The Anglican Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has used his Easter Day message, prayers for missing BBC Gaza journalist Alan Johnston, and an article in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper to encourage Christians to "celebrate life" in their words and actions.
The archbishop, who last week decried the church's obsession with homosexuality and said that acts of generosity were needed to redirect a self-absorbed society, also spoke out for those seeking freedom in Zimbabwe - drawing upon his own experience under the tyranny of former doctator Idi Amin in Uganda.
In his newspaper article this weekend, he declared: "The reality of faith is the reality of love. You can’t smell, touch, taste or hear love, but you can see its effects in the acts born from it, in the relationships built upon it, the art inspired by it and in the lives transformed by its goodness. So it is with faith. The reality of faith is visible in those millions of daily acts of kindness and love that are borne from it. Acts done not in self-interest, not as a down payment for a ticket to the life eternal. These are the selfless, costly, grace-filled, Christ-inspired acts that make our lives richer than that of any number of lottery winners."
Dr Sentamu continued: "In Christ we see the ultimate expression of a love turned outwards, facing the whole of humanity in a self-giving act made real on the Cross. The challenge is in our response to this act: whether to also turn our love outwards to the world or to turn love in on itself, to become self-obsessed. The aria of “Me! Me!” and “I! I!” has become the most unattractive opera of our time. It is a sad paradox borne of the “me” generation that those who turn their love in on themselves are often also the unhappiest."
The Archbishop, who has claimed that an aggressive form of secularism is quenching spiritual values in wider society, also highlighted the plight of the young in an intense consumer environment.
"Coerced by the culture around them, our young people in particular are at risk of becoming spiritually empty vessels, transfixed by a drug-induced narcissism. The beauty industry that turns our teenagers into anorexics, where a perversion of physical perfection is more important than health; our celebrity-obsessed media that elevates notoriety above worth, and the unending pursuit of wealth, while our children rank among the unhappiest in Europe: these are some of the symptoms of a society that needs to re-discover the beauty of the mystical and the joy of the spiritual."
He coninued: "Make no mistake. Inviting God into your life means being open to the possibility of renewal and change. Sometimes this can be costly. As the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Zimbabwe has recently reminded us, faith contains an imperative to challenge injustice and dictatorship. In the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero – gunned down whilst celebrating mass – 'Peace will flower when love and justice pervade our environment'."
Dr Sentamu often wears a cross crafted by communities in El Salvador, where Romero was killed by a death squad as he celebrated a pre-Easter Mass in 1980.
He concluded his Telegraph article: "The Cross and the Resurrection show us that the call, the invitation of God, powerfully present in Jesus Christ, cannot be silenced by anything. Easter is a call to accept God’s invitation to become one of his friends."