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CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK – LAUNCH: HOMILY January 21, 2013, 10am Mass, Roscommon

January 21, 2013  CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK – LAUNCH:

Roscommon  :   Mass  10.00am :   Homily

 ‘Catholic Schools in the Community of Faith: Sharing the Good News’

Gospel: John 2:1-11;   1st Reading: 1Cor 12:4-11

 

HOMILY: 

Introduction:

Ba mhaith liom i dtús báire a rá cé chomh sásta atá mé gur anseo i Ros Comáin in Iarthar ne hEireann atá an ócáid seo ag tarlú i mbliana. Agus is mór an ní é sibh ar fad a bheith bailithe anseo, agus go bhfuil tús a chur leis an láinseáil san áras seo, Teach an Phobail agus Teach Dé.

I’m delighted to see so many young people here today. You’re so welcome! This Mass is for you. And this church in which we are gathered is your house. It is God’s house, but it is your house too, Teach an Phobail. This whole day is for you. You are the reason why we’re all gathered. Because we care about you and cherish you. We see you as Jesus sees you: children of God, each one beautiful and precious in his eyes, unique and irreplaceable. Each one of you is made in the image of God. You are capable like Jesus in the Gospel today of being a revelation of God’s presence, letting the glory of God shine out in you.

And we adults, parents, teachers, priests, want to help you to grow up to be good people, to be the very best you can be, with the help of God.

The Theme

With this Mass, we are launching Catholic Schools Week 2013. The Theme of the week this year is

‘Catholic Schools in the Community of Faith: Sharing the Good News’

The theme emphasises in the first place the fact that we see our schools not as isolated in any way but as living and thriving within the wider context of the local community, specifically within the local church and parish. This means that the school is enriched by the parish, and the parish enriched by the school. A child cannot become a person who reveals the glory of God unless surrounded by and nurtured by caring community, in family, parish, and school.

A couple of weeks ago I happened to hear a programme on the radio that was a tribute to the late great fiddle player from Dublin, Tommy Potts. Tommy is recognised as one of the great masters of the art of traditional fiddle playing. One of his nieces said “when Tommy said his prayers and when he played his music, he was in the same space.” Contributor after contributor to the programme spoke of the fact that he always gave thanks to God for the gift of the music and that he played it always to honour and give glory to Him. It was also said that he was uncomfortable receiving any payment for his playing.

This gifted musician knew his gift and the source of it. And every person is gifted. A faith school, a Catholic school, will provide the community within which young people discover their gifts and the source of them. Even what we call “disability” can, within a truly caring community or school, be discovered as gift by both the person with the disability and the community gathered around him or her.

In the post-modern times in which we live, with its strong tendency towards a radical individualism, there is a great danger that people can fall into isolation, in spite of all the communications technology. We need to be newly-conscious of ourselves as belonging: to our family in the first place, but also part of a wider community, and we all need to be actively engaged in building that community, in building that community as church, as family of God.

For our schools, this is an internal task in the first place, but it equally demands that we build up bonds with the families and the wider parish of which the school part. Many developments of recent times in governance and other areas of school life move us in this direction. I’m talking of such things as the fact that there must now be two community representatives, as well as parent and teacher representatives on the Board of Management, and that schools must be open to welcoming not just able students, but equally students with disability. Our Catholic schools have welcomed these developments, and have often taken a lead in them.

There is also a growing consciousness for some time now that the parish community must become involved in new ways with the school, and specifically in the whole area of faith itself. Expecting schools, for example, to take on all responsibility for catechesis and faith development is neither feasible nor fair, to the schools, to children or to the precious, dynamic and life-giving treasure that is the faith itself. Sharing the good news is a responsibility we all take on at Baptism, and we embrace it again at Confirmation, and every time we receive a sacrament of the church.

In other words, we are all, people as well as priests, parents as well as teachers involved by reason of our bearing the name Catholic, in the vital and critical mission of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with our children and our young people.

Our theme this year says it all: It tells us that Catholic Schools are in the community of faith, intimately involved with that community in sharing the good news. And God knows, we ourselves and our world need to hear good news today… perhaps even more than at any time in history.

The Gospel

We have just been listening to the Gospel. The word means ‘Good News’ as you know. And what a powerful story we have in today’s Gospel. A story so many young couples want to hear on that most important and lovliest day of their lives, their wedding day. I suspect many parents who are here today had it read on your own wedding day.

I’d like to reflect briefly with you now on the last few lines of the story, which are St. John’s brief but profound comment on the event he has just narrated.

‘This was the first of the signs given by Jesus…

It was given at Cana in Galilee….

