October 1st 2017

Contents:

  1. Parish Bulletin for Holy Family and Sacred Heart
  2. Newsletter for St Benedict's
  3. This Sunday's Readings
  4. Pastoral Letter
  5. Sunday Reflection

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This Sunday's Readings

First Reading Ezekiel 18:25-28

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: 'You object, "What the Lord does is unjust." Listen, you House of Israel: is what I do unjust? Is it not what you do that is unjust? When the upright man renounces his integrity to commit sin and dies because of this, he dies because of the evil that he himself has committed. When the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live. He has chosen to renounce all his previous sins; he shall certainly live; he shall not die.'

Second Reading Philippians 2:1-11

If our life in Christ means anything to you, if love can persuade at all, or the Spirit that we have in common, or any tenderness and sympathy, then be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind. That is the one thing which would make me completely happy. There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, So that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people's interests instead.

In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus: His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Gospel Reading Matthew 21:28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, 'What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first, "My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today." He answered, "I will not go," but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, "Certainly, sir," but did not go. Which of the two did the father's will?' 'The first' they said.

Jesus said to them, 'I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to think better of it and believe in him.'


Pastoral Letter: Sunday 1st October 2017

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.

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In recent years, however, we have had to begin to consider what it means to be called by God in changing times. The Leaving Safe Harbours process sought to help us to hear this call amidst the many challenges facing us. I want to thank all those who, in spite of frustrations, gave so generously of their time and energy. But we cannot stop there, we must continue to build on that good work. I recently wrote to all the priests to help me to reflect on how to respond to the fall in numbers of priests and people at Mass.

From the feedback that the Deans gave me, it is clear that we need to respond to the call being made with a particular focus. The call of Jesus is always to go out, to be missionary, to make disciples. What does it mean for us to be true to that call today?

In the light of this, I want us to embark upon a three-year journey of prayer, reflection and action that will culminate in a Diocesan Synod in 2020. The Synod will look at practical ways in which we as a diocese respond to God's call today and in the future.

The first part of our journey will be a year of prayer leading to the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and Congress which will be held in Liverpool next year.

From 7-9 September 2018, 10,000 delegates from around the country will be gathering in Liverpool to participate in events in and around the city that will focus us on Christ, the bread of life. Through adoration, talks, workshops, keynote speakers, Masses and other activities we will be given the chance to reflect on how our adoration of Christ in the Eucharist nourishes our lives as disciples.

Focusing our gaze firmly on Christ is an excellent place to begin our own journey towards Synod 2020. In this coming year therefore, resources such as prayer cards and holy hours will be made available for each parish to take up this journey and I will be coming to each pastoral area to lead a Holy Hour.

In the second year of our journey to Synod 2020, parish discussions will take place, which will begin from the fact that we are not about managing decline, but we are trying to catch a vision that will move us forward towards missionary discipleship, so that we do not simply follow Jesus but we take the Gospel message to others.

Year three will culminate in the Synod itself, to be held in the summer of 2020. The Synod will present practical ways in which we as a diocese can respond to the call of God. Like the Gospel there are at least two ways of responding: we can try to look at ourselves and the problems we face, or we can accept the challenge of every call of Jesus to be missionary and outward looking.

I would like to share with you two recent developments that illustrate this way of responding to the call of Christ today. In the city of Liverpool I have invited the missionaries of Africa, more commonly known as the White Fathers, to take over the pastoral care of one of our parishes. They will be setting up a mission to specifically respond to the needs of our African brothers and sisters, and others of various ethnic origins, in the city. I will also be giving a parish church, hall and presbytery to the Syro-Malabar community who will embrace a similar mission to part of our Indian community.

In these two examples of our changing church, we glimpse something of what it might be like to hear and respond to the call of the Lord to look outwards, beyond our own concerns and needs. We need to regain our missionary spirit so that the call to holiness we heard in our baptism is expressed by a change of direction. Baptism has changed us so that as Christians we live no longer for ourselves but for others.

Perhaps we can also begin to see the opportunity that Synod 2020, our three-year journey of prayer, reflection and action, might bring us to hear and respond to the call of the Lord with open-hearted generosity and creative commitment. It is in this spirit that we can face the future with hope and confidence in Christ who is always close to those who seek to do his will.

