24th November, 2010.
As we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent there is a growing recognition of the need for prayer for our country and our Church at this time. We live in a fearful society. People are feeling lost, helpless, anxious and angry. Crises everywhere abound. It is the truth of biblical faith however that the God of hope is most powerfully present in seasons of hopelessness. Prayer is a powerful resource enabling us to cope with the challenges facing us, make sense of our suffering and to give purpose to our pain. I would humbly request that at Masses in your parish you would pray that the Lord would guide all our people at this critical time.
In God’s word we find a way of drawing the divinely inspired threads of human desire, of truth and goodness into a coherent pattern. The scriptures both understand and interpret us in our present difficulties; they highlight our desires, our fears and provide a key to our aspirations and expectations. When reading the scriptures in the context of prayer we get a sense of what God is asking us in our particular circumstances. God’s word has power to change perspective, to shatter, to destroy and to create. Frequently we are poised between hope and reality, and may vacillate thinking variously that this is an impossible moment of difficulty or that it is a wonderful moment of possibility.
On the First Sunday of Advent we commence the new Church year in which the Gospel of Matthew will dominate the liturgy. Our experience of failures in the Church today makes the Gospel especially relevant for our time. The evangelist was confronted with the central problem of taking the tradition about Jesus Christ and reinterpreting it in the light of new and challenging situations. He underlines for us the inseparable bond between Christ and His Church. Matthew is working in and for the Church, which is rocked by problems and tensions. In this Gospel we get an insight into how to be Church in a time of transition. The Evangelist deals with the community where there are divisions, problems of faith growing cold, false prophets, imposters, moral problems, dealing with hostility, and lack of forgiveness.
I look forward to meeting you on Sunday 28th November at 2.30 p.m. in the Cathedral for the celebration of the Gathering Liturgy to mark the first stage in preparation for the Eucharistic Congress.
With every good wish.
+ Michael Neary
Archbishop of Tuam
P. S. Please find enclosed a Pastoral Letter from the Irish Bishop’s Conference on Friday Penance.