Page 9, 24th March 2000

24th March 2000
Page 9
Page 9, 24th March 2000 — Homily of the Most Revd Cormac Murphy O'Connor at his installation as 10th Archbishop of Westminster
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Homily of the Most Revd Cormac Murphy O'Connor at his installation as 10th Archbishop of Westminster

MANI st LARs AGO I went on a holiday to the Outer Hebrides and on a visit to one of the islands, I came across a stone on which was written a particular commemoration dedicated to one of the Celtic saints, those missionaries who flourished in the 7th and 8th centuries in this part of Europe. On it was written the words: "Pilgrim Comae" and, underneath, "He went beyond what was deemed possible". I enjoyed that. But the words remind me of pilgrimage and of being a pilgrim. All through my life I have been conscious of the fact, like each one of you, that the Lord Jesus called me and touched me through his Spirit, led me to pastures new. I love those words, "the Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want; he guides me along the right path, he is true to his name". Now he has led me from the pastures of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, here to Westminster. to follow a friend who was so much esteemed and loved, Cardinal Basil Hume. A shepherd's staff is passed on to fresh hands, but with the same message: to guard, to teach, to proclaim. It is a message of joy and of hope; it is a message of salvation for all Cod's people.

To you, my dear priests and people of the Archdiocese of Westminster, may I say this. Of course, it has been in many ways sad for me to leave the Diocese of .Arundel and Brighton where I have been so happy and fulfilled for many years. But I want you to know that it is with a sense of gladness and hope that I come to you as your new shepherd and pastor. Of course there are challenges as we look to the future. But like that great Pope John of happy memory. I have no time for prophets of gloom. I do not believe these are gloomy times for the Catholic Church in our country. When the skies are dark the light shines more brightly. For those who follow Jesus Christ, there is assurance that in him. God has visited his people. Just as in Jesus Christ the people were healed and taught about the Kingdom of God and assured that their sins were forgiven and that God had a destiny for each and every one of them, so it is true for its today. What can I say to You, but the prayer of St Paul in today's reading: "This is what I pray, kneeling before the Father, out of his infinite glory may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong so that Christ may live in your hearts." And if in any way we are daunted by the road ahead, listen to what St Paul says to us: "Glory be to God whose power can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine." It is not we, but the power of God working through us that brings the harvest.

To my fellow priests there is much to say — and little — so I will say little. On September 3rd, the feast of St Gregory the Great, I am always moved by a passage in his homily in which he reflects on being a shepherd, a pastor, a watchman. He says this: "Who am I — what kind of watchman am I? I do not stand on the pinnacle of achievement, I languish rather in the depths of my weakness. And yet the Creator and Redeemer of mankind can give me, unworthy though I be, the grace to see life whole and power to speak effectively of it. It is for love of him that I do not spare myself in preaching him." As the years go on, one of the graces of the priesthood. in my view, is the ability somehow to see life whole, with wisdom and with compassion and therefore with something of the eyes of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that is ovvhaj we preach and that is whae we wiwess to in spite of our weakness and in the years to conic I rejoice that we will do that together.

I am conscious today that we of the Catholic community are not alone. Many of us in this cathedral will remember the visit of Pope John Paul to this nation 18 years ago. I remember it well as it was my privilege to be the first to greet him as he landed at an airport in my former diocese. But fur me, one of the most moving moments of that memorable week was his visit to Canterbury Cathedral. There, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and with the Anglican and Free Church leaders meeting and praying together. I confess to you that as I watched it, tears came to my eyes. I thought to myself. this is how it ought to hi, this is how the enmities, the misunderstandings, the hurts of the past must end — in common prayer — in a communion that is real, and in a common witness to the one Christ in whom we arc already one. Of course I know the obstacles and the difficulties on the path to full Christian unity. I can only echo what Pope John Paul said at Canterbury on that day: "Behold before us the path to the future. Behold before us the desires of so many hearts. You who are the Lord of history and the Lord of human hearts, be with us."

