Pastoral Letter for the Feast of the Holy Family

To be read out and made available on Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st December 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ

At the beginning of this year I wrote to you and asked you all to imagine what our diocese would be like in five to ten years time and what we would need to do in order to make our imaginings come true.

I am grateful for the large number of responses. As we come toward the end of this year I would like you to know that all the responses have been read and that they have formed the basis of the practical steps that need to be taken in the next few years.

Many of you will remember the gathering held at St Brendan’s College,Bristol with more than 300 people representing nearly all of the parishes within our diocese. Many schools and Religious Communities were also present. On that occasion, I presented my own vision for the future and the practical ways in which we can work together to make that vision a reality. Both my vision and the way in which it will be implemented is contained in the document a Future Full of Hope. Over the next three years we will focus on Mission, Prayer and Communion.

My wish is that over these years we will gain new insight into the person of Jesus Christ and his mission so that we may have a renewed and deepened encounter with Him. We will do this through the eyes of Mark, Luke and Matthew – observing the Sunday cycle of scripture readings which will also include every year the Evangelist, John.

A resource has been prepared which will guide us through the Year of Mission. I presented this to parishes, schools and religious communities at a celebration of evening prayer at the Cathedral just before Advent. The resource contains reflections on discipleship and mission and suggestions about ways in which we can engage in mission. As we do so we need always to be aware of the reality of the world in which we live and the real issues which we need to address.

Today, as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, we are told to let the message of Christ, in all its richness find a home in us. We are invited to teach each other, to share our faith with one another and to advise each other in all wisdom. We are called to be God’s people, his chosen race.

As God’s people we have a responsibility to live our faith for the good of others – to be sent in the name of the Lord, clothed in sincere compassion, kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Over all these clothes to keep them together and complete them we must put on love. If we are such a people we will be builders of the Kingdom of God.

The idea of building the Kingdom can seem like a daunting task and we might be tempted to think that Kingdom building is work that is best left to others. However, through our baptism each one of us is called to share in the mission of Christ. If we all acknowledge our part and are faithful to our calling then the Kingdom of God will grow.

Facing a new year, like Abraham, we are setting out on a journey of faith. We might have to leave behind the security of the past but we can look to the future in hope. We trust not in our own strength but on the strength that comes from God who gave Abraham courage as he set out not knowing where he was going. God was leading Abraham to a rich inheritance and so also with us.

I wish you all blessings for 2018 as we journey as God’s people. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace.

With my prayers and best wishes