He let his glory be seen…

And his disciples believed in him…’

The sign was given in a small local place, Cana in Galilee. We all live in local places, our lives are small, our families too, and our communities. And that’s where the signs of God’s presence can be discerned today, when we exercise our good gifts and in the events I experience and you experience.

The first thing the Beloved Disciple says is ‘This was the first of the signs given by Jesus.’

Signs are very important. We can see this powerfully in the events in Belfast triggered in recent times by the raising or not of a flag over the City Hall. What’s going on can be entirely unintelligible to anyone who doesn’t know the significance of the Flag in that particular context.

The sign at the wedding feast at Cana was in what happened to the water at the word of Jesus. ‘The steward tasted the water, and it had turned into wine’. That’s the sign: the extraordinary fact that the water was now wine, and not any old wine, but the very best wine, and on top of that, where they had just run out of wine, there is now a super-abundance of it! Upwards of 180 gallons, according to the story. That must be nearly a thousand bottles! But that’s not the point. The point is that the one responsible for this unprecedented, miraculous turnabout was Jesus. His presence made all the difference….and in the process he reveals himself as much more than a simple carpenter: much more to him than any other human person, a ‘much-more’ that is described as ‘glory’: ‘He let his glory be seen’. That’s a word that’s positive but also mysterious, and it indicates a presence of divinity…for glory is a word with which we try to describe who God is.

For the young couple faced with disastrous embarrassment and their families and guests, the presence of Jesus and his word transformed everything. That is what he does for us too when we invite him into our lives, into every day of our lives, and especially the most important days, as the young couple of Cana did.

And that’s what it means to believe in Him, to be a person of faith: to take him into our lives everyday. The last word of this story today is just that: ‘His disciples believed in him’. And they stayed with him every day after that, and never left him.

That’s where we take our stand too, as men and women of Faith.

Mary: the disciple.

And the one who knew Jesus would transform everything for the young couple at Cana was the woman of faith par excellence: Mary…who is always a representation of the Church, the community of Jesus’ disciples.

So this is a story of the power of faith, the effectiveness of the person of faith speaking to Jesus trustfully: the power of prayer, prayer which makes faith real. And prayer is even more powerful when we pray together, when we are a community, a church, as we are here this morning.

In this year of Faith this story is telling us that there is no faith without putting a word in Jesus’ ear. There is no faith without prayer and there is no prayer without faith.

Our schools are full of people who have no problem with prayer.

I’m looking down now at all the smaller pupils who are up here in the front.  You are those people who love to pray. Our schools are full of people of faith: little children have no difficulty talking to God, taking Jesus as their friend, and loving Mary as Mother. It would be a terrible travesty to them if this natural part of who they are was not acknowledged and nurtured in our schools as it is in their homes. For what good is a school unless it is an extension of all that is best in a child’s home. It is for us adults – parents, teachers, parishioners to learn again from the little children what it is to be believers and what it is to pray. Like Mary. Like Jesus himself, who addressed the Father always in the most intimate, childlike way as ‘Abba’.

So our Gospel story today is about a Wedding, yes. It is also, we can say, about a miracle, yes. But in the end, St John is very clear. It is a story about faith and about believing. About a whole way of reading the world around us, the events and happenings, as signs revealing the presence of God. This is a powerful, consoling way of reading our world and it is central to the education our Catholic schools must provide.

So, this Gospel is a story for you and me. A story that confirms our faith and calls us to faith, and to joy in that faith and in the knowledge that like that young couple, Jesus with us and we with him will save the day for us too… every day, whatever it brings, transforming whatever darkness befalls us most surely in God’s good time, to light.

That’s the Good News we want for our children. At home, at school, in the parish or community. For we do not want them ever to be alone, or lost. We want them to know they belong, that their dreams can come true. That’s the gift of faith in Jesus, of hearing his word… of being believers.

May we, in our homes, our parishes and our schools be child-like enough to invite Jesus every day into our lives, and may our children learn from us to do the same.

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2013 in Bishop's Thoughts, Homilies, Reflections

 

Mass with Adorers of Castlemore-Kilcolman Parish, 9 January 2013, Ballaghaderreen Cathedral

9 January 2013 – Homily
Mass with Adorers, Parish of Castlemore-Kilcolman, Ballaghaderreen Cathedral

Introduction:
I’m glad to be here. To gather for the celebration of Holy Eucharist with you who love the Eucharist and who treasure and ponder this great mystery that is the heart of faith and the core of our identity as Christians, as followers of Jesus.

Homily:
I’d like to begin with a word of gratitude particularly this evening to those of you who have recently made a commitment to Eucharistic Adoration. And to those of you, too, who have sustained the daily prayer of Adoration here in the Cathedral for many years.

