to “be” with the Father and he shows us this with his prayer. The Gospels show us Jesus who withdraws to secluded places to pray; seeing his intimate relationship with God, the disciples feel the desire to be able to take part in it, and they ask him: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1)”.

We encounter God in the Sacraments, in the Proclamation of the Word, in the Prayer of the Church and in the works of charity. That Encounter leads to communion, friendship, transformation and holiness. It is important that our diocese works hard to make its churches, liturgies, prayer sessions, Bible Studies, Sodalities, etc., places where people can encounter the living God, the life-giving God and the answering God.

I have been privileged to go through experiences of New Evangelization which helped me to be able to say: “I AM LOVED! GOD IS LOVE! GOD IS MY FATHER, MY DADDY! HIS LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL! I LOVE HIM AND I SURRENDER ALL TO HIM. I LIVE BECAUSE OF THIS SPECIAL COMMUNION WITH GOD”. I invite you to encounter Him as well.

Encounter one another in Christ.
We belong together. We need each other. We are taught by God to love one another 1 Thes 4:9ff. “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Rom 15:7. Pope Francis says “Many try to escape from others and take refuge in the comfort of their privacy or in a small circle of close friends – renouncing the realism of the social aspect of the Gospel. For just as some people want a purely spiritual Christ, without flesh and without the Cross, they also want their interpersonal relationships provided by sophisticated equipment by screens and systems which can be turned on and off on command. Meanwhile the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of face to face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interactions”.

The Pope continues: “True faith in the Incarnate Son of God is inseperable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others. The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness (Evangelii Gaudium 88).

Chiara Lubich gave us a simple way of making this communion a reality: She said a) Be the first to love, do not wait to be loved. b) Love everyone. Do not discriminate, do not classify people, love everyone. Our love must be universal, without prejudices. c) Love as Jesus Loved.

So from Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia and Chiara Lubich’s art of loving we learn:

– Love everyone: Love everyone equally as they need to be loved. (Chiara Lubich)
– Love accepts each person just as they are (Pope Francis: ‘Amoris Laetitia’ [AL])

– Be the first to love: Take the initiative, without waiting for someone else to love first. (Chiara Lubich)
– Love constantly opens doors (Pope Francis: ‘Amoris Laetitia’ [AL])

– Share the other’s hurt or joy: Share the other person’s worries, hurt or joy. (Chiara Lubich)
– Love puts us in the other person’s shoes (Pope Francis: ‘Amoris Laetitia’ [AL])

– Love the other as yourself: Treat others as you would like to be treated. (Chiara Lubich)
– Love imitates Jesus’ own gentleness (Pope Francis: ‘Amoris Laetitia’ [AL])

– Love your enemy: if someone hurts you, respond with love! (Chiara Lubich)
– Love never gives up (Pope Francis: ‘Amoris Laetitia’ [AL])

– We love one another: Love generates love. (Chiara Lubich)
– Love builds bonds with kindness (Pope Francis: ‘Amoris Laetitia’ [AL])

Love is something we can learn. I invite our SCC’s, Sodalities, Catechetical sessions and parish groups and committees to learn and to practice the art of loving. Let us teach children as well, so that they can overcome this culture of hatred and divisions and develop a new culture of love, unity, communion, collaboration and mutual love. In this way we will truly encounter one another in love. Let us teach our children and our youth the importance of forgiveness so that they do not grow up carrying hurts and wounds of the past that can lead to bitterness and unforgiveness. Let us show the world the joy of reconciliation. It is not enough to tolerate each other. We must reconcile and allow those who were once estranged to get together and to reconcile. We must also learn the art of conflict resolution. We need to manage our conflicts in a Christian way so that the world can learn from us that where there is goodwill, there are also solutions to problems.


It is my dream that we can become a diocese that empowers other people to be better. Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” We must empower people in matters of faith; they need to know the Teachings of the Church. We must educate people and empower them in finances, employment, entrepreneurship, skills, credit building, cooperatives, interviewing skills, IT skills, job creation and job searching.

