Pastoral Letter For Advent 2012

“Go, make disciples of all nations, baptise them & teach them”

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The recent past has been marked of faith-filled events. The first was the Bishops Synod on New Evangelisation; next was the Launch of the Year of Faith at the beginning of that Synod; third was the International Conference of the Pontifical Council for Catholic Healthcare on the Pastoral Care of Workers and finally the Consistory for the creation of six new Cardinals.

When so many events flow together you have to ask: Is the Good Lord telling us something important that we as Church need to do?

Quite clearly a major concern expressed at the Synod is the “state of faith” among the Faithful. Perhaps even more the quality of our faith!

Is it a faith based and built up on a living knowledge and experience of the real Jesus?

Do we know and believe what the Church knows and believes about Jesus?

How can we individually and as the Family of God, live our faith so that the New Evangelisation affects every level of our life?

Advent is a good time to begin the process of renewing both our knowledge and our practice of the faith. We could use as our starting point the Lord’s final instruction to his Church: “Go, make disciples of all the nations, baptising them … and teaching them!”

What does “make disciples” mean in fact? Or as we would say today “evangelise”?

It means identifying ourselves as disciples of Jesus by a way of life that shows that we know Jesus personally. It means showing them how to come to Jesus through Baptism and the Sacraments! It means doing all that Jesus instructed us to do.

At the Synod on New Evangelisation we were reminded frequently that we have to start with ourselves. Only then do we go and say to our neighbour: “Repent and believe in Jesus and his Gospel”. By declaring the Year of Faith in the first week of the Synod

our Holy Father was offering us an ideal starting point. Let’s take it with both hands.

The Year of Faith is nearly two months old already. So, it’s a good time to look at what we are doing in practice. Are you using this time of special grace to renew your faith by deepening your friendship with Jesus and with his brethren on a daily basis?

One of the practical things suggested is that we start with a good overall Confession, not the quick encounter with the priest during a penitential service, but a “Come and See” encounter of longer duration, during which you go over your life thoroughly with your confessor in the presence of the Holy Spirit and under his guidance.

A second is to make Sunday really and truly the “Lord’s Day” – a day of Retreat, when you as individuals or as a family you “go aside to a quiet place to be alone with Jesus!” Remember Retreats are not just for priests and religious. They are for all whom Jesus calls to “learn from him”.

Advent is the ideal time for parents to teach their children, not so much about how he came into Mary’s life by the message of the Angel Gabriel, but rather about how he can come into their lives right there in their family, when as a family they acknowledge his presence, enter into communion with him by welcoming him, listening to him as he speaks to them in the Scriptures and in their hearts, and answering him in the prayers.

Another practical way could be to use the Advent Wreath, whose five candles mark off the four Sundays of Advent and the Feast of Christmas. The Candles represent Jesus “our Light”. But also remind us to be “light to our world” by making Christmas a quiet time, spent together as a family rather than at parties partying away from the Church and the Family.

So, make this a time of new evangelisation by letting the Gospel story come alive for you and your family.

May God bless you with a Happy and Holy Christmas!

+ Wilfrid Card. Napier OFM
Archbishop of Durban