This is the Year of Faith – and people of faith are faithful, in the sense of committed, constant. Like God himself, like Jesus, even to the giving of his life.

We are marking the fact that a whole new group of people have recently committed themselves to an hour of Adoration here each week. And we can only do this with a celebration of the Mass, because Eucharistic Adoration is an extension of the Mass and makes no sense separated from the Mass. Reservation of Eucharist developed in the Church because the Community longed to share the Eucharist with the sick and those unable to attend Mass. Because the Sacred Host was reserved in a Tabernacle, it began to draw people, just to be with Jesus, in the presence of Jesus, and ponder the mystery of Jesus with us, living, present, real…
I was delighted then with the readings the Church gives us on this day when I read them. The Gospel especially, which is from Mark. It tells us what happened after Jesus had fed the five thousand. That was yesterday’s Gospel. It told us that when Jesus saw the crowd, he took pity on them. They were lost, like sheep without a shepherd. Very much the case today in ways: People not sure who to listen to, who to trust. So, first, Jesus taught them at some length, and second, He gave them to eat. He nourished hearts and minds, and then bodies. The whole person, full and plenty.

We hear that after Jesus sent the crowd and the disciples away “he “went off into the hills to pray.” Personal prayer follows Eucharist. But for the people, they go into the world, as it were, and the disciple into their boat, a symbol of the Ship, the Bark of Peter, the Church. And they encounter headwinds, storms, no progress – our situation today.

They were not really lost. Because not lost to Jesus. To themselves, yes, but not to him. How easily it happened, how quickly. We too can lose quickly the One/the Word who gives life.
He got into the boat with them.” They are far from being alone. They are not abandoned. He is in the boat! Isn’t that Eucharist? Real Presence. Eucharist is what it signifies.

What is Adoration? It is to be present to the one who is present to us, with us. So the storm abates and all is calm again. And not just any personal storm, certainly that, but we do adoration for the Church; for the Parish; for the Diocese; for the Community; for all who are on the Ship, in the Ark.

Who is this Jesus who is present? The Love of the Father/God for us. “He loved us first.” Thus enabling us to love each other. How we long to be loved!

So this is where we take our stand when we commit to Adoration: It is a stance of faith!
At times, it is lonely, cold, and I don’t feel like it, but it is so necessary, and vital.
And silence/quiet was never so needed, allowing Him to look on me and love me!
For this we were made, to Give glory and praise to God.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2013 in Bishop's Thoughts, Homilies, Reflections

 

Year of Faith Launch – Sunday, 14 October 2012

14 October, 2012     –     1st Sunday of the Year of Faith

First Reading (Ws 7:7-11)

The author tells us that he prayed and entreated and the spirit of Wisdom was given to him. Clearly for him it is by far the most precious gift…

Second Reading (Heb 4:12-13)

The word of God…touches not merely the surface of our lives, but cuts to the core of our being, challenging and calling us forth…

GOSPEL :  Mk 10:17-30

HOMILY:

“I prayed and the spirit of Wisdom was given to me…. (1st Reading)

“The word of God is alive and active; it cuts like any double-edged sword…judging our most secret emotions and thoughts… (2nd Reading)

“Go sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and come, follow me…”  (Gospel)

The readings we have just heard are all about what is of greatest value in our lives, what it is that will bring real & lasting fulfilment, and therefore true happiness…

The answer given is clear: Wisdom and the Word of God.

‘Compared to Wisdom’ the author of the first reading tells us, ‘I held riches as nothing. I reckoned no priceless stone to be her peer, for compared with her, all gold is a pinch of sand…’

And then, the word of God opens us to all that is true and right, all that gives life…

Now, Jesus is the Word of God and the wisdom of God in flesh and blood.

And He is the one in whom you and I believe.

It is he who brings us together here today. It is his life, and especially his passion and death that we enter into in celebrating the Eucharist, as we entered into it at the beginning when we were immersed in the waters of Baptism.

“There is nothing more beautiful than to know Christ

And to speak to others of our friendship with him”.

These are not my words. They are the words of our Holy Father. His constant theme since he became Pope has been friendship with Jesus, from the first homily at his inauguration Mass on 25 April 2005. Listen to what he said on that occasion ‘The church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance’.  

Friends know each other, and if friendships are to survive and deepen, then it can only happen if we spend time together, and grow in our knowledge of each other.

That was Jesus’ plea to the rich young man in the Gospel today: “Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, [‘There is one thing you lack. Go sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then] come, follow me.’”