Be assured of my prayers for you and your families,

+ Malcolm McMahon OP

Archbishop of Liverpool


Sunday Reflection 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (01.10.17)

God Alone Is The Perfect Parent

The dysfunctionality of relationship is not uncommon among siblings. While psychiatrists and psychologists will have their theories as to the causes, Christians will trace such unhappiness to our first parents' disobeying God. The fracture within the Divine / human relationship resulted in Adam and Eve's son Cain murdering his brother Able. (Genesis 4: 3-9) The rest, as they say, is history.

Matthew's Gospel for the 26th Sunday (21:28-32) also depicts two brothers. By use of a parable, Jesus was attempting the restoration of true faith in some of the chief priests and elders of his people. The son's father, according to Jesus, asked his elder son to work in the vineyard. The youth refused but, later, reconsidered and went to work. The second son, on receiving the same message from his father, replied "Certainly, sir", but did not go. Jesus asked the Jewish leaders, "Which of the two did his father's will?" They answered, "The first." The Leaders condemned themselves by recognising the validity of the elder son's change of heart whereas they remained obstinately resistant when God manifested his will in the presence and teaching of his Son, Jesus.

Jesus gives no indication of the time lapse between the father's request and the elder son's change of heart. Nor is there an indication of whether another family member had played any part in the youth's change of heart. What is clear is the elder son's forthrightness of character which Jesus contrasts with the duplicity of the second son.

It is said that a couple's first child can have a tougher upbringing than subsequent siblings. The parents are learning to be parental! A first child often sees his/her younger brothers and sisters accorded leniency for things for which he/she was punished! The resultant sense of injustice can last indefinitely causing damage to the parental/offspring relationship.

God alone is the perfect parent. Tragically, all God's children, bar one, Mary the Immaculate Mother of God, are sinners. Humanity's self-entrapment in sin, hereditary and personal, prevents any possibility of our being able to restore our broken relationship with God. This truth is as valid today as it was from the beginning. We are helpless unless Jesus Christ comes to our rescue. He can only come to us when we sincerely and truthfully call upon him with the same conversion of heart that was shown by the elder son in Jesus' parable.

There's a true story of a priest, many years ago, who was part of a missionary team in a parish in The Gorbals on the south bank of the River Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland. In the 1930s and beyond as many as 90,000 people were crammed into densely-crowded job-provided tenement housing without proper sanitation and often running water.

As the priest climbed to the top flat up a filthy staircase, a woman called out, "You shouldn'a bother yerself, Father. The one up there! She's a woman of the night and won't welcome ye disturbing her sleep!" Nevertheless, though he would have preferred not to have bothered, the priest knocked on the door. At length, a bedraggled youth appeared. The priest asked if he could speak with ------. He was shown to a disgustingly dirty and smelly tiny bedroom where a woman was sleeping. As he waited for her to be awakened he looked around. His eye was caught by one among many pictures on the walls by the bed. This one was out of keeping with the rest. It was a small 'stampita' (a holy picture cum prayer-card). It was of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in which Mary is depicted as holding and giving protection to the Infant Jesus who has run to her in fright.

That 'woman of the night', it turned out, had clung on to this tattered remnant of an earlier time in her afflicted life. In those depressing circumstances, she shed tears of joy when she received God's Absolution from the priest. The next day, she came to the mission and received Holy Communion - much to the disapproval of some of her fellow communicants.

That one experience made the sheer slog and multiple disappointments of his priestly work on that Gorbal's mission, and many more like it, worthwhile for that priest. He told the story. I heard it sixty years ago and, today, I rejoice to be able to pass it on to you.

It is quite possible that the father in Jesus' parable shed many a tear when he discovered how his elder son had had such a change of heart. Who knows, maybe it was the first step of a reconciliation for which the father had long prayed without knowing how to apologise for his shortcomings as a dad!

Pope Francis had this to say about the Church he wants to see in the world of the 21st.Century:

The "thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle."

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The Pope has offered an image of the Church that is not only scripturally rich (cf. Mk 2:17) but one that should resonate with its members as well as with nonbelievers and those searching for a spiritual home.

Please God, we are more able not only to identify which son did his father's will but to apply the truth in our own lives than were, apparently, the chief priests and elders who heard Jesus speak.

On August 9 2017 at a Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis said:

"We, who are used to experiencing the forgiveness of sins, perhaps too "cheaply," should at times remind ourselves how much we cost God's love. Each one of us cost a lot: Jesus' life!

He would have given it also for just one of us. Jesus didn't go to the cross because He cured the sick, because He preached charity, because He proclaimed the Beatitudes. The Son of God went to the cross above all because He forgave sins, because He willed the total, definitive liberation of the human heart."