Pastoral Letter Solemnity of the Holy Family 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
These days of Christmas have their ups and downs. If you are home alone, that sense of being on your own can be intensified. If you are with family, it can be great. But unusual combinations of relatives and the lack of routine can bring their own tensions. I hope that, at the heart of these days, you are experiencing the love of God made visible for us in Christ Jesus.
On this Feast of the Holy Family, we continue to celebrate the central mystery we proclaim in the Creed – “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”
At this Mass, in the Gospel, we jump twelve years from Jesus’ birth to the incident where Mary and Joseph find him in the temple. When I pray that fifth joyful mystery of the rosary, the Finding in the Temple, I cannot help thinking of the sword that would pierce Mary’s heart. Of course, it must have been hard for Jesus, too, as he said to his mother, “Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?” While Jesus returned home to Nazareth, how important were his mother’s prayers “who stored all these things in her heart.”
For all of us, our growth and development and the different stages of life are a challenge. It is encouraging to see those same challenges in the Holy Family.
It was encouraging for me, too, at the Synod in Rome last October, to hear all the challenges of marriage and family life discussed so fully. The challenge for some was one of survival in the face of poverty and persecution. For others, like ourselves, there is the complexity of our society in which our understanding of marriage is being deconstructed.
In response, the Synod affirmed that, for God’s people, marriage is the union of one man and one woman in an indissoluble bond. The importance of preparation for marriage was stressed, not just in preparation for a wedding, but from our earliest years, both at home and in school. There was also an emphasis on the role that the parish community can play in the preparation for and celebration of marriage.
And there is more for us to do. Many of us who are separated or divorced or remarried, feel at one remove from the community, and sometimes have a sense of not being welcome. All of us, not just the priest or the deacon, are urged to accompany people in difficult situations and support them in discerning a way forward in their life of faith. Certainly, they have a part to play as members of the Church.
That theme of accompanying one another and supporting one another is central to this Holy Year of God’s Mercy. As sinners, we need God’s mercy. And we can help one another to seek God’s mercy and experience his forgiveness. How many people are waiting for you or me to invite them to share the same experience.
We marked the start of the Jubilee of Mercy with the opening of a Holy Door at the Cathedral on 8 December. What a family occasion that was! It was a real celebration of our Diocesan family, and I would like to thank the many clergy and people from around the Diocese who were able to attend.
As we prepare to enter into a new year, may a door of mercy be open in our parish and school communities and in our hearts and homes especially for people who are seeking the mercy of God. As God’s family may we be alive to one another and to all who are searching for God. May we support those preparing for marriage and help one another in the messiness of family life and in the sheer business of coping.
May Jesus, the face of God’s mercy, and Mary and Joseph revive in us all the awareness of the family’s sacred and inviolable character, and its beauty in the design of God.
With every blessing for the New Year,
Bishop of Northampton