Jesus is not condemning the man or his riches, but challenging him about his priorities, reminding him of something we all know deep down in our hearts’ core: it is friendship and love we crave, to be in relationship and not alone, which is the desert… and the world we live in can be a desert for us in so many ways… and yes, even the best human relationships in our lives cause pain and anguish… So Jesus is saying to the young man today Yes, you have so much going for you, so many gifts and riches in this life, but come and nourish what is fundamental, what will sustain when all things fail and life is difficult, come follow me: know me, I who am Wisdom, and Word of God in flesh and blood like yours… that you may have life and joy… but the young man went away sad… and it broke Jesus’ heart. Our sadness always breaks the heart of God, for he did not make us for that…but for life in its fullness, for joy everlasting.

So the Year of Faith is a call to us all to look again at our faith, to reflect on it, and study it, even in a little way. As adults, grown men and women. To listen as if for first time to the word of God, to give time to prayer and meditation, to study the faith…

It is above all a call to nourish and deepen our relationship, our friendship with Jesus Christ… to become his disciple anew…

To be a man or woman of faith is about being humble and small enough to begin again, and again… and again…

So we pray that this will be a year when we will do what we can to deepen our faith, to come to know and understand it better, to grow in friendship with Jesus… so that we will be good disciples and apostles, sharing our convictions simply with others…

 
 

Day for Life, Homily, Sunday, 7 October 2012

DAY FOR LIFE       Sunday 7 October 2012, 27th Sunday of the Year – B

GOSPEL:    (Mk10:2-16)

HOMILY:

‘It is not good that the man should be alone…’

The first reading today, from the first book of the bible, the Book of Genesis, explains how man and woman were created from the beginning for each other. This is how God has made us, for the God of love finds loneliness intolerable as we do.

The second reading from the NT letter to the Hebrews proclaims the fact that in Jesus God is with us in our humanity and knows the pain and struggle being human can be. So, just as He has made us to be with each other, God wants to be with us himself.

And then the Gospel today begins by declaring that it is God’s fundamental plan that marriage be for life, and it concludes by placing little children at the very heart of God’s care, concern and Kingdom.

On this Day for Life, these readings provide the context in which we focus on the little child at its most fragile, as infant in the womb: human life at its tiniest, most vulnerable and utterly dependant stage.

The theme, ‘Choose life!’,  is a call to us all, a challenge. And we are asked to make this call to ‘choose life’ the subject of fervent, confident prayer for the next month, between today and the feast of All the Saints of Ireland, November 6.

When Jesus saw that the disciples were turning away the people who were bringing the little children to him for his blessing, Jesus we are told in today’s Gospel, ‘was indignant, and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs’. These are very strong words and very clear. Little children are at the heart of God’s scheme of things.

And Jesus goes on to say: “‘I tell you most solemnly: anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it’. Then he put his arms around them, laid his hands on them, and gave them his blessing”

Words and actions like this from Jesus leave us his followers with a very clear message and an example we must follow. The protection of the little child is what we are about as community and as individual men and women.

We now know that from the moment of conception onwards a new, unique and genetically complete human being comes into existence. From that moment onwards we did not grow and develop into a human being, but grew and developed as a human person. Science is very clear about this today. And like so many of the discoveries of science it leaves us amazed and full of wonder….

So as the statement from the Bishops puts it today, ‘A child in the womb is not a ‘potential’ human life, but rather a human life with potential’. We are, each of us here this morning, that potential realised to a great – or at least to some –  extent.

This country is consistently one of the safest countries in the world for a woman who is expecting a baby. To legislate for abortion denies the dignity of the child in the womb and is a violation of the most fundamental human right of all, the right to life. Contrary to what many commentators have asserted, our government does not have to legislate for abortion in order to comply with European Court rulings. On the contrary our Government can choose to legislate to protect the life of the child in the womb, while upholding the equal right to life of the mother.

As Christians, we seek to live like Jesus. Our hearts like his must go out to protect and care for all human life when it is threatened. And we include in this any and every woman who finds herself carrying a baby in difficult or unwanted circumstances. It was this imperative that brought about the establishment of CURA decades ago, a service that supports and stays with any expectant mother who finds herself in such a threatening situation. And we must also be there for women who have gone through with an abortion. Our mercy must match that of Jesus in these circumstances, and we will always welcome home any person who stands in need of understanding and compassion. ‘Come to me’, Jesus said, ‘all you who labour and are overburdened…’

So today we fervently pray for the strength and courage to go against the tide, and to stand for the right to life of the weakest and most vulnerable, the child in the womb.

We pray equally fervently for all who may find themselves in the threatening and fearful situation of unwanted pregnancy. That with God’s help we may always find a way in every circumstance to protect every precious life, every child and every mother.

‘Then Jesus put his arms around them, laid his hands on them, and gave them his blessing’.

