75TH ANNIVERSARY OF ST BRIGID’S SHRINE, FAUGHART
HOMIILY GIVEN BY
CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY
SATURDAY 5 JULY 2008
Today we remember her with love and affection. We remember how she revealed the message of God by her life of prayer and charity to those in need. She took the Word of God very seriously and reflected upon it. She tried to live out, in her life, the mercy of God, revealed to us in the scriptures and, above all, revealed to us in the life of Jesus Christ.
When we were training to be priests – training to give sermons – we were told to give examples. Give lots of examples of what we were talking about. In today’s Gospel, Matthew, the author of the Gospel, gives us an example of the prayer of Jesus Christ. How Jesus Christ prayed to His Father. I think it is worthwhile for us to look at this example and learn from it. We can model our own prayer from these examples. Jesus exclaimed: I bless you Father, Lord of Heaven and earth. God, his Father, Lord of Heaven and earth.
When we call somebody ‘Lord’ it means they have authority. The only Lords I know are Lords created by the British monarchy. Jesus is talking to his heavenly father in Heaven, who was authority both in Heaven and on earth.
Jesus goes on to talk about the Father but not to the Father. I think it is important that we thank God often and everywhere for many things. I thank God often for the gift of my family – the gift of many families to which I belong and who have helped and continue to help me so often and so well in life. I thank God for the gift of life and the gift of health. I do so more often nowadays when I see so many people who are younger than I dying. But there are so many things for which we have to thank God.
• The gift of summer;
• the gift of friends;
• the gift of this beautiful countryside;
• the gift of our faith.
Earlier today I was in Ardee to give thanks to God with the Mercy Sisters. We were thanking God for the fact that the Sisters of Mercy are 150 years in Ardee. We were thanking God for their presence there and for the way that they have revealed the mercy of God to so many through their teaching, their nursing, their care for the poor and through their life of prayer and sacrifice.
Here Jesus thanks God, his Father, for hiding certain things from those who regard themselves as very learned and for revealing them to the unlearned. I don’t think it is a case that God discriminates against those who are clever. But those who are clever and learned and they know that they are clever, sometimes feel that they have nothing to learn from God’s revelations. But mere children, and people who are childlike, that is, those who retain a trusting belief in their approach to life, accept what God reveals more readily. They accept it on the word of God alone. In other words, they are not so full of their own ideas and are no so attached to their own views. Here Jesus thanks the Father in Heaven because he has shown to the unlearned what he has hidden from the wise and learned and he goes on: Yes Father, this was how you are pleased to have it happen. God will not ram anything down anybody’s throat but it is sad to see so many people who, once they are educated or, in their own eyes, believe they are educated, proceed to reject what their faith – the faith they received from their parents – had taught them. They turn away from that faith or they ignore it or cease to practice it. That is an unmitigated disaster. This evening I want to pray for those people. Just a very simple prayer or petition that they may, despite all their learning and their studying, open their minds and their hearts to accepting what God is revealing to them.
Everything comes from the Father. Jesus is the one who reveals the Father and, above all, Jesus reveals the merciful love of the Father for each one of us. He thanks the Father for being able to reveal that love. He is thankful, even though it is going to cost him his life. This revelation, unfortunately, will not get through to the learned ones because they think they know it all and they know it better. But the word of Jesus is welcomed by those who are poor in spirit – those who are sick, waiting for a doctor; the sheep who are tired and who are without a shepherd. But no-one really knows the Father’s son, except the son and only the son really knows the father as well as those to whom the Son chooses to reveal the Father. We pray that we will all be included among those chosen by the son to receive this wonderful revelation. It takes place through the acts of the Holy Spirit.
The spirit of the Risen Christ has chosen to make his home with us. St. Paul is quite clear there in that Second Reading: Unless you possess the spirit of Christ, you will not belong to us. If the spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead is living, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own moral bodies through his spirit living in you. It is all the work of the spirit now because we live in the time of the spirit. Of course the spirit cannot co-exist in us if we are in the state of serious sin. That is why it is important that we confess our sins and have them forgiven. Then Jesus issues a great invitation. He says: Come to me all you who are tired and carry heavy loads and I will give you rest.
In my Bible there is a beautiful little design of the people whom he is inviting. There is one man on two crutches who has lost a leg. There is a woman all on her own carrying one child on her back and three small children hanging to her skirt. There is another man sitting on a chair with his head down and his hands on his head looking either very lonely or depressed or discouraged. There is an old man walking with a stick, all alone, abandoned. Finally, there is a man or a woman carrying a heavy load on his back, bent over.
Well, of course, there are people who have various heavy loads to carry in life. People who have heavy work to do. Some are abandoned by their family, by their spouses but Jesus comes to everyone who turns to him, no matter how heavy their load and they will find rest.
“Come to me all you who are tired from carrying loads and I will give you rest”. That is one of my favourite prayers in the whole gospels. All of us. at times, feel that we are carrying heavy loads. Loads of worry; loads of shame; loads of guilt. Of course the great thing is that if we do come to Jesus he will lift it all off. Cast your burdens upon the Lord. We come to confession where we dump the load of guilt. Unfortunately, again, some people have lost faith in confession and in the power of Jesus to take away the heavy load of guilt, of shame, of discouragement. Then Jesus says: Take my yoke and put it on you. The yoke was a barrel of wood, tied across the neck of two cattle and attached to the plough or the cart which they drew behind them. Here the yoke refers to Jesus and an interpretation which he gives of the Lord. The Rabbi spoke of the yoke of the law, the yoke of the kingdom. Jesus says, Learn from me. The disciple is the one who follows Jesus and is to be a life-long learner. My yoke is easy he says.