It was a wonderful sight to see on a cold, dark, frosty November evening. Five hundred or so people from every corner of the diocese to join Bishop Declan in a simple celebration of Evening Prayer in our Cathedral. As part of the celebration, the Bishop was to present to each parish, religious, and school community as well as each of our diocesan departments, resources for the approaching Year of Mission as part of our diocesan vision, A Future Full of Hope
In his homily, the bishop reminded us that whichever community we belong to, wherever we have come from within our diocese, we are one. The evening reflected that unity of a diocesan community and a real enthusiasm for the journey we embark upon together.
But the bishop asked us to consider what ‘face’ we are giving as a diocese, as parishes, as religious, as schools to the wider world? Hopefully, he commented, we are revealing the face of Christ for we are called to be the face of Christ. It is Christ who is the loving face of God and so our world should encounter the presence of God in us, he said.
“Our lives are transformed because of our encounter with Christ. We become a mission! I share in the mission of Christ for our world. And so in this Year, we are reflecting upon what it means to be a missionary church and missionary disciples, transforming our world according to the plan of God. We are a people who are called to build bridges, called to action in the name of Christ.”
Our lives are a proclamation of the gospel and the bishop reminded us that we are not being called to do anything extra but simply to allow what are already doing to become the vehicle through which our world and those around us come to know the transforming power and goodness of God’s love.
Bishop Declan invited us to go back to the scriptures and, most especially, the Gospel of Mark; to hear the words of Jesus, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of God is close at hand’. We hear those words anew so that we can come to God and, through our lives, bring others to know him, too.
The resource for this Year of Mission was presented by Bishop Declan to each community. If you felt you didn’t receive enough copies then you can always contact Fr Christopher for more. Alternatively, you can easily download the electronic version here.
Keep an eye out for events, liturgies and resources to accompany our diocese through this Year of Mission and into a future full of hope.
You can hear the full Homily that Bishop Declan gave below:
Phil Gibbons also spoke to a few people who had made the journey to the Cathedral last night. Hes asked them why it was important that they were there for this launch:
Download the Mission book here: A Future Full of Hope Mission book
Full text of Bishop Declan’s Homily:
As I said at the beginning of our celebration, you are very welcome to the cathedral, the mother church of our diocese. You have come from all different parts of our diocese, so wherever you have come from we belong together, we are one.
As you came into the cathedral you may have noticed the exhibition of fifty faces, if you didn’t, have a look at it before you go. We have the photographer here with us. Fifty faces of people from the Holy Land, fifty faces of people, some of whom are Christian, some of whom are Jewish, some are Muslims, and yet in a sense they are called to live together as one. However, there is often a tension in their society which pulls them apart. Christians in the Holy Land, ask themselves ‘What is our mission?’ ‘What is our purpose?’ ‘What gifts do we bring to the wider community in which we live, in which we work, in which we have our everyday lives?’
As you look at those strong faces, also look at the strong faces around you tonight, because all of us have a face. Perhaps the question that we need to ask ourselves this evening, as we are about to receive this mission resource in the year of Mark, whose icon is here, is to ask ‘What is the face that we are giving as a diocese, as parishes, as religious communities, as schools and organisations – what is the face we are giving to the world?’ Those questions each one of us has to ask and answer individually as well as members of the community. Whatever face we are giving, hopefully we are showing the face of Christ – because that is what we are called to do, to be the face of Christ.
As Pope Francis reminded us in The Year of Mercy, Christ is the face of God. So when people see us, in a sense, they recognise and they see, the presence of the Lord, the presence of God with us. Pope Francis also reminds us that as a people we need to be open to the presence of the Lord with us, and if we truly welcome Christ into our lives, then our lives are changed, our lives are transformed. We become a different people. We become a new people. With that encounter we have with Christ our Lord, we become a mission. Pope Francis doesn’t say I have a mission to do, he says I am a mission. Each one of us can also say ‘I am a mission. I share in the mission of Christ, the mission of God’.
As we enter a new liturgical year, we are reflecting upon what it is to be a missionary church, what it is to be missionary disciples and how as missionary disciples we engage in the life of the wider community, transforming it according to the plan of God. The plan of God is summed up in the commandments – to love God with your whole being and your neighbour as yourself. We are a people who recognise a common humanity. We are a people who recognise that we are called to build bridges and tear down walls of prejudice. We are a people who are called to act in the name of Christ, who came not to be served but to serve and give his life for all. I’m encouraging us to have a vision for our diocese. We are a people who believe in Christ, every day giving our hearts to Christ and every day renewing our commitment to him. We are a people who celebrate the presence of Christ in prayer, in the Eucharist and in the other Sacraments. We become the sacraments we celebrate. We become the prayer that we offer. We are called to transform all of that into actions so that the world of which we are part is renewed by the power of the Spirit. With St Paul we recognise our responsibilities – our responsibility to hear the gospel personally so that our lives proclaim the Gospel by our very being. We are not asked to do anything extra. All of us have very busy lives already, but we are called to do what we are doing well so that when people see us in our everyday lives, they recognise the call of holiness that comes to all people from God.
When you receive this resource book, it is intended for the whole year ahead. Some things you will find that will be helpful for you as an individual. Some will be helpful for you as communities, as parishes, as schools, as organisations, as religious communities. This is a book that provides choices, a book of resources. However, the greatest resource that we have is the book of the Scriptures. This year we are looking at mission through the eyes of Mark.
St Mark at the beginning of his gospel, has Jesus saying, repent and believe the good news. To repent is to turn to God, to become an attractive people, to become a joyful people. In turning to God and believing in the God who comes to us in Jesus Christ, we become missionary disciples.
Thank you for your willingness to enter this year of mission. You are the life of our diocese. Whatever part of the diocese you come from, it will be a good year, because it will be the year you allow the Lord to be at work within you. You will truly be the face of Christ.