On this coming Thursday, 11 October, the Catholic Church throughout the world begins the Year of Faith. It is called for by Pope Benedict XVI and we respond to it generously.
The Holy Father tells us that his overall objective is that through this Year of Faith we may ‘rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith’ (Porta Fidei para 1).
In particular he hopes that we will come to a deeper understanding of the truths of our faith and a renewed relationship with Jesus, Our Lord.
How are we going to make the best use of this moment? There are so many possibilities.
In our Diocese we shall follow four seasons in the course of this Year of Faith.
The first season, between now and Christmas, focuses on faith in God and in Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh.
The second season, between Christmas and Easter, brings us to look again at the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
During the third season, from Easter to summer 2013, we look at the practice of faith in moral living and generous giving.
And finally, from September to November 2013 we ponder on the place of prayer and spirituality in our lives.
The Year of Faith opens with a Mass in Westminster Cathedral next Thursday at 5.30pm, to which all are invited. It will close on the Feast of Christ the King in November next year with a solemn profession of faith in each parish.
And all this so that we may rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for sharing our faith confidently with others.
Opportunities to follow and explore these themes will be offered in parish and school, to young people and families, to catechists and to us priests and deacons. I hope this Year of Faith will bring a spirit of renewal to us all.
The questions of faith are real in our world today. You may remember the marvellous opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games in early September. Professor Stephen Hawking, speaking from his wheel-chair, said: ‘Ever since the dawn of civilisation people have craved an understanding of the underlying order of the universe………why it is as it is and why it exists at all.’
This question, and many others, team in modern minds. What does the gift of faith have to say?
We heard in the second reading today of ‘God, for whom everything exists and through whom everything exists.’ And we recall the words of St John that Jesus, the eternal Word of God made flesh, is the Word through whom the world is made. He is the pattern and principle of all things, the reason why the world exists at all. God speaks the Word and all things have life: in the beginning, now, for all time and beyond.
This is the beginning of the journey of faith, the first answer to the questions of our hearts.
The Second Reading goes much further. It speaks of God’s purpose in sustaining all creation: it is that we should be made perfect. Our lives have purpose and a promise of fulfilment. This is achieved through Jesus, the leader who will take us to our salvation.
The journey of faith is a great adventure into meaning, into love, into the fullness of being, into happiness, into eternal life. The Year of Faith can enkindle in us again the joy and companionship of this adventure and help us to realise that we have so much to offer to our world today.
I invite you to take a full part in this Year of Faith, at home, in school and in your parish.
As Pope Benedict writes: ‘May this Year of Faith make our relationship with Christ increasingly firm, since only in him is there the certitude for looking to the future and the guarantee of an authentic and lasting love.’
+ Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster