A life of Christian faith and Christian service

Requiem Mass for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II

“I am the Resurrection and the Life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live”. For every Christian these words are words of hope and words that mould the shape to the way we live. We live in this world but with eyes fixed on the next. We live day to day, but know that there is an eternity that awaits. We live in and midst the material, but are aware of the transcendental, spiritual realm.

Faith, Christian faith, not only gives us a hope for eternal life, but now, at every moment, shapes how we live. A person of faith sees life from an eternal perspective. No matter what their status or standing, they know that their life and future is under God.

Such a faith undergirded and fashioned the life of Queen Elizabeth II. In her 1994 Christmas Message, Queen Elizabeth made clear the depth of her faith when she said: “For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace … is an inspiration and an anchor in my life.”

In the year 2000, a special moment in Christian history, marking two millennia since the birth of Jesus Christ, the Queen commented: “To many of us our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.”

She was a monarch yet she knew clearly that she had “personal accountability before God”. Clearly, the Queen grounded her life firmly within her Christian faith. She understood only too well that faith is, as she said, of “fundamental importance”.

Reflecting on these humble and deeply sincere expressions of faith we have insight into what lay at the heart of the inspiration to the Queen’s extraordinary life of service and dedication.

Thus, she said, “I know just how much I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning, I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God. Like others of you who draw inspiration from your own faith, I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel.”

We all have been moved by her passing and have had the opportunity to reflect on the sterling qualities of her character. In some ways she carries qualities of character that belong more to a bye-gone era, qualities that are no longer prized and embraced, as they should be, in contemporary culture. Her sense of duty, for instance, seeing her life as Queen as essentially one of service to her subjects, a service that she maintained right to the end. No doubt she was aware of the injunction of Christ: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant” (Mt 20:25-26).

Her natural reserve showed a balance and restraint so often lacking in modern brash society. Her interest in people, her warmth in meeting people from diverse backgrounds, her smile, all reveal a woman who reached out, often no doubt denying her own personal interests. Again, the Queen would have been aware of the words of the Beatitudes when the Lord taught that Blessed are the poor, the meek, those who mourn (see Mt 5:1-12). 

What has marked out her qualities of character is the Christian message in which she deeply believed. In 2004 she commented on how the Gospel teachings of Jesus guided her own way of relating to others. She said, “For me, as a Christian, one of the most important of these teachings is contained in the parable of the Good Samaritan, when Jesus answers the question, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ It is a timeless story of a victim of a mugging who was ignored by his own countrymen but helped by a foreigner – and a despised foreigner at that. The implication drawn by Jesus is clear. Everyone is our neighbour, no matter what race, creed or colour. The need to look after a fellow human being is far more important than any cultural or religious differences.”

We can admire Queen Elizabeth’s steadfastness amidst moments of trial and personal sadness. Here again we sense that her personal faith was her sure support. We read of the deep assurance that lay in the heart of St Paul who was certain that “nothing can come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord”, as we read this morning.

Today, chosen in Australia as a day of mourning to mark the passing of Queen Elizabeth, we, the Catholic community, pray for the repose of her soul. We commend to the Lord a woman of deep faith whose life was one of faithful service. She sought none of the prerogatives of her status, but saw her life as one dedicated to people. She based her life on the teachings of Christ and sort both inspiration and comfort from the Christian gospel.

May she rest in peace.

Archbishop Julian Porteous

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