Shrewsbury ... shall be a name 'as stirring to the heart as the glories we have lost'

Blessed John Henry Newman, 1852

Letters and Homilies

A Pastoral Letter to be read on 5th March, the First Sunday of Lent 2017 – On Our Daily Mission

My dear brothers and sisters,

I write to you on this First Sunday of Lent, to speak of the mission that begins anew for us each day, and to remind you of a prayer we might be in danger of forgetting: ‘The Morning Offering’.  In this Diocesan ‘Year for Mission’ I have already written to you of that mission which is renewed for us in the Mass; the missionary purpose of all our parishes; the array of new initiatives locally and for the whole Diocese which have been made possible by the fundraising initiative ‘Our Mission Together’; and, most recently, the renewal of our social mission in the launch of Caritas Diocese of Shrewsbury. I look forward to writing in the year ahead about further developments.

At the beginning of this great Season of Lent, I want to speak now of that personal mission which starts for you and for me each morning whenever the alarm clock goes off and the many tasks of our day begin.  It is a moment full of promise and not without its struggle!  In the Gospel today, Saint Matthew describes how Christ’s mission began: “Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Mt.4:1).  We see how the Evil One incites rebellion against the Father’s purpose and even tries to sow doubts about the Son’s Divine mission until he is vanquished with those decisive words: “Be gone, Satan! You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone” (Mt. 4:10).  We can appreciate why Saint John summed-up the whole of Christ’s mission in these words: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (I Jn. 3:8).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that during Lent “the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert” (CCC n. 540).  We can say that it is the same challenge which begins each morning for us and makes that one minute prayer, ‘The Morning Offering,’ more than merely a mission statement.  It is a prayer which forms the beginning of our daily mission and charges everything in our day with purpose and meaning (cf. Rom 12:1).

I was taught from my own earliest years to make this offering with words which might be familiar to you:  “O Jesus, through the most pure heart of Mary I offer you the prayer, the work, the suffering and the joy of this day in union with your Divine Heart in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”  There are numerous forms of this daily offering, some of them composed by saints; the precise wording is less important than the intention.  By making this offering, each of us sets out anew to serve the Lord our God and Him alone as sons and daughters who recognise the Divine mission entrusted to us.

By offering the small things of each day, you carry out the mission of making the world an offering to the glory of God.  I am always moved to read how the Second Vatican Council describes the mission of lay people as a priestly mission to ‘consecrate’ the world itself to God:

“For all their works, prayers and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit – indeed even the hardships of life if patiently borne – all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  In the celebration of the Eucharist these may most fittingly be offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord. And so, worshipping everywhere by holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God” (Lumen Gentium n. 34).

It is an offering which begins each Sunday in the Mass and is renewed every morning by this simple prayer.  I will be sending you a prayer card this Lent as a reminder of how we can make this Morning Offering.

Together we are taking many steps in this ‘Year for Mission’ to build-up the mission of our parishes and the Diocese as a whole, but all would be in vain if we were to lose sight of the personal mission entrusted to us.  May Lent be an opportunity for us to be renewed in this prayer – our daily offering – by which we accept the mission of every new day.

United with you in this prayer and in this mission,

+ Mark

Bishop of Shrewsbury

 

(Photo courtesy of Catholic Communications Network)