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2012 in Bishop's Thoughts, Homilies

 

Bishop Brendan Kelly’s Homily – Mass at the Grotto – Lourdes – Sunday, 26 August 2012

“Choose today whom you wish to serve”

Blessed John Paul II came to Ireland in 1979 and when he finally reached Mary’s Shrine at Knock he declared that he had arrived at the “Goal of the Pilgrimage”.

And what did he do at Knock? He led the people in the celebration of Mass, the Holy Eucharist. Just as we are doing here this morning at Mary’s Shrine in Lourdes.

And the Mass together at the Grotto is very much the climax and goal of our pilgrimage here at Lourdes, too. Why is this so? Why is the Mass at the Grotto so central?

The answer is simple, in a way, and yet deeply mysterious.

First of all and above all, it is because of what the Eucharist is for the Church whose Model is Mary, and of which Mary is the first member. In celebrating and receiving the Holy Eucharist, we become one with Jesus… Simply that!

One with Jesus not in any kind of notional or abstract way, but really and truly, in a similar way to Mary after she said “Be it done unto me.”

One with him in Body and Blood.

“This is my Body, given for you” – the moment of consecration.

“This is my Body, given to you” – the moment of reception.

“This is my Blood, poured out for you” – into you.

His body becomes ours, and ours his. His blood, my blood, and mine his.

When we receive Holy Communion this morning, you will make the little pilgrimage from your seat, or your wheelchair, up towards the Altar of Sacrifice, the Table of the Bread of Life. In receiving the Holy Eucharist, I accept an extraordinary truth: that this flesh and blood of mine, this body, this not so perfect, sometimes burdensome, often weary body of mine is what St. Paul says it is – the Temple in which Jesus wants to live, just as he wanted to live in Mary’s womb, to bring us salvation.

“Did you not realize that you are a Temple of God with the Spirit of God living in you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy that person, because God’s Temple is holy and you are that temple.”

My body – holy? My Person? That’s what Paul says. And what we believe.

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, a young Carmelite who died a death in terrible pain with Addison Disease in 1906 in Dijon, France, used to say that the human body, the person I am, is the very heaven in which Christ chooses to live! And hers was a body wracked with pain and wasted by disease.

If all this is true, and if I believe it, then the little pilgrimage here now to receive the Body of Christ is precious, fruitful, life-enhancing beyond anything we could ever hope for. That’s our faith.

So the Mass does matter, – and receiving Holy Communion, not because we are perfect or pretty or handsome by the world’s standards, but because whatever I look like or feel, we have God’s Word for it that this body is sacred, God’s own Holy Temple, one with Jesus in a Communion that is Holy, –  and in that way, one with each other.

The second reason the Eucharist here at the Grotto is at the heart and centre of our pilgrimage, is because it is Eucharist at the Grotto. Fr. Joe told us at Mass the last evening that this used to be the dump. It was the place poor children foraged, Bernadette being one of them. Look how it is transformed! Look at the possibility that was hidden in this most seemingly God-forsaken place. Look at the comfort and healing that happens here! Look at the care, self-giving, self-sacrifice, the love this place brings out in us! Look at what is brought out of the seemingly God-forsaken, sickly, supposedly slow 14 year old girl, who longed to receive her first Holy Communion. In January of 1858 she sent a message to her parents from Bartres, “I want to come back to Lourdes and go to school to prepare for my First Holy Communion.” Look at the strength she was given here, and the determination, how she blossomed. Look at all that was begun by God through her, and through her grasping at the rosary, her turning to pray the mysteries, with the beautiful lady of the vision who eventually revealed herself to her as “The Immaculate Conception.”

The delicate, sickly Bernadette was a girl of simple faith, childlike faith, and it is the strongest, most powerful force in all the world! This place, we here, 154 years later in such numbers, is the proof, the evidence, of the fruitfulness of this little life: fruitful because it was a life of such total faith.

The Lady asked for a church to be built so the Eucharist could be celebrated here. She wanted people to come to Holy Communion here and know their Communion with Christ and with each other, in spite of the differences that so divide and so pain us, and no matter what their status or condition in life.

That church got built, and many churches. The Holy Mass is celebrated, and we’re all coming here to scavenge and forage in our need at the Mass at the Grotto.

This is a place of faith – the faith of Bernadette, of Mary, of Peter, of the Church, our Faith – the faith that is spelt out so simply for us in the mysteries of the Rosary.

“I only know my Rosary”, Bernadette said. And it was enough.

Next October the church will begin to celebrate a Year of Faith. There is a saying in Connemara for the thing most important to a person : b’shin é an céad cloch ar a phaidrín’- ‘That is the first bead on his rosary’

The first bead on the Rosary of our lives is Faith: Faith in Jesus and in his Word.