The Church exists to educate and to train people before they go out beyond the four walls of the church. We have many job seekers in our parishes. How do we help them? Yes, we must pray for them but it must not end there. How can we support business owners in church? Many of them end up going to fake prophets seeking empowerment because they feel neglected by their own church. We cannot celebrate when we see one of our business people fail; we need to help them to keep their businesses afloat and profitable. We must have a business directory of all Catholic business men and women and of all our professionals so that we, Catholics, can be the first ones to support them.

We must find a way of empowering our politicians so that they can stand up for the truth, inspired by the values of the Gospel and by the Social Teachings of the Church. We must not celebrate when our politicians fail. We must not simply criticize them without firstly being close to them and taking time to teach them ethical leadership, selflessness and the option for the poor.

We are called upon to become once more, a ‘Teaching Church’. Teaching, to be sound, ought to listen to the “sense of the faithful”, which should both inform the teaching and then act as a barometer of its reception. And how does one access this “sense of the faithful”? By listening, having conversations, setting up systems and structures like assemblies and synods to tap into the faith of the baptized – including the young and the disaffected.

It is in this spirit that we have to take seriously the call of our Bishops’ Conference and of Pope Francis for Youth Synods in each and every diocese. Let the Youth be empowered by the Synod on Synodality. I am waiting for youth structures to be in place so that we can start with preparations for that Synod. We need to empower youth with leadership skills and with what we call the ABCDE method of the Youth For Evangelization. A= Abstain. B= Be faithful to your partner, your family and church values. C= Change your behavior and Convert. D= Develop your skills, develop your yourself and focus on a better future. E= Evangelize your peers and the whole world.

This is what Pope Francis has called the imperative of “real and not just token consultation”, the introduction of a culture of dialogue within the church, a synodal approach at all levels of church life, including the local church. And this includes a dialogue with wider, secular society, since, as Vatican II taught, we can both teach and learn from this wider society.

Empowerment makes people realize that they can change their own situation – it addresses marginalization and exclusion. Once people living in poverty realize their rights and entitlements (they are simply unaware) and are provided access to requisite services, they take action to change their situation. Empowered youths take steps to prevent violation of their rights.

We have worked with youths to make them aware of trafficking under the cover of promises for fake jobs, child marriage, child labour and risk of HIV/AIDS, and the process led to movements against child marriage and peer led communication to reduce spread of HIV/AIDS. We empower the youth on Environmental issues through the study and implementation of Laudato Si’. We need to empower our Small Christian Community leaders, Parish Pastoral Councils, Parish Finance Committees, Women and the laity in general. Acts 1:8 says “You will receive power when the Spirit comes to you and will be my witnesses”. We need to empower our people for service and for ministry.


The future of the diocese depends on our ability to sustain the work of the church which is the work of God in this diocese.
Let us remember that for many year, the church overseas has been shifting aid donations to other countries which are perceived to be poorer than us and those that are said to be managing their resources with honesty and responsibility.

Some of the donor agencies are now focusing on Ukraine, Eastern Europe countries, Somalia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, the DRC, etc. We cannot remain indifferent to call for self-reliance. That aid is shifting away from South Africa is very sad but at the same time it says to us: ‘move away from the spirit of dependency’!

All the faithful must be made conscious of the need for the sustainability of the mission of Christ taking into serious consideration that the funds from foreign donors, which the Church in Africa has enjoyed in the past, are no longer
flowing smoothly into the continent and into the diocese. Self-reliance is a condition of being able to rely on one’s ability and efforts.

On a wider level, the declining solidarity coming from the Churches in the North can be put against the background of the changing attitudes of the donor countries towards the developing world. We are said to be a Middle-income country, forgetting that in South Africa, some dioceses are poor and are still in need of financial and material assistance.

The Church must guard against preaching the Gospel of prosperity. We must not be tempted to start preaching the Gospel of Prosperity and ‘miracle money’! There is a temptation to ‘sell sacraments’ and to offer services only to the rich or to those who can afford. This is against the laws of the Church. We are a poor church for the poor. We need sustainability and self-reliance not to make ministers rich and comfortable, but to support the work of evangelization. The faithful should be discouraged from giving money believing that in return they will receive ‘bigger blessings’. This is what the prophet Micah was against. The prophet said:
“Her leaders render judgement for a bribe, her priests give decisions for a salary, her prophets divine for money, while they rely on the Lord, saying, ‘Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No devil can come upon us!'” (Micah 3: 11).

