DIOCESAN COUNCIL FOR THE ARCHDIOCESE OF ARMAGH
CARDINAL SEAN BRADY
ST PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, ARMAGH
TUESDAY 8 JUNE 2010
On Sunday last there was a very sad funeral in my native parish. Simon Sexton was buried. He was the young paramedic who died after being flung from an ambulance, as he was caring for a patient en route to Dublin. From all accounts the community drew on all their gifts and used their many and different abilities, which they placed at the service of the young broken-hearted widow, and her six very young children to give them strength and bring them healing and consolation. Edel, the eldest, aged 15 was strong enough to read a reading; Catherine, her mother, felt supported enough to offer a Post-Communion Reflection – Gifts – Abilities – Service. St Paul tells of gifts, abilities and service. They are present in every Christian Community, in every parish, and they are present in abundance. It was a case, not just of all working together but of all taking responsibility for what had to be done.
In recent times Pope Benedict made this same point to the clergy of Rome. “It is a case of seeing the lay faithful, not just as collaborators but of actually being co-responsible for continuing the work of Christ here and now.” It is a case of someone saying, “I am only one person; but I am one.” “I can’t do everything but what I can do, that I will do.”
We have heard, just now, St Paul tell us that Christ is like a single body which has many parts and many functions. God has established a harmony in the Body. If one part is suffering, all the rest suffers with it. If one is treated with honour all the rest will find pleasure in it. But immediately before that he spoke of the different gifts from the Holy Spirit. There are different gifts, given by the same Spirit, different ways of serving the same Lord and many different abilities to perform service.
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, e.g., religious life, but there are many others. The same God gives ability to all for their particular service. God gives ability to all, to you and to me and to the people we represent. God does not make junk.
The presence of the Spirit is shown in some way in each person for the good of all.
The Spirit is present in the hearts of all, in each one of us. In some way, not the same way, but in some way.
Why? For what purpose? For the good of all. To help all become the Christ. To help all to serve the Christ as described in the Aim.
This evening we are adopting an Aim for this diocese. How do we generate enthusiasm, not just for the adoption, but for the actual implementation of this Aim?
Perhaps it would help to ask ourselves two questions – What is the purpose of my life here and now on this planet? I would suggest that we will likely come to the conclusion that it is in fact to become the Body of Christ, to become the Christ. But a body dies when it is separated from the Spirit and in the same way faith is dead if it is separated from good works. It is important therefore that each one of us strives to put on the mind of Christ. In other words, to adopt the values and imitate the attitudes and behaviour of Christ Jesus. The Spirit of Christ lives in our hearts in order to pray on our behalf and to bear witness in our lives to the fact that we are children of God.
The main question is: What is the Church for? The Spirit of God lives in the Church in order to guide it into the way of truth. The Spirit lives in the Church to unify it and to equip it with gifts so that it can help all of us to become the Body of Christ. When we welcome the resources which the Spirit provides and work with them patiently and faithfully, then, and only then, will the Church become the Body of Christ. Then the Church becomes adorned with the fruits of the Spirit, the fruits of the Spirit that are listed by St Paul, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithful humility and self-control.
This year, as I made my way to Confirmations up and down the diocese, I decided to pray the Rosary. We always said the Glorious Mysteries, no matter what day of the week it was. We did this to remind ourselves of the basic truth, that we are all made for glory, we love glory. We find our deepest happiness on earth in giving glory to God. We are at our happiest when we give praise to God, not only in words, but in our actions. We decided to offer the third Glorious Mystery, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, first of all, for the teachers of the faith, not only for the bishops and priests and theologians, but also for parents, for secondary teachers and primary teachers and for all who share the task of handing on the faith.
As we reflected more and more on this task we saw that there is a huge army of people involved, not just teachers but Boards of Governors and Boards of Management and youth workers Not only that, there are choirs, servers, sacristans, stewards, readers, collectors, Eucharistic ministers, leaders of prayer groups.
We thought of other people who are building up God’s Kingdom, the Apostolic Workers, the St Joseph’s Young Priests’ Society, Cursillo, the Legion of Mary, St Vincent de Paul, the Pioneer Association, the list goes on and on. The people who organise pilgrimages, the people who organise prayer sessions, the people who offer preparation for marriage in Accord. The list is endless.
They are the people whom the Spirit has equipped with gifts to help the Church to become the Body of Christ. And my prayer, especially for all those this evening, is that the way we behave and act will be like a light amidst darkness.
We pray especially that we may not hinder others from having a perfect view of Christ and His Church by bad example or the lack of justice and charity in our own lives.
Some will ask, where are we going to get the resources to carry out this aim? I believe the resources are there, and there in abundance. Resources, for example, of time and talent and experience, experience of young and old. It is a question of going once more to the huge treasure-house of God’s holy people and of drawing forth from the treasures, both old and new.
I am thinking of the treasure-house of prayer and sacrifice, especially the sacrifice of suffering. But it is all a question of willingness to share what is being called for with others. Here we must rely on the greatest gift of all, the gift of love, the gift that will last forever. And here it is a case of really getting to know Jesus, who said, “There is no greater love than this – that a man should lay down his life for his friends.” He, and He alone, gave His all for us. He, and He alone, can inspire and enable us to do likewise.
“Behold, I am with you always even to the end of time”.
Then he kept his promise and sent the Paraclete – the Second Advocate – the Counsellor – to make sure, in fact, that he could be with us always. The Spirit reminds us of what Jesus said and did. So, all our pastoral plans – and diocesan aims and our deliberations – will come to nothing without the help of the Holy Spirit. No-one can confess “Jesus is Lord” without the Holy Spirit!
Hence we must ever and always, implore the help of the Holy Spirit. But there is another thing we must do. We must remember what the Risen Jesus told his disciples –
“Wait for the gift I told you about. John baptised with water but in a few days you will be baptised with the Spirit”.
So they waited but they waited with purpose. They gathered frequently to pray as a group, together with the women – and with Mary, the Mother of Jesus. So this evening then, we entrust all our diocesan aims and pastoral plans and pastoral areas and pastoral resource teams to the care of Mary, the Mother of the Good Shepherd – the Mother of the Pastor Supreme.
Pray for us O holy Mother of God
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.