HOMILY GIVEN BY
CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY
SUNDAY 20 DECEMBER 2009
On this very special day for the Parish of Dromintee, I want to greet you – the faithful people of Dromintee – the disciples of the Lord Jesus in Dromintee. My greeting is the one used by St. Paul, over and over again.
“The grace and peace, the love and mercy of God our Father and of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all”.
This is a great and special day. For today, once more, we dedicate this beautiful Church of St. Patrick to the glory of God and to the service of God’s people. As we do so we remember your own great and generous ancestors who, within 20 years of the Great Famine, built this Church in the first instance. Today we thank God for their strong faith and great generosity. As we do so, we recall the strong faith and great generosity of you, the present generation of followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, here in Dromintee.
Under the excellent leadership of Father Dermot Maloney and the expert architect and builders, you have faced the huge task of renovating this Church in difficult times. With wonderful courage and determination you have done so because you know the importance of having a Church in which the Word of God can always be heard. It is vital that you hear that word, loud and clear, as it unfolds the plan which Christ has for each one of us.
I simply love that Gospel which we have just heard. In it St. Luke describes the visit which Mary, the Mother of Jesus, made to her cousin, Elizabeth. Two years ago I was on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We were staying in Jerusalem and one Sunday morning we made the long journey from Jerusalem up north to the borders of Galilee.
To visit her cousin, Elizabeth, Mary would have had to make a longer journey from Nazareth which was further north than the village we visited. But it was the same hilly country. It took us a couple of hours by car so it would have taken her several days – up the hills and down the valleys – until she reached Zechariah’s house which was some miles outside of Jerusalem.
In the Gospel of Luke, the idea of a journey is all important. He describes, in great detail the journey of Jesus, down from Galilee, to suffer and die for us. Luke liked this theme of ‘journey’. The great story he was telling us was about God’s journey into our lives to take us back from exile into our heavenly home.
I suppose some of you are expecting members of your family home for Christmas. It is one of the great joys of Christmas – to be at home with your family and your friends and to experience their love for you – but, unfortunately, there are some people who, for one reason or another, will not get home this Christmas.
I, myself, spent six Christmases away from home. It was a lonely experience. Even though I was part of an Irish community – it was not the same as being at home. But it did this to me. It brought home to me what a disaster it would be for me indeed if I fail to make it back from exile in this valley of tears to my real home in Heaven.
The Lord Jesus Christ does have a plan for each one of us – a great plan indeed. God has called us into the light of life. At all times, God surrounds us with such great love that when we stray, God continually leads us back through repentance from our sins to Christ who is our Head.
The local Church is a vital part of that plan. The altar is the most important part of the Church. Today, during these ceremonies, relics of saints will be brought forward and inserted into the altar. The reason is this: the saints are those who are already declared, by the Church, to be in the Glory of Heaven. They see God, face to face. They have already triumphed over the trials and tribulations and temptations of life while they were here on Earth. Where they have gone – we hope to follow. They achieved their victory, not on their own – but through the help of Christ – our One and Only Saviour.
The altar of the Church represents Christ. That is why every time we come into the Church to say Mass, the first thing we do is: kiss the altar. We kiss the altar which represents Christ. We do so as a sign of our love for him who suffered and died for love of us. We kiss the altar at the beginning of Mass because, in every Mass, we remember the saving death of Christ. We not only remember Christ’s death, we re-enact that saving death by changing bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. We offer, once again, the sacred body and blood of Christ to God, the Father in order to make reparation for the sins we have committed. The Father accepts that offering, as the offering of Jesus on Calvary was accepted. Not alone that, but the sacred body and blood are offered back to us in Holy Communion. So you see how important this kissing of the altar is as a way of indicating our love for Christ. Out of love for us, He gave his life for us. He comes to us, over and over again, that we, in turn, may bring his healing love to our broken world.
Just before the Placing of Relics, we are going to have the Litany of Saints. There we ask the saints to support our prayers to God the Almighty and there we are reminded that God, Our Father, has made our hearts Faithful Temples of His Spirit. Today we dedicate this Temple of bricks and mortar, tiles and rafters, beams and stones. But, wonderful building that it is; it is only a means to a far more glorious end – that our hearts may be faithful temples of his Holy Spirit. That is what we are, by reason of our Baptism and Confirmation. We need a Church to hear that Good News time and time again. For we need to be reminded that our hearts are sacred and holy. They are the dwelling place of that same Holy Spirit who descended on the Virgin Mary and caused her to conceive in her womb, Jesus, the Son of God.
Our hearts are the dwelling place of the same Holy Spirit – which Mary brought with her on her journey south to the hilly country of Judea. Our hearts are meant to be the dwelling place of the same Holy Spirit that filled Elizabeth and inspired her to cry out aloud those wonderful words of praise of Mary
“Of all women you are the most Blessed and blessed is the fruit of your womb”
Down through the centuries, those words have resounded in the Hail Mary. Every time you respond to the inspiration of that same Holy Spirit and come here to this lovely Church of St. Patrick you are, in fact, coming to give praise and glory to God. You may be coming for Sunday Mass or for a funeral or a wedding or you may be coming to go to Confession. But you come to grow more like Jesus Christ so that you may be healed yourselves and then, in turn, bring His healing love to others.
I am sure that you will have to make many visits between now and Christmas and indeed after Christmas – visits to relatives, neighbours and friends – visits to hospitals and Nursing Homes. Be well aware that, like Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, you too can bring the Holy Spirit and the joy of the Holy Spirit to those you visit.
Blessed is she who believed that the promise made to her would be fulfilled. Mary’s great virtue was her faith. She believed that the promise, made to her by the Angel Gabriel, speaking on behalf of God, would be fulfilled. That is to her eternal glory. Today we ask God to help us to believe similarly.
Pray for us – O Holy Mother of God
That we too may be made worthy of the promise of Christ.
What are the fantastic promises made to us by Christ?
1. That we grow in our knowledge of who we really are – Children of the One Father in Heaven – made to share eternal glory together in Heaven – sinful children but children of a God who is rich in mercy – who sent His Son to bring us forgiveness for our sins.
2. That we can bring His healing and forgiving love to others in our lives.
3. Finally, Jesus promised that He had come that we might have life and have it to the full. This means that we are linked to all the other life that is on our planet – and that we are to respect that life and use it wisely and pass it on prudently to those who come after us.
So we rejoice that you are back in your beautifully refurbished and repaired Church. Pick your spot in it and come here often so that by praying in peace you grow in your knowledge and love of Jesus Christ.
I wish you a very prayerful season of Advent as the best possible preparation for Christmas – the only real preparation for a Happy Christmas.
I wish you much joy at Christmas
I congratulate you on the fact that Santa has come early to you this year – to bring you your beautifully restored Church of St. Patrick. My House is a House of Prayer.
The past few weeks have been very painful weeks for many Catholics in Ireland. The Murphy Report revealed horrible abuse of children by priests and the mismanagement of cases of abuse when reported. I can only apologise once again to all those survivors who have suffered so much.