DIOCESAN PILGRIMAGE TO LOURDES
HOMILY GIVEN BY
CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY
ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, ARMAGH
SATURDAY 15 JANUARY 2011
I waited, I waited for the Lord
And he stooped down to me;
He heard my cry
He put a new song into my mouth
Praise of Our God
These words are in the Responsorial Psalm this evening and I offer them for John McAreavey and the Harte and McAreavey families as they mourn the death of Michaela and wait for her funeral.
We pray that the Lord will hear their cry, and the cries of all who are devastated by this terrible tragedy. We ask for the gift of consolation in the midst of devastation. May the Lord stoop down to each one and hear their cry – the same Lord who stooped down to become one of us. He himself wept at the death of Lazarus, his friend. Jesus felt the pain of loss and the shock of sorrow. He also wept for the City of Jerusalem – the beloved capital City of his people – because they refused to accept him.
So much of life is a case of waiting – waiting for events – for results – for the end. As we wait, the Lord does not ask for big sacrifices – but for an open ear. An ear that listens – listens with attention to what he is saying and responds as Jesus did.
Here I am, Lord. I come to do your will.
The important thing to remember is that the God whom we love and desire is really present in the waiting as well. John the Baptist was out in the wilderness – he too was waiting – waiting for the long awaited Saviour of the World.
Lord – there is the Lamb of God
We are familiar with the name. We hear it three times in every Mass. But I wonder what did it mean to his listeners when John said them for the first time? He points to Jesus – a grown man – and calls him a lamb – granted a special type of lamb – the Lamb of God – but still a lamb.
I am sure many of them would have thought of the Paschal Lamb – the lamb that every Jewish family took and killed at the Feast of Passover. It was to commemorate the time they were set free from slavery in Egypt. When John added the words: “who takes away the sin of the world”. John recognises Jesus – ‘Look, there is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world’.
Like the lamb – the man Jesus will be killed. This is the Lamb of God – the Son of God – sent into the world by a God who made the world and loves the world and therefore it is good and peopled with human beings to whom he gave free will. But human beings proceeded not to listen to the love of God and chose not to obey the law of God, which is a law that flows from God’s love for us. When John pointed out Jesus, and called him the Lamb of God, he goes on to talk about Baptism.
There is mention of two types of baptism. John baptised with water. It was a sign for those who repented of their sins in response to his plea. But Jesus would come later and would baptise with water and the Holy Spirit. You and I have been baptised with water and the Holy Spirit. Water is poured and the words: ‘I baptise you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ and at that moment, something wonderful happened – you and I became Children of God – brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. Because we are his brothers and sisters, we are invited into a special friendship with Jesus Christ. We are to listen to His Word and respond to that Word in our praying. It is never good manners not to answer when spoken to.
But we are also expected to live up to our dignity as Children of God. I know a mother who meets objections from her children when she urges them to pay attention to the kind of lives they live. They answer: “Yes mother, you would be strong on the morals”. Well, of course, we should call pay attention to the kind of life we live.
St Paul certainly hints as much when he tells the Corinthians Christians that they are called to take their place among all the saints everywhere – who pray to Our Lord Jesus Christ. Now I know that we all shy away from being called holy or saints because we are too well aware that we have sinned. But, despite the fact that we are sinners and often fail, Jesus has entrusted to his followers – to those who believe him – the task of continuing his work in the world – of going out to bring His message to the ends of the earth. We are all his servants -to be a light to the nations – so that his saving message may reach the ends of the earth.
Last Tuesday I rang a Loreto nun in Mauritius to ask her help when news of the tragedy broke. What was she doing? She is in her 80s and has spent all her life on the missions. She was attending a meeting of the pioneers. To quote her own words: “to try and get them off the booze”. In other words, she was trying to convince them that alcohol is something good but if it is not used wisely, it can enslave people and wreck their lives. Sister Teresa was trying to convince her listeners that, with the help of God, they can use the good things of this earth in a way that gives joy to God.
Jesus came to set us free – free from being enslaved. He is the Lamb of God who took away, not only the sin of the world, but our sins also. We have been set free – let us rejoice in our freedom.