ST PATRICK’S PARISH, DUNDALK
SUNDAY 26 JUNE 2011
CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY
Last Sunday was Father’s Day – Professor Robert Enright from Wisconsin, USA was giving a talk in Knock on forgiveness. He also teaches forgiveness in primary schools in Belfast. He read out to us the card his 20 year old son, Kieran, gave him for Father’s Day. The fact that we now celebrate birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, seems to me to show that we appreciate the gift of life more clearly nowadays and we remember the day we entered this life and those who brought us into this life.
Today I invite you, for a moment, to remember all those who have gone to their eternal rest. Remember how they looked and how they spoke, and remember the example they west, the wisdom they gave you and the love they poured out upon you.
Remember too that before he died, Jesus, told his followers that he knew they did not have clear and accurate memories of all their lives but that he would send someone else to remind them of all that he said and did. The someone was, none other than the one and only Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit came on Pentecost Sunday to do exactly what Jesus promised. When the disciples remembered all that Jesus said and did – not just all the nice bits but the though challenging bits as well, they were changed – utterly changed people.
For example, they remembered the day he fed five thousand men, not counting women and children, with five loaves and two fish. There were twelve baskets left over. That certainly caught the imagination of the people. They knew they could do with a miracle worker like that, especially in a time of recession – and so they came, looking for Jesus. But Jesus told them – “You look for me because you ate the bread – not because you understood my miracle”. He told them to work for the food that lasts for eternal life.
He is saying here: There is life here on this earth but there is another life as well – eternal, everlasting life and that is the only kind of life that will satisfy the deep desires of the human heart. He went on to say: “If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man, i.e., of himself, and drink His blood, you will not have life in yourselves. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life and I will raise them to life on the last day. They live in me and I live in them”
That was the promise – what a fantastic promise it is. Jesus keeps his promises. He delivered on that fantastic promise at the Last Supper on the night before he died. On that night he took bread and wine and changed them into His Body and Blood. He gave power to his disciples to do the same – “Do this in memory of me”.
Jesus is not unreasonable – he does not order us to do something without giving us the power to do that something. So, there and then, he ordered them to preach. Not alone that, he did another remarkable ting. He got up from the table and knelt down and washed their feet to show that he was really their servant as well as their Master.
He delivered that service to them for a reason. To show them how to carry on, in their own lives the great and New Commandment – Love One Another as I have Loved You.
Those four wonderful gifts really blew the minds of the disciples, especially in their distressed state – a distress caused by his betrayal by one of their own, and by the forthcoming Passion and Death.
But the Holy Spirit came to help them clear their heads and see what was really important. One of the things they saw to be vitally important was the Breaking of Bread – in other words – the Mass. Whatever else they list, they must not lose their love and devotion to Jesus, present in the Mass. The Church has learnt that lesson well and does its best to pass it on.
The Book of Armagh is preserved in Trinity College, Dublin. It has been described, by an eminent scholar, as the most important historical manuscript of Ireland prior to the twelfth century. It was written about 800 AD and has this to say: “Patrick took with him across the Shannon, fifty bells, fifty patens; fifty chalices; altar stones, books of Law; books of the Gospels and left htem in the new places”. What was all of that about you may ask. It was about the preparations to saying Mass.
I crossed the Shannon yesterday on my way to Knock. I did not bring fifty chalices but there were bus-loads of people there – young and old – to celebrate the National Eucharistic Congress – in preparation for the Congress next year in Dublin.
I am thinking of this wonderful Church of St. Patrick here in Dundalk. It took immense love and sacrifice too but your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents did it because they knew that, as we eat His Body, which he gave for us, we gain in strength. As we drink His blood, which he poured out for us, they knew that we come to this wonderful sacrament to be fed at the Lord’s table where we grow into the likeness of the Risen Christ.
Yet we cannot deny that there has been, in recent years, a remarkable decline in the attendances at Sunday Mass, especially among young people. I suppose it can be traced to a variety of reasons: laziness, carelessness, lack of faith. But during his life, Jesus was amazed to find strong faith where he least expected to find it. For example, in the Roman Army Office who was not a Jew but believed in Jesus and begged for his servant to be cured.
Equally, Jesus was amazed to find a lack of faith in those who might be expected to have faith. On that occasion Jesus gave a stark warning – people would come from outside the Chosen People and sit down at the feast of Heaven while the children of the kingdom would be thrown out. Where does that leave us who regard ourselves as the New Chosen People and who enjoy the privilege of sitting at the Eucharistic banquet.
It reminds us that fiath is a free gift – a gift that can be rejected or lost. God alone knows who are faithful and who ar not. We must not take things for granted. Those who receive the Good News and welcomed it at first, can because of failure to be faithful, find themselves rejecting it later on.
The Children of the kingdom are loved by the King to such an extent that He did for us and remains with us but we need to remain with Him.
My hope is that the Eucharistic Congress will remind all to remain faithful to the teachings of God and spur us on to renew our faith in the sacraments and to remain faithful to God.