Text: Cardinal Cormac on Good Friday

 Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor gave the following homily at Westminster Cathedral on Good Friday Today we confront a reality that is inescapable. It is not the joy of Christmas: the angels, the star, the infant in a manger. Nor is it the culmination of the Easter event; the joy of the resurrection, a new beginning, hope flooding back into our world. Today we meet the fundamental symbol of our Christian faith - the cross. And the cross brings us face to face with the reality of suffering, of sin and of death. In our liturgy today we revisit the darkest moments of the Passion, we re-live the pain, the mental anguish, the abandonment of Jesus. And in re-living those moments we are confronted with the mystery of our own suffering and the sufferings of those nearest to us. I remember once watching a mother teaching her little child to make the sign of the cross. And it dawned on me that this is the moment in the life of every Christian child when, as parents or teachers, we begin his or her education in the fundamentals of the faith. The cross literally marks the beginning of our understanding of what it means to be a Christian, just as it marked in baptism the beginning of a new life in Christ. The mark, or sign, of the Cross: so simple: so profound. A mark and a sign of something as precious to us as life itself. Because the Cross with which we sign ourselves is the Cross of Christ, the Son of the Living God. When we sign ourselves with that Cross, when we kiss it, we manifest to others our belief that Jesus, the Son of God, suffered and died, not because he had to, but because he wanted to, he needed to. That is what love does, and on the cross we see ultimate love going to the fullest extreme; out of love for us he lays down his life. No one takes my life from me, says Jesus, I lay it down of my own free will. And our first response to that is a profound silence and a kiss of adoration. We gather as Mary and the apostle John gathered at the foot of the Cross. We remember and recall that God in Christ died a painful death, for you and for me, out of love, so that we might have life. We also come together for another reason today. That is to take upon ourselves the true significance and reality of Jesus' death in our own lives. Jesus died on the Cross once for all. But his dying calls us into dying too. We come together today as the Church, as God's people, to acknowledge this truth, and it is hugely significant that we do so. Traditionally Catholics have always come together on Good Friday in unusually large numbers to celebrate the liturgy. Each of us is drawn by the deep resonance that the Cross of Jesus has in our lives, answering its echoes, and responding to the deep attraction that this Suffering Servant exercises over our hearts. We are struck by the words of Jesus, those uncompromising words, If you want to follow me, if you want to be my disciple, you must take up your cross daily and follow me.. If you want to save your life you must lose it for my sake. But what exactly does Jesus mean by this? Our Christian lives must be caught up in dying and rising to life through death. The death to which we are called is not for most of us a dramatic kind of death - like the death of martyrs. And the cross we are called to carry is not usually a dramatic cross which crushes us and causes us to fall in the way that Jesus fell. Yet we do not need to look far to see signs of the crucified one everywhere. We cannot ignore the suffering we see in our papers or on TV - the terrible suffering of the conflict in Iraq; the soldiers and civilians who have died, the families who have lost loved ones; and the desperate plight of the Iraqi people. Who could fail to be moved by the hunger and desperation, not just of the people of Iraq but of billions the world over who suffer and die because they have no food? But let's not forget that there is also the cross we find nearer home, perhaps in those near and dear to us who suffer from disease or pain or loss. So often it is in the small things and in the everyday places that we will find our cross. And let us remember that so often it is not the cross we choose ourselves that we will be asked to carry but rather the cross we would rather not have. Each of us must learn the science of the Cross and become an authority on the meaning of Calvary in our lives. I invite you today to recognise that if your life does not include some participation in the passion of Jesus, then it is not fully a Christian life. How have you participated in the passion of the Lord? In what way have you helped to alleviate the sufferings of others? In every age the Church has been threatened, less by persecution, hatred or the sins of its members than by a failure to, witness to the truths of the Gospel. What imperils us more than anything is a lukewarm life. Each one of us has to live more deeply the dying and rising of Jesus Christ. And we must do this in the simplicity of the everyday of our own lives. Christ's journey of suffering and death and resurrection is the pattern for our own human journey too. If in our own lives we acknowledge the call to die and to rise through our endeavour to live according to the mind and the heart of Jesus; if we do this not only will we rise to new hope and new life in this life, we will also rise to enjoy it more fully in the next. As Jesus said, Yes, God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life.. Source: Archbishops House

Share this story