DIOCESE OF JULLUNDUR
LENTEN PASTORAL LETTER 2016
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
We are in the Season of Lent. Mother Church has provided us her children with this gift that we may make adequate preparation for the Celebration of the Paschal mysteries which culminates in the celebration of Easter. This year’s Lenten observances are very special as we are in the Year of Mercy declared by the Holy Father Francis. Lent provides added opportunities to grow in Christian virtues through the Works of Mercy, both corporal and spiritual. Through this reflection I exhort you to pay more attention to this season of God’s abundant mercy and draw rich fruits by faithful observance of this season of grace.
1. Lent- An invitation to show mercy to one’s life.
We entered the season of Lent with the mark of ashes on our forehead, with the words pronounced over us by the Priest, “Remember man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return” or “Repent and believe in the Gospel”. We are invited to remember our destination as heaven. The earthly abode that we are in is only a temporary one: “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2Co 5:1). Since we are living in this world the tendency of the world and its mentality drives us to forget about the condition of our soul and its desire. The soul desires to enter the heavenly places to have the vision of the glory of the Lord. Our spiritual souls have been created by God for himself and it does not find happiness except in God (Cf. CCC 366): “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (CCC 27). It is due to this reality that the Church invites us to rethink and have pity on one’s soul and prepare it to receive the Lord by providing spiritual sustenance through reading the Word of God and by attentive participation in Holy Mass and worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist.
2. Lent- An invitation to show mercy to the body.
Spiritual nourishment energises the soul and it rejoices in spirit. This joy often is short-lived as the fallen nature of man drives it to be burdened with the pleasures of the world: “A perishable body weighs down the soul and this earthy tent burdens the thoughtful mind” laments the author of Wisdom (9:15). Hence the support from the body to the spiritual quest will be a positive effort to regulate the cravings of the body by rejecting the natural desires of the physical body and its flesh nature, driven by concupiscence or fallen nature. We need to subdue our bodily desires by resisting the influence of the world which is at war with the soul that seeks God. St. Paul reminds us in the letter to the Romans: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law-indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8: 5-8). Fasting, prayer and almsgiving have been traditionally proposed to us as means of renewal of life. These pious practices would purify us and prepare us to rejoice in spirit. Fasting and abstinence from food and drink would be an assertion of the power of our will over the cravings of the bodily appetites. The Church teaches us to abstain from food and drink associated with enjoyment during this season. It is a manifestation of our priorities that we are not driven by the desires of the flesh but we keep it under our control and allow us to be guided by the Spirit (cf. Rom. 8: 4). The soul that is energized by the Spirit will sanctify the body which is its dwelling place and thus the body and soul will be a unit that rejoices at being redeemed from the fallen nature and keep alive the hope of glorious resurrection.
3. Lent- An invitation to purify our communication.
Man was created by God to be His image and to live in communion with Him, sharing the joy and communicating with him. “Seduced by the devil, he wanted to “be like God”, but “without God, before God, and not in accordance with God”(CCC 398). God, in his goodness, prepared the way for the return of his estranged children through the Patriarchs, whom he chose to open the communication with the fallen humanity. Through the prophets God continued to guide humans, in words that they could understand, so that they may be prepared to welcome the salvation offered in the providence of God for humanity: “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets” (Hb 1: 1). Finally He sent His Son to guide humanity back to the rightful place in the heavens: “but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds” (Heb 1: 2). Evangelist John testifies to this: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1: 14). The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1: 4). The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, quoting St. Iranaeus, “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.”(cf. CCC 460). Jesus Christ manifested the merciful face of the heavenly Father through the words he spoke and the miracles he performed to convince a doubting humanity to believe Him that he was truly the messiah. He gave the sacrament of Baptism as a means to enter into him and be part of his body, the Church. “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Mt 28: 18-20). Thus, in union with the Lord, we are enabled to communicate with God, calling Him “Abba, Father”.