Empower our Christians to know that giving, in support of God’s work, has to be voluntary. Give freely because you know that this is Your Church. You belong to the church. The church belongs to you. Take care of your church, its ministers and properties! The leaders must also be accountable, transparent and honest,

As I said earlier, let the church see how it can help people to be self-reliant. How can we promote the spirit of entrepreneurship? Is it possible that we can economically empower the faithful through self-help projects? I see churches in India, the Phillipine and East Africa supporting the formation of Credit and Savings Unions and other income generating activities in Small Christian Communities and Outstations.

The faithful should be empowered and encouraged on how to utilize their resources for their own development. Income-generating families, who take care of their resources will always be ready to support the church. I encouraged one of our sodalities to see if they could pull their resources together in some sort of “Mogodisano” as a way of helping those who cannot pay their tithes. Someone who belongs a parish mogodisano group told me one day, “When it is my turn to receive ‘Mogodisano”, I pay all my church dues for the year and I am free.” (Mogodisano, for those who do not know, is something that is practiced in all the black families. It is sometimes called “Stokvel”. It is family members of a group of friends, who contribute a fixed sum of money every month or weekly, and members receive a lump sum on a rotational basis. They are free to use the money for any purpose or to invest it).

The life of the early Christians as reported in the Book of Acts, Chapter 4 was that one of giving and sharing, of shouldering their responsibility as a community, and of bearing each other’s burdens. The early Christians were “doers” of the Word. They Listened to the Word, the Shared their goods and took care of the church (Apostles).

Like the early Christians, the faithful of today are expected to be generous to the Church and support herout of their resources. We must not be like Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5.

Matthew 10:8: “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give”.

The concept of self-reliance arises from the need to break the cycle of dependence and at the same time empowers us to continue with the mission of Christ. We must support the work of evangelization and remember even to include the Diocese in our “Last Will and Testament”.


God is a mystery. Christ is the mystery of God and manifests Him. The Church is the mystery of Christs, manifests Him in the flesh. We should no longer be in darkness. We should no longer live in ignorance. Be enlightened to enlighten others. I am happy when I meet someone, as I travel through our diocese, who says: ‘I am enlightened!”.

Acts 26:18 “To open their eyes, to turn them form darkness to light and from the authority of satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in me.”

Eph 5:8 “For you were once darkness but are now light in the Lord, walk as children of light”.

In our diocese and in the whole country, many people are deceived by fake prophets, charlatans and sangomas. When will they receive enlightenment? Jesus came and was light of the world. He enlightened us all concerning God’s purpose and God’s intention, so we as kingdom people are the light of the world, letting Jesus shine through us for others.

We must be enlightened and then we shine. Our minds must be enlightened and enlivened by correct knowledge concerning the Lord. We will be enlightened and enlivened by divine truths, by the Spirit of the Lord and by goodness.

Only in the Spirit will our “minds be enlightened so that we can truly perceive what hope God’s call holds for us, and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised through us believers”. It is not easy. I must confess that there are moments when I am encouraged and there are times when I am full of doubts and I feel discouraged. During those times, we need the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened. We need deeper seeing. We are growing in our intimacy with God. We can walk with God in deep trust.

It is going to take a lot of evangelization, deliverance and catechesis to take our people out of their reliance on prophets, ‘bommamosebeletsi’, mediums and sangomas. As I travel right through the diocese I meet many of our people who are consulting them and are wearing their charms and necklaces, including babies! I am seriously troubled by this. I have lost people who have gone to “thwasa’ and to be initiated as traditional healers. I am troubled by this. I do not want to bring simple answers to difficult questions. I believe that that through evangelization, deliverance and deep catechesis people will opt to be empowered in the Spirit and not in traditional methods of healing and by being consecrated to ancestral spirits. We respect ancestors in the Catholic Church but we do not consecrate ourselves to them so that they can take over, possess us and use us for healing and for other things. We are consecrated in the Spirit of the living God. I trust that the Seasons of Renew Africa will do this type of Evangelization, where people can Encounter Christ and the Spirit in a new way and understanding Christian healing and how different it is from traditional healing.

