DEDICATION OF HIGH CROSS
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 10, 2000
HOMILY BY CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY
We stand on holy ground as we come together to bless and dedicate Termonmaguirc High Cross. We stand in the shadow of Mullaghnalap. Here, tradition says Colmcille founded one of his monasteries. The very place names: An Termon, Páirc na hAltóra, Fód na Marbh, Reilig na mBan, speak to us of a reality that goes beyond the grave. They remind us that we have not here on earth a lasting kingdom. We seek one that is to come.
Today we raise a cross, high over Carrickmore, the Big Rock. This cross will remind us of the Jubilee, the Great Jubilee of the Holy Year 2000. It reminds us also of another cross, raised on another rock, on the hill of Calvary, outside the walls of Jerusalem.
Today this parish makes a statement. It says: “we believe in the power of Jesus Christ whose holy Cross redeemed the world”. The Cross of Jesus Christ is the supreme expression of his love for each one of us. We cannot look into the heart of Jesus, but the suffering which he willingly and eagerly endured, for our sake, reveals his sacred heart to us.
He knew there is no heart so hard, so cold, and so selfish, that he couldn’t set on fire if only that heart would give itself to him. To kindle this fire of love in our hearts, God allows suffering to come to us. He allows the Cross to come into our lives. He can take away our hearts of stone and give us hearts like his own. The sufferings, which God allows to come to us, will do that if we take them and accept them in the right spirit.
If we welcome even the smallest cross that comes to us in life a number of things will happen. We will find our own crosses very much lightened. We will experience a joy that may open up a new realm of happiness. We will discover a sense of fellowship with Jesus in his suffering.
Jesus once said to the Jews: “and I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all things to myself”. What he said to the Jews he now says to all of us – “I have been lifted up on the Cross on Calvary. I now have the power to lift up to myself all those who have faith in me. For all those who look to me with faith and love, deserve to be drawn to me”.
So, when you look at this splendid Jubilee High Cross, never forget the wonderful promise of Jesus, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all things to myself”. Let this great Cross be a reminder for all of us that in Jesus we have everything. His merits are now our merits. I see the erection of this High Cross as a great act of hope in those merits.
This High Cross commemorates the Holy Year of the Great Jubilee of the Birth of Our Saviour. One of the great themes of this holy year is that of pilgrimage. Here we are today on pilgrimage to a place associated with one of the greatest of the Irish saints – St Colmcille. Last Sunday another Colmcille, and another Irish person, Columba Marmion, was beatified in Rome. The whole purpose of the Holy Year is that we ourselves become holy, that we ourselves grow in holiness. The saints are important to us in this effort. The saints reveal to us in their lives the holiness of God. The saints are models for us to follow. They give us inspiration.
Blessed Columba Marmion has many links with the Archdiocese of Armagh. His brother was a medical doctor in Dungannon. His cousins live in Omagh and Dungannon. There are many Marmion cousins in County Louth. In fact there is a family tree in existence which traces their history back to their arrival in Ireland in 1495 in Carlingford, County Louth. I said the saints inspire us with their lives and with their words. Blessed Columbia Marmion once wrote: “If Christ died for us while we were his enemies, what grace of forgiveness or of sanctification can he refuse us now that we detest sin and strive to detach ourselves from sin.”
Another theme of this Holy Year is that of reconciliation, conversion and forgiveness. The big obstacle on the road to holiness is sin. Personal sin separates us from God and from our neighbour. But, as Blessed Columba Marmion tells us, ‘Sin need not be a problem because Christ will not refuse us the grace of forgiveness provided we detest our sins and try to detach ourselves from them.
This new Termonmaguirc High Cross is really a catechism and a history of the faith in pictures. I hope you will all take time to study and reflect upon it. There is one panel which is especially pleasing to me; that is the panel which represents Pope John Paul II on his jubilee trip to the Holy Land. On that occasion Pope John Paul placed a prayer in a slot in the Wailing Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem. He did this as a sign of reconciliation. In a true spirit of Jubilee he asked for forgiveness for offences caused by Christians, especially against Jews. The Pope’s gesture inspired images for this panel.