4. Lent- An invitation to reconciliation and effective prayer.
In his mercy Jesus Christ instituted the Sacrament of Penance for those who found themselves burdened with sin even after their new birth in Christ through baptism. “When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”(Jn 20: 22-23). Examining our conscience and setting it right with God and neighbour should be a priority during the season of Lent. Thus, we will be able to reopen our communication and regain our communion, with God, individually, as a family, in union with our neighbours and as one parish community. Daily personal prayer opens our heart to the heavenly Father and to experience Him. Family prayer becomes a means for the family to communicate with God, placing before Him the situation of the family and the various needs and our children will learn the art of communication with God. The unit prayer held in all the family units of the parish becomes a means to communicate God’s love with those living around us and to pray together as God’s children. The Sunday worship becomes a public witness of faith when the community prays together and offer sacrifice in thanksgiving to God. The effect of this common witness would be double if the community is bonded in love and purified from the shortcomings and failures through regular sacramental confession, reconciling with God and one’s neighbour. “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed” (Jam 5:16). Let this Lent be a time for us to reopen our communication with the good Lord by opening our hearts to Him and an opportunity to show our love for our brothers and sisters.
5. Lent-An invitation to live the Mercy of the Heavenly Father.
In Misericordiae Vultus, the Apostolic Bull of proclamation of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, 11 April 2015, Pope Francis expresses his heart’s desire to reawaken the conscience of the people. He writes: “It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty. And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy. Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in his preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as his disciples. Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. And let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead” (no.15). I invite you to carry forward the invitation given, as we began the Advent season, to be collaborators of mercy. At the Parish level, by showing mercy on our separated brothers and sisters, by inviting them to return home to the mother Church. The Parish Council members and all the faithful could take an active role in this Catholic Ghar Wapasi, by inviting those in their area to re-establish communion with the Church, becoming mediators of mercy and reconciliation. I encourage you to undertake the works of mercy in a concrete way in each of the parishes during this season of lent which could be carried forward during the year of mercy and beyond. Let us fill the Fathers house with His children. I invite you to obtain indulgences and offer them in suffrage to the departed souls by utilising the privilege granted for those who enter through the door of mercy, following the regulations in the right spirit.
Christ is risen, and he appeared to Simon Peter and the other disciples who bore witness to the risen Lord. Easter celebration should reflect the renewal of our life in Christ and become a public witness of our faith. I pray that the pious exercise of the season of Lent may help us to renew our life in Christ and make us His witnesses. Let us be sincere in our efforts and observances and try to live our faith generously testifying to the graces received from the Lord. As others hear us speak about our experience of Christ they too would be touched by the Lord, if the witness we bear correspond to the life we live, in holiness and charity. May the Blessed Mother, Patroness of our Diocese, intercede for us. Wish you all a Happy Easter!
Bishop’s House, + Franco Mulakkal
Jalandhar City Bishop of Jullundur
February 10, 2016.
N.B. This pastoral Letter is to be read and explained to the faithful on the first Sunday of Lent in all Holy Masses.
Download PDF FORMAT Lent Pastoral Letter 2016
ADVENT PASTORAL LETTER 2015
Dear Reverend Fathers, Reverend Sisters, Reverend Brothers and My Dear People of God,
1. We are at the beginning of a new liturgical year. It reminds us that an eventful year has just passed. We thank God for all the blessings showered up on us during the past year. The Year of the Eucharist was celebrated in each parish and a solemn conclusion took place on November 22 at Sahnewal on the Solemnity of Christ the King. I thank all the organisers who took the pain of preparing for the programmes and all of you who have cooperated and benefitted from the Jubilee Year of the Eucharist in our Diocese. Different centres of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament have come up in our Diocese and I encourage all our faithful to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament and benefit from the richness of the Divine presence which is an answer to all our human problems.
