March 22, 2023
St John gives us seven miracles in his Gospel – today’s miracle is the climax
and the greatest of all the miracles of Jesus. Bread is all right, but we get
hungry again. Wine is fine, but we get thirsty after a while. Healing the
sick is marvellous, but we still die.
The astounding message of the Gospel today is that Jesus is not only
master of hunger, thirst, and illness, but even of death itself.
And as the Gospel today points out to us, God's care does not stop at
death. All those who witnessed the raising of Lazarus could see that God's
care and love did not end with the stopping of the pulse, it was stronger
than death. We are invited to believe that as well. That is why we use
the words from the Gospel so often at funeral services: I am the
resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, they will never die.
We live in a world where death is talked about more than life, a world
dominated by death. For us Christians there are still tears at death, but
we have the message of hope as well. Jesus, we are told loved Martha
and her sister and Lazarus - he cried on being told about the death of his
friend. Tears at death are natural and right. But we must not stop there.
Death would seem to be an end, final. But this idea is challenged and
changed in the Gospel today. Because of the death and resurrection of
Jesus the finality of death has disappeared and something greater and
grander is born.
Jesus was promising another kind of life - for which death was a
preparation. Death is not an end, a finality, but the condition of passing
into another kind of life, which is unbounded, has no limitations, eternal
life with God.
Today, I want to give you a few details of the progress of our Pastoral Plan
since the Synod. Things are happening – they take time and often it takes
longer than we imagine. But we do not lose hope. I am encouraged by the
work that is being done in the Deanery Synodal Councils and in the
development of families of parishes. This is a sign of hope. The
constitution of our Archdiocesan Synodal Council has been agreed and it
will now begin its progress towards its first meeting later this year. The
new Advisory Body I am in the process of setting up includes men and
women. I will get advice from a much wider group made up of people
from across the Archdiocese. Because of the Pastoral Plan we are looking
towards a new work forming young adults for leadership and lay ministry
across the Archdiocese. But one area which I am delighted to report on
is the work that has been done in “becoming a Church that cares for its
When the Synod met on 20 June 2021, the Apostolic Nuncio delivered a
greeting from the Holy Father which included this:
“Please don’t forget your priests and bishops in your prayers, in your
suggestions and in your practical support. Remember that they are human
beings in one of the most difficult periods in the history of the Church.
Take care of the pastor who has a responsibility for the local community.
Accompany them with love, patience, friendship, and support.”
These concerns found their place in the Synod recommendations. There
was a clear affirmation of the need to assist priests, both personally and
in their ministry as they work with one another and in collaboration with
the people of God. A question that was asked was how can we better
support our priests?
The Pastoral Plan envisaged an externally facilitated process which
explored what needs to be developed to support priests to flourish in the
“human, spiritual, liturgical, theological, intellectual and pastoral aspects
of their lives.” At the core of this was a process of listening to the
experiences of all the priests. What were early hopes and expectations
of priesthood? How does this compare to now? What experiences have
led the priests of the Archdiocese of Liverpool to live and work in the way
they do today?
The process that the vast majority of priests took part in showed that they
have a joy in serving in the Archdiocese. The reality is that some of the
priests have low morale, and face some unrealistic expectations from
both within and outside the Church. In years to come the number of
priests available for ministry will be greatly reduced. In the light of this,
the process has begun to enable the priests to look at the possibilities of
doing things differently.
In their confidential conversations and discussions five pathways have
emerged for ongoing reflection covering the areas of fraternity, ways of
working, safeguarding, wellbeing, and issues around the possibility of
flexible retirement. The priests have agreed a summary of these
conversations to be shared with all in the Archdiocese. This is available
My hope is that the first meeting of the Archdiocesan Synodal Council will
reflect on the ongoing implementation of the Pastoral Plan including the
work that has begun in the area of care for priests. There will be
opportunities in the months to come for you to make your voice heard.
By his death and resurrection Jesus offered to those who believe the
reality of new life. And the truth is that eternal life doesn't just begin at
death...it begins at the moment when we say: "Yes Lord I believe".
With best wishes and prayers to you and your families.
Most Rev Malcolm McMahon OP
Archbishop of Liverpool
A video of Archbishop Malcolm reading the Pastoral Letter can be watched here: