YOUTH MASS – ST JOHN’S CHURCH, PORTADOWN
HOMILY GIVEN BY
CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY
3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER – 30 APRIL 2006
So, Chelsea and Mourinio have won the Premiership, back to back. Big deal, so what, you may say. Will it make life any easier for the rest of us? The man who threw his medal away in the stands, when asked was he fully happy, very often he didn’t look happy, he admitted honestly that ‘no, he wasn’t happy and he should be happy’, and he couldn’t figure it all out. One of the players was not going to throw his medal into the stand but he wasn’t happy either. He wanted to hold onto the trophy and win it again next year. All of this proves for me a couple of things.
We all long for happiness and real happiness is not easily come by and it is not always to be found where we think it is to be found. We often have to work hard to arrive at a situation which we think can make us satisfied. And so, students study hard to get their exams, athletics train hard to win matches, business people work hard to meet their targets. And yet, sometimes, as seems to be the case with Morinio, a strange thing happens. You have been looking forward to something for a long time – holiday – weekend away – a new suit. You have been preparing for it all and yet, when it comes, we are still not satisfied and we begin to plan something else. What is the explanation?
The explanation is that we often set our sights on the appearance of happiness rather than the essence of happiness. We go after the superficial and the passing, the false the superfluous instead of concentrating on what is real happiness that would satisfy us.
There is a thirst for happiness in each and everyone of us – that is our experience. Everyone of us looks for satisfaction of this deep desire – desire to have life – the fullness of life, in the same way that the hungry man looks for food, the thirsty looks for drink and the person with questions looks for answers.
I believe that it was God that placed, in each one of us, this deep desire for happiness and this feeling of dissatisfaction with so much of life. We are aliens here, this is not our real home, for God has made us for himself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. I believe another thing, that God would not plant that seed, that desire, in the heart of each one of us, unless God wants us to reap the harvest of happiness as well. Unless God could make it possible for us to achieve that. But how can that come about? That is the question.
It can come about if we pause for a moment and take a good look at where the source of this yearning is to found. If you do that, you will find you will come to the conclusion that the hunger for happiness is nothing else than a hunger for God, God, God. and we will all be perfectly happy only when we find God. find Him ultimately in the happiness of Heaven where that reaches perfection, but it must find its beginning here on this earth. The God that I know would not be so cruel as to place in our hearts this desire for happiness unless, at the same time, God offers us the possibility of reaching that happiness. God has made us for Himself – our hearts are restless until they rest in God. But how can we reach God and find there the fulfilment of all our desires? The rest that we long for; the peace we yearn for.
There is one word that comes up in all three Readings today and it is the key that will open the door to the corridor that leads to happiness and that word is ‘repent’, conversion – change of mind; change of heart.
I am going to Portadown in the afternoon. Now, if I head out towards Killylea or Middletown or Keady, I would be going in the wrong direction. And, I would continue going in the wrong direction, until I would come to my senses, turn around and head back to Portadown. As I am digging a hole for myself, there is only one solution – stop digging. Easier said than done of course. If we are heading in the wrong direction and there are no signposts, or I don’t read them, and no-one to give directions, it can be difficult. If I wander onto the quick sands of sin, I can flay and lash all around me, but I am doomed unless somebody pulls me out. Of course the Good News is that Jesus Christ is the one who pulls us out. He pulls us out of the bog hole of sin and puts us on the right road.
I am going to call three witnesses to prove my case.
First of all, Jesus himself. The First Reading is to his disciples ‘Peace be with you’ and they were alarmed and guilty, I would say, ashamed of how they had abandoned him in his hour of need but now they were tortured with real doubts. Was he really risen? Was this a ghost they were looking at? And he showed them his wounded hands and his feet – vivid reminders of his love for them and then, the miracle. Their doubts dissolved. Their alarm and fright gives way to joy and wonder and amazement.
When I, myself, begin to feel afraid and alarmed or to experience doubts, I try and count my blessings – the blessings of families and friends. At the end of every day and every week, I try and remember all the good people I talked to and all the people who have helped me, and so many of them tell me they are thinking of me and praying for me – then my fears begin to fade.
Jesus reminded his disciples of his love for them – a love which lead him to suffer for them and so fulfil what is written about him. And they are to be his witnesses to that. And maybe that is what frightens them. And they are to witness that repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached to all nations, of all ages. The royal road to happiness begins with each one of us repenting of our sins.
The second witness I am going to call is talking to the people of Jerusalem. By this time Jesus had ascended into Heaven, the Holy Spirit had come, and Peter speaking of his great courage. And he tears into the people for disowning Jesus, not a word about his own denial of course. He rebukes them for handing him over to Pilate and demanding that Jesus be put to death. But, he says, “God raised him up” and Peter can testify to this and Peter goes further. He challenges people to repent and turn to God.
My final witness is John, the beloved disciple. In the Second Reading he writes ‘to stop us sinning’ but he is wise enough to know that we are all sinners and we do sin. In which case, he reminds us that we have our lawyer to plead for us – Jesus Christ – he is the One who takes our sins away. We are here on this earth to know and be known by God.
I got a long unsigned letter last week from a very lonely person who says that we do not pray in church for single people and some single people live very lonely lives and find it hard to make friends and sometimes take to drink. Well, one friend that is always available is Jesus who came to tell us that God loves us. St. John reminds us that the only sure sign of knowing God is if we keep His commandments. St John finishes off saying when anyone obeys what God has said, God’s love comes to perfection in Him.
That is a beautiful promise. God’s love comes to perfection within him. That is the solution to our problem.
Tomorrow – 1st May – the Month of Mary – and God’s love came to perfection in Mary because she said ‘yes’ to God. In our May devotions we try to say yes to God.
Someone asked me recently what does Mary mean to you? The first thing I had to say was she is the cause of our joy. She brought joy into the world when she brought Jesus into the world.
There was a very moving ‘Ceremony of Lights’ in the Armagh City Hotel last Wednesday for people touched by suicide. Church people gave reflections along with other people who are trying to cope with the challenges of suicide, which is so widespread.
I think that if we all could touch the wounded hands and feet of Jesus well then our agitated hearts would get peace and the doubts in our minds would disappear. Jesus said, whenever we help a poor person, a person in trouble, a person in need, we help Him, we are doing it to Him. Whenever we think that our cross is the heaviest, let us take a look at the cross others have to carry.
The Church has a precept which says that we are to go to Confessions at this time of year. That is the time to get rid of our sins. The big message in today’s Gospel is the first road on the happiest is repentance from our sins.