2. Year of Consecrated Life
The Year of Consecrated Life, commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, which speaks of religious in its sixth chapter, and of the Decree Perfectae Caritatis on the renewal of religious life, began on 30 November 2014, the First Sunday of Advent, and would conclude with the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple on 2 February 2016. We thank God for the vocations of men and women who have consecrated themselves to the Lord. The sole purpose of consecrated life in the Church is to love the Lord more perfectly and serve the Church, which is His mystical Body, through the loving service rendered according to the various charisms under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
3. Family as Nursery of Vocations
We have 7 men Religious Congregations and 27 Women Religious Congregations present in our Diocese, besides Pious Association of the Friends of Birds of the Air and, more recently, Franciscan Missionaries of Jesus (FMJ) founded by me on October 4, 2015. Their presence, prayers and service add to the richness of the Church in Jalandhar Diocese. The daily worship offered to God by all of them adds to the quality of our life in the Church and strengthen us to face the challenges of our daily life. We need more young people ready to serve the Lord and become intercessors and fragrant offerings on behalf of the Church. The Holy Family of Nazareth offers us valuable insight for more vocations. The family that lives in genuine love, contemplating God and searching to please God in everything become a garden where beautiful flowers of saintly children are born. Holy Father canonised one such saintly Married couple on October 18, 2015. Louis Martin (1823-1894) and Zelie Guerin (Martin) (1831-1877). They were married on July 13th, 1858. Nine children were born to them; seven girls and two boys. Within a three year period, the two baby boys, and two daughters aged five years and six-and-a-half weeks all died. Their last child was born on January 2nd, 1873 and named her Marie-Francoise-Therese Martin, known now as St. Therese of Lisieux and ‘Little Flower’. Let us follow the example of this saintly couple by welcoming children as God’s gift and creating an environment of holiness in the family where Baby Jesus can be born. This can be achieved only through efforts made to grow in holiness and a desire to please God in everything.
4. The Year of Mercy
Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy is announced by the Holy Father Francis. The Jubilee Year of Mercy will begin on December 8th, 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, principal patroness of our Diocese, and will conclude on November 20th, 2016, Solemnity of Christ the King. God is a merciful Father and we, as his children should experience this mercy and in turn become ambassadors or vehicles of God’s mercy. Misericordiae vultus invites us to contemplate the merciful face of God in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God’s merciful love for humanity. We must make every effort to receive God’s mercy. The Jubilee Doors in our Cathedral and Deanery Churches in our Diocese are symbols of entering into the heart of God’s mercy.
First of all let us prepare ourselves during this advent season to welcome the Lord which is an immediate preparation to the celebration of Christmas. Sacramental confession is the direct means of obtaining this mercy and preparing our lives to welcome the Lord when he comes. Let us remember that we are all sinners in need of God’s mercy. Christmas celebration should be preceded not only by carol singing and preparation of crib but also by fruitful reception of the sacrament of confession. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:8-9). Adequate arrangement for sacramental confession should be made in all our parish churches where faithful may obtain the mercy of the Lord through the ministry of the priest.
6. Choose Life
God is inviting us to make fundamental option for life or against life. This means choosing God, the author of life, or rejecting Him. Rejection of God brings about a culture of death for humanity in various formats. “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Let us opt for God and find life in its fullness. This life is in Jesus Christ who has been offered for us as a means of everlasting life. “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).
7. Option for the Poor
Where can we find God in our daily lives? We find God on the side of the poor. During the year of mercy we are invited to give more attention to works of mercy both corporal and spiritual (cf. Misericordiae vultus 15). The corporal works of mercy are: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. The Spiritual works of mercy are: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinner, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead. Therefore any decision that we take in favour of the poor is for God. A small step in this regard was the widows’ fund begun in the Diocese. Any contribution made towards support of the Widows is a concrete step to side with God.
8. Daya Sagar
To commemorate this Year of Mercy in a concrete manner our Diocese is going to start a project called “Daya Sagar” or “Ocean of Mercy”. This is envisaged to look after everyone for whom there is no one to care for in this world. This is to facilitate every member in our diocese, friends of our diocese and very one with a generous heart to become partners and collaborators in the work of mercy. Remember the words of the Lord, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Mt. 25:40).
