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'It is the Mass that Matters'

posted on 22 March 2005
The Cardinal today invited the priests of Westminster Diocese to unite themselves with Pope John Paul II and the whole Church by celebrating the Mass 'with even greater fervour, devotion and love'.

Quoting the old adage, 'It is the Mass that matters', he told the priests: 'We say that because in the Mass we are not focussed on what WE do, or WE say, but on what God has done for us in Jesus Christ'.

The Cardinal was speaking on Tuesday at the annual Chrism Mass at Westminster Cathedral, on the fifth anniversary of his installation as Archbishop of Westminster.

The Chrism Mass is held each year just prior to the celebration of the three days of Holy Week, or Triduum.

At the Mass, the Cardinal blesses the oil of the sick and the oil of catechumens, and consecrates the oil of holy chrism (oil mixed with balsam). The oil is then taken by the priests back to their parishes.

The Chrism Mass is a traditional manifestation of the unity of the priests around their bishop.

The Cardinal's homily follows.

Tuesday 22nd March, 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
During this Lent I was away from the Diocese for two weeks. Most of that time was spent in Rome. While I was there I went to the hospital to pay a visit to Pope John Paul. There I wrote a message from all the priests and people of our Diocese, assuring the Pope of our loving remembrance and our prayers at this time. But while I was there I thought of Pope John Paul and how, at this time, old and frail, he must occasionally be thinking back over his long Pontificate, about the essential message that he has been giving to the Church and to the world during these past twenty-seven years.

Essentially, it seemed to me, this could be summed up like this: Every day, every month, every year, the Pope has been reminding the Church and the world that the Incarnation, the coming of Jesus Christ in to the world, tells us something about God and something about ourselves. The coming of Jesus reveals to us that God is Father but, above all, that God is Love and that humankind cannot live without love and that our life is senseless unless in some way we encounter the love of God. This is the truth about God. That is what brings us hope.

But that coming of Jesus also tells us about the greatness, the dignity and the value of every human person. That is the Good News that Jesus came to bring. In that gospel that we have just heard we see Jesus reveal himself as the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah. Jesus is the good news - good news to the poor, which means forgiveness for broken hearts, freedom for those who are in captivity of any kind, new meaning, new life, for the manner in which we live.

The Pope must often remember one of the favourite prayers of St. Augustine: You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You. The restlessness of every heart, the hungers that burden peoples souls, and the fear that haunts our modern world, can only be dispelled if women and men share in the Kingdom preached and personified in Jesus Christ. If they grasp the truth that was proclaimed by Him, namely that, essentially, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life.

It is Good News, not just for the past, but for the world of today. There is only one history and that history is filled with Gods presence, His promise fulfilled by the Redemption brought about by Jesus Christ. This is the Popes conviction, this is my conviction, this is our conviction, as we celebrate today the signs, the symbols, the living memory of Jesus Christ present amongst us in this Mass. No wonder we give thanks to God. No wonder we praise and glorify Him. No wonder we value, we cherish, we love, we embrace our Catholic Faith. No wonder we priests, deep down, know that our life is worth while as we minister to the People of God and bring to the world that Good News, that message. That is why we can always be confident that God is with us, that God blesses us, that God rewards us. 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.

During that time away from the Diocese, I was able also to spend three days of quiet and prayer in Assisi. There I encountered again, in the memory of St. Francis, the freshness, the extraordinary appeal of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In visiting the Church of San Damiano, where Francis learnt of his mission to rebuild the Church, I discovered anew my task to keep building the Church of Jesus Christ here in the diocese. In going to the little Chapel of Santa Maria, the Portiuncula, I realised how the Community of St. Francis and his brothers was such a powerful magnet for others. So much youth, simplicity and love drew people to a small site. Here was a family whose members loved one another, leading a life of labour, happiness and devotion. It was so captivating that it began to encircle far and wide. So, too, for us today, I thought, can not our communities in our parishes be communities where, by their worship, their love for one another, and their simple lives of witness, that same message of love and hope is brought to our society today?

As St. Francis came to the end of his life he, too like, perhaps, the present Pope, was thinking about what was the essential message of his life and what he wanted to say to his brothers and sisters. And he wrote his last letter. Essentially, the letter urges his brothers and sisters to keep their eyes on becoming holy. He says, God has sent us through all the world that by our words and example, you may bear witness of Him and you may teach all people that He alone is all-powerful.

But in reading that last letter of St. Francis, I noted the essential focus of the letter, which was the love and respect due to the Holy Eucharist. His faith in this Mystery was, as it were, the energy of his heart. The Life of God, mysteriously present upon the altar, was the sole reality of all his actions. But he also added one special paragraph which touched me deeply and which I repeat for the benefit of all of us, particularly my fellow-priests, because Francis, who was not a priest, had the utmost respect for priests. He says this:

Understand your dignity, brother priests, and be holy, for He is holy. Let each man be struck with amazement, let the whole earth tremble, let the heavens thrill with joy when the Christ, the Son of the Living God, descends upon the altar into the hands of the priest. O wonderful profundity! O amazing grace! O triumph of humility! See, the Master of all things, God, and the Son of God, humbles Himself for our salvation, even to disguising Himself under the appearance of bread. Contemplate, my brothers, this humility of God and enlarge your hearts before Him.

I would like today to echo, in this Year of the Eucharist, my hope and prayer that, led by the priests of our Diocese, there will be an increase of faith, devotion, reverence, care and celebration of the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist. Day by day, my dear brother priests, you celebrate the Mass. Make it not only your daily obligation, but part of your daily prayer, your own devotion. May the reverence and love that you have for the Mass be instinctively communicated to the People of God who share and are nourished by our faith in Jesus. Every week, many thousands of times, in the parishes and communities of our Diocese, there is celebrated what the Vatican Council calls, the source and summit of the Christian life. The Eucharist contains Christ Himself and the Church constantly gazes upon the Lord present in this Sacrament. There is no better way to unite ourselves with Pope John Paul and, indeed, the whole Church, on this day than to reso
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posted on 22 March 2005

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