Red Mass 2016 Given at the Red Mass for the beginning of the legal year at Westminster Cathedral on Monday 3 October 2016. At the beginning of this new legal year we place ourselves, very deliberately, in this Cathedral to celebrate a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit. We do so before the commanding image of Christ crucified, suspended high above us in the sanctuary. Just take a moment to look at him. There, on the Cross, is the only Son of God. There is the one whom God sent into the world he loved so much, not to condemn the world, but so that through his Son the world might be saved. This is what total, self-giving love looks like. These arms reach out to embrace everyone. In the words of St Augustine: ‘It is easier for God to hold back anger than mercy.’ In a very real sense then, we stand at the foot of the Cross with Mary, the Mother of Mercy, conscious that when wood was sunk into soil on that first Good Friday, heaven touched earth. The debt of sin was cancelled and the power of death was destroyed. ‘God’s justice is his mercy,’ writes Pope Francis, ‘given to everyone as a grace that flows from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus,’ he continues, ‘the Cross of Christ is God’s judgement on all of us and on the whole world, because through it he offers us the certitude of love and new life.’ (MV 21) Today, we humble ourselves before Christ crucified: we remember whose body was pierced for us, whose blood was shed for us. Today, we profess our faith that ‘Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.’ (MV 1). We confess him who is our living Lord, our heavenly judge, our merciful Saviour, our eternal and ever-present friend. In front of the Cross of Jesus we face and accept the truth that we are ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven, in short, that we are loved. Secure in this knowledge that we are each a beloved child of the Father, we can venture to offer love in return. ‘If anyone loves me,’ says Jesus, ‘they will keep my word and my Father will love them and we shall come to them and make our home with them.’ And if we should ever forget this remarkable fact, that God the Father, together with his Son, desire to live within us, then the Lord Jesus confirms that we have an advocate. The Holy Spirit, the bond of love between Father and Son, will teach us everything about the ways of faith and remind us of all Jesus has said. How consoling that we, who value so highly the service of human advocates, as defenders and supporters, as champions and protectors, should have the Holy Spirit of God ad vocare, to call to our aid and to plead our cause. How often in this coming year will we need to utter from our hearts that ancient invocation Veni Sancte Spiritus, Come, Holy Spirit, come strengthen and inspire us, come enlighten and direct us. Of course knowing that we are loved by God, and loving him in return, demands a further exercise of love. We must love others. And we must love them with a love that is merciful like our heavenly Father’s love is merciful.Pope Francis puts it like this: ‘Without a witness to mercy, life becomes fruitless and sterile, as if sequestered in barren desert…It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters.’ (MV 10) Such merciful loving is not naïve. It can never make what is bad to be good nor what is wrong to be right. But it can seek to echo compassionately the forgiving heartbeat of Jesus, even to the point of weeping when we face that which is callous and horrific and wicked. The great German Lutheran anti-Nazi Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote: ‘We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or don’t do, and more in the light of what they suffer.’ How challenging it is to apply this to each and every person we will encounter. There will be some situations that you face that may well leave you at a complete loss about what to think. There will be some people that you meet whose experience may well leave you speechless. There will be some actions and behaviour that you come across that may make merciful loving on your part seem impossible. In this, the agencies of state, of justice and of society, will all rightly play their part. But in our personal sense of powerlessness before human wrongdoing and misery, sometimes all that we can do is put ourselves before Christ crucified and surrender at the foot of his Cross all that which appears so humanly futile. ‘Look at the Crucified One,’ said Pope Francis last Wednesday: ‘God is with you, He stays with you on the Cross and offers Himself to all of us as Saviour.’ At that place of redemptive transformation we pray that the Spirit, by which Jesus was raised from the dead, will give life to us, that all things, and all people, might be reconciled in Christ. Come, Holy Spirit; come teach us to adore Christ and to praise him, because by his holy Cross he has redeemed the world.