ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, ARMAGH
HOMILY GIVEN BY
CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY
PALM SUNDAY – 5 APRIL 2009
We come to celebrate this Remembrance Mass for the Disappeared. We remember with love and affection all the disappeared:
Those whose remains have been recovered:
Jean McConville and
And those for whom the searches continue:
Charles Armstrong and
The logo on the cover of the Mass booklet incorporates a Forget-me-not flower. Jesus told his friends: ‘Do this in memory of me’ when he took bread, blessed it and gave it to them. That is what we are doing here today. We are remembering those who have disappeared and we are remembering Jesus.
The beautiful Entrance Hymn reminds us that the Lord Jesus hears the cry of his people. His plans are to save all who dwell in dark and sin.
In every Mass we remember the saving death of Christ. We not only remember it but we re-enact the saving death of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine and we believe that Jesus is really and truly present with us. At the Last Supper Jesus said to his disciples: “Do this in memory of me” – in other words: Forget me not. We are determined not to forget the disappeared. We are also determined not to forget our one and only Saviour, Jesus Christ. Today we give thanks for the discovery of the remains of Danny McIlhone last year, we get hope from this.
Each and every one of us is a member of the Body of Christ. The Gospel which we have just heard reminds us how some people treated Christ and his dead body with the utmost respect – especially regarding its burial. Others treated Christ with terrible disrespect. Some people showed amazing love and respect for the body of Christ.
Each and every one of us is, by baptism, part of the body of Christ. We are called to respect our own bodies and the bodies of each other. We believe in the Resurrection of the body.
Once again in this Mass I repeat the call to anyone who has any information which could help locate the bodies of the disappeared. I beg them to pass that information onto the Commission for the Location of Victims. I do so for two reasons:
I ask myself what would Jesus have done in that situation? I am not quite sure but I have an idea. I know what Jesus did when he met the widow who had lost her only son. Jesus had pity on her and said to her: “Do not weep”. Jesus then approached and touched the coffin, the bearers halted, and he said: “Young man I say to you, arise” and the young man sat up and began to talk and he gave him to his mother. I think we have answer there the answer to our question – What would Jesus have done?
I invite you to consider the attitudes of different people to Jesus during his passion as described by Mark. There were those who showed him immense respect and love and affection, especially women and Joseph of Armathea and Nicodemus. On the other hand, there was Judas who betrayed him and the soldiers who mocked him – men who had absolutely no respect for him. While he was in Bethany there came a woman. She had an alabaster jar of perfume, genuine and very expensive. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it over his head. Some people were very upset, especially Judas. To what end is this waste of myrrh taking place? For this myrrh could have been sold for more than 200 denarius and given to the poor. Jesus said: ‘Leave her be. Why do you give her hassle? She is working a good work in regard to me. She took an early opportunity to anoint my body for burial’ and wherever the Gospel is preached in the whole world, even what she has done will be spoken in remembrance of her’.
Contrast that with the attitude of Judas who arrived in the Garden of Gethsemane with a crowd with swords and cudgels. When Judas came he immediately came to him and said: ‘Rabbi’ and kissed him. It was a false and treacherous respect which he showed despite the fact that he had spent years in the company of Jesus and saw his kindness and goodness. Then the armed men arrested him and held him tight while his disciples left him and ran away. They put a purple robe on Jesus and made a crown of thorny branches and put it on his head. They mocked him and ridiculed the idea of his being a king. They beat him over the head with a stick. They spat on him and fell on their knees in mock reverence to him. Then they led him out to crucify him. What we have there is immense disrespect that was shown to Jesus and to his body.
Finally, there is Joseph of Arimathea, who was daring enough to go to Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus. He brought a linen cloth and took him down and wrapped him in the linen cloth and placed him in a tomb which was hewn out of rock. He rolled a stone over the door of the tomb.
Mary of Magdalene, Mary, the Mother of Joset were watching and took note of where he was laid. Once again immense respect and love and veneration being shown there for the dead body of Jesus.
One of the most beautiful and most famous works of art in the world is Michael Angelo’s Pieta, it shows Mary holding the dead body of Jesus in her arms and on her knees. Here we are touching on very sacred and holy things.
People live on many different kinds of crosses, illness, loss, loneliness, sorrow, rejection. We need those who want to take them down – people who will lay them in places where life will be kinder and fuller.
I don’t know where the bodies of the disappeared are. Perhaps there are some who do. But I know they are with God and God knows where they are and God knows who has that information. Perhaps God alone has the power to look into those hearts and change them. Perhaps those people are prevented from doing the right thing by fear or misguided loyalty.
Earlier today I prayed for those people that they may allow their hearts to be touched and that they may be moved to do the right thing. I was praying my breviary and I was saying these words from one of the psalms:
It is better to trust in the Lord
Than to trust in men.
It is better to trust in the Lord,
Than to trust in princes.
We are at the beginning of Holy Week. Holy Week teaches us many things:
• That it is a lonely thing to carry a cross on your own
but that none of us need to carry our cross alone
for God carries our cross as he carried it with his son.
• That he carried it with his love
• It teaches that others help us too
• They are the people who care for us in our lives
• Who help us to take up our crosses
• For they are the care and love of Jesus for us.