Pastoral Letter to be read in all churches and chapels of the Archdiocese of Liverpool on the Thirty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time, LAMP Sunday 4 November 2012.
My dear people,
LAMP Sunday: our Sunday focussed on the Liverpool Archdiocesan Missionary Project. To begin my letter for this day I borrow these words of that great missionary, Saint Paul:
‘We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in Our Lord Jesus Christ.’
Your labour of love, your fidelity to the word we have just received from Our Lord: ‘The second commandment is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself.’ Your generosity to Cafod, to Nugent Care, to SVP and increasingly at this time to provide food banks and set up Credit Unions, the sensitivity in our schools to care for children who arrive hungry, struggling for adequate clothing and footwear. Through Nugent Care and others whose reaching out to those in need I am privileged and challenged to share, it is clear: need is rising. The Holy Spirit will continue to pour into our hearts the love with which God loves, the God who listens to the voice of the poor. God will inspire us not only to give but also to be the voice of those who are voiceless. Later in November, Nugent Care is gathering many who both serve and ask questions about causes of poverty. One issue, which has been espoused by Lord David Alton, is the consequences of reduced funding for the Fire Service in our area which affect specifically those who are most vulnerable. The aim is to ensure cooperation to achieve the best use of resources, but also to discern where we need to speak out for the voiceless.
But today it is right to focus on the labour of love in fidelity to this word from our Lord: ‘This is the first commandment: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.’ First of all, we are being given steadfastness in hope by the generous, joyful, response of parents to the invitation to be not only the first but the best of teachers of their children in following Our Lord.
But your labour of love reaches so much further: you are as generous as any to the Red Boxes, to Missio, to appeals for support for those who seek to enable people across the world to know Our Lord more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly, day by day. And close to home and far away come together in LAMP: the Liverpool Archdiocesan Missionary Project; over the years you have supported many priests and their ministry; at this time you support Simon Cadwallader in Villa El Salvador, Lima, Peru and Denis Parry in Chimbote, also in Peru.
But in addition, this year because of your giving we have also been able to fund provision for Latin American priests to have the opportunity to be renewed in their prayer, their wisdom rooted in the Word of the Lord and their pastoral fidelity and effectiveness. The questions remain true: who teaches the teachers? Who leads the leaders? Who nourishes those who are entrusted with the service of the Table of the Lord’s Word and the Lord’s Body and Blood. On-going formation is vital for all priests.
I have learnt and still have to learn over and over again: without fidelity to the first commandment as first, all attempts to obey the second become insipid, half-hearted and vague. So it does not matter what is demanding my attention, for example getting this pastoral ready in time. I must not start on it until I have been faithful to: a daily hour of silent prayer: the careful reading of a Chapter from one of the Gospels, and another chapter from the New Testament. That is why the fidelity to prayer, alone in silence with the One God, accomplished among us by the Carmelites and Redemptoristines is appreciated by the rest of us; without their way of life it would be so easy for our good deeds to become stale and wearisome. So all our generosity to others in need of food, drink, clothing, shelter, a visit, is built on sand unless we continue our massive generosity to provide them with access to the Table of the Lord’s living Word. The Table of his Body and Blood.
Please pray for Simon and Denis and all whom, with your support, they serve. Please be generous once more to the collection to support their work and the on-going formation of Latin American priests. As always, if you are a tax payer it makes a big difference if you use Gift Aid.
So we shall we say with the scribe: ‘Well spoken Master; what you have said is true; that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ And Jesus seeing how wisely we speak and act will say: ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And that kingdom is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Yours devotedly in Christ,
Archbishop of Liverpool