'I'll give you the tools', Cardinal promises Westminster
posted on 12 December 2005
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has brought to a close Westminster Diocese’s formal programme of spiritual renewal, promising to equip the faithful so that “together we can take responsibility for the values and the mission of the Church.”
“This is not the end but the beginning,” he told more than 800 members of Core Communities and faith group leaders at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday, pledging that in his forthcoming “White Paper” on the future of the Diocese he would help to enable greater collaboration between clergy and laity.
“I want to give you the tools: the skills, the encouragement, the opportunity,” the Cardinal told them, adding: “Your lives matter. You speak for the light … Through you, the Church is built from below.”
In his homily at the Mass at the end of the day-long Core Community Congress The Cardinal said At Your Word, Lord had been launched in the Diocese “amidst considerable scepticism and predictions of failure”, yet the weekly meetings of 20,000 people in small groups across the Diocese had transformed Westminster.
“Our Diocese will never be the same again,” he said.
The Cardinal went on to say that the witness of Catholics “must depend on a self-evident difference.” Today, he said, “it is contrast that counts” and that Christians must be “a puzzling people”.
“We need to continue to ask: Do the people in our churches really give the impression that they are people of faith, that they are free, that they are happy in the Lord? Because if not, why should anyone believe us?”
He said people wanted to know what difference faith makes. “They look at our lives in order to know what Jesus Christ looks like,” he said. “It is not us they are interested in, but Christ.”
FULL TEXT FOLLOWS:
‘LET US SPEAK FOR THE LIGHT’
Homily preached by the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, at 6pm Mass at the conclusion of the At Your Word, Lord Core Community Congress, Westminster Cathedral, 10 December 2005.
My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
ONE OF THE MOST moving moments for me during this past year was offering Mass at the bedside of Abigail Witchalls, there in the hospital where she had been taken after that terrible, brutal attack. Evil had erupted in her life; and she knew that her life had been changed beyond all measure. Now, thank God, she has recovered much of her movement; but at that time, when I saw her, she was completely paralysed and helpless. And yet she smiled. She received the Lord, together with her husband and family. In her deep darkness a light shone; her smile spoke for that light. She was able to rejoice in the Lord because all was blessing, all was gift.
She was nurturing hope deep inside her. Since then, as you will have heard, beyond all fears and expectation of the worst, her child has been born. Love has triumphed. The dawn has broken from on high.
Something rather similar has been happening over these past three years in the parishes of our Diocese. Gathering weekly in small groups, in people’s houses, we have looked very ordinary: gathered around our faith-sharing books amongst the sofas and TVs, with our very normal-looking groups of Catholics of all ages and backgrounds and professions. From the outside, you might ask what the fuss was about; and some people in our Diocese did ask that, just as two thousand years ago people wondered what good could come from Nazareth. And like those people, some in our Diocese gave themselves the wrong answer. These renewal programmes come and go, some said; what difference do they make?
But we know what difference At Your Word, Lord made.
I know, because I have heard from many of you that these very ordinary gatherings have been really rather extraordinary. You have told me of a new vision of the Lord in our midst. How the image of God has shown itself among you, in the courtesy and attention of hospitality and listening. How, for some of you, there has been the birth of something unexpected in your lives: something, yes, full of grace. During the lunch break I spoke to a person who said: “we’ve had 15 in our group. Two have entered religious life. One has entered the seminary. And six babies.”
THREE YEARS AGO Our Lord asked us to launch out into the deep, and we did so, amidst considerable scepticism and predictions of failure. Yet how right we were to trust him. Some 20,000 people have been meeting weekly across our Diocese. The groups have taken on a life of their own. Small faith communities, the seedbed of the Church, have put down roots in our Diocese, and our Diocese will never be the same again.
So I give thanks to God today from the bottom of my heart. And thanking God, I thank you: especially the At Your Word, Lord team under Fr Stuart Wilson whose energy and skill and dedication have made this all possible; but also the Core Communities, the faith group leaders, and the participants. What a gifted lot you are! I am delighted that the Lord has showered his charisms of leadership on so many of you. I remember Fr Stuart saying in an interview at the beginning of At Your Word, Lord, that he didn’t think the Cardinal entirely knew what the results of all this would be, what he would do with all these dyamic new leaders. You know, he was right! But I have seen it, and I am impressed.
I like to think that our programme of renewal has been made possible because we have trusted and obeyed. Trust and obedience are not values which find much support in our society. But Mary’s fiat - her “yes” to the Angel - is the beginning of salvation, just as Peter’s repentance and fidelity are at the origin of the Church. At Your Word, Lord has been a great experiment in trust.
St. Paul tells us today that the Lord will never fail us. And indeed the Lord has not failed us. As we bring to the Altar our hopes for the future, we do so in the knowledge that the Lord has been faithful to us in these past years, and will continue to be. And the response that he asks of us is that we trust in him – not in ourselves. That is what we can learn from John the Baptist, in the way he refers everything to the One for whom he speaks. Are you the Christ? He is asked. Are you the prophet? No I’m not, he says: I’m the voice only. The voice that speaks for the light.
John’s self-effacement and his courage go hand in hand. The Baptist is bold, because he trusts in the One who is to come. He came as a witness, as a witness to speak for the light. He was not the light, only a witness to speak for the light.
All Christians are called to speak for the light: to proclaim the Gospel. It is our only strength, and it is a weak strength. It does not require much to ignore a voice. But John the Baptist’s was impossible to ignore because it pointed directly beyond himself to the one who was the real strength. Our voice, too, is hard to ignore, when we speak authentically for the Light – when we withdraw to make way for the Lord.
How often do we turn down the chance to be a voice for Christ by saying, “oh I’m not that sort of person. I’m not that strong. I’m too sinful, or too weak”?
But John never falls into that trap: he never believes that God cannot work through his own insufficiency. John knows it is not his own strength that matters; he is the one that enables, that transmits, that makes the paths straight. He is the candlestick, not the candle. And I am glad that so many of you, faith group leaders and Core Community members, put aside the temptation of self-centredness, of focussing on your own inadequacies, and instead trusted in the Lord when you launched out into the deep and lowered your nets in places you had never been before.
NOW THAT WE have learned to trust the Lord, now that we have learned that he is faithful, what can we not do? Where can we not now go?
But I do want to say a fe