And the second bead on that Rosary of our Lives surely, as with Bernadette, is the Eucharist, in which we, no matter how wretched or poor our lives, discover again and again our oneness with God in Jesus, and our Communion with each other in him.

All of that is lived out in such a real way here in the way we support and help and are present to each other on this pilgrimage and in how we place the most needy and helpless amongst us at the heart of our pilgrimage.

In life we all have choices to make. It is the gift of being an adult, but it is difficult too. At Mass today, we find the Readings are all about adult choice.

Joshua puts a choice before the People of Israel, “Choose today whom you will serve! the Lord who led you out of Slavery, or some other God.”

Jesus puts the same challenge, very gently but firmly, before his disciples, when many were turning away because he had told them, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man… Will you also go away?”

Here at the Grotto with Bernadette, with Mary, the Immaculate Conception, with Peter and the Apostles, we make our choice: our act of Faith, in celebrating this Eucharist today: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of Eternal Life, and we believe; we know you are the Holy one of God.”

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Bishop's Thoughts, Homilies

 

Ascension Sunday Homily at Knock

ASCENSION DAY…20 May 2012….The Dublin and Achonry annual DIOCESAN PILGRIMAGE TO KNOCK.

HOMILY of Bishop Brendan Kelly

‘And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them.

was taken up into heaven:

There, at the right hand of God, he took his place’.

 

Today, Ascension Day, is a day of great joy for all Christians.

‘The Ascension of Christ is our uplifting’, St Leo the Great said in the 7th Century, ‘and whither the glory of our head shall go’, he went on, ‘thither the hope of our body is called….for on this day, not alone are we made sure heirs of paradise, but in Christ we have already breached the heights of heaven…’

Another of the great saints a few centuries earlier, St Augustine, tells us: ‘Just as he ascended without leaving us, so too we are already with him in heaven, although his promises have not yet been fulfilled in our bodies’.

You and I are followers of Jesus the Christ. We take our stand with Augustine and Leo, with Patrick and Brigid, Nathy and Laurence O’Toole, and the countless hosts of men and women who, in a world that is often a valley of tears for us, kept their sights fixed firmly on Jesus; fixed firmly on the pilgrimage that was Jesus’ life’s journey, culminating in the moment we celebrate today: the Ascension, when he was ‘taken up into heaven’.

We have come here to Knock on pilgrimage. We come to take our stand with the 15 witnesses, men and women like ourselves, who stood in the pouring rain for two hours at the church gable here on the evening of the 21st of August 1879, captivated by the vision, silent in prayer as the vision itself was silent.

[If I might digress a moment: today is also World Communications Day, and in his message this year, Pope Benedict reminds us of how critical a part of true communications silence is…. Our words need to be founded on silent, interior, listening if they are to be truly good and fruitful.]

 

But back to 1879 in this little village. It was a time of great distress and famine stalked the land again. The vision of Ausust 21 that year gave comfort and undying hope to the people who witnessed it and to all who heard about it. And fundamentally the vision of Knock is a vision of the Holy Eucharist, for at its heart is the innocent Lamb on the altar of sacrifice.

Coming here, we take our stand alongside that innocent victim, along with Mary, Joseph and John: it is to the Eucharist Mary calls us at Knock and nowhere else: to stand with Jesus at Calvary as she and John did.

Those 15 people not only prayed the Mysteries of Jesus’ pilgrimage on earth in the rosary, but were themselves living those same mysteries of Joy, Sorrow, and Glory. The same is true today. Isn’t that what brings us here? We come not to get away, to escape from life as we experience it, but to enter more fully into it. And to know we are not alone, but that our pilgrimage through life now is with Jesus, and with him in the Body, the Church, the people who are all around us today. To be here strengthens me for my particular pilgrimage and especially for the moment on that journey that I am living now. Isn’t that what Knock has been about from the beginning?

The vision was one of solidarity and support for the people here in those times of struggle, austerity and profound hardship that was 1879.

May our coming here today be a support for us in our present situation, personally and as a people.

And how right it is that we pray the mass, and celebrate the Eucharist together when we come. Eucharist is what Jesus calls us to and asks us to be. It is the heritage he gave us at the Last Supper. “Do this in memory of me,” Jesus said. The Eucharist is his last will and testament, passed on to us that we would have food for the journey, sustaining us as we make our pilgrimage to where He has prepared our place.

It is not by chance that the Eucharist is about receiving bread, the Body of Christ, and wine, the Blood of Christ. Bread and wine are basic food for the journey. It is through these simple, everyday elements, consecrated in the Mass, that Jesus calls us to give not just of our surplus but of our very substance, body and blood, so that the hungry be fed, and so that Jesus’ salvation begins to happen for all people now. That’s the way to proclaim good news to all creation!.

