Pastoral Letter, 4th Sunday of Lent 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, the Church marks a moment of respite on our Lenten Journey as we celebrate Laetare Sunday. Taken from the Entrance Antiphon for today’s Mass and quoting the Prophet Isaiah, the word “Rejoice” calls us to the happiness that comes from the light that Christ brings. This joy, this rejoicing, is a gift to those who look at their lives in a new way – a way illumined by the person of Jesus Christ.
Today is the day of the Second Scrutiny for those preparing for Baptism at Easter. The whole Church prays for an increase in joy as we prepare to welcome new Christians amongst us, those who make a new journey in the light of the Gospel.
This new life is seen in the man born blind, who receives his sight at the hands of the Lord. This miracle is all about new life. By curing a man on the Sabbath, Jesus challenges the Pharisees and breaks with the old ways. For the people, such a cure is completely new, for nothing like this has ever been witnessed before. As for the one who has been cured, he can experience human dignity by being released from the bondage of begging. New possibilities and new responsibilities open up for him.
Just as the once-blind man in the Gospel sees for the first time in the physical sense, so Jesus calls all of us into the light of his life. Coming from darkness to light can be dazzling at first. It certainly challenges us, for Jesus enables us to see ourselves as we really are. This is a necessary step on our Lenten journey, for it is the first necessary step on the road to repentance and forgiveness. The Sacrament of Penance enables us to turn to Him for the forgiveness that is given freely to those who repent.
This repentance then opens for us new possibilities. “Try to discover what the Lord wants of you,” St. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians. Our lives become journeys of discovery as we open our minds and hearts to his invitation. Samuel looked at the sons of Jesse with his own eyes and did not find a leader for the people. He could only do this when God showed him the way. It is the same for us. We find the path to life when we are truly open to the light that comes from Christ. It is in him we find our dignity and the new possibilities that lead us to life.
This is true for us as individuals and for the whole Church. We live in challenging and exciting times in the life of the Church. If we are to be sure of our footing on the journey to which we are called, we must be open to the gift of repentance and open our eyes, open our minds and hearts, to the dazzling message of the Gospel. Faithful to that message, we shall be able to carry out the Mission to which Christ has called us through our Baptism. We must be light in the dark places of this world, a community that faithfully proclaims the newness of the Gospel Message, despite the difficulties that will always come with a real response to Christ’s call.
We rejoice today as we see those soon to be baptised take part in the second scrutiny. Let us give thanks to God for them, for they are signs of new life for the Church, already witnesses of the path that leads to light.
As we continue our Lenten journey, I ask you to join with me in prayer for every person and every community within our Diocesan family. Guided by the Holy Spirit, may we come before the Lord in repentance, that our minds and hearts be open to the joy of his light, a light and a joy he commands us to share with our brothers and sisters.
With every Blessing,
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Bishop of Arundel & Brighton
 Eph. 5:9.