THE WORD WHO IS LIFE
A time of Prayer and Reflection on the future of the diocese of Arundel and Brighton
The readings today – the third Sunday – have something to say to us about time, the proper use of the time given to us and to use it before it’s too late. Jonah warns the people of Nineveh that they will be destroyed in 40 days if they don’t repent and change their ways; Paul tells us that “our time is growing short” and Jesus says “the time has come! Repent and believe in the gospel!” And He invites the fishermen to move with Him in a new direction in life. It is a personal invitation to each one of us now and it is a communal one.
Bishop Richard, who is our Father and leader in our Catholic Spiritual life, has asked us to think and pray about the future of the diocese of Arundel and Brighton.
The background to this is the fact that the number of priests is decreasing and we are growing older, plus the fact that there are few young adults attending Mass. We have some very fine young people coming to Mass here in Hastings, there are wonderful young families but there is a general trend that sees religion being for young children and old people.
It’s vital for the future of the Church that the children now preparing for first Holy Communion do not disappear once they have received, we need them to stay with us because they are the future.
To help us in this time of reflection Bishop Richard has given us a few questions which are posted on the Sacred Heart School notice board in the church porch. Some of these questions are also available on a handout that will be distributed after Mass. You can take these questions home with you and in the course of the week I invite you to prayerfully ponder them and bring your responses back here next weekend. Boxes where you can place your questionnaire will be available in the porch.
There are two prayers printed on the questionnaire and I suggest we pray these as often as we can so that our responses may be influenced by God. Bishop Richard is very keen that this process be blessed by prayer so that our discernment is of the Holy Spirit and not simply human thinking.
One of these prayers is based on Pslam 25 which is the Responsorial Psalm for today, “Show us the right path, O Lord, point out the road for us to follow. Guide us by your truth and teach us, for you are the God who saves us.”
Another way of sharing your responses is to post your answers on the notice board. Post-it stickers and pens are available in the porch.
Everyone’s opinion matters; no voice is more or less important than another – the innocent voice of the child, the enthusiastic voice of youth, those who are single, married and the wisdom of those who have lived long years in the faith. It might also be good to talk about this as families around the table at home.
St. Vincent Pallotti, founder of the Pallottines, believed strongly that every baptized Catholic has the right and obligation to be involved in the work of Jesus in the Church, so we ask St. Vincent to pray for us that, like him, we may draw our inspiration and strength from Jesus in the Eucharist, in Holy Communion. The Eucharist is the source of all Catholic life and without it we have nothing.
Let’s pause and listen to the prayer of St. Richard of Chichester who is secondary patron of this diocese:
“Thanks be to you, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits and blessings which you have given to me, for all the pains and insults which you have borne for me. O most merciful Friend, Brother and Redeemer, may I know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly.” (St. Richard of Chichester, a patron of the diocese of Arundel & Brighton)
THE QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:
Each Catholic in the Diocese is called to be a disciple of Jesus and to bring others to know Him. We are invited to reflect on how we can best do this as a Community by prayer and by reflecting on the following questions:
1. What three things do you think we most need in order to fulfil our task as a parish and as a Diocese?
2. What roles can be best carried out by the lay-faithful?
3. What can you do as a member of the Catholic Community?
4. If we were starting the Diocese today, with 25 priests, where would you place them? (here we are asked to think beyond our own local parish)
Please circle the age bracket you belong to: 18 or under; 19-30; 31-50; 51 or over.
You are welcome to sign your name at the end if you wish.]
Please use the space below and on the reverse side to share your observations and reflections:
From 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time until the beginning of Lent we will sing the Mass settings from the New People’s Mass by Dom Gregory Murray at 11.30 Mass.
This will help us all to learn a Mass Setting in English ( in a Gregorian style) which we could use for Masses when all the Parish is together, eg. Christmas, Easter and other Holy Feasts.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Every day provides us with opportunities to reflect on the wonder of God’s love for us and the Gospel of today’s Feast enables us to see that love reflected at every age of life.
Simeon is an example of patient waiting and trust. He has lived his whole life in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah and, as he takes the Infant Jesus in his arms in the act of Presentation, his life’s work is complete. His eyes have seen salvation. His expectations and hopes are fulfilled. Anna the elderly woman, who is always at prayer, rejoices and her joy spills over as she tells everyone she meets that the Immanuel – God-with-us – is here.
Mary and Joseph, carrying out their responsibilities as devout Jews, have offered their firstborn to the Father. The Word made flesh is offered to the God who spoke the Word at the very dawn of time. Just as Mary ponders in her heart at the birth of her Son, so must we. To realise that this infant child, reliant upon Mary and Joseph, is the “Word that was with God…in the beginning” is a most wonderful truth. Simeon, in his own way, expressed what John writes: “The Word was made flesh. He lived among us.”
As we gaze upon the Holy Family, gathered with Simeon and Anna in the Temple or in their home in Nazareth during the thirty hidden years, our first response must be “to look, listen, to meditate and penetrate the meaning…of this very simple, very humble and very beautiful manifestation of the Son of God.”
Such reflection will draw us closer to Jesus and enable us to understand more deeply the wonder of our own family life. No matter how small or large our family may be, “the family is the original cell of social life.” It is in the family that the “foundations [are laid] for freedom, security and fraternity within society.” It is in the context of the family that we are trained “to live together in this greater home [society]. In the family, we learn closeness, care and respect for others.”
Family life is never without its struggles and difficulties, but it is in the midst of these struggles – perhaps sometimes even because of them – that we grow in our witness to the One who is God-with-us. The family is a community of action, a place where the Gospel is proclaimed and where witness to Christ is given through “solidarity with the poor, openness to a diversity of people, the protection of creation, moral and material solidarity with other families, including those most in need, commitment to the promotion of the common good and the transformation of unjust social structures, beginning in the territory in which the family lives, through the practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.”
All must be modelled on the person of Jesus and when we look, listen and reflect on the Holy Family we also learn to imitate. On this Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth and on every day, may we rejoice with Simeon that the Messiah has come; may we listen to the Holy Family and reflect, as Mary did, on the wonder of God’s love; may the love of the Saviour, whom the Father placed in the care of the Family of Nazareth, transform our families, that we may truly be his witnesses to the World.
With every Blessing,
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Bishop of Arundel & Brighton
 Lk. 2:30.
 Mt. 1:23.
 Lk. 2:19.
 Jn. 1:1.
 Jn. 1:13.
 BLESSED PAUL VI, Address, 5th January 1964.
 CCC, n. 2207, cf. ST. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Familiaris Consortio, n. 21.
 POPE FRANCIS, Encyclical Letter Amoris Laetitia, n.276.
 ibid. n. 290.
 BLESSED PAUL VI, op.cit.