The Chrism Mass is always a very moving one, because in a special way, the local Church is gathered together: fellow-bishops, priests, religious, lay men and women - here together we listen to the Word of God and hear how Jesus loves us and has wiped away our sins with his blood and made us a line of kings, priests to serve His God and Father. To Him then be glory and power for ever and ever (Apoc). Here the oil of Chrism and Catechumens and Sick are blessed. These are not empty signs but signs of faith and the presence of the Lord in our midst. So too we celebrate the Holy Eucharist, the very heart of our faith. And today the priests reaffirm their readiness to renew their own dedication to Christ as priests of the New Covenant. A word for the priests. I remember just about 20 years ago, going to a little Church in East Sussex to receive a man called Malcolm Muggeridge, and his wife Kitty into full communion with the Church - an extraordinary occasion. He had invited a group of disabled young people along from a home that he supported and the group was a very mixed one. In the midst of a certain bustle and noise I confirmed them both and gave them for the first time Holy Communion. And I was moved by the way he described it in an article: "There was a sense of home-coming, of picking up the threads of a lost life, of responding to a bell that had long been ringing, of taking a place at a table that had long been vacant. I have often sat in darkness and cried aloud to the Holy Spirit for deliverance." But it is not only Malcolm Muggeridge, but sometimes even you and me, for whom the bell has long been ringing. How often does life not always cohere with our faith? The old certitudes seem to crumble, old bells no longer ring. The sacramental life - the mission that we are committed to fulfil - enthusiasm sometimes diluted and the living memory of Christ no longer living for me. We find faith in today's culture arduous, anxious, fearful. What can I say to all of you? I suppose that there is no substitute for a constant conversion to Christ. Turn to Him in prayer, asking Him to renew, not just our sorrow for sin but our commitment, our enthusiasm for the mission that He has given us. It is He who can change us from a mediocre to a more authentic ministry of the Gospel. Our reading says, 'you will be named priests of the Lord, they will call you ministers of our God. I will reward them faithfully and make an everlasting covenant with them. You are priests - and will always be priests - and our struggle and our faith and our mission must be lived out day by day. One of the bishops who was created Cardinal with me was someone called Cardinal Francis van Thuan. He is from Vietnam and a few months after he had been ordained Bishop in 1975 he was taken prisoner and lived for 13 years in prison, nine in solitary confinement. He describes his time in prison: how at first his mind was wracked with confused feelings, sadness, fear, tension, when his only future seemed to be this agony and death. But he became convinced during the long nights in prison that living the present moment is the most simple and the most secure way to holiness. He prayed, 'Jesus, I will not wait, I will live the present moment and fill it with love. The road of hope is paved with little steps of hope, the life of hope is made of these minutes of hope; every minute I want to sing with the whole Church, Glory to the Father and Son and Holy Spirit'. The way to holiness, dear fathers, as mine is, is every day. Daily prayer, daily conversion, daily commitment to the ministry to which we have been called. So undo any mental habits or negative self-talk that lead to low morale. Pray and be faithful to the gift God has given you and respond every day to the call to conversion which comes as very gift of God to you. To everyone I would say this. I have often been asked by people in the media during this past year how do I account for the present state of the Catholic Church in our diocese and in our country. There seem to be a small minority, with fewer numbers going to Mass; fewer priests; the task before us seems immense and some days may seem mpossible. I do not believe this. The strength as a Church, as the Body of Christ, is not based on numbers. Jesus never talked about numbers, rather, He said in St. Luke, 'Fear not, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom. You are the light of the world, you are the salt of the earth. See, I am sending you out as lambs into the midst of wolves.' His attention was not to numbers but to the little ones, to sinners, to Zaccheus, to the Samaritan woman, to the pardoned, sinful woman, to the adulteress, to the poor. If we are a minority in the world, is it not because Jesus Christ is calling us to live according to a new style of Gospel; to make our own His priorities and His preferences. This is what he says today: 'The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me, he has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, and to the blind new sight. To set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord's year of favour'. I believe, dear priests, dear people, that what we must do is quite faithfully, quite simply, with hope say this, "Lord Jesus, I will endeavour with God's grace to do willingly, simply, humbly, bravely, the duties, the vocation to which You have called me and to do it because it is your will and your will is my peace. One of my favourite prayers in the daily celebration of Mass is one you all know so well. 'O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, by the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit, your death brought life to the world. By your holy Body and Blood, free me from all my sins and from every evil. Keep me faithful to your teaching and never let me be parted from you'. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor Archbishop of Westminster
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