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Diocese of Arundel and Brighton Article

Pastoral Message 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In Today’s Gospel, Jesus heals the hearing and speech of a man with a word – “Be opened”.[1]  When we bring children for Baptism, the celebration brings this event before us as we hear the words:  “May he touch your ears to receive his word and your mouth to proclaim his faith.”[2]   This little prayer is a wonderful expression of our hope for the newly baptised – that they have the opportunity to hear the Word of God and that they respond by proclaiming it to others.

The word of Jesus and the words of this prayer call us to Mission. For we must open our minds and hearts to the Word who is Life[3] and we must proclaim the Word whom we hear.  This is the task, the responsibility, of every one of us.  This is the mission of the Diocese.

In the short time since my appointment to the Diocese, I have seen this mission being fulfilled in many wonderful ways – in celebration and witness at the Festival 50 celebrations, in the care and shared prayer of our pilgrimage to Lourdes, in the deaneries, parishes and schools that I have been able to visit, where so much is done to form people in Faith.  Yet there is so much to be done, for the mission of the Church is never ending as we seek to respond to the needs of our time and the yearning for truth that is present in the heart of every person. 

A first step for every one of us on the road to hearing Jesus’ word to us, in all its wonder and challenge is to acknowledge our own frailty, shortcomings and failures.   Experiencing the Mercy of the Father does more than encourage us to be merciful. So, mercy – love in action – becomes an imperative, something that is no longer an option.  “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful, says the Lord.”[4] The real encounter with the Love and Mercy of God is an experience of Call – the Call is, as St. James reminds us in today’s second reading, to invite all people home to the Love and Mercy of the Father, experienced in the One Whom he has sent.[5]

Pope Francis, in introducing the Church to the Year of Mercy, writes: “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life.”[6]  Hence, our preparation and celebration of the Year of Mercy should be related in every way to the Mission of the Church.    

Our parishes must be communities of mercy – mercy for one another, lived out in such a way that our witness will be a constant invitation to others to encounter the wonder of the Father’s love for us.  Our homes should be places of mercy, where all in the family are enabled to grow in the understanding of the mystery of God’s love that we encounter in Christ.  Our schools must continue in their mission to enable our young people to take their place in the Church and in the wider society as missionaries of God’s mercy.         

As members of Christ’s Church, may we open our minds and hearts to be formed completely by our encounter with the mystery of Lord’s Mercy.  We experience that encounter in a very particular way in the Sacraments: the Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Sick and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  It must surely be the case that when we realise the wonder of these gifts, we are also called to reflect on the gift of the Priesthood in the life of the Church and in the Mission in which we all share.   Pray each day in thanksgiving for the priests who serve in our Diocese.  Pray, too, that others will answer the call to serve as Priests, for the encounter with a merciful Church will also be an encounter with the wonder of the Sacraments that bring forgiveness, healing and strength for the mission.

Every one of us, in our own way, is unequal to the task that lies ahead.  We need to hear the words of Isaiah, in today’s first reading: “Courage! Do not be afraid.”[7]   Our encounter with the Mercy of the Father is a life-changing experience.  When we recognise our weakness, we find a strength far greater that we could have imagined, or found within ourselves.[8]   We have many gifts, as individuals and as a Diocese.  Relying then on the mercy of the Father who loves us, in the strength that comes from the Spirit, may we be ever-more committed to the Mission to which Christ has called us – to proclaim the wonders of the Lord and call all people to know the Mercy, Joy and Peace that is found only in Him.

With every Blessing,

 +Richard

Bishop of Arundel & Brighton

 

[1] Mk. 7:34.

[2] The Rite of Baptism, n. 101.

[3] 1 Jn. 1:1.

[4] Lk. 6:36.

[5] Jn. 6:29.

[6] POPE FRANCIS, Bull of Indiction Misericordiae vultus of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, n. 10.

[7] Is. 35:4.

[8] 2 Cor. 12:10.