A PASTORAL LETTER
FROM THE BISHOP OF LANCASTER
FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT (2017)
Appointed to be read aloud at all weekend Public Masses in the Diocese of Lancaster on the weekend of 2/3 December 2017
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
On this First Sunday of Advent, the Lord, speaking through His Church, offers us the opportunity of a new beginning. The Scripture readings for the season of Advent will remind us of just how close Jesus Christ has come to us, by becoming man and being born of the Virgin Mary in a stable at Bethlehem. Nor has the Son of God ceased to be close to us, for as our Lord and Saviour He accompanies each one of us on life’s journey, gracing us with His loving presence and saving power. Advent therefore is a call to acknowledge the greatest of all truths that is the Incarnation and its ongoing relevance for us in our everyday lives.
God’s people of old longed for a Saviour, someone who would deliver them from their enemies, protect them, and ensure their well-being. Our faith teaches us that in the fullness of time a loving Father answered this longing by sending Jesus Christ His beloved Son – in flesh and humanity like ours. Through His public ministry, His death and resurrection Christ has revealed to us the saving plan of His heavenly Father, and so shown us the true path to life. The sacred season of Advent is a time when, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we deepen our understanding of the story of our salvation and make it our own. That is the grace and also the challenge of Advent.
Christ exhorts us no less than three times in today’s gospel “to stay awake”, so there is a real urgency to take seriously what He says about His coming. The Church teaches that Christ will return again finally, when He ‘will make all things new’. We don’t know when that final coming will take place, but our solid Christian hope is that whenever it comes we will be alert and ready to meet Him, and find Him not a judge but an infinitely merciful Saviour. We know from experience how easily we can be caught up in the material things of everyday and the general cares of life. The Scripture readings and the liturgy of Advent appeal gently to us to make space in our hearts for God, and to listen to the wise promptings of the Holy Spirit who, we are told, dwells in us as in a Temple.
This hallowed but short season of Advent speaks to us of the deep yearning in the human heart for that salvation which God alone can give, and which does not come and go, but ever endures. Our Blessed Lady in the words of Scripture, ‘treasured and pondered’ all the things said about her new-born Son. Mary is a wonderful model for each of us and for the Church as we begin Advent, for she opened her heart to God’s word and generously consented to be the Mother of Jesus Christ.
My dear brothers and sisters, may this holy season of Advent find us awake and watchful in prayer, ready to welcome the Saviour, and above all to celebrate with joyful and faith-filled hearts the wonder of His birth among us at Christmas time.
With the assurance of my prayers and a blessing on you all,
As ever in Christ our Lord,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster