11 March – 3rd Sunday of Lent – Mass for Apostolic Workers, Armagh
HOMILY GIVEN BY CARDINAL SEAN BRADY
ST PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, ARMAGH
SUNDAY 11 MARCH 2012
I welcome you all here to this Mass today and I especially welcome members of the Apostolic Work Society. They are people who dedicate much of their time and energy in trying to provide help and suppose to those noble people who dedicate their lives to working on the foreign missions.
• They are those people who take the command of Christ ‘Go –make disciples of all nations’ seriously.
• They are the people who are keenly aware of the fact that Jesus suffered and died on the cross for love of us.
• They know that this is the real Good News – the Holy Spirit inspires them, out of love, to do what they can to help and they provide this essential service to the Churches in Africa and Asia.
We thank them most sincerely and we thank God for them. We thank all of you because last year this diocese gave more than £100,000 to the collection for the Propagation of the Faith.
Today the Apostolic Workers have come to Armagh for a special intention. They are to pray that the lady who founded the Society for the Propagation of the Faith may be recognised by the whole Church for the holy woman that she was and declare her a saint.
Her name was Pauline Jericot and she was a remarkable lady. Born in France in 1799, at the age of 17 she decided to solemnly dedicate her life to God as a lay-woman and for the this reason she decided she would not exercise her right not get married but would remain single in order to be freer to serve God exclusively. Again, at the age of 17, she founded the Union of Prayer in Reparation to the Sacred heart of Jesus for the sins committed in defiance of the wishes of Jesus.
That Union was an organisation of servant girls. It was from these young girls that she first began to hold collections to help those working on the foreign missions. Obviously Pauline got great support. These girls got a sense of purpose and meaning from their lives of hard work, from the fact that they were in communication with, and helping those, who were on the front line, spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.
At the age of 21 Pauline Jericot also formed an association to help the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris and in 1826, she founded the Association of the Living Rosary. Each member was given a certain mystery every day. Pauline’s main concern was to help the foreign missions through alms and prayers.
In 1822 the Society for the Propagation of the Faith was founded and Pauline is recognised as its Foundress. She had a very simple system for fundraising. Each promoter found ten people to contribute a cent a week. They in turn, turned those funds over to another person who was in charge of ten promoters and so on. Gradually it built up into a world organisation.
Pauline Jericot had enthusiasm and energy to help the mission of Jesus Christ. When Jesus was about to ascend into heave he entrusted that mission to his disciples. He entrusted it to the Church and he sent the Holy Spirit to help the Church.
You see God has this great plan – of leading the people of all nations and of all ages into friendship with Him so as to share the happiness of God’s life forever. The Devil – the Father of Lies – has another pan – which is to wreck God’s plan. Jesus came that all of us may have life – the fullness of life. But fullness of life means a share in God’s life – life that last forever. Nothing else will do. But the problem is we get distracted. We take our eye of the ball! But, time and time again, God has to remind us. He gave the Ten Commandments to Moses to remind us of His plan. They are basically 10 signposts on the journey of life.
I heard a lady say recently that one of the problems about going to confession is that when it comes to confessing our sins, we do not know what to say. But, if we take time to examine our lives regularly in the light of those Ten Commandments, and do so honestly, we will find something.
The first and most important is the first – I am the Lord your God – your helper – for I led you out of the slavery of Egypt. So, the question is: Does God have first place in my life? In the life of my home and in the life of my family or is there some other God lurking around that has taken the place of God? Could it be the God of pleasure? – The pleasure of watching films or DVDs or television – a greedy other God that leaves no time for prayer or even conversation of any kind except the usual superficial stuff.
When Jesus came to the Temple in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover he was outraged at what he saw going on there. The Temple was His Father’s house – a place for talking to the Father about things like health and happiness and how to achieve them. But what did Jesus find? He found that instead of talking to God, and about God, his Father, they were talking about another God – the God of Money. They were thinking about how they could profit from a visit to the House of God. They were thinking about how they could make the biggest profit out of selling cattle, sheep and pigeons. They were asking how to get the biggest profit from the bank renters for changing money – another God – the God of Money had invaded the Temple.
This infuriated Jesus and he decided to do something about it – something fairly drastic for someone who was kind and gentle. He made a whip of cords. He tossed the coins from the table, turned them over and drove the whole lot out.
That certainly took course because the temple authorities were getting their cut out of what was going on. They, in turn, were outraged at this loss to their bonuses and so they kicked up in protest. They asked for a sign – a sing from God to prove that what Jesus was doing was right.
‘Destroy the Temple’ Jesus said – and, in three days I will raise it up again. T hey thought he was talking about the physical building which had taken 46 yeas to build. But, in fact, he was talking of his body – which was, indeed, destroyed, or so they thought, on Calvary. But no, God, his Father, raised him up after three days as He promised and his disciples remembered that. And so, with the help of the Holy Spirit they believed in Him.
Yes it took courage for Jesus to stand up to all that was going wrong in the Temple. It always takes courage to stand up to evil. But, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is courage.
It took courage for Pauline Jericot to do what she did but then look and see what she achieved. It will take courage too for all of us to do what the Holy Spirit inspires us all to do here and now. Our bodies are the temples – the dwelling places of the Holy Spirit.
• Have we the courage to invite Jesus into the depths of our hearts and take a look around?
• Have we the courage to take him to the secret corners of our hearts where our heaviest worries lie hidden?
• Have we the strength to really take an honest look at the troubles that give us the most pain?
• Have we the courage to recognise what really takes away our serenity and our peace of mind?
• Have we the courage to see the things that lie deep within us and which so often cause us to wobble in our faith and to turn our gaze away from God?
• Are we brave enough to invite Jesus to clean out the Temple of our Hearts to help us see the things which we really don’t want to give but which, in reality, are killing us?
It is sometimes easy enough – what is killing the life of the body – but it is sometimes not so easy to admit what it is that is killing the Life of the Soul. Is it pride that keeps us from apologising when we know we really should?
But, with the help of Jesus – we can turn the Temples of our Hearts into places – not of bitterness and hatred and revenge – but of praise and of song and of petition. That help is found in prayer and in the sacraments – especially of Confession. That is the favourable area for the Holy Spirit.
Today the Temples of Christ are the holy souls, not of people who have died – but also of those who are alive and are doing their best to follow Christ. Today we joyfully thank God for making us His Temple – His Dwelling Place. But, at some time, we live in dread of offending our distinguished guest.
Next Saturday the Papal Nuncio is coming to Armagh. He will celebrate the 12 noon Mass. We would not dare offend him – the representative of Pope Benedict – the Vicar of Christ. But we should be evermore alert to the fact that the God who made Heaven and earth has decided to take up residence with each one of us. And so, each one of us must behave in such a way as not to offend in case we cause Him to abandon us and leave us open to the attacks of the Evil One. God has decided to make of us his dwelling place. Let it also be a House of Prayer where we talk to God and enter into that friendship with Him – especially at Holy Communion – which is, in reality, a foretaste of the glory of Heaven.