The road to Christian unity is like a road with no exit, a pilgrimage of grace we make together. More and more, it seems to me, that all of us who profess Jesus Christ, must speak with one voice to give witness to him in this strange and wonderful new world in which we live. I pledge myself to do so with my whole heart.

BI1T TO WHOM do we speak? Before whom do we witness in these countries of ours — England, Wales — and Scotland? I believe that ever more urgently, another voice needs to be heard in our nation. Today's Mass is a Mass of jubilee, where we remember that which Jesus Christ came to do. In today's Gospel he says at the beginning of his ministry: "The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me, he has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, to the hlind new sight and set the downtrodden free."

Is it not extraordinary that in this world of such technological advancement. so many people live in dire poverty, while we claim so much of the world's riches? In common witness with fellow Christians and, indeed, with those of other faiths, and all people of good will, I believe that each and every one of us is meant to live by what is true, by the truth of our very humanity. the truth of our human condition. You see, we are not free people when, as individuals or as a society. we live in ways that undermine or deny the truth of how we are meant to live. This truth is fundamentally that every human being has a dignity because, made in the image and likeness of God, and that dignity must be protected and nourished above everything else.

People forget that the principal goal of the moral life is' the flourishingand fulfilment of that humanity for which all of us have been created. The moral question is not i,herefore, 'What ought We, to do?" — bat, "What kind of persons are we called to become?" How often have I been asked, rather like the young man in the Gospel, "What must I do to live a deeper Christian life?" This is not so much flues to be followed, but about the full meaning of life

the appeal from the God who creates and attracts and beckons us. What kind of vision are we giving the young people who are growing up in our society today? What kind of people are they being called to become? What kind of a culture do we want the people of our society to have? 1 believe that there are values, which the vast majority of people in our countries, in their hearts of hearts, share and these values and truths need to be heard with ever increasing strength. As I look out at our society I see many things that give me joy. I see young people with great ideals for building a better world, who try to live many of the ideals of the Kingdom of God. Every summer for the past 22 years I have taken a group of people to Lourdes, including many young people. There I see them engaged in prayer. in caring for the sick, enjoying each other's company as a community of faith — and it is as though they have a new lung with which to breathe and new eyes with which to see. Sadly, there are many things in our society that undermine and trivialise what are gifts of God. Unless the truth about the dignity of people, about the family, about the common good of our society are spoken aloud, critically and clearly, then the freedom that we boast about is not really freedom at all but an imprisonment by the darker sides of human nature. Did not Jesus say, "It is the truth that sets us free?"

FAR FROM constraining our human nature, the truth enables us to fulfill it. Only if we strive to live accordingly to what is true will we be truly free to become what we are called to be. Here, then, is an enormous task but one that should engage all people of good will. We Christians must be at the heart of it.

I must end. I had a priest uncle who began every speech at family gatherings by quoting a passage from Isaiah, "Remember the rock out of which you were hewn." I hope you won't mind if I end these words by remembering the rock out of which I was hewn. I suppose like so many of you here in this cathedral today , I too

give thanks for all that has nurtured me and been the rock of my soul during my life. I mean my mother and father, my family, my friends and so many who gave me example and their prayers and their support and their love. But my final thanks to Christ's Church which has made me live, in the strongest sense of the word, a sense of order and beauty and gift.

That is why I believe that it is the greatest oc blessings to belongto the'rarnily of the Much. In her I find an instrument, a sign, the very body of Christ who is our hope and our salvation. In her we rind our deepest communion and a mission that is truly a light for everyone. 1 know that the Church must always be refonned and that it is composed of saints and sinners. The Church has always been the heart of my soul, the model of my spiritual being. It is to Christ's Church that I give my loyalty and my love. So I continue as a pilgrim traveller, always teaching, yes, but always listening and always looking for the road ahead. It is not for nothing I chose my motto Gaudium et Spes — joy and hope — and there will be much joy and hope in the time ahead. stippose I am not wally unlike that ancient Celtic traveller, the pilgrim who went beyond what was deemed possible, or like Si Paul in today's reading, kneeling before the Father from whom every family, whether spiritual or natural, takes its name. Today let our prayer together be, "Glory to Him whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory be to Him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever, Amen.




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