9. Blessed Christmas
Our preparation for Christmas is to be extended throughout our life in preparation for welcoming the Lord when he comes in glory. I pray that the savior may be born in the hearts of all people bringing joy and peace. May the Church rejoice to see more children born in her lap as God’s children. May the Saviour grant the necessary graces to all families to take up this great responsibility with joy. After the example of Mary and Joseph let us make our homes places of prayer and work in union with God and a happy dwelling place for all our children. Wish you all a Very Happy Christmas and God’s abundant blessing for the New Year 2016.
Date: November 24, 2015 + Franco Mulakkal
Bishop’s House, Bishop of Jullundur
Note: This Pastoral Letter is to be read explained to the faithful on all Masses on the First Sunday of Advent.
ADVENT PASTORAL LETTER 2013
Dear Reverend Fathers, Reverend Sisters, Reverend Brothers and My Dear People of God,
My First Pastoral Letter
I extend my greetings to each and every one of you in this holy season of Advent. I am glad to write this Advent Pastoral Letter, the first after being entrusted with the responsibility of shepherding the Diocese of Jullundur. The Apostles themselves wrote letters to the Churches expressing their concern for them and further reminding them of the faith preached to them “Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to refresh your memory… And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things” (2 Pet 1:12-15). As the beloved disciple of the Lord mentioned, “We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete (1 Jn 1:4). Again he says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin” (1Jn 2:1). The successors of the apostles from early times onwards wrote letters to the Churches “entrusted to them by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit … so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it” by their teaching (cf. CCC 81). They exercised this in the name of Jesus Christ and remaining in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome (cf. CCC 85). Now it is my turn to write, in keeping with the tradition of the Church to recall the mysteries and exhort you to a fervent life based on the mysteries of Christ.
Advent A Time of Preparation
Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Messiah. God prepared the people of Israel over a period of time to welcome the Messiah. It began specifically with the call of Abram and promising him to turn him to be the father of a great nation. God made covenant with him which was a prefiguration of God’s eternal covenant with man in Jesus. “The coming of God’s Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed to prepare for it over centuries” (CCC 522). This preparation involved from the gradual awakening of desire for God in the hearts of peoples to the covenant on Mount Sinai, the handing over of the commandments, the religious and ritual practices involving sacrifices. The prophets kept alive the expectation of the Messiah in the minds of the people of Israel as they spoke in the name of God to make way for the coming of the Lord (cf. CCC 522). The immediate preparation for the coming of the Lord was the work of Holy Family of Nazareth and “Prophet of the Most High”, John the Baptist who holds the place of the last of the prophets of the old and the first to welcome the messiah when he came, already from the womb of his mother Elizabeth. We are fortunate to be part of this preparation during this season of Advent. Our preparation has to be similar to that of the preparation for the first coming of the Lord. God helped Israel through the covenants, commandments and guidance through the prophets. Today we are assisted in and through the Church in the liturgy of the advent season to be prepared to receive the Lord when He comes. The most important preparation is the spiritual preparation.
At the Solemnity of Our Lady of Peace on November 3, 2013 I declared a Marian Year for our Diocese which would conclude with the Silver Jubilee Celebration of Cathedral dedicated to Mary, Queen of Peace on November 2, 2014. I encourage and exhort the faithful to make pilgrimage to St. Mary’s Cathedral in groups of about 20 persons from each Parish and intercede for the needs of the Church and for various other intentions. The Advent is the fitting time to begin this spiritual pilgrimage to the Cathedral. I propose three areas of attention for the fruitful celebration of the Marian Year beginning with the Advent.