And Jesus, ‘knowing he had come from God ,  and was going to God’ St. John tells us, ‘got up from the table, took a towel and a basin of water, and began to wash his disciples’ feet’. To wash feet is to make Holy Communion too. We are a people of the Eucharist who serve each other and ‘all creation’ in deepest humility, on our knees before them, as it were. The more menial the service we do the more holy a thing it is, and the more true the Communion that is accomplished.

It is to celebrate these realities and this call that is central to all our lives in Christ that the International Eucharistic Congress will be held in Dublin shortly. The Congress is an opportunity for Christians from all over the world who love the Eucharist and who know its centrality to our lives in Christ Jesus, to come on pilgrimage, to celebrate and to be in solidarity with each other, to be renewed in our determination to be with all who are starved or thirsty, in body or spirit at this time. And so many are, especially in our own culture, starved of spiritual food and nourishment.

The Congress is like a great pilgrimage by the world, to which Jesus sent out his disciples, back to the Eucharist, the source and summit of Communion.

Today, here in Knock, we come to be in Communion with those 15 original witnesses of that Eucharistic Vision. We come to be in Communion with Mary, the greatest and first witness to the entire life of Jesus, with St. Joseph and St. John, and all the saints and true believers down through the ages. We come as part of the Mystical Body of Christ, all those who await until our turn comes to be taken up too, into the unimaginable Joy that He has prepared for us.

We come above all to be in Communion with people who hunger and thirst in our own day, in whatever way.

We come to be in Communion with Christ and with each other, as the theme of the Eucharistic Congress proclaims

The pilgrimage to Mass we engage in every Sunday in our parishes is not for us as fulfilled and satisfied men and women, but for us as men and women who know our need of God and of each other: the poor in spirit who are, Jesus tells us, the ‘blessed’ on Earth. The weekly Sunday pilgrimage to celebrate the Eucharist with our own poor and unfashionable communities is what Mary asks of us, especially at Knock – that we may be strengthened on our pilgrimage to our true destiny, the joy of Paradise, the joy that the Mass always anticipates.

May the Eucharist today truly be a foretaste for us of that Eternal Joy, into which Jesus was taken on this Ascension Day – the final Holy Communion with Christ and with each other that is the Father’s house, the goal of our pilgrimage of Faith and all the deepest longings of our human hearts.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Bishop's Thoughts, Homilies

 

Cathedral 150th Anniversary

On November 3rd, 2011 there was a Mass of Thanksgiving in the Cathedral of The Annunciation and St Nathy, Ballaghaderreen to mark the 150th Anniversary of the Cathedral’s dedication.  Below is the text of the introduction and homily preached by Bishop Kelly.

Cathedral of the Annunciation and St. Nathy

150th Anniversary Mass of Thanksgiving

November 3, 2861 – November 3, 2011

Intro:

Tá áthas orm sibh ar fad a fháiltiú anseo tráthnóna chuig an Aifreann buíochais seo…150 bliain ó coisriceadh an Ardeaglais seo.

I’m very happy to be welcoming you all this evening to this Mass of thanksgiving, and I thank all, people of this parish, and people and priests from all over the diocese, for coming.

This is your Cathedral, symbol of our unity as a Diocese, and symbol too of our unity with the Universal, Catholic Church, right from the time of Jesus and the Apostles, his successors, down to this day.

In so many ways a Cathedral reminds us we are not alone, we are a communion of people, united in faith as members of the very Body of Christ.

In times of threat, and fear and great uncertainty, this great, strong and sacred edifice stands as a reminder to us of the deeper truths about where our greatest strength lies, and all our hope, truths for which our patron St. Nathy stood, and at the beginning of the Christian era, the young girl Mary, the Mother of our Saviour.

So, Lord, as we go on our knees, we acknowledge our faith can be weak, and our many sins, and we entrust ourselves to your great mercy, that, forgiven, we may celebrate this Holy Eucharist with deep joy. 

Homily:

“(The angel) went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you. (Mary) was deeply disturbed by these words, and asked herself what this greeting could mean…”

And this evening, I’d like us to ask what this Cathedral could mean?

I had finished my first year as a young student for the priesthood in 1965 when I attended the dedication of the youngest Cathedral in Europe in Galway on the 15th of August 1965. The thing I remember most from that day was the way Cardinal Richard Cushing of Boston preached. In his sermon, he asked over and over again the question: Why did you build this Cathedral? It’s a question worth pondering for us this day when we are celebrating, modestly, the dedication of this Cathedral 150 years ago.

