As the Season of Creation draws to a close for this year, we are invited to reflect on the readings from Scripture we have just heard. In today’s first reading from the prophet Ezekiel, we hear the abrupt and possibly harsh call which warns the wicked to renounce their ways and holds those who witness evil and do nothing responsible. The Gospel tells us how we should react to wrong-doing: by facing it, naming it, and trying to remedy it.
My dear friends in Jesus Christ, As we move toward the end of Lent and are very aware of the difficult situations across our world and close at home, we receive a Gospel full of hope and encouragement.
My dear friends in Jesus Christ, Today is the octave day of Christmas. It is exactly one week since we celebrated the birth of our saviour Jesus Christ, and it is also the first day of the new year. The celebration of the birth of our saviour continues into a new year. It is not over. Christ comes to us as Emmanuel – God with us, and that is true for all time. God is with us, and came to us as a human person, like us, to save us and give us life to the full. Mary’s part in this is celebrated today as the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God.
My dear friends, The Advent season begins with words of invitation. We are invited to “come up to the mountain of the Lord”; we are encouraged to be “filled with joy as we go to God’s house” in the psalm. St Paul writing to the Romans invites us to live as “people of the light” and in the Gospel Jesus asks us to “stay awake” – be ready.
Dear Friends, The pandemic has brought the family into prominence in an unexpected way. I believe the family will never be seen in quite the same way again. The current variant of the coronavirus has made it difficult for families to meet up over the Christmas period for the second year running. There are many restrictions preventing families getting together, and hospitals and care homes have had to restrict visiting patients and residents. The pain of separation at Christmastime is heart breaking for many families.
Dear Friends, ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.’ (Genesis 1.31) Over the past few years, we have all been made aware of extreme weather events like the wildfires in California, Australia and even Siberia. In our own country we see increasing incidents of flooding and coastal erosion, and there has been very destructive flooding in countries such as Germany, China and India. Other events of concern have been the recent earthquake in Haiti and many parts of the world are suffering the effects of drought. Food shortages due to crop failures, like wheat in Canada, threaten all of us.
Dear Friends, Last weekend our synodal process, Synod 2020 – Together on the Road, reached its climax in a great gathering of Synod members which took place online because of the pandemic. It was a truly amazing event with contributions from the papal nuncio, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, and Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, Dr Jessie Rogers from St Patrick’s College, Maynooth in Ireland, and, most importantly, from the Synod members themselves. In a truly wonderful way, all this took place online using Zoom which brought together over 400 members, observers and contributors.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, The Solemnity of Pentecost reminds us that everything which exists, every person and the whole of creation, is a gift of ‘God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth’. God our loving Father creates and continues to give life to the world through His Word, Jesus Christ, in the power of His Holy Spirit. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church, which we celebrate at Pentecost, is not something separate from Creation. God’s revelation of himself in Creation is inseparable from the revelation of his love for us in Christ and in his desire to live in us through his Holy Spirit.
Dear Friends, Today is traditionally known as Vocations Sunday or Good Shepherd Sunday as, in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says, ‘I am the Good Shepherd: the good shepherd is the one who lays down his life for his sheep’. Jesus’s listeners, although very familiar with the image that Jesus is using, would be startled by his use of this imagery with reference to himself. Shepherds lived on the margins of society and were treated with suspicion. What on earth is Jesus doing?
Dear friends, No one can fail to be moved by the heart-wrenching accounts of families that have been tragically affected by the coronavirus. At a time when families come together to celebrate the birth of our saviour, Jesus Christ, families are not only mourning their loved ones who have died from this dreadful virus but are often separated from their children, parents or grandparents because of the vital need to keep safe.
Dear friends, Today is often called Gaudete (Latin for 'rejoice') Sunday because the entrance antiphon of the Mass begins with the words, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always…’ from St Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. We are halfway through the season of Advent and we celebrate a moment of Christmas anticipation. Indeed, we have much to be happy about. After a very tough time things are beginning to change for the better.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want” I send my best wishes and prayers to you and those you love at this time of uncertainty, unprecedented in modern history. We are living in challenging times and as such are called to live as the Church in a different way in these days. We are unable to gather for the Holy Eucharist and other times of prayer and praise in our communities and parishes but our hope and trust in the Lord Jesus’ presence continues.