First: Reconciliation and Sacrament of Penance. Begin the preparation by an examination of one’s life and a good sacramental confession. The commandments help us to check the areas of brokenness in our relationship with God and one another. Pope Francis exhorts everyone to go for regular confession. He speaks of confession every fortnight by his own example where God exercises his mercy through the ministry of the Church. Priests are ministers of God’s mercy and should transmit God’s loving mercy to the penitent. Parish Priests should make available specific time and days when penitential rite is celebrated and confessors are made available. We are not mere individuals but a community that awaits the coming of the Lord. Reconciliation with one another and forgiving the offences of others are signs of seriousness of our preparation. The Lord taught us to pray “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Mt 6: 12-14). This will help us not to be ashamed to receive the Lord when he comes.
Second: Hear the Word of God. There are complaints that the Word of God is not adequately proclaimed during the celebration of the Sunday Mass to the satisfaction of the faithful. While it would be difficult to satisfy the individual needs of the faithful on a Sunday Mass we must understand that “the liturgical proclamation of the word of God, especially in the Eucharistic assembly, is … a dialogue between God and his people, a dialogue in which the great deeds of salvation are proclaimed and the demands of the covenant are continually restated” [John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Dies Domini (31 May 1998), 41; cited in Pope Francis, Ap. Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 137]. However, the duration of the homily in the Eucharistic celebration has to be limited “it should be brief and avoid taking on the semblance of a speech or a lecture. A preacher may be able to hold the attention of his listeners for a whole hour, but in this case his words become more important than the celebration of faith”. . “the words of the preacher must be measured, so that the Lord, more than his minister, will be the centre of attention” (EG 138). We need to create other spaces for those who desire to listen to the Word of God. “Kripa Satsang” was begun with the intention of satisfying the needs of people to hear the Word of God. I am proposing to have eleven centres of Kripa Satsang in our Diocese where proclamation of the Word of God would take place once in a week. The team of preachers would include Priests, Religious and lay members. The families should also make a renewed effort to read and reflect on the Word of God and ask what the Lord is communicating through the passage that was read. This can take the form of Lectio Divina in the family and in Small Christian Communities where they are active and make effort to revive the SCC in every village or locality where more than one catholic family is residing.
Third: Prayer. Prayer enlarges the heart to receive the Lord when he comes. Prayer that is most effective is participation in the Eucharistic celebration as often as possible and on every Sunday without fail. As Pope Benedict wrote, “Word and Eucharist are so deeply bound together that we cannot understand one without the other: the word of God sacramentally takes flesh in the event of the Eucharist. The Eucharist opens us to an understanding of Scripture, just as Scripture for its part illumines and explains the mystery of the Eucharist. Unless we acknowledge the Lord’s real presence in the Eucharist, our understanding of Scripture remains imperfect” (Ap. Exhortation, Verbum Domini, 55). Praying the Marian Rosary during this Marian year will bring the Blessed Mother Mary closer to us. Blessed Mother would accompany the prayer of Rosary with her spiritual presence and help those who pray to welcome Christ the Lord into their midst. Hence Rosary prayed in the family will keep the family together under the care of the Blessed Mother.
Christmas A Time of Joyful Witness
The mystery of Christmas invites us to the marvelous exchange where the creator becomes human child in order to enable us to be born as God’s children. We must joyfully proclaim this good news to all who have good will. “We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our
Humanity” (CCC 526). For this reason “Jesus was born in a humble stable, into a poor family. Simple shepherds were the first witnesses to this event. In this poverty heaven’s glory was made manifest. The Church never tires of singing the glory of this night” (CCC 525). The Holy Father Pope Francis exhorts everyone to proclaim the gospel of joy that is renewed with each encounter with the Lord. This Christmas too offers us an opportunity to proclaim the joy of knowing the Jesus of the Gospel. Accompanied by the Blessed Mother let us celebrate this Christmas. I wish and pray that the joy of encountering Jesus would last though out this Jubilee Year for each and every one of you.
Wish you all a Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year 2014.
Date: November 30, 2013 + Franco Mulakkal
Bishop’s House Bishop of Jullundur
Note: This Pastoral Letter is to be read explained to the faithful on all Masses on the First Sunday of Advent.