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Given on Easter Sunday 31st March 2024, at Westminster Cathedral.

This Easter morning our hearts are full of hope and joy. So too is this Cathedral, with its beauty, its music, the splendour of this celebration of Mass and its fine Easter Candle representing the Risen Lord, whose Resurrection from the dead we celebrate today.

This, then, is a day of victory: the victory of life over death, of goodness over cynicism, of freedom over every slavery and addiction. Today confirms that instinct for hope which lies within each one of us. No longer is our instinctive optimism an illusion. No, it is a reality for Christ is risen and with him we are set free. As St Paul tells us: we have been brought back to true life and, ultimately, we will be revealed in all our glory with him, who is our Risen Lord.

That freedom comes in the face of the one reality which confronts us all: the reality of death. If, in the end, death is all that there is, then life is simply sound and fury signifying nothing. Indeed the logic of life understood as nothing more than a collection of days was laid out starkly in a recent newspaper article. In it the writer argued that euthanasia is such a good thing. He believed, in all seriousness, that it was everyone’s duty to take their own life once their usefulness was over. Since there was no other meaning to life than usefulness, then we should have a duty not to waste resources in sustaining a life no longer useful to others.

Easter breaks us out of that stultifying perspective. Easter shouts a resounding ‘No’ to the domination of death and its callous logic. Today we proclaim that the tomb is empty. Yes, death is all around us, but life is in Christ. This is his gift to us, making clear that we are of God and in him we will attain the fulness of life for which we long. 

This breaking of the claim of death opens a new and wonderful horizon by which we are now to live. In the days of his life on earth, Jesus spelt out the lessons of this true way of life. They can be summed up in two words: service and sacrifice. This is the pathway to greatness, unfolded by Jesus in the washing of the feet and the offering of himself on the Cross. This, then, is the royal road: to live in love through the practical service of one another and, at crucial moments, to be forgetful of self.

This is our Easter message. We pray for this spirit of service and sacrifice to be poured out in our world, that we can work together wholeheartedly for the relief of stark poverty, for peace between warring factions, for stability in home and society.

This Easter truth, made real in Christ, is entrusted to the Church.

It’s no coincidence that in the Gospel of St John, which we have just heard, it is Peter who is first to enter the empty tomb and see for himself that Christ is risen. Others step aside for him.  Peter then becomes the first witness, chosen to be the one who is to lead. So we see him, in the First Reading, heralding the first great proclamation of the Resurrection, preaching openly in the city, to an unbelieving crowd.

Peter, of course, is a symbol of the Church, a pointer to the Bishop of Rome, set to teach and lead.

So this morning we also pray for the Church because, like Peter, we in the Church are often slow and breathless. Yet it was Peter who was chosen to be the guarantor of the message of Jesus, not the more fleet-of-foot John, nor Mary Magdalene, so full of love, whose tasks were to express and expound that message in great love and service. Yes, in the Church, the Body of Christ, all have a crucial part to play in bringing the hope of this Easter Day into everyday life. This is our Day, a day of joy for the whole world.

Christ is risen. He is our joy and delight. Let us rejoice and be glad. Alleluia.

A happy Easter to you all.

✠ Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster