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Friday, December 9, 2016
Text: Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor at Chrism Mass
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¬†Cardinal Cormac gave the following homily during the Chrism Mass at Westminster Cathedral last Thursday The Oil of Chrism, which we bless today, is the oil which makes sacred new beginnings in a person's life, whether at Baptism, Confirmation or ordination to the priestly ministry. It symbolises the truth that the Church is always young. Ours is a community constantly enlivened and refreshed by new members, new witnesses to the faith and by new priests to bring people the overwhelming generosity of God in the gift of the Sacraments. Our Mass of Chrism is a profound moment in which to reflect on our calling, as priests and lay people, to minister and bear witness to our calling to be, and to be seen to be a 'Young' Church. That calling implies that as the community of the people of God the Church must particularly concern itself with the needs of the young. To paraphrase Gaudium et Spes, their struggles, their joys, their questions, their enthusiasm, their sorrows and their idealism must find a place at the heart of our mission. Often as I meet the priests and parish teams in the diocese, I hear people ask "What about our young people?" "Where are they?" "How are we supposed to share our faith with them in ways that will capture their imagination?" There is often a real sense of urgency, bordering on despondency in the way these questions are phrased. And that is because one of the most urgent challenges for the Church is how to help our young people discover, or perhaps rediscover, their place in our midst. This is not just a matter of their spiritual formation, but also the whole emotional, physical and psychological well-being of those who are God's gift to his Church. We need to ask ourselves "What is it that young adults seek from us - priests, religious, lay men and women, single people and, above all, parents?" I was talking to a priest the other day about young people and he said that he felt what they wanted most from him is what he found most difficult to give, and that was -time. We are all so busy, overwhelmed by demands of our domestic lives, keeping appointments, juggling pastoral and other responsibilities. But for love to thrive, being present to and for one another is necessary, and that means spending time together. Every wise Christian knows that if one is to grow in the inner life, aligning oneself ever more closely with God, one must give time to God in prayer. Laying the foundation of trust takes time too and this is particularly true for our young adults. Would that we were able to devise ways in which all of us, not just priests or religious, could spend more time with our young people - making more time just to listen to their concerns. I don't entirely accept that young people today are really so different to the young of our generation. During Lent I had a series of meetings here in the Cathedral with between three and four hundred of the young people of the diocese. It was very moving to be with them and to hear of their great enthusiasm, their idealism, their great desire for God. And more than anything else, it was an experience of great hope to see how they so much wanted to make the journey together. How they felt encouraged by each other and were delighted to hear one another's faith story. They are searching for the same things that we all search for - they are just as pre-occupied with questions of justice, right relationships, making the world a better place, striving for a truth and a holiness in their lives. At the deepest level they are searching for meaning. What truth is and what love is. Like us they look around them and ask how it is that humans treat each other the way we do. Youthful idealism some will say. Yes, it is but it is more than that. It is a striving towards the reality of modern living with the prompting of the Spirit giving encouragement in that search. That's why it is incumbent on us - bishops and priests in particular - to take our young people seriously and join them in their search because although we may find ourselves joining the search from a slightly different path, their search is our search too. And increasingly, as I discovered recently, young people are looking to the Church to provide support. And frankly while they may look to us for re-assurance, for guidance, for teaching - and they do; we would do well to look to them for rejuvenation, for inspiration, for enthusiasm and for laughter. This is a two-way street we are travelling down. Years ago I visited the ecumenical community of Taizť with a group of young people. As anyone who has been there knows, Taizť is a powerful demonstration of the very strong attraction that music and silence exert in the spiritual lives of young people. It was exciting to be sit among 5000 young people alternately chanting, praying and silently contemplative. And in Latin too! The silence was extended, profound and palpable. At Taizť, in an atmosphere of candlelight, icons, kneeling around a cross, young people find something to assuage their hunger. That something is the Spirit of God. And after prayer, the community stay behind, ready to listen to young people unburdening their hearts. This is an inspiring model for us - myself included. There is no doubt that ritual and liturgy play a vital part in our spiritual development. They open up for us the reality that God is much greater than our normal patterns of speaking and acting. This is something which young people accept instinctively. The liturgy can be a means to help them discover the face of God in their lives. We must continually explore ways to help young people participate in these life-giving celebrations of Our Church, so that they can more readily and generously embrace the demands of the Gospel. Let us today pray for the wisdom and courage to be good guardians, good co-disciples, good parents, good pastors. It is in moments of silent listening and prayer that we will discern how best to become the loving bearers of wisdom and authority that our young people need. There are no easy answers to the challenges we face as we strive to become a community of love. But I know that at the heart of that community, and indeed its best hope, must be our young people. And our duty is to walk with, serve and pray together with them. As families have to be sanctuaries of life, so too do parishes. And for that matter, dioceses. All must be communities of hope and love. Our celebration today is a family one, a diocesan one. The Diocese is not just a division of the Universal Church, it is a communion, a family of faith and lacks nothing of what it means to be Church. It is my privilege as Bishop to be head of that family, a visible sign of Christ the High Priest, the Good Shepherd, the Teacher and Servant of all. It is my privilege to consecrate the Holy Chrism; to ordain priests and deacons to be in communion with other Bishops and with the Pope who presides in charity over all the Churches. This is what is mirrored in the Chrism Mass. What is mirrored is our communion, our unity in faith and our commitment to the mission of the Church to build the kingdom of God here and now. The Church is a family of mission. All of us are required to take on this mission. I want today to encourage you in our task as a People with a mission of life; to be a community where all of us find a home, and where especially our young adults find hope and find life. I constantly give thanks to God for you all. It is really a great joy to be one with you all, priests, pastors, religious and people. The Holy Spirit is with us. As the first Reading says, "The Spirit of the Lord has been given - to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord to comfort all those who mourn and to give them for ashes a garland, for mourning robe the oil of gladness, for despondency, praise. We all are a race whom the Lord has blessed." source: Archbishops House
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