Category Archives: Bishop’s Homilies

Baptism of The Lord

Homily given in Cathedral of The Annunciation and St Nathy, Ballaghderreen, by Bishop Brendan Kelly on the Feast of The Baptism of The Lord and in light of the news that Syrian Refugees are to be re-located to Ballaghaderreen.


‘The truth I have now come to realise’ St Peter says in the house of the Gentile Cornelius, ‘is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him’.

I find these words from the second reading today very striking in the light of the news that refugees from Syria will be housed amongst us, and that that will be happening soon.

Many people were interviewed by media here on Friday, and it was so good to hear over and over that we will welcome these people whose terrible suffering we have witnessed for years now on our television screens. This deep compassion for the people who will come was, as one paper put it, mixed with a sense of exasperation that there had been no consultation with the people locally.

One person who was interviewed described Syria very appropriately as ‘St Paul’s country’. Yes, sometimes the sacred scripture becomes alive and real and very close to us. Our own history of famine and emigration comes alive and close too at moments like this.  People were saying that too in the reports from Ballaghaderreen.

I am struck too by the fact that we celebrated the visit of the Wise Men to the infant Jesus at Bethlehem on the very day this surprise announcement was made: We know that as soon as the Wise men had left them, Mary and Joseph had to gather up whatever they could and take flight with their infant, Jesus, becoming refugees in Egypt. After the Wise Men had left ‘the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt…for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him”’ (Mt 2:13).

Just as Jesus identified with the most impoverished and rejected people in being born in a shed, and with the condemned and criminals in dying on the cross, so he identifies with all refugees, and all endangered, innocent and helpless people. It is our faith that Jesus comes to us in them. And so must we  reach out to help in whatever way we can … It’s a big challenge, but we are up for it, please God.

Today, this first Sunday of the Year, is the feast of the Baptism of Jesus. Every one of us too is baptised. In baptism we identify with Jesus. ‘This is my son, my daughter’ the voice of the Father declares of each person who is baptised, as He did of Jesus. We are each of us beloved of the Father, sharing that relationship with Jesus by adoption as it were.  Today is a day for us to remember this fact, and to look again at all that Baptism is, and what our identity now as brother, sister of Jesus means for our lives and attitudes.

And this has implications for how we see all other people…and particularly those who are different and who are victims of the hatred, inhumanity and terror so widespread in our times. For us as for Jesus, all people are fundamentally children of God, his beloved sons or daughters…whether they know it or not, whether they accept it or not. This is how we see them and treat them. Each one a gift of God to us, to the world…each one having the capability of being gift.

We have had a long tradition of men and women going out to faraway places to serve people who are very different to ourselves…missionaries of the Love of God, wanting to serve them in whatever way they could.

More and more that call is at home. ‘My neighbour is all mankind, even those who injure me or differ from me in religion’, many of us learned in the old catechism years ago. God does not have favourites, as St Peter tells us today. May that same God, present as Father Son and Holy Spirit at the Baptism of Jesus and at all our baptisms, enable us now and always to be good neighbours…and particularly to people who are new amongst us.

AMEN

Sisters of St Louis Kiltimagh

On Sunday, October 9th 2016, Bishop Brendan was Principal Celebrant at Mass in Kiltimagh.  The Mass was one of thanksgiving and farewell for the Sisters of St Louis, whose long link with Kiltimagh has come to an end.  Below is the text of the homily preached by Bishop Brendan on this sad but memorable occasion for the parish and the Sisters of St Louis.


St Louis Secondary School, Kiltimagh

St Louis Secondary School, Kiltimagh

Go mbeannaí Dia dhaoibh a phobail dílis Dé Choillte Mách. Is maith bheith libh inniu ar an ócaid buíoch, brónach, stairiúil seo: Slán le Siúracha Naomh Lughaidh.

I’m happy to be with you today for this Mass of Thanksgiving for the immense, immeasurable and irreplaceable contribution of the Sisters of St Louis to this parish and its people over one hundred and nineteen years. Our theme can only be thanksgiving, but it is tinged with a deep sense of sadness. The loss of a praying community, consecrated to God and to the welfare of his people, particularly the most needy, that loss to this parish and to the entire diocese is a great one.

The Gospel today is apt for the occasion. The leper who came back to Jesus when he found himself cured ‘threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him’

That is exactly what we are doing here today in this Mass, metaphorically: throwing ourselves at the feet of Jesus and thanking him for 119 years of the dedicated service and faithful presence of the Sisters of St Louis in our midst, as parish and diocese. In doing so we throw ourselves too at your feet, sisters, in deep gratitude to you and all those St Louis Sisters who have served here all the way back to the arrival here of the first six sisters on the 14th of September, 1897.

