I congratulate all of you on all you have done to mark this important day.  It is a sign of the love which you have for this beautiful Church.  That loves comes, first of all, from your faith.  You obviously believe that your Church is the most important house in this area because it is a house of prayer – a place where you gather to hear God’s Word and to sing God’s praise. 

I think I got a new insight into the affection which you have for this Church when I read Brian Toal’s excellent history.  For when I read the story of the building and the part played by men like Charles O’Hagan and Mick Kelly and Andy Mallon and by women like Mary Rafferty and Minnie Neery, by Anne Kelly and Maggie Hughes, under the watchful eye of Father John Mackle, I began to understand that this Church belongs to this community in a very special way. 

I got a new understanding, not only of how it was built, but of how it was renovated in 1970, altered in 1991, repainted in 1998 and now again redecorated in 2008.  You have invested hugely in your church in terms of voluntary labour at the beginning and in terms of many other kinds of investment since.

I rejoice with all of you who, under the leadership of Father Sweeney and Father McNulty have given so much to prepare of this day.  You have indeed fulfilled the words of Bishop Austin Quinn of 50 years ago.

This beautiful church is built for present needs but not for these alone.  No Catholic thinks of it as for his own day only.  You have put it here in confidence that it will serve your children and your children’s children when you are gone. 

I was struck by a remark by Brian Toal – who wrote:  “The younger generation of parishioners at this point in their lives are perhaps less inclined to have the same sense of appreciation of the true significance of what is now being celebrated. The challenge now is – as I see it – to give them a greater sense of the meaning of what is happening here today.

How can that be done?

I thank that the outstanding appreciation which you, the people of Knockaconey have for your Church – must be due – in some part to the huge part you and your parents played in the building of this Church.  We must try and get our young people more involved.

Last night I was in Carlow.  There were celebrating the 175th anniversary of the opening of the Cathedral of the Assumption.  It also was a wonderful occasion.  The liturgy was led by young people from all of the 56 parishes of the diocese carrying banners representing their parishes.  I had already met many of those young people at World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia last July.  There they were staying the same parish as the 80 young people from this diocese.   But to get the young people more involved we may have to convince them that their local church is a public, permanent statement of faith.  So what was the important Public Statement made by Mick Kelly and his colleagues 50 years ago?

Basically I think that it is much the same statement as that made by St. Paul in today’s Mass.  God is faithful.  From that faithful God we have all received lots of graces and favours and blessing through His son Jesus Christ.  We have all been enriched in so many ways – we like to celebrate all of that giftedness and talents.  We do so when we give each other prizes and medals and awards and distinctions and nominations and personality of the year and so forth. Nothing wrong with that provided we never forget where it all comes from in the first place. 

What have I that I have not received and why should I grumble as if I had not received it?

At the World Youth Day in Sydney Pope Benedict warned of the danger of self-absorption.  He was talking mainly to young people but when it comes to being self-preoccupied, we can all look for and beware.In that reading – St Paul says –

“I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ”.  Paul is well aware that we have been mightily gifted by God.

Today I want to thank God for all the graces – you, the people of Knockaconey – have received through Jesus Christ.  You are indeed a gracious and gracefilled people – dedicated and devoted. Today I think of the late great Father Michael Cullen – may he rest in peace.

I am sure that today you yourselves may wish personally to give thanks for graces and favours you have received in this Church of St Columcille on many occasions. 

Perhaps you want to recall joyful times when you cam here for baptisms and First Communions or perhaps there are, looming large in your mind, those sad tearfilled times when you came for the funeral of a beloved father or mother or spouse or even for the untimely death of a son or a daughter and you did not know how you were going to cope and somehow or other, thank God, you did pull through.  Maybe you want to remember the day on which you made the big commitment of marriage here and you promised to take each other for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. 

Whatever the occasion, you did come under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit – whether you were aware of that at the time or not.  Anyway you did have a real meeting with Jesus Christ, for when you listen to the ~Gospel – you heard the words of Christ and when you prayed you were speaking to God, and when you received the sacraments you did receive the life of God. 

Fifty years ago this Church was opened and blessed on the First Sunday of Advent.  It is a day on which we begin our preparations for Christmas.  In Advent we are reminded that we believe that the Son of God came 2,000 years ago in the flesh to teach and preach and heal, to suffer and to die and to rise from the dead.  We believe that he will come again in glory not to suffer any more but to gather his chosen ones into the glory of Heaven.  In other words, to judge who is ready and prepared to enter the glory of Heaven.  Now we all like glory but this is the glory that matters.  This is the glory that lasts. 

In between those two comings of Christ – the first and the last – there is another coming – just as real but less obvious than the other two.  Here and now Jesus Christ comes in His words and in his sacraments.  Today’s Gospel tell us several time – Stay Awake – be on your guard – be ready.  Am I ready to meet my maker?  It is a good question because I never know when the time will come.

He is coming – that is for certain.  If he comes unexpectedly he must not find me asleep.  What is that all about?

What would be wrong with dying in my sleep?

For many people that would be a nice way to go.  I think that there is something else being said.  If he comes unexpectedly he must not find me unprepared.  The best way to be prepared to meet Christ in death is to meet Him everyday in his word and in his sacraments.  To take up a piece of Sacred Scripture and to read it and to ask myself a couple of questions:

•    What does it mean?
•    What does it mean to me?
•    What do I want to say to God in response to what he is saying to me?

God is clearly saying that the Son of God is going to come again.  God is saying to me – that I should take a look at my life and see if I am ready to meet my Maker.  If not, I would probably want to ask and beg for the grace to make a good confession so that if I do have to meet my Maker I will be ready and if I sincerely ask for that help I am absolutely certain that it will be given to me.

I am certain of many things in life but I am sure of that.  If I ask for help to confess my sins it will be given to me and then I should take myself out to confession.

You know that there is great happiness and peace of mind in knowing that if the Mass of the hour were to come suddenly, he would find me ready.

Earlier I spoke of the challenge of getting young people involved in parish life.  I imagine that many here present have got a lot of happiness and satisfaction out of their involvement in the life of the parish.  You see, we have been put on this Earth to get to know God and, in particular, to know his son, Jesus Christ who came on earth to tell us about the Father’s love.  The better we know Jesus, the better we will love him and the better we will want to serve him.  It is as simple as that. 

I was at the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October.  Pope Benedict spoke one day about Building our Lives.  Do we want foundations of sand or of rock?  The realistic thing to do is to choose rock.  The sand can slip away – like the money in the banks seems to have.

Over 50 years a lot has changed in Knockaconey as in everywhere else.  The Church has been renovated and redecorated a number of times.  The faces of the people have changed, as generation after generation has come here, gathered as one people at an altar of a loving God.

In a changing world one thing has not changed – the gathering – Sunday after Sunday, day after day, of people who celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This is what this building is for – a place where the victory of Christ over death are remembered and celebrated by his people.  Here we are nourished by the Word of God and the Bread of Life.  Here the hope of a Christian people is nourished: here our faith is strengthened; here our love is renewed.  Jesus Christ is the reason for the Church; Jesus Christ is the reason for our community, our Church; Jesus Christ is our hope and our life.