MASS OF THANKSGIVING
ST CRONAN’S CHURCH, ROSCREA
20 NOVEMBER 2011
CARINDAL SEÁN BRADY
ARCHBISHOP OF ARMAGH
I feel very much at home here. Your Parish Priest, Father Tom Corbett and I went to Maynooth on the same day in September 1957. We have remained friends ever since. I thank him for the invitation to be here with you on this special occasion.
Secondly, this majestic St Cronan’s Church was designed by the distinguished architect, J J McCarthy. He also designed St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh. The great famine of 1846-47 interrupted the building of our Cathedral and your Church as well but both projects were resumed in the 1850s. The stained glass windows came from Munich in Germany for both Churches. Today we can only gaze in wonder at their beauty and splendour – build by a generous and faith-filled people in hard times.
I congratulate you all on the wonderful work of restoration and refurbishment. It tells me that the spirit of St Cronan is alive and well in the Isle of the Living and surrounding territory.
I sincerely hope the restoration of your majestic St Cronan’s Church will greatly help to promote your mission of creating an atmosphere where you can truly worship God and build the living Church.
I am well aware from Father Corbett that this community recognises clearly the value of ministering to each other. At the same time, I know that you do not neglect, for one minute, to foster your own spiritual growth. How pleasing to find a parish totally committed to social justice which, at the same time, is intent on sharing its faith and its gifts with the world.
I have heard great reports of the Ecumenical Friendship Walks in the footsteps of St Cronan which you celebrated last year in the month of April and I am, of course, looking forward to meeting, this afternoon, the Cistercian monks of St Joseph’s, who faithfully preserve the monastic tradition of St Cronan and Monaincha.
I believe the present time of recession is going to prove a decisive time of testing and of judging – a testing of our beliefs and of our practice. It will test our belief that all we have is a Gift of God and a sign of God’s love for us.
It will test our sense of standing shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters – especially our brothers and sisters in need. It will, in other words, test our sense of solidarity. We can rise to the challenge but only if we dig deep into our belief in the dignity and worth of very human being and match our attitudes and our behaviour to our values and beliefs.
It is often said that Christ came to disturb the comfortable and to comfort the disturbed and distressed. The Feast of Christ the King does both of those in a very powerful way.
Hail Redeemer, King Divine!
Priest and lamb the Throne is thine,
King whose reign shall never cease,
Prince of everlasting peace.
There is mighty comfort in the words of that beautiful hymn, especially when it goes on to sing,
King most Holy King, King of Truth,
guide the lonely, guide the youth,
Christ thou King of Glory bright,
be to us eternal light.
Here in the Western world we do not have many Kings or Queens and none with much real power. In the time of Jesus Kings were leaders of their communities. They were judges, in the sense that they set moral standards for their community. Today’s Gospel celebrates the Kingship of Christ as an act of judgement. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. But Jesus is a special kind of King. When He came in the flesh, 2000 years ago, His throne was the Cross. He reigns from the Cross. His way of judgement is very difference from what happens in the world. The world considers certain people, the poor for example, as not important. For Christ they are sacred, divine. What we do to them, we do to Him.
This Gospel is really disturbing; we don’t like to think of someone coming from outside, an external examiner. We prefer to write our own references, to be our own judge of ourselves and of our conduct. There is an old legal saying; No one can be a judge in their own case. So, Christ will come and He will place the sheep on His right and the goat on His left. To those on His right, He wall say, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed” and to the other, “Take your heritage. Go away from me, will your curse upon you, to the eternal fire.”
As always the judgement causes two reactions. Wonderful relief at knowing we were right. Good actions which perhaps we saw as trivial were in fact truly great and seen as such in the sight of God. It is like coming home. You have done your finals and you have passed, congratulations, great stuff, but as tomorrow’s Gospel tells us very powerfully, our present judgements are never final. The real final will occur only when the son of man comes in his glory, escorted by all his angels. That is the future final judgement.
For now all we can be certain of is that God’s final judgement will surprise us. There is absolutely no room for complacency. To the extent that we are in any way smug or complacent or self-satisfied is a sure sign that we are not ready for God’s judgement. When we finally read the heritage, the Kingdom prepared for us since the foundation of the world.
The other reaction is one of terrible sadness, “Go away from me.” They have missed the boat. They go away to their fate, eternal punishment, prepared for the devil and his angels.
Today’s Gospel invites us to recall the judgement moments we have met in life. We became seriously ill, we lost our job.
The country fell into huge recession. These experiences are real encounters with God, real moments of truth.