The person responsible for what a newspaper of the day called ‘the home-bringing’ of the nuns to Kiltimagh was the great Fr Denis O Hara. The paper goes on to report that the ‘good nuns of St Louis’ arrived ‘amid the prayers and blessings of priests and people’…referring to the crowd that had gathered at the station to greet the sisters and accompany them to the new convent Fr Denis had had built for them. Today, the prayers and blessings of priests and people now accompany the final departure of the nuns, though these prayers and blessings are accompanied now more with sadness than celebration.

Today is October 9th, the feast of St Denis, when the girls in the St Louis Secondary school always got a free day. Such was the respect in which Fr Denis was always held and remembered by the sisters. I like to think that it’s no mere coincidence that we happen to be giving thanks to God for the sisters on this day. It is most surely the hand of Providence giving us a sign. What is happening now in October 2016 regarding the sisters and this parish is all part of God’s providential design. May we be able to discern truly its meaning for this parish and for the sisters in this year of Our Lord, 2016. That calls for deep faith and trust in the eternal wisdom and goodness of God towards us.

Around the time Fr Denis came here in 1887 as PP, a newspaper of the day described Kiltimagh as a ‘ruined hamlet of thatched hovels’. Fr Denis immediately set about improving the lot of the people. Within two years of his arrival, this magnificent Church was built and consecrated. By the time he convinced the Sisters of St Louis in Monaghan to come here in 1897 and provide education for girls, Fr Denis had been instrumental in establishing six primary schools in the parish, bringing the railway to Kiltimagh, in forcing landlords to lower rents. He was a steadfast in his support of Michael Davitt and the Land League, for the sake of the impoverished tenants.

But no project was dearer to this good man’s heart than convincing the St Louis sisters in Monaghan to come here. Fr Denis could see the value of an education for the local women and girls as part of his great dream of lifting the people here out of poverty, giving new hope and creating new opportunities for them, thus enabling them to cope and contribute confidently to building of family, community and society, be that at home or as emigrants, for emigration was the destiny of many from these parts.

Fr Denis chose well. Over the subsequent years, the sisters took charge first of the new girls primary school, then established the Technical school for women and girls, where practical skills – dressmaking, laundry, poultry-keeping and finer arts like lace-making were taught. Within 4 weeks of its opening, 80 girls and women were enrolled. The sisters travelled all around the area on foot encouraging and inviting the young ladies of the area to come. Then St Philomena’s boarding school was established, and soon acquired a reputation for excellence in education that was nation-wide. Later on in the 30’s a highly successful commercial school was established. Along with all of that the sisters were discreetly and always available to help people in their need and poverty, in whatever way they could.
It’s an extraordinary story of extraordinary achievement that must not be forgotten. It arouses a deep sense of admiration but most of all of gratitude in any decent heart. Such stories need telling and remembering in these days when a sense of unearned entitlement so often takes all the space and the capacity for generosity, service, self-sacrifice is not awakened and called forth in men and women. The question for us all now is how can these qualities, so evident in the story of the sisters of St Louis be enkindled and ignited in this generation? This is where a new evangelisation, a new connecting with the greatest story of hope ever lived, the story of Jesus, is called for. For it was out of faith in Jesus, and joyful intimacy with his word and way that the story and the contribution of the Sisters of St Louis in Kiltimagh was born and sustained over so many decades.

The changes that occurred from the 1960’s on – the government more and more taking responsibility for education and social welfare, free education, growing material prosperity, the opening up to the world that came with television, cheaper transport etc., saw the sisters adjusting – coeducation, decline in need for Boarding schools etc. Eventually the amalgamation with Scoil Raftearaí took place and the St Louis Community School was born. Vocations to the sisterhood declined and gradually the sisters withdrew, quietly and without fanfare or fuss, as always accepting the new and emerging reality as part of God’s mysterious plan.

And so we come to this day. This moment of Farewell. I’d like to quote what one of the sisters has written: ‘The sisters have given much, but they received much too in this community of Kiltimagh. It has been their home and a place of friendships, kindnesses, support, being church together and part of a community, especially in these latter years in Cordarragh. Many sisters are buried here, both in the former convent cemetery and in Kilkenure in the past 20 years.’ In other words, they are part forever of the story of this parish and community and for that are deeply grateful.

