WelCom February 2021
“The steadfast love of our God never ceases,
God’s mercies never come to an end,
They are new every morning
New every morning
Great is your faithfulness O God, great is your faithfulness.”
– Lamentations 3: 22-23
When I was working at Holy Cross College in Mosgiel, which was then the National Diocesan Seminary, we often sang the words I have quoted above from the Book of Lamentations. I thought about these words as I listened to the homily of Fr Kevin O’Brien SJ at the Mass celebrated in St Matthew’s Cathedral, Washington, on the morning of the Inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, 20 January 2021.
Clearly, after all the unrest in Washington, the worldwide crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, and many, many other challenging things, people were looking for and hoping for something new. Our lives are often filled with hope for something new and different; every New Year people make New Year resolutions and we all hope and try to do new things.
This year the Archdiocese was blessed on 2 January with the news Bishop Paul Marin SM, up until now Bishop of Christchurch, had been appointed Coadjutor Archbishop Of Wellington. He is now Archbishop Paul. I very much welcome Archbishop Paul’s appointment and I know it will bring new life and energy to the diocese.
For almost 16 years now as Archbishop I have received wonderful support from the Council of Priests, Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, the Board of Administration, the priests and Archdiocesan staff, for that I am very grateful. However, I now know what Cardinal Tom Williams meant when I was appointed Auxiliary Bishop after he had been Archbishop for 15 years and he spoke of the need for someone to work alongside him and with him. I know that Paul will do that for all of us.
In the homily before President Biden’s Inauguration Fr O’Brien said, ‘Along with our Vice President-elect and her family, you come with humility and hope, asking God’s blessing and protection, God’s encouragement and strength as you serve our country. Our Lord delights in this holy desire to do good and responds with both a promise and a noble commission.’
In this first issue of WelCom for 2021 and at the beginning of a time of new leadership in the diocese we remember that we too come before God with humility and hope, asking for God’s blessing and protection, God’s encouragement and strength.
Please remember too that we all have been given ‘a noble commission’. We are reminded every year at the Chrism Mass that our Baptism and Confirmation – and for some of us Holy Orders – commissions us to do something NOBLE.
At the Mass in Washington those present heard these words:
‘First, the noble commission.
At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus goes home to Nazareth, visits the synagogue, and reaches deep within his Jewish tradition to tell his neighbours what his public life is about. Invoking the prophet Isaiah, which we heard in the first reading (chap. 58, verses 6-11), he promises to care for the poor, free the oppressed, and relieve people of their burdens…your public service is animated by the same conviction to help and protect people and to advance justice and reconciliation, especially for those who are too often looked over and left behind, the people whose voices you raised in the campaign and throughout your public life….This is your noble commission.’
The quote above from the Book of Lamentations, reminds us God’s love never comes to an end – God’s love is new every morning. When we pray and reflect deeply about our ‘noble commission’ we too will bring about the new things of God and bring life to others.
I have quoted often in the past few years some words I heard Pope Francis say in 2014: ‘The only authority you have is the authority of service’. All of us, through our Baptism, are called to serve. When we serve we make things new and God’s love becomes even more real.
As Fr O’Brien reminded President Biden and Vice President Harris: ‘As you live out this mission as servant leaders, I also remind you of the Lord’s promise, so beautifully proclaimed from Paul’s letter to the Philippians (chap. 4, verses 4-9): “The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God…. Then the God of peace will be with you.”’
We know the God of peace is with us, we know that the steadfast love of our God never ceases.