To be read at all Masses during the weekend of November 16/17
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The message of the Lord from the writings of the prophet Malachi and from St Luke’s Gospel seems to be full of doom and gloom.
In them, God insists that all material things that we think should give us confidence and hope – even the magnificent Temple built to last for ever at the heart of the city of Jerusalem – will eventually pass away.
Through this supposed doom and gloom, however, the Lord conveys to us a message of hope and reassurance, for in spite of everything, God is still in charge of the world, and his presence among us, both now and at the end of time, is able to transform everything for the good.
We, therefore, are to remain firm in our trust and hope in Him, for, as the Lord reminds us: “Your endurance will win you your lives”.
To his first disciples, who are about to witness the Lord’s passion and death, these words, “Your endurance will win you your lives”, encouraged them to be firm in trust and hope, for they promised that His death would lead to His future glorification when he will return to call his people home.
To the Christian communities who are experiencing the darkness and distress of persecution and martyrdom, these words in the Gospel serve to fill them with hope and strength and reassurance.
In our own challenging times, the Gospel is marginalised in favour of the prevailing ideologies of the new orthodoxy that seeks to destroy the very roots and nature of who we are as human beings, both our purpose and our destiny.
The Church seems to have lost her moral integrity in the light of the terrible clerical and lay abuse scandals.
We are overwhelmed by the social and political situation in the world and in our own divided country as we see an increase in violence, the culture of drugs and the culture of death, the scandal and tragedy of human trafficking, and the growth in the huge numbers of the many who are deprived of their basic human rights across the world.
In all of this, however, the Lord’s words are those of hope and re-assurance: “Your endurance will win you your lives”.
We believe that in Jesus Christ, God came among us to share in our human life.
Pain, anguish and injustice are embraced by him on our behalf on the Cross.
Jesus assures us that God can be found in the midst of all human distress.
It is when we turn to God, acknowledging our own poverty and nothingness, that we will discover true hope and reassurance, discovering also the power to witness to his love.
This Sunday, the penultimate of the Christian Year, has been set aside by Pope Francis as the annual ‘Day for the Poor’.
Not a day of prayer for the Poor – that would be too easy for us all – but the ‘Day of the Poor’.
Our Holy Father says that this is a small contribution which the Church gives to the poor of every kind and in every land, so that they do not think that everyone has forgotten them.
It is a day when we are called to make more than just a gesture in their direction.
We are to bring to their lives the hope and the reassurance of what we have experienced in our own lives – the gift of the Lord Himself.
You will already have heard that earlier this year Jean Vanier died; he was a great apostle of the poor.
He opened up new ways of walking beside our brothers and sisters who live with severe disabilities, people whom society tends to exclude, and he enabled them to be fully a part of society.
He gathered around him great numbers of young people who worked daily to give love and hope to many vulnerable people.
His witness and enthusiasm changed the lives of countless numbers of people and helped the world to look differently at those less fortunate than ourselves.
I am very aware that across the Diocese there are so many people and parishes who also work each day to bring love and hope into people’s lives.
Through your witness and the enthusiasm in many different projects and activities you bring hope and reassurance to the poor, the lonely and the marginalised.
For all of you – members of the SVP; the young people in our Catholic schools; parishes that open up their halls as night shelters for those who are homeless during the winter months to provide warmth and food; those of you who serve lunches in a parish hall; those of you who work in the many food banks across our Diocese; those of you who work for the welcoming and integration of refugees; those of you who seek justice for those who have no voice of their own and for all who seek to make a difference to other people’s lives – I express my sincere gratitude for all that you are doing.
Today in our cathedral in Norwich, Caritas East Anglia is at last being officially launched.
We have appointed a Director, Mrs Jacinta Goode, who along with the members of our Caritas Commission will be responsible for overseeing and encouraging all that we do as a Diocese, so that we can be even more effective in our service of the poor.
The Launch will see representatives of our parishes welcoming fifty homeless people from Norwich to the Narthex and sharing Sunday lunch with them.
The Alive in Faith campaign has raised a significant sum of money which is already being applied to projects across the Diocese which seek to assist those who are undergoing severe hardship.
The St Edmund’s Fund also seeks to assist individuals who find themselves in a crisis or emergency situation.
Details of both funds can be found on the Diocesan website and each of these have been made possible by the great generosity of our parishioners.
In all that we do for the poor, we must always remember that we are taking the Lord and his message to them – doing so often without words for it is the Lord Himself, working through us, who is welcoming and listening, who loves them and brings them his message of hope and reassurance.
With all good wishes and gratitude for all your witness and enthusiasm and an assurance of my prayer for you all.
Yours devotedly in Christ,
Rt Rev Alan Hopes
Bishop of East Anglia
Pictured above, with outreach worker Tina (left), is Michelle, whose family has been helped thanks to funds from Alive in Faith given to the Reach Community Project in Haverhill, Suffolk.