MASS WITH THE SEMINARIANS
THE COLLEGE CHAPEL, ST PATRICK’S COLLEGE, MAYNOOTH
IN THE PRESENCE OF
AMERICAN FRIENDS OF MAYNOOTH
HOMILY BY CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY
SUNDAY 13 MAY 2001
I have just come from a great retreat in Dromantine. The setting was marvellous, the Mourne mountains slouched in the background bathed in the haze. The swans on the lake, the cherry trees in full blossom. It was like the ante-chamber of Paradise. The Retreat Master was excellent, Father Benny McHale, of Tuam. One of the many memorable quotes was that “every Offertory Procession should contain a towel and a basin, to remind us priests of what Jesus did on the night on which he gave us his body and blood to be our food and drink”.
It is important to remember the context of the Gospel we have just heard. It was a solemn moment in the life of Jesus. It was the first Holy Thursday evening. Jesus knew that his hour had come. He was about to leave this world and go to the Father. He had just washed his disciples’ feet, to teach them the true meaning of Eucharist, namely, that if he, their Lord and teacher, had washed their feet, they should wash one another’s feet. He is setting an example for all of us to follow. We are his servants, we are not greater than Jesus. We are his messengers, we are not greater than the one who sent us. “Once we know these things”, he tells us, “we are blessed if we do them”.
I am convinced that we should really take those words and the example of Jesus to heart. If we try to offer to our people, the faithful service of preaching the Gospel tirelessly and faithfully and patiently, if we pray with them and for them, if we are available to comfort and console, to guide and direct, humbly and generously. In other words, if we are feet washers, well I don’t think we should worry too much, we won’t go too far astray. That is what Jesus sends us to do. He sends us out in his name, and he assures us that whoever receives us, receives the Father who sent him.
Having washed their feet and explained the meaning of what he was doing, Jesus dropped a right bombshell. “One of you will betray me”, he said. Naturally there was pandemonium. I just wonder was it this washing of feet which finally decided Judas. We will never know. In any case Jesus made one last effort to save him. He offered him the piece of bread, which he had dipped in the dish. It was a sign of honour. One final attempt to win the heart of Judas. After receiving the piece of bread, Judas went out and St. John adds, ‘it was night’. “Yes, it was night” says St. Augustine “and he who went out was also night”. Judas went out in the realms of darkness to carry out his evil plot.
That is the context of the Gospel text we have just heard. The departure of Judas seems to allow Jesus to confide in his disciples in a way that was not possible in the presence of his betrayer. You know the way it is not possible to talk in the presence of an outsider. “Now”, Jesus said, “the Son of Man has been glorified”. Whenever in John’s Gospel Jesus refers to himself as ‘The Son of Man’, we know that he is talking about something important. Here he is talking about glory, his own glory and the glory of the Father. In fact this process of glorification has already begun. The move made by Judas sets in motion the whole mechanism of his arrest, his trial, and his execution. The lifting up of the Son of Man on the cross – sure it is the lifting up of his body above the earth but above all, it is the expression of his triumph over the prince of this world and over sin and over death.
Jesus is thinking beyond his humiliation and his sufferings. He is thinking of the triumph, which he will win with his obedience to the Father. In that way he will achieve victory. The cross, far from being a defeat, is in fact his greatest triumph. Not alone that, but all the glorification of our crucified Lord by his resurrection and ascension, Christ has already entered into glory.
The glorification of Christ is brought to completion in the followers of Christ. Already the glory of the Risen Christ is reflected in his followers, transforming them into his image. We are all made for glory that is quite clear from the context of this morning’s Gospel. When Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going”? he said, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now but you will follow afterwards. I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also”. The ironic thing is that we will achieve that glory, not by seeking self but by forgetting self. The duty of each one of us is to recognise and praise the glory of God. When Jesus comes again there will be one test, how we fulfil the new commandment he gave us in that evening’s Gospel – love one another, just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
The duty of every man and woman is to recognise and praise the glory of God. At the end of history the spouse of Christ, the Church, appears clothed in the only glory worthy of her spouse, Jesus Christ, namely, the virtues, the offerings and the sacrifices of the saints. Yet the glory of the bride comes to her entirely from her spouse. It is with his blood that the robes of the chosen saints have been made white. She is left to clothe herself day after day with the good works which God has prepared in advance. Her glory comes entirely from her spouse. The love of Christ is the basis of this glory for Christ has loved the Church and delivered himself for her. That is why Jesus at the Last Supper says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love one for another”.
Our paths to glory leads us like Jesus Christ over our Calvaries – little Calvaries and sometimes big Calvaries. Only the strength of the love of Christ can keep us going right to the end.
When people recognise the glory of God – they are often disposed to undertake great things for God. Some people go on the Missions, they give their lives to fulfilling another great command of Jesus – “Go teach all nations”. People with a great soul and a big heart practice magnificently the virtue which inclines us to do great works and to undertake the expense that such works entail for the glory of God and the well being of our fellow human beings.
This College Chapel is a case in point. It is indeed a splendid place – a place of quiet – a place of prayer. It is the most abiding memory everyone takes away from Maynooth whether they be priest, student, or visitor. The rest of the buildings on this campus were helped in varying degrees from public funds. The College Chapel is the great exception. It was built entirely by the generosity of private benefactors.
The passing of over 100 years is beginning to tell its tale. One roof has already been renewed with all the care it deserves and result looks very happy but there are four more and this will only be the beginning of extensive renewal after the wear and tear of a century. This renewal will depend entirely on private benefactors as the building of the Chapel itself depended. We are talking about a daunting task but this Chapel would not have been built at all if people were easily daunted.
I welcome all of you to the celebration of the Eucharist on this, the Fifth Sunday of Easter. I extend an especially warm welcome to the Friends of Maynooth, who are making their ninth annual visit. Some have been here often before. About 20 are visiting Ireland and Maynooth for the first time. You are all most welcome.
I thank you on behalf of the Catholic Church in Ireland for your faithful friendship and generous support of Maynooth and of its work of educating priests and lay leaders, to serve the Church, at home and abroad. That work depends on all of you. You are all being remembered and prayed for in this Mass. May I be allowed to mention just a few who are here present:
John and Eileen Elliott
Doctors Joseph and Martha Murphy
Dr Barbara Gannon
Dr Bernadette Casey Smith and Owen Smith
Arthur and Carole Stuchbury
Frank and Sue Crowley
Dave and Jackie Mahoney
Dr Bill and Rose McKenna
Mary Reilly Hunt
This is the ninth annual visit of the American Friends of Maynooth.
This year the Maynooth Mission Outreach is eight years old. Maynooth Mission Outreach sends groups of students to India and Africa to gain direct experience of working on the mission fields. This year it intends to send out its biggest group since its foundation – eleven students, 4 to Kenya and 7 to Calcutta. So, I welcome those who are about to be commissioned and their families to this Mass. We thank God for their missionary zeal and ask the Lord to protect them during the sojourn in these far distant countries.
Of course I welcome the students and faculty of the College who live and work here in order to prepare to serve as priests in the dioceses of Ireland. Today we give particular thanks to God for the work of the past academic year and for a successful completion in the form of examinations. We give a special place in our thoughts and prayers to those who are preparing for priestly ordination this summer.