Synod Sunday

Pastoral Letter from the Archbishop

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29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 20/21 October 2018

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Last month the Bishops of England and Wales went to Rome for a visit and pilgrimage known as the Ad Limina Apostolorum (to the Threshold of the Apostles). Every seven or eight years or so each national hierarchy is called to Rome to give an account of what they are doing. It is not just reporting to the Pope and the heads of Vatican departments, it is also an opportunity to listen to each other. The different departments of the Vatican listened to us. Pope Francis listened to us too, and of course we listened to him.

This listening is at the heart of his authority. It is the way Pope Francis lives out one of the titles of the Pope – the servant of the servants of God. It is sometimes hard to imagine the Pope as a servant, even Pope Francis who has done away with much of the trappings that surround the Pope – but that is what he is – a servant. That is something of what Jesus was talking about in the Gospel today. He was saying that people in authority are to be servants of His people. True authority is lived out in service and that turns the way the world thinks on its head. Jesus saw authority as a way of service, to promote the good of others rather than to promote one’s own honour and glory. This is at the very heart of all our Christian service, as we each try to imitate Jesus in our daily lives.

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The only way I can live out my calling to service as your Archbishop is by listening. I need to hear the hopes and fears of our people, the challenges facing our priests and deacons, our schools, and the reality our families have to deal with each day. I have decided to call a Synod to help us to meet some of the pressing issues that we face at this time in the life of the Archdiocese. How are we to witness to the Gospel message of God’s love in a culture that seems to have little room for faith? How can we better organise our resources of priests, deacons, people and buildings so that we can become the Church that God is calling us to be? How can we best support the work of Catholic education so we pass on our faith to the next generation? How can our Catholic lives be better supported by the ministries of the Church?

The word Synod means “Together on the Way”. The Synod is a moment when together we can choose a path to walk on, guided by the voice of the Holy Spirit who will speak to us. The Synod is not just another meeting. It is a journey. We have just had a year of prayer which reached its climax for us in the Eucharistic Congress. Over the next two years we will be trying to discover the will of God through listening and learning. The voice of each one of us needs to be heard. Parishes and pastoral areas will be invited to choose members for the Synod. I hope that there will be many different opportunities for all of our people to share their hopes, their fears and their dreams of the way the Holy Spirit is at work among us to bring fresh life into our Church.

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In October 2020 our Archdiocese, priests and people together, will meet to reflect on what we have heard and vote on specific proposals that have arisen from the discussion and sharing in our parishes and pastoral areas. I have decided to work in this way because we believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in the bishops, priests and people of the Archdiocese. So, I need each one of you to play your part in our Synod process. Without you we will not hear the call of God guiding us and walking with us on our journey.

You will be given the chance to learn more about the Synod in the months to come. There is a leaflet available today which is for all of us. Please do your best to pass a copy of this leaflet on to people who may not get one from Church. The leaflet has an invitation to a meeting near you to tell you more about the Synod and how we can get involved.

I will officially convene the Synod at a special service in the Cathedral on Sunday 3rd February next year. All five hundred members of the Synod will be present at this service. From here they will be sent out to do their work of listening, reflecting and discerning, supported by the prayers of all of us. I need your help so that we can truly be a Church that listens. We all have members of our families, neighbours and friends who are Catholics, but have little contact with our parishes. Is it possible for us to listen to their experiences and their needs so that we can be a Church that serves them too? We are going to try to listen to our young people, to families with children, to those who work in our schools. What will our Church be like for them in twenty or thirty years’ time? We want to hear the experiences of those who may have made their home in our parishes only recently and to learn how we can welcome them in a better way. In all this listening and learning let’s pray that we might hear a call from God to change, to try to be His Church in a new way.

The letter to the Hebrews, our second reading today, speaks to us of God who walks with us; a High Priest who feels our weaknesses with us. It speaks of the power of prayer, reminding us that we never approach the throne of God in vain. As we prayed in the Psalm today: ‘May your love be upon us O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.’

Today is also World Mission Day. We are invited to reflect on the call of God to be His missionary disciples. God’s gifts are not given to us to be hoarded but to be shared. Please keep in your prayer the work of all those who seek to share the Gospel message across the world.

Today, with real enthusiasm in my heart, I invite you all to join in the journey which will enable us to become the Church that God is calling us to be. That is our Synod 2020 journey!

+ Malcolm McMahon OP

Archbishop of Liverpool

Have a look at the Synod website:  www.synod2020.co.uk 

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28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

Gospel  (Mark 10: 17-30)

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’

Peter took this up. ‘What about us?’ he asked him. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.’

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Reflection

There are three sections in today’s Gospel passage: a narrative about Jesus’ encounter with a rich man, Jesus’ sayings about wealth as a possible obstacle to following him, and Jesus’ promise of reward for those who share their material possessions with the poor.

Jesus reminded the rich man of the commandments that deal with relationships with other people and challenged him to sell what he had and to give the money to the poor.    This shocked the disciples because it challenged the Jewish belief that material wealth and prosperity were signs of God’s blessings.  Instead, Jesus declared that true religion consists in sharing our blessings with others rather than hoarding them and getting inordinately attached to them.

(Adapted from Fr Anthony Kadavil)

Prayer

God of Wisdom,
whose Word probes the motives of our hearts;
with you all things are possible.
Let worldly treasure not keep us from Jesus,
who looks on us with love.
Free us to leave all things and follow him,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.


27th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

First Reading  (Genesis 2: 18-24)

The Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helpmate.’ So from the soil the Lord God fashioned all the wild beasts and all the birds of heaven. These he brought to the man to see what he would call them; each one was to bear the name the man would give it. The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of heaven and all the wild beasts. But no helpmate suitable for man was found for him. So the Lord God made the man fall into a deep sleep. And while he slept, he took one of his ribs and enclosed it in flesh. The Lord God built the rib he had taken from the man into a woman, and brought her to the man. The man exclaimed:

‘This at last is bone from my bones,
and flesh from my flesh!
This is to be called woman,
for this was taken from man.’
 

This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body.

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Reflection

This passage is part of the second story of creation in the first book of the Bible.

  1.  Notice the beautiful image of Adam giving names to all the animals.
  2.  Notice the need Adam had for another human being – a need we all have.

Gospel  (Mark 10: 2-10)

Some Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ ‘Moses allowed us’ they said ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’ Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.’

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Reflection

Jesus sets before us an ideal:  marriage is for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death do us part.  I think that most people enter marriage with the intention of living out those words.  But we know that not all marriage relationships work out.  Sometimes, when a couple have tried to stay together, they discover it’s probably better if they separated.  It’s the way it is sometimes.  But just because a marriage has failed doesn’t mean a person is a second-class citizen in the Church.  On the contrary, it’s probably the time a person needs the Church the most.  In his homily before the Synod on the Family in 2015, Pope Francis said:  “The Church must search out these persons, welcome and accompany them, for a Church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission, and, instead of being a bridge, becomes a roadblock.”

Prayer

For all married couples.  In whatever part of life’s journey they find themselves, may they have God’s loving presence at the centre of their union, to support them in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until the evening of life comes.

For those who have known the disappointment and hurt of marriage breakdown.  May they be touched by the love of God who walks each step with them, and who desires a full and happy life for them.

For those who have experienced the death of their husband or wife.  In the midst of their sorrow, may they also have the consolation and joy of cherished memories.