Lenten reflection from Archbishop Vincent Nichols

 Archbishop Vincent Nichols writes about the hope and mercy of Last Judgement in his Pastoral Letter for the start of Lent, writes Peter Jennings. In the Pastoral Letter 'On Hope', read in all churches throughout the Archdiocese of Birmingham during the weekend the Archbishop said: "When we ponder the Last Judgement we probably think first of heaven and hell", but "What about the Judgement itself? How are we to understand it? What will this Final Word be? Will the final word spoken of us be the record of the mistakes we have made, the damage we have inflicted and endured?" "Faith opens up for us a different prospect. In faith we believe that another word has been spoken at the beginning of time and will be spoken at its ending. This other word is a word both of judgement and mercy. It is therefore a word of hope. This word is a person Jesus, the King and the Merciful Judge before whom each of us will stand. He will be the Final Word spoken over the life of each of us. He is the Last Word or our history. He is the giver of the Last Judgement we all receive." "Our faith tells us that this Last Judgement is also an action of God's mercy. As we stand before the Judge, he sees with total clarity the kind of life we have lived. What matters is that the Just Judge can see within us, despite the stain of our sins, whether we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth, towards love. "Under the gaze of this Judgement, as St Paul tells us, all that is unworthy within us is burned away, consumed in the fire of His Love. Through this purifying love, we are prepared for entrance into our heavenly home. This is the gift of mercy. The promise of this mercy means that we do not despair or give up in the face of sin and failure. Rather we look to the moment when we will be freed of all that burden." Archbishop Vincent Nichols concluded: "In the weeks ahead we must look again at how we live our lives, the things in which we put our trust. We do so knowing that a Final Word will be given about our life, given in justice and in mercy at the Last Judgement. This is a prospect of great consolation and hope for us all. "Thankfully we are not left at the mercy of fickle public opinion or of fate. We are in the hands of the living God, with faith and love for Our Lord who alone is our true and lasting hope." The Archbishop of Birmingham introduced his Pastoral Letter by reminding Catholics that Pope Benedict XVI had recently published an Encyclical Letter on the Christian virtue of hope.

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