Pastoral Letter for the 33rd Sunday of the Year
16/17 November 2013
End of the Year of Faith
My dear brothers and sisters,
Next Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King and marks the end of the Church’s Year. The Scripture readings today, then, are all about endings, both our own and the ending of the world, seen through the eyes of faith. The call of the Word of God is clear: do not be frightened; there will be fearful sights but not a hair of your head will be lost; the light of God will shine out with healing in its rays. So we face the future with hope for we know that all endings are within the sight of God, even the most distressing. God has shown this to us clearly in the death of Jesus, the only Son of God, who died in agony and isolation. In Jesus, God embraced all our endings and in the Resurrection of Jesus made clear His will that they have a glorious final outcome.
Next Sunday also marks the end of the Year of Faith we have been following at the invitation of Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. This Year of Faith has had two main aims: that we rediscover and deepen the joy of believing and that we recover enthusiasm for sharing that faith with others. The first aim, we might well say, draws on the great strength of Pope Benedict, a graceful teacher of the faith; the second from the impact and priority of Pope Francis, that we get out there and show our faith by the way we live.
I hope that you can look back and recall points of impact of the Year of Faith in your lives. Through the year we pondered first of all our faith in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father, incarnate of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, then the importance of the sacraments, then the practice of the moral life and finally the place of prayer in our daily lives. But now we must look forward.
Next Sunday every Catholic parish in the world will profess its faith, in the Creed, with renewed heart and fresh determination. And what we profess with our words in church we must make clear in our lives in the world. So now we look again at how well we live our faith in every circumstance, how ready we are to stand out by the way we speak and act, not timid about giving an account of our faith, of our love of the Lord, of the place of prayer in our lives, of our commitment to do what is right and just.
Pope Francis has a phrase which describes this call. He says, over and over again, that we are to be ‘missionary disciples’. Yes we are disciples, those who wish to follow the Lord. We are his people, the People of God. But with that comes the task of being a missionary. Perhaps we are used to associating the word ‘missionary’ with overseas, with other countries. But the call of every follower of Jesus is to make his love present in every place, and to issue his invitation to every person.
At the end of Mass next Sunday we shall step out of the church with this fresh imperative ringing in our ears: go and make visible the love and compassion of God you have just celebrated.
So what are you going to do?
Think, please, of your home life. What could you do there to make faith more visible? A fresh pattern of prayer, shared by all present, before a meal or at the end of the day? Perhaps there could be more visible signs of faith in your home: a crucifix in each room or a statue in a prominent corner. Visitors should be in no doubt that they are entering a catholic home, best of all by the way you behave, but also by what they see.
Then please think of your life at work, or in the company you keep outside your home. Can you be someone who is known and respected for being trustworthy? Someone who doesn't gossip but will always have a kind word to say about others? Can you be someone to whom people know they can turn when they are in difficulty, someone prepared to understand and to help? Are you, or could you be, someone who readily offers to say a prayer for a person facing problems? Most people are ready to welcome such an offer. They know that there is more to life than the sum of our human efforts, that there is a God who watches over us and can be turned to, even if they are very unsure as to how to do it.
There is so much we can do, so much that is simple yet profound, deeply human yet showing our faith, especially in these times when many are in difficulty. So I urge you to look again at the patterns of your daily living, in the light of the Lord’s call to be his missionary disciples. As we take so many different pathways in life, look out for those who are burdened, who feel lost, who are, perhaps, walking away from the Church, their hearts downcast. Walk with them. Listen to them. Speak only as little as necessary, but from a heart full of faith and compassion. And act in the way in which you speak.
This is the way of the Lord, Christ our King. This is the way of faith. This is the way we proclaim afresh the coming of the Kingdom of God in our world today.
May God bless you all.
Archbishop of Westminster