One of the groups of sisters who will be coming to the diocese is charismatic. I visited one of the parishes with them in February and they saw for themselves when people started to manifest all types of spirit possession during mass. They are determined to come back to enlighten our people and take them out of the darkness of the occult and witchcraft. I am going to recommend Life in the Spirit seminar and the charismatic renewal to all those who are troubled by ancestral spirits, evil spirits, demonic spirits, alien spirits and psychosomatic issues. That is the solution I will offer them and they will be healed; they will be set free and they will be delivered once and for all. I will recommend Christian healing, the healing of emotions and the proper use of Sacramentals for adults and children, for protection, so that they do not have to rely on other powers, other churches and on methods opposed to their Catholic faith. Please pray for us. Renew Africa has a special season on healing and I cannot wait for us to do that together as a diocese.


For our diocese, I pray and hope that we will take the call for evangelization seriously. Mt 28:19-20 says “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations’ baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded”. Let me summarize what I believe are main points of evangelization:

i) Evangelization is the responsibility of all Christians, not only the clergy.

ii) The message of evangelization is Christ and the Gospel.

iii) The target ambience of evangelization is believers and unbelievers alike.

iv) Evangelization occurs when we give witness by words and deeds.

v) Evangelization is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit, accomplished with human cooperation.

I hope we will be able to establish evangelized parishes. You are an evangelized parish when you find yourself in a never-ending process of hearing the Gospel and being formed by it. An evangelizing parish is bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation and seeking to convert individuals and society by the divine power of the Gospel itself. We have a duty to evangelize. Yes, the primary dynamic for evangelization is the Holy Spirit. The primary message is the Good News of God’s love for the world and the fact the Jesus is our Redeemer!

Evangelizers believe that they are loved by God and want to share the Good News with others. Evangelization occurs when we live the Gospel. Evangelized evangelizers will be seen by their fruits: An increase in prayer life, devotions and visible sign of the journey towards sainthood, active participation in church life, a spirit of volunteerism, community life and a thriving worshipping community.

An evangelizing parish is convinced that they have a precious gift to share – the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

All Catholic parishes have an evangelizing purpose. It is a temptation to get comfortable with those who are already with us and become consumed with their needs forgetting that many more have not yet accepted the Good News. Some parishes go on autopilot, becoming so occupied with raising money, conducting programs and social events that they lose their focus. Jesus and his Gospel offer meaning and purpose for life, something to believe in and hope for. Pope Paul VI made it clear that unless the Good News of Jesus Christ is proclaimed, there is no real evangelization. An evangelizing parish is confident and focused.

An evangelizing parish listens to God’s word in the Scriptures.

Evangelizing parishes allow themselves to be encouraged and challenged by God’s Word. Despite the misconceptions held by many fundamentalist Christians, every aspect of Catholic life – beliefs, devotions, moral and social teaching, and worship are all grounded in the Scriptures. Catholics are using the Bible in personal prayer and group sharing, along with the three year cycle of Bible readings for the Sunday Liturgy. Both preachers and music ministers should know how to use the Bible to comfort those who are hurting and to challenge the parish to the next level of outreach.

An evangelizing parish celebrates God’s action in people’s lives through the Eucharist and other sacraments.

Because Catholics have a sacramental worldview they recognize that spiritual rebirth happens every day and they celebrate that on the Lord’s Day. Catholics view life through the lens of God’s Word and consider God’s action in their lives. It is Christ who they join with in the Eucharist; it is Christ who baptizes at the font; it is Christ who forgives through the sacrament of Penance; it is Christ who unites a couple in Matrimony. These sacraments must include the reading of Scripture in their celebrations in order to connect the ongoing work of Christ with the human situation.

An evangelizing parish reaches out to the hurting and hopeless.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus was moved with compassion toward anyone in pain. People experience as much social alienation now as ever before. The amount of pastoral care needed in a parish cannot be accomplished by any single priest or sodality. Evangelizing parishes mobilize the people of God through a variety of ministries that includes soup kitchens, supporting the bereaved, conducting retreats and prayer groups for those with health problems. In times of community tragedy or natural disaster, the church, through Caritas is often the gathering place for prayer and consolation for those people most affected. Evangelizing parishes extend the compassion of Christ to all those in need.

An evangelizing parish works for justice.