The story of the sisters here is one, like that of Fr Denis O Hara who brought them here, of building and serving the great ideal and command of Jesus: be community, not just individual. Build communion, that most holy thing. Servants of unity…of what Jesus prayed for at the very end: that they may all be one. The wisdom of God lives in lives that are faithful to his word: that is how that unity, that communion, is formed and grows. These were the values set in place by the founders of the St Louis story in France one hundred years exactly – 1797- before they came to Kiltimagh.

AS we look back today, sisters, over your presence here for 119 years, we see how faithfully you carried out and lived your founding ideals. Our hearts are full of gratitude then at this Mass as we remember, and we give God thanks for you. And as we pray his blessing on each and every one of you. This community, this parish, this diocese will not forget.

The Samaritan leper came back, we are told today. Crying out the praise of God, threw himself at the feet of Jesus, and thanked him. So do we thank God and thank you as we now celebrate this Holy Eucharist.

Bishop Flynn’s Funeral Mass

SOME ADDITIONAL PHOTOS

(Courtesy of Brian Farrell, Photographer www.brianfarrell.ie ©Brian Farrell)

AUDIO CLIPS

 

 MESSAGE FROM POPE FRANCIS

(Sent  from Vatican by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State via Papal Nunciature)

popefrancismessage

HOMILY 

In the end, to have followed Jesus is the only thing that matters. Thomas Flynn, born on 8 July 1931, was brought as a new-born infant by his parents to be baptised in this historic Cathedral four days later on 12 July, 1931. So that he would know and follow Jesus. Ordained a priest of the diocese on 17 June 1956, he was ordained a bishop twenty-one years later on 20 February 1977, at the age of forty-six. All of this in response to the continuing call of that same Master.

Though he retired officially on 20 November 2007, he continued to administer the diocese until I was ordained on 27 January 2008. So he had been chief shepherd of this diocese for thirty years and eleven months. It was, like that of his two immediate predecessors, a long tenure. Despite the fact that his years as chief pastor of this diocese were not always the easiest, Bishop Tom always said that he had enjoyed being a bishop. He was not a man to complain. He followed Jesus.

14-IMG_1615The Gospel we have just heard provides us with an opportunity to reflect on what it is to be a good shepherd, and it is instructive for all of us in whatever shepherding role we find ourselves: parent, adult, priest, or bishop. Indeed it’s a wonderful passage for any person, who wants to follow Jesus in any capacity, to ponder. It has a certain climactic quality since it is the story of Jesus’ final appearance after The Resurrection.

The context of the story is wonderful. It is so simple and so ordinary. These men who had followed Him and walked the roads with Him are back doing what they had left doing, back to their old occupations – fishermen again, for fish. And up all night at it, as happens, a futile exercise apparently on this particular occasion. And then with first light, there’s a Person on the shore calling out “have you caught anything, friends?” To their answer “no” He responds, “throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.” They take Him at his word. And futility gives way to abundant fruitfulness. Their seeming naïve obedience to the seeming Stranger on the shore was their best move ever. We are reminded of Mary at Cana to the servants at the wedding feast “Do whatever he tells you,” her last words in the Gospel – her final word for us all. A willingness and a wanting to do ‘whatever he asks you’ – this is at the basis of every priestly vocation, and indeed of every baptismal vocation. It is the beginning of ‘following’ Jesus, of discipleship and apostleship, and it is the end, too. The alpha and omega of the Christian life. Child-like naiveté, not sophistication, makes the disciple.

And then there is that invitation: “Come and have breakfast,” Jesus said. The good shepherd feeds His flock. They are nourished at His table. The table at which He feeds us with His own self, bread of life. Service and self-sacrifice. Service to the point of self-sacrifice. Remembering Bishop Tom, disciple and shepherd, we can do no better than allow ourselves to be fed at the table of Jesus, our friend and our shepherd … to listen to His Word, take it to heart and show it in our lives. As we are doing now.

Loveliest of all – and costliest – we have the third scene: “Simon, Son of John, do you love me?” It seems Jesus needs to know, to hear our answer, over and over … No wonder Peter is disconcerted, upset. We expect God to do the loving, to tend to us … We ask and pray continuously… But the mystery is He needs my love too, and yours … incessantly. As does His world and His people … and the implications of all of that will never cease unfolding … even to the point of taking us to ‘where we would rather not go’.