Some details of what happened on that day are given in the mass booklet we have in our hands this evening. Patrick Durcan, a native of Tourlestrane was the bishop. The Cathedral took six years to build. When you consider that Galway cathedral, built a hundred years later, took seven years (1958-1965) to complete, the building of this Cathedral in far poorer times, admittedly without the spire, was an extraordinary achievement for the people of Ballaghaderreen and of this small, rural and largely impoverished Diocese. And on top of that, when you consider that six other churches were built in the Diocese during that same decade (1860-1870) and four during the previous decade (1850-1860), it’s an even more remarkable achievement.

Clearly, this building stands as a monument to the faith of the people. It is an expression of that faith. Every Church building is. The Cathedral could not have been built without the people of this Diocese working together as a community, and not just here at home but in communion with the people of the diocese spread all over the world, particularly in the United States and in England. This building proclaims that our faith is a communal reality and a universal reality. Christians believe in Communion, and in community. We know the importance of working together, of depending on each other and helping each other. We know that if we believe in God we cannot but build community. Loving our neighbour is the first principle of the Christian faith along with loving God. That’s what Jesus did, to the point of giving his life, and that’s what we celebrate in the Mass, and that’s what making communion, that’s what building the church can entail.

And a Cathedral, like any church, is basically a Mass house: where the people of God gather in prayer to hear the saving Word of God and to celebrate the Eucharist, for we are poor in spirit, we know our need of God. We know our coming together is an imperative if we say we are Christian and Catholic. There is literally no choice. We come together because we want to be in communion, and are called to be in communion; we come together because we know we fail precisely in this area of being one and together. We so easily hurt, injure, neglect and fail each other, the very ones we profess to love, so we are together to seek forgiveness, and to celebrate our oneness in faith, and our dependence on God, our need of a Saviour, of Jesus. This is a place where we can be on our knees together in sorrow and prayer, stand up together in praise and rejoicing, sit together in rest and reflection. Together, together, together… and together with God, and Jesus, and the whole family of the mystical Body of Christ from the beginning. This is our house.

And then, like St. Paul does in words in the second reading today, this church and every church brings home to us powerfully and beautifully who we are, our deepest identity. “You are God’s building… didn’t you realise you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.” These words of St. Paul describe who each one of us is as an individual man or woman: there is a sacred dignity about each one of us, regardless of our station in life. Let this come home to us in the reception of the Eucharist.

But even more than talking to the people of Corinth as individuals, St. Paul was speaking to them as a community, and it is as a community, together in faith, with Jesus our head, that we are nothing less than the Temple of the Living God on earth. Therefore the work of building unity, of being Church in other words, is the great work for us: ensuring that we are in a real and concrete way a people who love one another. Therein lies our hope in these difficult times, as our ancestors knew 150 years ago when they built this great symbol of unity. And every time we come into this church, or any church, we are reminded of who I am, and who we are, and what I am called to be, and what we are called to be – as individuals and together. That’s why we maintain our churches and keep them beautiful! They remind us of who we are and the dignity and beauty of every human person – that the most beautiful thing is that we be together before God in Communion – that we be Church in other words. So being Church is vital, with all the structures that that demands if we are to be truly human, truly incarnational. We may be aware acutely today of our failures, our wounds as Church, as Communion, but that should call us to greater effort to build unity, never to do the opposite.

And talking, finally, of being incarnational: this Cathedral is the Cathedral of the Annunciation, the moment when the Son of God became incarnate in the Temple of Mary’s body, the central mystery of our faith. There’s nothing notional about Christian faith. It has very real, human, everyday-living implications. Mary is the first Christian. The first of our Church to say ‘yes’ to what God asks, in an absolute and total way. Every time we enter a church, and especially a church dedicated to the Annunciation, like this one, we are reminded that like Mary we too are Temples of God’s Holy Spirit, made holy as she was, by the fact that we are the dwelling place of God’s Holy Spirit. That’s what receiving Eucharist reminds us of and proclaims. We really are, like Mary, God-bearers to all we meet and to all creation.

And we recognize in this Cathedral too St. Nathy as the first of those God-bearers in our midst in Achonry, so he shares the dedication with Mary of the Annunciation; this is what we are remembering today in this Mass and celebrating, our hearts full of gratitude.

So we pray: Lord, may this great edifice, this cathedral of the Annunciation and St Nathy, be renewed for us in our time as a symbol and sacrament in our midst of who we, the people of Achonry diocese are:  God-bearers to our world, called to build unity, to forgive and to welcome each other for your sake, so that love may be real, and holy communion alive in our diocese in this 21st Century,  Amen.

 

Bishop Brendan Kelly

Bishop of Achonry

3 November 2011

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2011 in Bishop's Thoughts, Homilies, Reflections

 
 
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