Cardinal: Caring for the body of Christ means caring for those among us who are poor and forgotten

CBCEW » Seasons » Easter » » Cardinal: Caring for the body of Ch...

On this, the sacred Easter Vigil, Cardinal Vincent Nichols encourages us to welcome the light of the Lord into our every darkness.

In his homily, given in Westminster Cathedral, the Cardinal pays particular homage to the three women who were the first to the tomb – the first to discover that Jesus had risen from the dead. Cardinal Nichols points out that we are the recipients of the same instructions the women received.

“Caring for the Lord today means being carriers of his message into our world,” said the Cardinal. “Caring for the body of Christ means caring for one another and for those in our midst who are especially poor and forgotten. This is the Body of Christ today.”

Full Homily

The Easter Vigil, 30 March 2024, Westminster Cathedral

We have entered ‘this most sacred night’. I welcome you, as we gather round this majestic candle, welcoming its light into our every darkness. We greet and salute the risen Lord. We rejoice in his victory. We acclaim him our King and Lord, to the glory of God the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Every aspect of this Vigil has something to invigorate and instruct us. It’s hard to know where to begin.

Perhaps with some names: Mary, Salome, and another Mary.

In the Gospel of Mark, these three women were the first to know that Jesus had risen from the dead. They were first to the tomb, to find it empty. They came in sorrow, not hope. They came, as women often do, with a loving task in mind: to care for the body of their Lord, a body broken and blooded in a cruel suffering and death. They came, as women often do, with great courage and persistence to care for the one they loved. Their closeness to him gave shape to their actions.

Yet arriving at the tomb, they cannot do as they intended. There is no body. Instead there is an angel giving them an entirely new task: ‘You must go and tell his disciples!’ They are the first carriers of the Gospel for through these three women the apostles first hear the startling news that Christ is risen. In turn, from them we hear this same news of salvation.

It is often true that women are the practical bearers of faith, from one generation to the next.

On this night we, in our turn, strive to be close to the Lord, give him first place in our lives. And we receive the same instruction the three women received: that caring for the Lord today means being carriers of his message into our world, and caring for the body of Christ means caring for one another and for those in our midst who are especially poor and forgotten. This is the Body of Christ today.

Shortly we pray with those who are to be baptised this night. We welcome them, and those being baptised everywhere in the world, and assure them of our prayers and encouragement. We too then take part in the solemn renewal of the promises first made at baptism. These are promises which need renewal as, with the years, we grow and change. The sacrament of baptism continually seals the bond between us and the Lord. Tonight we renew that bond, in heart and mind. We profess again our belief, our confidence, that when we live in him, close to him, we find the very best way to live in this world with all its joys and hardships. We also know that united to him is the best way to die.

These are the important instructions emerging for us from this night.

St Paul delivered the message to the people of Rome, as we have heard, in these words: ‘Having died with Christ we shall return to life with him… His life is now with God… We, then, are alive for God in Christ Jesus.’

Five centuries later, Pope St Gregory insisted: The body of Jesus that lay lifeless in the tomb is our body too. The body that rose again on the third day is ours. The body that ascended above all the heights is ours. He instructs us: ‘If then we walk in the way of his commandments and are not ashamed to acknowledge the price he paid for our salvation, we too shall rise to share his glory.’

All the readings have we heard contain this same message: that in truth our life is bound up in God. And God, in Christ, has bound himself to us. When we break this bond, be it in our relationships or in our public policy, making ourselves absolute masters of our own destiny, then we lose our way. We fail to see our shared origins and destiny. Too easily we become enemies to one another, calculating advantage and loss without true regard for the God-given dignity of each and every person.

But in this sacred evening we see again the sanctity of everything touched by God. In the Book of Genesis: the created world, for God made it to be very good; in the Book of Exodus: every escape from human slavery, worked by the hand of God; from Ezekiel: the gift of forgiveness, of being washed clean from wrong actions and restored in love. This is the work of God that comes to its fulfilment in Christ and is promised again this Easter.

And his Easter promise to us is utterly reliable. The eyes of our hearts, then, are fixed on the light of the Paschal Candle, the symbol of Jesus, risen and glorious, our light and life. We are his and he is ours.

The final prayer our Easter Vigil includes these words: ‘Pour out on us, Lord, the Spirit of your love and in your kindness make those you have nourished one in mind and heart.’


And a very happy Easter to you all!