Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster and spiritual leader of the five million Roman Catholics of England and Wales, has celebrated a special Golden Jubilee Mass at Westminster Cathedral on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his Ordination.
The Jubilee Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor at Westminster Cathedral, London, at 5.30pm on Sunday, 29th October 2006. In his homily he said that the essence of Priesthood is to be of service to others. “On the day of my ordination, above all, I recognised that my Priesthood was not for myself but for others and that it was to be a life of service to the People of God. For that I dedicated my life.” He also pointed out that people today are as ready to hear the call of God as they were 50 years ago: “Vocations have not dried up. The faith has not dried up. The hope that is in Christ has not dried up. It is there, still in our midst.”
Full text of Homily
HOMILY AT MASS IN WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL
Sunday 29th October 2006
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
What a lovely passage of the Gospel has just been read to us. The blind man is crying out to Jesus, “Son of David, have pity on me”. And he keeps crying, “Son of David, have pity on me”. Jesus turns and calls him to him and says, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man says, “Lord, that I may see”. We are told that his sight was restored and that he followed Jesus along the road. How well the man’s gratitude is captured by the Acclamation in today’s psalm, “What marvels the Lord worked for us. Indeed we were glad”.
I suppose, dear friends, I might myself say the same words as I look back on fifty years of priesthood and say also, “What marvels the Lord worked for me. Indeed I was glad”. My eyes were opened to the light of faith in my Baptism and in the Holy Eucharist so many years ago. My eyes, too, were opened to truth and example of Jesus my Saviour by the example of others: my parents, my wider family, my community, which is the Church of Jesus. “What marvels the Lord worked for us. Indeed we were glad”.
But for me, particularly, on this anniversary of my priesthood, how can I give thanks for the marvels the Lord worked for me as a priest? It is, and has always been the Lord’s work. In the letter to the Hebrews today we hear, “No one takes this honour on himself but each one is called by God. Nor did Christ himself give himself the glory of becoming High Priest but he had it from the One who said to him, ‘You are my Son. Today I have become your Father. You are a priest of the order of Melchisedeck and forever’.
On the day of my ordination I knew that through the sacrament I was receiving that I was being signed with a special character and united to Christ the High Priest in such a way that I was able to act in the very person of Christ, the Head of the Church. I was ordained to preach the Gospel, to celebrate the sacraments and to shepherd the faithful people of God. Above all, I recognised on that day that my priesthood was not for myself but for others and that it was to be a life of service to the People of God. For that I dedicated my life. So, indeed, I can say today, “What marvels the Lord worked for me. Indeed I was glad”. Glad, because in spite of my weaknesses and sins, that I have been able to render some service to the People of God over so long a time.
So as I speak to you on this day, the anniversary of the day when I celebrated my first Mass, I think I would like to say that the life of a priest is, can and should be a worthy one and a happy one. I have never regretted my decision to be a priest. I hope and trust the Lord will give me grace to persevere to the end. I believe that the vocation of a priest is a precious gift for the Church. But it makes demands on the man who gives himself to it. St. Paul says in his letter to the Thessalonians, that he “handed over to God’s people and to the Church, not only the Good News, but his whole life as well”. (1 Thess. 2:8). That is what a priest is called to do. He must in an extraordinary way ‘put on Christ’, be like Him. By his words and example he must show Christ to others. All I can say is that this task is worth doing and I think that there are many young men in our Church who are ready to hear that call. A vocation is a call, not just from the Church but from God directly to a human soul. It takes time for a man to work it out and for the Church to verify it.
Vocations have not dried up. The faith has not dried up. The hope that is in Christ has not dried up. It is there, still in our midst. “What marvels the Lord works for us. Indeed we were glad”. Has it been worth while? I believe the answer is ‘Yes’. In the words of the Irish poet Padraic Pearse, “I have squandered the splendid years which the Lord God gave to my youth – in attempting impossible things, deeming them alone worth the toil. Lord, if I had the years I would squander them over again. I fling them from me”. Oh, yes, it is worth it and today I give thanks to God for all his goodness and mercy to me over the past fifty years.
At the back of the Cathedral today you can each, if you wish, take a little card on which I ask you to pray for me on this occasion. But at the bottom of the card is a little passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, when he says, “Glory be to Him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20). I ask you, my dear sisters and brothers, to pray with me and for me to the good God who can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. He loves his Church. He loves his people. And he loves this world for which his Son, Jesus, gave his life. Indeed, we can repeat today, “What marvels the Lord worked for us. Indeed we were glad”.