Weekly Newsletter(click to download PDF)
The Rector writes ...
Each year, the Bishops of England & Wales ask us to set aside one Sunday to reflect on the precious nature of the gift of life – every life, without a single exception. The theme they have chosen for 2104 builds on what Pope Francis said to the three million young people gathered around him at World Youth Day in Rio last year – “young hearts want to build a better world”. The Holy Father invited them to be “protagonists of transformation” and urged them not to be mere “observers of life”, but to get involved. “Jesus did not remain an observer, but he immersed himself. Don’t be observers, but immerse yourself in the reality of life, as Jesus did”. Our Bishops want those words to stand as a challenge to us all – young and old alike.
There are three basic texts which can help us reflect on life as a gift. When God called Jeremiah to be a prophet in Israel, he spoke these words: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you: before you came to birth, I consecrated you”. In Psalm 139 we read: “It was you who created my inmost self and put me together in my mother's womb. You knew me through and through having watched my bones take shape when I was being formed in secret”. And from a more recent source, Benedict XVI: “we were conceived in the imagination of God before we were formed in our mother’s womb”.
Every human life is special: special, because life is a personal gift from God. That is a fundamental truth which must ever be forgotten. There are so many of us in this world: the figures are mind-boggling – but it is our belief that God knows each one, and cares about each one, intimately and personally, because each of us is His own precious creation. God made a specific decision that you, and I, and every other individual should have being. Whatever the human circumstances, the gift of life can never be accidental. But why did God choose to bestow the gift of life on each of us in the first place? The old Penny Catechism provides the answer: “God made me to know him, love him and serve him in this world and to be happy with him in the next”.
So much around us today is damaged, unjust and violent. We are right to feel frightened by the destructive powers which can be unleashed, and outraged at the levels of suffering we witness on all sides. But as Christians we remain, despite every contradictory sign, a people of hope because we trust in the words of Saint Paul to the Romans: “nothing can come between us and the love of Christ". The re-creation of the human person, begun in the Incarnation, will continue until God’s kingdom is finally established “on earth, as it is in heaven”. When Jesus was questioned by Pilate about the nature of this kingdom, he stated clearly that what he had come to establish was “not of this world” – expressed another way, what is to come will go way beyond the most radical of our expectations and will result in a total re-ordering of the whole creation – ourselves included. Our true hope lies in the imagination of the Father being so much greater than our own.Although the Church rightly has clear views about the right to life and protection of the most vulnerable, we must try not to allow ourselves to be isolated into a defence of the human person only in the first and last moments. The Catholic moral tradition is deeply concerned with these extremities, but it is also much broader, vitally concerning itself with the quality of every life, how it is lived and how it can be enhanced. This means that questions of healthcare, education, the environment, housing, racial and social justice, a fair distribution of resources, employment and everything else to do with the dignity and happiness of an individual must be part of the Church’s agenda too. If this is God’s world, and everyone who shares God’s world is one of his beloved children, then how each life is lived is of crucial importance to God, and must be so to us. There is a co-responsibility which is intrinsic to the understanding that we all have the same Father which should spur us to join Pope Francis as “protagonists of transformation”.