My dear friends in Jesus Christ, The words 'thank you' are central to everything we do at Mass today. The Mass, the Eucharist, is our great prayer of thanksgiving and praise to God. In this way, when we gather for Mass, we are a people formed by thanksgiving.
My dear friends, This is going to be a difficult Lent for all of us. As I write this letter both our nation and the Church are in crisis. Every one of us is deeply disturbed by our country leaving the European Union. Whether we voted to leave or remain we did not expect the process to be this difficult, but whatever happens in the next few weeks it does look as though many ordinary men and women, and families may feel some detrimental economic effects of Brexit, at least in the short term.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Last month the Bishops of England and Wales went to Rome for a visit and pilgrimage known as the Ad Limina Apostolorum (to the Threshold of the Apostles). Every seven or eight years or so each national hierarchy is called to Rome to give an account of what they are doing. It is not just reporting to the Pope and the heads of Vatican departments, it is also an opportunity to listen to each other. The different departments of the Vatican listened to us. Pope Francis listened to us too, and of course we listened to him.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes is on 11 February, but it has been replaced this weekend by the celebration of the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time. By a happy coincidence the Gospel reading we have just heard reminds us of Jesus's concern for the sick and for those who are excluded by illness or medical condition from taking a full part in society or the Church. As you know, Lourdes is a place of pilgrimage, especially for those who are sick.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, The season of Advent is very short this year – it is only three weeks and one day long – and this means that Christmas will be upon us before we know it. Inevitably our preparations for the great feast will gain a heightened sense of urgency as the days pass. This sense of urgency was also experienced in the time of John the Baptist.
Dear friends, In the Gospel we have just heard a call is made and we are offered two contrasting responses. God calls us and each one of us is invited to respond. I know that every day across the parishes of our diocese people are generously responding to God's call. The compassion of Christ is being experienced by so many through the ministry of our priests and people. We are truly very blessed.
Dear friends, There are many ways in which you can be of service to the wider mission of the Church. Prominent among these is offering to be of service to a school as a foundation governor. School governors are the largest voluntary body in the country. They provide a vital service to the community and help shape the work of schools and the future of our young people.
Dear friends, Over the last several years our Archdiocese has been discerning the best way to prepare children and families for the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. Our Baptismal resource is now well established in several areas of the Archdiocese and the With You Always programme in preparation for Reconciliation, Confirmation and First Eucharist has brought family catechesis into the forefront of our diocesan life. As part of this process the Sacrament of Confirmation was brought forward from the teenage years to be celebrated before First Holy Communion.
Dear friends in Christ, Last Wednesday many Catholics began Lent by going to Mass to receive ashes, which is the outward sign of our desire to turn once again towards God. In this season of repentance the individual Christian turns again to Our Lord. It is an opportunity to put our lives in order and resolve through the traditional practices of almsgiving, works of mercy, fasting and prayer to make a difference, not just to ourselves, but to the lives of the community in which we live.
Dear friends in Christ, If someone asked you what Jesus is like, or what kind of person he is, what would you say? The answer you give would also tell me how much he matters to you. If you ever feel like telling me, I really would love to know, as you would give me material for another pastoral letter!
Dear friends in Christ, In the Gospel that we have just heard, Jesus teaches us that "If anyone wishes to be first, he must be the servant of all" (Mark 9:35), and to illustrate his point he uses the example of a child (Mark 9:36-37): "He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms around him, and said to them, 'Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me.'"
Dear friends in Christ, Last Wednesday, with the blessing and distribution of ashes in our churches and schools, we began our annual Lenten pilgrimage. Lent is a holy season, a privileged time of renewal for us as individual Christians. It invites us to abandon into God’s hands everything that stops us from following Christ as we ought, so that we can not only see him more clearly ourselves, but be his face and his presence in the communities in which we live.
The Sunday between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day is always dedicated to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. At a time of year when we think in a special way of our loved ones, sometimes travelling great distances to be with them for Christmas, this is a beautiful Feast to have at the very heart of our celebrations.
My dear friends, If you are feeling a little confused after hearing the gospel reading today, then that is quite understandable. After all Jesus’s disciples didn’t get it the first time and he used another parable to throw light on the first. The talk of shepherds, sheep and sheepfolds can also be difficult for us to grasp as agricultural terms are not often used in modern urban society.