Evangelizing parishes promote the rights and dignity of all people, especially those in poverty or marginalized in society. Throughout history, the Church has been most credible in its witness when it has stood with the poor. Some parishes sponsor soup kitchens, jersey and shoe collections, food collection, food hampers, water boreholes and justice and peace initiatives. Some parishes support cooperatives. Some parishes support poor families for funerals and other disasters. Some parishes support victims of rape and abuse. Some support marches for service delivery. Some challenge municipalities and government on issues of corruption. Some support He For She campaign against women and child abuse. Some fight the scourge of Human Trafficking, hunger, poverty, unemployment, retrenchments and the disasters from the mines. There is no dichotomy between faith and politics for an evangelizing parish.

An evangelizing parish announces the Good News and invites people to know Jesus in the Catholic faith community.

Many people are asking the big questions of life. They are spiritual seekers who want to feel God’s presence and struggle to know how. Spiritual seekers will find a church that address these questions in a humble and non-doctrinaire fashion as a valuable resource. An evangelizing parish provides access to a variety of spiritual experiences. It may host concerts, Small Christian Communities, Renew Africa, Heartlines and other programmes. An evangelizing parish equips people with a credible faith who will take the initiative to reach out to those who are enquiring about our faith or those who have left and ask the spiritual questions: What helps you make sense of life? What do you believe about God/Jesus? Do you ever pray? Do you ever think of coming back? What would you need?

An evangelizing parish is a welcoming community.

It connects with people, welcomes people and retains people. In a word these parishes are sticky. Evangelizing parishes go out of their way to invite neighbours to experience their community. These parishes take time to get to know visitors. On Sundays, visitors are welcomed and then introduced to the parish. In some cases where we have new developments, squatter camps and RDP’s. parishioners go out searching for Catholics and giving information about the address and mass times. They also invite non-Catholics to join the RCIA. In a parish like St Michael, there is tea for all after Mass and this is done as a way of welcoming new people as well. These parishes give everyone a chance to do what they do best as part of a ministry in the church. Newcomers are invited to be part of a small Christian communities or a faith-sharing group so that they can have a friendly, supportive and challenging experience of church.

Evangelization should be the organizing principle for all ministries and activities in the parish. When the pastor and the PPC are convinced of the importance of evangelization as the organizing framework for the parish, it is essential to inform and inspire the entire parish community. Many Catholics are unfamiliar with what Catholic evangelization means. Help them to learn through homilies, bulletin inserts, Mass intercessions, Lenten talks and workshops or seminars.


While I was preparing for the Chrism Mass in 2019, I realized that we needed to include a last E, which is Endurance.

St Peter says: ” My dear friends, do not be taken aback at the testing by fire which is taking place among you, as though something strange were happening to you; But in so far as you share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, so that you may enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed.” 1PETER 4:12-13

The Trials and Tests We Encounter

Below are brief descriptions of eight types of tests that every Christian will likely face:

Fiery trials:  intense encounters or struggles; bursts of anger, grief, or lust
Infirmities:   physical limitations and illnesses
Reproaches:  ridicule and rejection on account of faith or holiness
Persecutions:  harassment and oppression due to religious convictions
Necessities:  wear and care of daily responsibilities
Distresses:  disappointments and deep hurts
Tribulations:  unusual pressures and challenges
Temptations:  opportunities to yield to our sinful nature
      Your Response Makes All the Difference

The Apostle Paul regarded these “tests” as opportunities to grow spiritually. Instead of despairing when he encountered trials, Paul said he would glory in his infirmities so that the power of Christ would rest upon him. (See II Corinthians 12:9.) As we, like Paul, choose to trust God and accept the grace He gives us, Christ’s character will be formed in us.

“More than that, we[a] rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3–5).

Unless you accept God’s grace to deal with suffering, inevitably you will become bitter. However, if you choose to trust God to bring about His purposes through the suffering, you can avoid the trap of bitterness and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. (See II Corinthians 5:7, Ephesians 4:31, Hebrews 12:14–15, and II Peter 3:18.)

You can be confident that God will not allow anything to happen to you without His permission, and He will not let any “bad thing” happen that will not ultimately bring you more good than destruction. (See I Peter 4:12–13, Romans 9:14–24, Isaiah 55:8–9, Job 1:6–12, Genesis 50:20, and Psalm 121.)

