Pastoral Letter for Sunday 19 October 2014
Pastoral Letter of the Archbishop of Liverpool appointed to be read at all Masses on the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time Saturday 18 / Sunday 19 October 2014.
Download or listen to the Pastoral Letter here
Dear friends in Christ,
During these last two weeks, Bishops from across the world have been gathered together in Rome with our Holy Father Pope Francis to discuss the pastoral challenges that face marriage and family life in the world in which we live, and how the Gospel of Jesus Christ can challenge us, teach us and console us.
The family is central to our lives. And yet the very existence of the family itself seems to be under pressure from a society that no longer exclusively values marriage as a unique, stable and lifelong relationship between one man and one woman, entered into for life, ordained by God as part of his creative and redemptive plan for his world, a living symbol of Christ’s love for his Church, and written in the laws of nature itself.
We are all painfully aware of the multi- faceted challenges that make family life very hard for many people today. We have all seen images in the media recently of refugees from Iraq and Syria having to flee their homeland and of many people dying in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe from northern Africa. Closer to home, we all know the challenges which face our families, both adults and young people, here in the Archdiocese of Liverpool; in a society in which marital breakdown means that many children do not live with both their parents, the question which many people ask is how can we bridge what they feel is a large chasm between Our Lord’s clear teaching that ‘What God has joined together, no one can divide’ (Mk 10:9) and the reality of many lives today.
These are very difficult questions, and we are all aware that living according to the teaching of the Church, which is rooted in that of Christ himself, is not simple or straightforward. The Synod Fathers will have given much thought and prayer to them during this last fortnight, and we must also pray for them as they prepare themselves for a further meeting of the Synod next year so that the Church will be able to find new ways of deepening the way in which we care for families, whatever their circumstances.
The task of the Christian is to conform our lives so that they reflect Christ’s life more fully – giving ‘to God what belongs to God’, in the words of today’s Gospel, since we all belong to him. By God’s grace and with the love that is deep within a family, it is possible to live the Christian life, because that love which we share with one another is an expression of God’s love for us.
This is why the self-giving love of husband and wife is at the very heart of family life, at the very heart of society. Pope Paul VI, whom Pope Francis is beatifying this Sunday, said that whoever really loves his husband or wife loves them not only for what they receive but for the sake of their spouse, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself or herself.
During these months since I became your Archbishop, I have visited and celebrated Mass in every deanery, and I have been inspired with the welcome that I have received, for which I am extremely grateful. During those visitations, I could see the hope that I have for family life in all those who gathered to celebrate Mass with me, just as you have all gathered in your churches today. Together, our families make the family of the Church; just as in our own families we support and welcome one another as best we can, so too as Christians we should welcome one another, support one another and love one another, especially those who find themselves in distressing or difficult circumstances, whoever they may be.
Paul VI, whom I mentioned earlier, suffered much during his life – not just physically in old age but for his work in guiding the Church as a humble and kind shepherd during one of the most turbulent periods of her long history. Yet, through all this he was a man of great joy; in the words of a priest who knew him well, ‘he toiled for Christ and the Church but also and above all… he suffered for Christ and the Church. I always admired not only his deep inner resignation but also his constant abandonment to divine providence.’
In this, Paul VI is an example to us all: to radiate the joy of Christ even when times are difficult; to resign ourselves to the will of Christ even when we might want to do something else; and to abandon ourselves into the hands of Christ in everything that we say and do, so that we may carry him and be carried by him in every moment of our daily lives.
I hope and pray that as we live our Christian calling to be ‘dead to sin and alive in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 10:9), we will welcome one another with the same love with which Christ welcomes us and that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will continue to conform our lives so that we more faithfully be Christ in the world in which we live.
With my prayers and every good wish for you and your families,
Most Rev Malcolm McMahon OP
Archbishop of Liverpool