MASS OF EASTER SUNDAY MORNING
HOMILY PREACHED BY CARDINAL KEITH PATRICK O’BRIEN
ST MARY’S CATHEDRAL, EDINBURGH
SUNDAY 8TH APRIL 2012
Today we celebrate the joy of Easter Sunday morning – having concluded the season of Lent and more especially this past Holy Week. Just one Sunday ago, we commemorated the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, being greeted by the peoples with the waving of palms. In our own liturgies, again central to our celebration was our commemoration of that solemn entry of Jesus – with each one of us having some form of palm in our hands, many folded into the form of a cross.
On Holy Thursday we commemorated the institution by Jesus of the Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and of the Priesthood in our liturgy – and also remembered the great humility of Jesus in washing the feet of his disciples. (IMAGE SOURCE: GOOGLE.COM)
On Good Friday itself, we remembered the passion and death of Jesus – and showed by our veneration of the cross our love of that crucified Lord and our own determination to follow in his footsteps.
Now on this Easter Sunday morning, following on our Vigil ceremonies yesterday evening, we celebrate the ‘Triumph of the Cross’ – when Jesus conquered death, left the tomb and sent his disciples to continue his mission.
Central to our liturgy is the cross – its testament and its triumph. Veiled in purple in the earlier part of Holy Week, then changed into the white of joy, it is a reminder of the glory of the Resurrection.
IMPORTANCE OF THE CROSS IN OUR LIVES:
For all Christians, the symbol of the cross is central to our faith.
When we are baptised it is with the sign of the cross; perhaps the first sign we learn to make is that ‘Sign of the Cross’ taught at our mother’s knee; in our homes and in our schools, it is with the sign of the cross that we begin and end each day; when we celebrate our great act of worship in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, again we begin and end with that sign of the cross; and here in Scotland, as indeed in our flag of the United Kingdom, the signs of the cross represent the nations of the United Kingdom in the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George.
When we use the sign of the cross, it is not in any way because of a morbid way of looking back on the sufferings of Jesus Christ himself, the Son of God. Rather, it is a sign that we ourselves are trying to follow in some way or another, no matter how weak we are, the path set out for us by Christ himself. It was through his sufferings on the cross that he achieved the glory of the Resurrection – a transformation that can have parallels in many of our own lives.
We should always see in the cross a sign of God’s love for us and an indication of our own intention to reach out in love for others, whether or not they profess the same Christian faith as ourselves, whatever their lifestyles or lack of belief in any formal religion.
I think that is the reason why, as Christians, we honour that sign of the cross of Christ – we want to witness to the Kingdom of Christ, we want to spread the Church to every corner of the world, and we want to work in charity in a spirit of faith and love.
THE SIGN OF THE CROSS IN OUR TIMES:
So often the teachings of Jesus Christ are divided and ignored; so often those who try to live a Christian life are made fun of and ridiculed and marginalised.
Perhaps the more regular use of that sign of the cross might become an indication of our desire to live close to that same Christ who suffered and died for us, and whose symbol we are proud to bear.
Displaying the Sign of the Cross, the cross of Christ should not be a problem for others – but rather they should see in that sign an indication of our own desire to love and to serve all peoples in imitation of that love and service of Jesus Christ.
Just 18 months ago, Pope Benedict XVI stood in Westminster Hall in London addressing a vast audience of politicians, diplomats, academics and business leaders. There he clearly stated that: “Religion is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance”.
Those words were a great clarion call for Christians at this present time to emphasise that no governments or public bodies should be frightened of Christians and their influence. Rather, they should seek closer collaboration with them as having something important to say and to do – namely to offer their services in whatever way to those in any sort of need in our country. Marginalisation of religion should not be taking place at this present time – rather the opposite. Here in our own country where we do place a great emphasis on tolerance, surely our Christianity should be an indication to others of our desire, while living our Catholic Christian lives to tolerate others who do not have our same values.
So on this Easter Sunday morning, I suggest something very simple to you. When the Pope addressed those leaders in Westminster Hall, his cross was visible over his robes – as indeed the cross is visible over the garments of every Cardinal and Bishop.
Why shouldn’t each and every Christian similarly wear proudly a symbol of the cross of Christ on their garments each and every day of their lives. I know that many of you do wear such a cross of Christ – not in any ostentatious way, not in a way that might harm you at your work or recreation, but a simple indication that you value the role of Jesus Christ in the history of the world, that you are trying to live by Christ’s standards in your own daily life and that you are only too willing to reach out a hand of help to others, as did Jesus Christ when he was on earth. Whether on a simple chain or pinned to a lapel, the cross identifies us as disciples of Christ and we should wear it with pride.
When concluding his speech in Westminster Hall, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the harmony and co-operation which should be possible between the Church and public bodies. He indicated that for this to be fruitful, religious bodies “need to be free to act in accordance with their own principles and specific convictions based upon the faith and the official teachings of the Church”.
This co-operation is indeed looked for by our Church in this country and I think that that symbol of the cross of Christ, worn frequently by our Catholic community and by Christians of all denominations, is an indication of our desire to live by Christian standards and to hand on those standards to others as best we can, living in a spirit of co-operation.
May God indeed bless you all at this Eastertide and now, having moved from that spirit of suffering with Christ, may we continue to rejoice in the Triumph of the Cross, the Glory of his Resurrection.