How can we take advantage of these opportunities to mature spiritually? The following five responses are keys to enduring tests and trials through God’s grace:

1. Give thanks.

Sometimes being thankful in a difficult situation is the most difficult thing you can do. Yet, Scripture is very clear about this response: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thessalonians 5:18). To be thankful rather than to complain takes a conscious act of the will and a sacrifice of natural desires. Psalm 107:22 appropriately speaks of this choice in terms of a sacrifice: “Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.”

Unfortunately, most of us respond with murmuring or complaining when we face hardship of any kind—emotional, spiritual, mental, or physical. However, through trials, “for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:13–15).

Thanking God in all things does not mean that we thank God for evil. It means that we are thanking God for the benefits He intends for us when He allows things to happen.

2.  Rejoice!

Along with giving thanks, we also are instructed to rejoice in all things: “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Thanking God is an act of the will, but rejoicing is a response of the spirit. Therefore, it is possible to be sad and joyful at the same time. We cannot escape the pain of a difficult situation, but we can learn to rejoice in God Himself and in the good things God will do through our suffering.

We should try to discern the positive benefits that could come about through the situation. Ask the question, Why did God allow this to happen? Tests and trials give us opportunities to come to know God better and to bring glory to God.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him”. (Romans 8:14–18).

When you experience a trial, choose—by faith—to put your trust in God. This choice will help you be more objective and consequently more alert to the reasons why God may have allowed the trial to occur. As you deal with the difficulties, remember the following truths:

Gaining intimate knowledge of Christ exceeds the value of gaining more possessions. (See Philippians 3:8.)
Developing stronger character is more important than getting your own way. (See Hebrews 5:8.)
Demonstrating self-control is more heroic than dominating your competitors. (See Proverbs 25:28.)
Eternal treasures are more valuable than earthly riches. (See Matthew 19:21.)

3.  Cry out to God.

Perhaps the greatest reason God has for taking us through the trials of life is to bring us to the firm conclusion that we need God. What is God’s purpose in giving us commands that seem impossible to carry out? He desires to work powerfully through our lives; therefore we must learn to depend on Him. He alone must become our source of strength, provision, protection, and direction.

4.  Overcome evil with good.

Jesus gave His disciples a clear set of instructions about responding to those who made life miserable for them. (See Matthew 5:44.) These directions are completely opposite to what we would naturally do:

Love your enemies.
Bless those who curse you.
Do good to those who hate you.
Pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you.
Such responses would never be a person’s natural tendency, but they do reflect the heart of God: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

If you react to a person who offends you and become bitter toward him, you actually put yourself in an emotional prison. Bitterness will control your thought life, your emotions, your free time, and your health. In order to be freed from this prison, you must forgive.

Scripture provides many examples of those who forgave offenders, including Job, Stephen, and Jesus Christ:

Job’s companions were about to encounter God’s wrath, but Job prayed for them and God delivered Job: “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends . . .” (Job 42:10).
Stephen prayed for God to forgive his murderers, even as they were stoning him: “And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:59–60).
On the 7th of May 2013, Pope Francis in his morning homily commented on Acts 16, in which St. Paul and Silas were persecuted and thrown in jail for proclaiming the Gospel.

But they “were joyful because they followed Jesus on the path of his passion, a path the Lord traveled with patience,” he added. “This does not mean being sad. No, no, it’s another thing.”

“This means bearing, carrying the weight of difficulties, the weight of contradictions, the weight of tribulations on our shoulders: this Christian attitude of bearing up, of being patient.”

“This is a process — allow me this word, ‘process’ — a process of Christian maturity, through the path of patience; a process that takes some time, that you cannot undergo from one day to another. It evolves over a lifetime, arriving at Christian maturity. It is like a good wine.”

The Pope observed that many martyrs were joyful as they approached their final moments, such as the martyrs of Nagasaki who helped each other as they “waited for the moment of death.”

Some of those men and women went to their martyrdom as if they were going to a “wedding party,” he said. This attitude of endurance, he added, is a Christian’s normal attitude, but it is not masochistic. It is an attitude that leads them “along the path of Jesus.”


Bishop V. Phalana (YEAR 2018)