In his 2009 Easter sermon, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has said that the resurrection of Jesus is central to the the way in which Catholics and other Christians find meaning, hope and purpose in their lives. 'The resurrection of Jesus', he said, 'is not just an historical fact. It is a continuing experience.'
In his last Easter homily at Westminster Cathedral, delivered at the Solemn Mass for Easter Sunday on April 12, 2009, he said that it was important that Christian faith and values should not be imposed on society. Rather, Christians needed to lead by example, and should show through their care and by their efforts to build a better and more just world that the Spirit of the Risen Christ can defy sadness and pain.
Referring to his retirement as Archbishop of Westminster, he said that in life it was important to move forward by following the pattern of the life of Jesus, the pattern of dying in order to live. 'All of us die a little, perhaps every day, every year, every stage of our lives.... I now have to move on to a new stage of my life as I go into retirement. I have, if you like, to die a little in order to follow the Will of the Lord and begin, perhaps, a new stage of living, a more abundant life. But it does mean that I have to let go of things that I have done for many, many years as a Bishop: of leadership, of pastoral care, of responsibilities, and so many other things, and reach out to begin again and follow what the Lord wants. '
FULL TEXT OF EASTER HOMILY - DELIVERED AT THE 10.30am SOLEMN MASS AT WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL, SUNDAY APRIL 12TH 2009
My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today, Easter Sunday, is the greatest feast of the year. If Christ is not risen our faith is dead, said St. Paul. So it is no wonder that all over the world countless millions of Christians will be expressing their faith with prayers and shouts of joy and jubilation. They will be saying, Jesus is Lord. Christ is risen. Alleluia. It is in the affirmation of that extraordinary fact that we find our meaning and our hope and the purpose of our lives.
You see, the first meaning of Easter is that this extraordinary person, Jesus of Nazareth, who was nailed into timber, hammered into the ground, buried under stone, put death to flight and rose to new life. He overcame death and is risen to new life with God His Father. Jesus is Lord.
But the resurrection of Jesus is not just an historical fact. It is a continuing experience. We do not say, ‘Christ rose’. We say, ‘Christ is risen’, that He lives through his Holy Spirit, through his Word which is spoken to us, through the Holy Eucharist that we celebrate, the Holy Communion that we receive, in the sacraments, in other people. Christ is alive. Christ is risen.
I cannot help recalling at this point the burial of Pope John Paul II in Rome. There were countless numbers of people expressing through prayer and thanksgiving their belief in the Risen Jesus because they were saying the death of this good and holy man was not the end, but He was with God, and we know that, because the Risen Jesus said, I am with you always, even to the end of time. Or as St. Paul says, Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look to the things that are in heaven where Christ is sitting at God’s right hand. When Christ is revealed, and He is your life, you too will be revealed in all your glory with Him.
So it seems to me that there are two things that we should recall as we rejoice today in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The first is that in our own lives we have to follow the pattern of the life of Jesus, the pattern of dying in order to live. And all of us die a little, perhaps every day, every year, every stage of our lives. This is the last time that I will be preaching to you at Eastertide. This is because I now have to move on to a new stage of my life as I go into retirement. I have, if you like, to die a little in order to follow the Will of the Lord and begin, perhaps, a new stage of living, a more abundant life. But it does mean that I have to let go of things that I have done for many, many years as a Bishop: of leadership, of pastoral care, of responsibilities, and so many other things, and reach out to begin again and follow what the Lord wants. Each in your own life has to die a little to the past. Sometimes we carry resentments, grudges, prejudices, hurts and angers – like security blankets in our lives. This may be particularly pertinent at the present time, when many people are feeling stress and anxiety due to the difficulties resulting from the economic situation locally and globally. But negative feelings and negative attitudes are bundles of death that stand in the way of life. Jesus said love was the greatest commandment, so it is because of Jesus’s love that we are able to forgive and pass over things of the past and die to pride and selfishness and begin again a choice for life.
The second thing that I want to say to you is that our contribution to society is not to impose our Christian faith or values which is something Jesus never did, but rather to reveal the Christian values by the way in which we live. There are things that we do to create a better world that somehow defy all the sad and shocking and painful things that obscure the love of God. What we offer as caring women and men is the Spirit of the Risen Christ and so a life-style that is redemptive and full of hope. I wish you all a very happy Easter and may the Risen Lord always be with you, bringing you hope and consolation and joy in your lives. Like so many millions today I can say with all of you that, Jesus is Lord and that Christ is risen. Alleluia.