God save The King! When I think carefully about what I’m singing or saying I can’t help thinking this is an invitation to wish God’s salvation on every human being, from my best friend to my worst of enemies, all of us made in the image of God. I think that’s of the essence of Christianity, to wish no malice to anyone but only God’s blessing for their long, happy and fruitful life. When someone takes on a special responsibility in God’s name I want to pray for them in a special way, that they will be given the strength to bear that responsibility well for the good of us all. And it is in that spirit that we approach the Coronation Ceremony tomorrow, resembling as it does in so many ways too the ceremony of ordination to priestly ministry. And so I invite us to pray in this Mass on the Coronation Vigil for King Charles and for the fruitful exercise of this ancient office ordained by God for the common good of all.
But I pray also that this solemn, joyful occasion, amid the pageantry and celebrations in our communities, and despite whatever anyone feels about the institution of the monarchy, teaches us about our own calling to service in our own lives. Because dutiful service is what HM The King believes clearly is at the heart of what his ministry is to be about. Indeed, we know it is already. Like him we have to say no to our own desires, our own attachments, our own needs, our own views, and say yes to a life of service for others. His witness to duty in service of others does indeed give us a lead in how we might respond as Christian disciples and citizens at this challenging time on history.
Right now in our country we are faced with huge challenges as the cost of living soars. Around our city we see the Churches needing to step in to help the increasing number of poor, the 1 in 58 statutory homeless despite more empty property in London for forty years. Somehow we need to break through the bureaucracy here and HM The King has shown us his passion for doing this. We are globally facing a crisis, perhaps too late, of the destruction of the planet and the need to tackle this. HM The King spoke of this prophetically forty years ago and continues to be a passionate supporter of radical ways to care anew for creation. When he meets Pope Francis soon one hopes this is high on the agenda as they are both world leaders on this issue. And we know our new king is above all a person of great faith, a strong Christian faith rooted in Orthodox monastic spirituality, commitment to the established Church of which he is head, and yet a truly Catholic sensibility which embraces sacramentality, spirituality, faith put into action, and which respects and encourages a truly diverse outlook on the faith life of the nation which embraces faith in all its multicultural reality today.
As we look forward to the Coronation, though, and as we pray for him, may we also remember what lies at the heart of the calling of every one of us. Pope Francis’ motto says it all of course, thanks to St Bede: ‘a sinner loved by God’; and the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius helps us to reflect deeply on this truth about ourselves. Thanks be to God that none of us are perfect. If we were we would never grow, never learn, and never have that vulnerability which enables us to understand others. I know so well that, however hard I try and am faithful to who I am and called to be, I make mistakes, errors of judgement, have blind spots, and again and again, but I know I’m called by the God who uses me as I am. In society we like often to paint people as saints or sinners, we condemn public figures, we misrepresent them and never get the full picture of basic human goodness tarnished by sinful humanity. We love to do that. We wish ill on people. And that is profoundly unchristian. May this weekend reawaken our faith in humanity and service and draw us out to pray for our new king who has an awesome task, only possible through the grace of God, and perhaps teach us again to consider how we are called as loved sinners to work in service of the common good.