The following homily was given today by Archbishop Kevin McDonald at his installation service at St George's Cathedral, Southwark As I said in the letter printed in your booklets for today's Mass, this is a very good time for and a very good day for the ceremony of installation that has taken place. It is the Season of Advent and it is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the patronal feast both of the diocese I have come from and of the diocese to which I have come, and I look forward now to life and ministry here in the Archdiocese of Southwark. The Season of Advent is, of its very nature, a time of looking forward. It is a beautiful season and one, I always feel, that passes too fleetingly, overshadowed by too early preparations for Christmas. The liturgy of Advent explores and expresses something that is central to, and characteristic of our Christian Faith inasmuch as it is about looking forward in faith and hope to the coming of the Lord. It is this sure hope and this certain faith which underpin our lives as Christians, giving us motivation, purpose and direction and indeed future. Advent is a season of the Spirit as explained in the famous sermon of St Bernard where he talks about the three-fold coming of Christ: his birth at Bethlehem, his coming at the end of time and his coming now in our time through the continuing outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the hidden coming of the Lord. He calls it his coming "..in Spirit and in power." It is the Holy Spirit that reveals Jesus to us today, and brings us to life in Christ, renewing and deepening our hope and trust in the Lord who comes, and giving us confidence in our own present reality, in our own identity, and in our future as the time when the Holy Spirit will act in our lives, in our communities, in our parishes, in our diocese, in the Church and in the world. This hope and faith in God's action of which I speak is expressed most clearly and most securely in the Magnificat of Mary, whose feast we celebrate today; Mary who said "yes" to what God asked of her and was promised that the Holy Spirit would come upon her. In the Magnificat she proclaims the power of God to overcome evil and challenges any resignation and pessimism that we can too easily harbour and fall into about the eventual victory of good over evil. Mary knew the fruits of that victory from the outset, but she stands for us as a symbol of hope in the face of war and terrorism, of the problems of poverty and deprivation and of discrimination, and the breakdown of families and communities. All of these are very real to us all, we encounter and know them, but there can be justice and peace, integrity, chastity, fidelity. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our preaching and teaching, talking and speaking, must be of God's coming "..in Spirit and power" to heal, to forgive, to restore and to give new life. That is our good news - this is what we evangelise - and just as Mary was chosen, so we have been chosen to hear the Gospel of hope and to articulate it in our own way, our own circumstances, whenever opportunities present themselves The letter to the Ephesians which we have heard today affirms that we have been chosen, chosen within the purposes of God. We have been gifted for a vocation which is unique and specific to us. Today I have publicly responded to my vocation to serve in this very large local church: to be a father and brother to the priests and deacons, to work with our Religious, so important a part of our lives, and to be a pastor to all those entrusted to my care in our parishes, schools and other institutions. To collaborate and witness together with fellow Christians in other Churches and to seek mutual respect and understanding with people of other Faiths and so many other things. I thank God for all of the riches and the treasures that are here in this diocese and for the gifts and talents that you bring to the Cathedral today. I thank God for you and for those you represent, and I will seek to co-operate with you in responding to what God will ask of us in the years ahead, making all things new within the purposes of God, which are so much greater than our own schemes and projects. So the installation of a new bishop inevitably inaugurates a new time, just like the arrival of a new priest in a parish. It invites us to work together: to faithfully hand on what we have received to hand on the forms of the Gospel and Catholic Faith while also being open to the new things God can do in and through us, "..in Spirit and in power". Where is the Lord leading us? This is not the time to outline plans and projects: my task now is to learn, to listen, to discover, to seek to understand. This is vital for me as someone who is new to the diocese - someone with flat 'a's from the Midlands - and new to the South-east of England. But a few things I would like to say. Many of you will be familiar with the Pope's exhortation for the new millennium: Novo Millennio Ineunte. It is a kind of charter for the Church today, both inspirational and practical. Pope John Paul invites us to contemplate afresh the face of Christ: to look to Him, to look forward to Him, to be focussed on the Lord. We must preach Jesus Christ, unambiguously and clearly. The Pope speaks of the thirst for spirituality that is part of our present reality and says that our parishes, schools and communities must be Schools of Prayer, a phrase I find very powerful. They must be places where people can catch a glimpse of the face of Christ, where spiritual and moral hunger can be nourished, where people are attracted by a spiritual life that will draw them into the fullness of the Truth, not the substitute truth, but the Truth that sets us free, where they can make of themselves a living sacrifice to God, offering with the whole Church the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ to the Father and so find community, the communio which is the work of the Holy Spirit as they hear the Word of God, and feed on his body and blood. That what we have to offer and it is everything. The longing for spirituality and for community is a longing for Eucharist. We must proclaim this and provide it. The call is there, the opportunities are there, the field is ripe for the harvest in this city, in Kent and the whole land. This is the season of the Spirit, the Spirit working in people's lives, and we must not fail them. As the people from Northampton have heard me say before, there never was a Golden Age ofChristianity, a time when the powers of darkness were impotent, no time when the work of the Spirit was unopposed. This is the season of the Spirit. This is the best time to be a Christian, to be a priest, because it is our time: it is the only time we have, the only opportunity we will get, the time for which we were made. Let us reach out to those who hunger and thirst for justice, to those who seek meaning for their lives. If we grasp the opportunity together, then we will not fail those who need to hear the Word of God and receive the Holy Spirit. May God bless our work and bring it to fulfilment. Source: CCS
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