Day for Life 2016
Bishop Brendan’s Homily Cathedral of Annunciation and St Nathy, Ballaghaderreen
‘Lord, increase our faith!’ the apostles plead with Jesus today. Jesus is right there with them, yet their faith is weak: why then are we surprised and shaken by the doubts that keep coming?… ‘The line between belief and unbelief runs through each one of us’ the great Cardinal Martini of Milan said. He’s right. The fact is that doubt and faith go together. Questions constantly arise within us. We live in ‘an ocean of uncertainty’, as Pope Benedict once said, so doubt is normal for the believer. It’s part of being human.
And it can help to keep us grounded…
At the end of a certain football match yesterday evening, you will have noticed the members of a certain team disappointed, inconsolable, tears flowing from these big men….and no doubt full of questions and doubts… as they lay there disconsolate in defeat. Grounded. Renewal, strengthening of faith will now be necessary. A constant process… for footballers even. But definitively for followers of Jesus.
What’s wonderful in the Gospel passage we’ve just heard, is what Jesus goes on to say next… It’s a parable… about a master and his servant: the point it makes is simple, clear: We, men and women of faith, followers of Jesus, are to be servants, not masters. To follow Jesus means to surrender to the ‘Higher Power’, as the people in addiction recovery call him. Jesus – and we – call him ‘Father’. We are his servants, and therefore servants of each other, servants of his creation, servants of life. Never using others or the earth as if it were for me alone, or my generation. But serving and therefore con-serving. Putting ourselves at the service of God, of his creation is what it means to be a man or woman of faith. Our bodies, our minds, our hearts, our whole life…for others and that they may live and blossom. That’s the story of Jesus, the mystery of salvation we celebrate in the Mass.
The Holy Father, Pope Francis, was in Georgia yesterday. There are very few Catholics in that country. 87% of the people however are Orthodox Christians. Pope Francis was welcomed in the Patriarchal Cathedral of Georgia by the Orthodox Patriarch. It’s a very ancient building, and in it is preserved the greatest Christian treasure of Georgia: the reputed Seamless Garment of which Jesus was stripped before his Crucifixion. It is the most sacred treasure of the Christian community in that country.
The Christian and Catholic attitude to Life…human life first and foremost…is that we treat it as a seamless garment. In its every manifestation, conception to natural death, life is a seamless robe. No matter how weak, malformed or immature, we respect and treasure it. We do not strip the sacred garment of life away from any human entity. This is a demanding responsibility and a duty we believe is ours as children of God, made in his image. A duty that costs, severely. But we are servants, our lives given for others, especially the weakest and most needy. We see ourselves as family, sharing a common home, thus caring for human life…and for all life… on this earth that is our common home. We are dependent on one another and on the earth. Independence in any absolute sense is a dangerous illusion and a threat to the common welfare, not just of humanity, but of the whole of mother earth.
Today’s Message for this Day for Life quotes Pope Francis: ‘It is our duty’, the Holy Father tells us in Laudato Si, to ‘pay special attention to the most vulnerable.’ He goes on, ‘Neglecting to monitor the harm done to nature and the environmental impact of our decisions is only the most striking sign of a disregard for the message contained in the structures of nature itself. When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected.’ (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ 117)
Last night on the Television they were reviewing the All-Ireland, and the whole football year. The most moving and striking moment caught on camera during the All-Ireland series this year was after Waterford’s All Ireland hurling semi-final defeat by Kilkenny. The fine Waterford player Pauric Mahony was slumped on the ground distraught after his team’s defeat by Kilkenny. And the camera showed a young woman dressed in a Kilkenny jersey bending right down to him, hand gently on his back, comforting him, so moved is she by his distress. This lovely Kilkenny woman has Down’s Syndrome. One of the conditions nowadays diagnosed in the womb. Up to 90% of such diagnoses in some ‘developed’ countries today results in abortion.
But that moment after the Hurling semi-final in Thurles this year trumped every other moment in the GAA All-Ireland series this year. What a gift the life of this young woman is! Reminding us all of what is most important, and what we are here for on this earth: to care, to comfort, to cherish and to love. And it is the littlest ones who show us the way. May we cherish and care for them…and never in our laws or otherwise deliberately endanger or abandon them.
Lord, increase our faith….