HOMILY GIVEN BY
CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY
ST PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, ARMAGH
SATURDAY 1ST JANUARY 2011
“The fact is that, ever since the Word was made flesh, every human life has been raised to a new level of dignity … Each one of us has been chosen to bear witness in our own lives to the Good News of God’s kindness and love for humankind” – Cardinal Brady
In his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland last March, Pope Benedict proposed some concrete initiatives:
· He asked that time be set aside to pray for an outpouring of God’s mercy.
· He urged us to implore the gifts of the Holy Spirit of holiness and strength upon the Church in Ireland at this time.
· He suggested that the grace of healing and renewal for the Church in Ireland be requested in prayer and fasting.
At our December General meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference a few weeks back, bishops decided to dedicate today, the first Sunday of 2011, as a day of special prayer not only for the renewal of the faith in the Church in Ireland, but also for a renewal of hope in the face of widespread doom and gloom which prevails – North and South – in Ireland at the present time.
So, at this time as we the begin a New Year it is appropriate that we set our eyes firmly once more on the Saviour of the world. He has come to protect his people and give them hope.
Speaking to the Roman Curia on 20 December last, Pope Benedict XVI returned to the subject. He said that amidst the great tribulations to which we have been exposed during the past year the great Advent prayer – Rouse up your power O Lord, and come – has been frequently in his mind and on his lips.
We too make that prayer our own as we ask for the graces to accept humiliation as an exhortation to truth and a call to renewal. We ask, with Pope Benedict, what was wrong in our proclamation, in our way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen?
So, we too ask for a new resoluteness in faith and in doing good and in doing penance. This is also the moment to offer, with the Pope, heartfelt thanks to all those who work to help survivors, in helping to restore their trust in the Church, and their capacity to believe her message. This is also the moment to give thanks for the many good priests who act as channels of the Lord’s goodness in humility and fidelity.
In the Gospel just read, we heard these amazing words: No-one has ever seen God. It is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart, Who has made Him known!
Today we pray for a renewal of our own faith, not only in the invisible God, made known to us by his Son, Jesus Christ, but in fullness of grace and truth which come through Jesus Christ. We give thanks for our having received, from His fullness, grace upon grace and we ask for the strength and healing to be faithful to those
Cardinal Daly, whose first anniversary Mass this is, prayed constantly that, like St Paul, he might finish his course and finish the service – the task – that he had received from the Lord Jesus, namely, to bear witness to the Good News of God’s grace. That Good News is essentially news of God’s movement towards us. God spoke His word to us in a language that we could understand. He shone His light to overpower our darkness and He shared His life by giving us the power to become children of God.
Once upon a time, the Gospel we have just heard was read at every Mass. It was called the Last Gospel. It was read immediately before the final blessing. It was read in Latin, with the priest facing away from the people. The fact that it was read every day indicates, I think, that it has the power to give a new and an eternal dimension to our life. St John takes us away beyond what happened at Bethlehem to a place where our minds find depth and our hearts find peace.
The fact is that, ever since the Word was made flesh, every human life has been raised to a new level of dignity. That very dignity of the human person forms the basis of the religious freedom which Pope Benedict has described in his Message for this World Day of Peace as the Path to Peace.
The Angelus is a daily prayer which celebrates what happened at Christmas. The word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Literally it means he pitched his tent among us. A tent is a temporary dwelling of someone on a journey. The eternal word of the Father made the journey of coming down to us. He stayed for a time before returning to the Father. He came to his own people and they who were his own gave him no welcome. He, who was the true light, was rejected by the darkness. But He was not, and never will be, overcome by darkness.
If you are like me, you are surprised and sad when people no longer walk with us in faith. We find it hard to understand how so many say no to the Lord and choose to go by another route. But, remember, He was rejected before we ever experienced rejection and He was rejected right up to the end.
But, for those who try to be faithful, there is a fantastic promise. Those who accept Christ become adopted sons and daughters and share in his life. He invites people to rise up with him. Blessed Theresa of Calcutta never tired of saying – “God calls us to be faithful; not necessarily successful”.
Christmas was about Christ’s birth as one of us. Today’s liturgy is about our birth as Children of God. It is about the amazing fact that before the world was made, God had chosen us to be His children in union with Jesus. The consequence of that is that we have been chosen to live in holiness, a holiness which is received from Christ.
We are called to live our lives through love in the Presence of the Risen Christ – present now in a different but very real way. The challenge is to be aware, each day, of that presence. One good way of growing in that awareness is to examine our lives each day. We have been chosen to praise the glory of God forever – and I am glad to have the Benedictine monks from Rostrevor who remind us powerfully of that call. It is really amazing – so amazing in fact that it caused St Leo the Great to say:
O Christian be aware of your nobility,
For it is God’s nature that you share;
Do not then by an ignoble life
Fall back into your own weaknesses.
Each one of us – as the inscription of Cardinal Daly’s headstone reminds us – has been chosen to bear witness in our own lives to the Good News of God’s kindness and love for humankind. That kindness and love were revealed in Jesus. We too are called to reveal them in our dealings with our brothers and sisters. To the extent that we do so, the grace of healing and renewal, so eagerly desired by Pope Benedict, will shine out in the Church in Ireland.
CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY
When peaceful silence lay over all and night had run half of her swift course, your all powerful word, O Lord, leaped down from Heaven, from the royal throne.
This beautiful Entrance Antiphon reminds us that Christmas was about the birth of Christ as one of us. Today’s liturgy is about our birth as Children of God.
The day of one’s death was often described as their birth into Eternal Life. Tonight we celebrate the first anniversary of the death of Cardinal Cahal Daly, his birth into Eternal Life.
We welcome those who have joined us for this anniversary Mass – his brother and sisters, Paddy, Rosaleen and Barbara, his nephews and nieces and extended family – Bishop Noel Treanor and Bishop Donal McKeown of Down and Connor and Archbishop Robert Le Gall, OSB of Toulouse.
We are here to pray that the late Cardinal Daly may enjoy eternal rest and happiness and that we all, when our turn comes, do likewise.