Bishop Declan’s Pastoral Letter for the Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God to be read and/or made available on 31st December 2016 and 1st January 2017
Pastoral Letter for the Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ.
We start this new year with a blessing which I pray will become a reality for each one of us and for our Diocese as a whole.
“May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord let his Face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord uncover his Face to you and bring you peace”.
In her life, Mary allowed the power of the Most High, the Spirit of God, to overshadow her and she became the Mother of God. Always open to the presence of God, she gave her “yes” to what God asked of her. That “yes”, like the “yes” we give, was to be tested by the events of her life. To continue to say “yes” to God can be very challenging.
In today’s Gospel, we are told Mary “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart”. The experiences of her life led her, I’m sure, to ask the question more than once, as she did to the angel Gabriel “but how can this come about”. The significance of events is not always understood immediately and is often only grasped in hindsight.
As we face a new year and the future of the years ahead, we are called to be a reflective people – a people of prayer. In our prayer we need to have Jesus at the centre, teaching us how to be truly human in our relationship with one another and the wider world. Through prayer we can recognise the presence of God in everyday life and see where God is leading us and what God is asking us to change.
Jesus is Emmanuel – a name which means “God is with us”.
At the beginning of this new year I would like to invite you to ponder this question: what is it to be the Church for our day and our culture? To be fruitful in our response we need to do this in the light of the Gospel. Two further questions for each one of us to ask is: what is God asking me to be and to do as a member of the Body of Christ, the Church? What is it for me to be a Catholic today?
Imagine what our Diocese will be like in five to ten years’ time. What do we need to do in order to make our imaginings come true? You might like to do this individually or as a family or as a group of friends or parishioners. You might like to do this as a community of Religious or a school community. You can send your responses to me through your Parish Pastoral Councils, Deanery Pastoral Councils, as a group response or individually. These responses should be with me by March 5th, the First Sunday of Lent.
Some years ago we started a consultation entitled “Seeking the Face of Christ”. Literally thousands of you participated in the process. What followed was the pastoral guidelines “Called to be a People of Hope”. This was followed by a number of other publications, the most significant being “Parishes in Communion for Mission”. It is now time to ponder again on the way ahead and to reflect upon the task with which each of us is entrusted. We have a future, and to quote the Prophet Jeremiah who spoke to the people of his day who were facing challenging times: We have a Future Full of Hope. That hope is not our creation but given by God whose Face shines upon us and is gracious to us.
With my prayers and best wishes for the year ahead
Rt Rev Declan Lang
Bishop of Clifton
To be read and made available in all Churches and Chapels in the Clifton Diocese on the Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God
31st December 2016 / 1st January 2017.
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