While I was in Rome for the beatification of Blessed Columba Marmion I was handed a lovely picture. It represents the Holy Father embracing a beautiful crucifix on 12 March last. That was the day on which the Pope asked forgiveness from those who have been offended or hurt by people in the Church. He in turn then offered forgiveness to those who have offended the Church in the past. This picture shows us the Pope touching the legs of Jesus and looking towards the face of Jesus as if to say, ‘Lord, I remember your words on Calvary, your words on the Cross, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do’. It is as if the Holy Father is saying to the Lord, ‘Lord, help us to forgive those who have offended us and to ask forgiveness from those whom we have offended’. Only by being united to Christ and to his forgiving love can we ourselves can be forgiven and can we offer forgiveness.
In one of his recent messages for World Peace Day – Pope John Paul II said, ‘We all need to be forgiven by others, so we must all be ready to forgive’. Certainly forgiveness doesn’t come spontaneously or naturally to people. Forgiving from the heart can sometimes be actually heroic. The pain of losing a child, a brother or sister, one’s parents or whole family, as a result of war, terrorism, or criminal acts, can lead to a total closing of oneself to others.
People, who have been left with nothing because they have been deprived of their land and home, refugees and those who have endured the humiliation of violence, cannot fail to feel the temptation to hatred and revenge. Only the warmth of human relationships, marked by respect, understanding and acceptance can help them to overcome such feelings.
The power to forgive and to offer forgiveness can be experienced even by a wounded heart. That power is available thanks to the healing power of love – a love which has its origin in God who is love. That love was revealed on the Cross on Calvary. This Jubilee High Cross declares that we believe in the power of that love to change lives and to heal hurts. The gift of reconciliation comes, first of all, from God. God calls those who are acting unjustly to repent and those who suffer injustice to forgive.
There are many areas of life where there is need for reconciliation, for example in family life, in work or business, in public and political life. Where people have been hurt, for example in a marriage relationship, it is important not to gloss over the wrong that has been done. If an effort is made to move too quickly to forgiveness, then the victim may feel helpless, unable to accept that forgiveness. The process of healing then cannot take place. Forgiveness does not depend on repentance by the oppressor. Quite the contrary, forgiveness on the part of the victim often comes before repentance by the oppressor. The ability to forgive and to be open to reconciliation is a gift from God.
Looking at this Jubilee Cross we pray for the ability to forgive and for the grace of being open to reconciliation. Where reconciliation has taken place the victims may still bear the scars of oppression. They can become powerful instruments of God’s saving power as wounded healers. There have been many such outstanding examples in recent times in this part of the world. They are examples of a mysterious power which God uses to draw good out of evil. The torture and death of Jesus on the Cross on Calvary led to the hope and new life of Easter. The power of the Cross draws new and deeper life out of suffering and out of evil.
May the presence of this Cross lead us all to identify the areas of our lives that are crying out for forgiveness and reconciliation. Those areas can lie in our own personal domestic life, in our business or professional relationships, in our public or political activities. Reconciliation with God and with people lies at the heart our religion. There can be no question of being reconciled with God unless we are willing to be reconciled with those around us. In fact, reconciliation with others is the only convincing evidence that we are in fact reconciled with God.
On the Cross Jesus Christ left us Mary, his mother, to be our mother. May the memory of her standing bravely at the foot of the Cross, inspire us all. May it remind us that God sometimes calls us to do heroic things but if He does, He gives us the strength to do them. God is the one who enables us to be reconciled to others. In Jesus the Son of God, we have everything we need. His merits are our merits. We are not alone.
Hail, O Cross, our only hope. Today we thank God for the imagination, faith and genius of those who designed and commissioned Termonmaguirc High Cross. We praise God for the creativity, energy and patience of those who chiselled it into existence. We thank God for the generosity and commitment of those who are supporting and financing this undertaking. May this symbol of the great victory of good over evil always remain for the Third Millennium Christians of Termonmaguirc and surrounding area a beacon of hope in their struggles against evil. May it inspire them to remain faithful to the Mass where the sacrifice of the Cross is remembered and renewed each day. May it bind them more closely to Christ, who reigns from the Cross of Calvary.