Apart from the first six years of his priesthood in Tubbercurry, Bishop Tom spent his entire life here in his native Ballaghaderreen parish. From the beginning he was a teacher, and a very good one by all accounts. The word most often used by people was kind. Quiet in disposition, and very discreet, a man of few words. As president of Saint Nathy’s, he was a reformer and moderniser, a process advanced in firm co-operation with him by his successor, Father Andy Johnston, who passed away as it turned out on the very same day as Bishop Tom, last Tuesday. At a time when school amalgamations were seen as the way to go, for wider curriculum and choice purposes, Bishop Tom and Father Andy insisted that the voluntary and Catholic status of the united Saint Nathy’s here in Ballaghaderreen was the way forward. Person-centred education, the hallmark always of the Catholic system, was a passion for Bishop Tom. On this he was very clear. Nationally, he was at the helm for many years of matters educational as chairman of the Bishops’ Council for Education, including at the time of the negotiations around what became the Education Act of 1998. Visiting the schools in the diocese and staying in touch with the young was a priority for him, something he instilled by example in the priests of the diocese too.

At the national level, he was a member for many years also of the Bishops’ Council for the Laity. Leading the diocese in the immediate aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, he worked determinedly in the area of adult faith development too. He established the pastoral centre at Charlestown, and also the centre at Banada; he encouraged the development of the Father Peyton Centre at Attymass and was particularly involved in his latter years with the Sisters of Mercy in the development of the Hope House Centre for addiction treatment in Foxford. And it is to Bishop Tom that we owe the fact that we have the finest history of the diocese in Father Liam Swords’ four volumes. A deeply spiritual and wise pastor, Bishop Tom instinctively understood that there can be no healthy growth or nourishment in the present if we do not know or are attentive to our roots … and this rings true whether as a people or as a Church.

“Yes, Lord, you know I love you” Peter replied, and in his own way, at the age of eighteen, the young Tom Flynn made that simple profession of faith too. For life, as a priest. Again and again, he was called on to remake it. At his priestly ordination in 1956. Again as a new bishop in 1977. I think we can confidently say that he responded as best he could to the commission of his Master: ‘Feed my sheep’ in those demanding active years, when we are called to reach certain heights, perhaps, as the world sees it. Time when we are able to ‘fasten our own belts and walk where we like’.

But in God’s scheme of things, this is never the whole story, and if we make it so, we are the fools. For ten years now Tom Flynn became more and more familiar with that other side of following that Master into whose body he was baptised and ordained to serve. The ups and downs of health and strength and energy were his constant companions, until finally a year ago he reached the nursing home. “But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will put a belt around you…” Something in us all that has no wish to go there, and yet we must remember the call we answered: “Follow me.”

Do not all our roads at one time or another become a road to Calvary? All the sophistication in the world cannot avoid it. There is a final conversion that awaits us. The call of God continues. Those close to Bishop Tom have seen the changes … And seen him say his ‘yes,’ not always easily or without struggle, but yes very definitely, and he was at peace. “Is there anything you want or would like … anything at all?” The answer was invariably “No…sure haven’t I everything here?”

‘After this, Jesus said: Follow me’. ‘Unless you become like little children…’. The shepherd, becoming again the Lamb, trustingly…as with the Master Jesus, it is all that matters.

May that be our grace too, our way of saying “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

As we thank God today for Bishop Thomas Flynn, we entrust him with faith and love to His great mercy.

Faoi shuain lena Mháistir dílis and lena mhuintir imithe roimhe go raibh an tEaspag Tomás anois sna Flaithis. Amen.

Diocesan Pilgrimage to Knock

The third Sunday of May has been traditionally the day for our Diocesan Pilgrimage to Knock Shrine.  Earlier today Bishop Brendan led people from the Diocese of Achonry and the Archdiocese of Dublin in the celebration of Eucharist.  A large congregation was in attendance.  Admiring the work done on the Basilica and noting that at the same time Mass was beginning in Longford to mark the re-dedication of St Mel’s Cathedral, Bishop Brendan told us that these buildings and the work done on them are a sign of hope for our church at this time.

____________________________________________________

HOMILY :

‘Go out to the whole world. Proclaim the Good News to all creation….and they, going out, preached everywhere’

I mentioned the striking re-ordering and renewal of this Basilica at the beginning. And today in Longford the beautifully restored Cathedral is being rededicated. These two major projects fill us with hope and confirm us in faith. We have a future and so does our catholic faith….

The great Feast day on which we gather, the Ascension of the Lord, focusses our minds and hearts too on the future. Where Jesus has gone, we will follow. And in the meantime, we are tasked with leading and inviting the whole world to follow that same path of Jesus into the fullness of life now…

St Mark tells us in the Gospel:

‘Jesus showed himself to the eleven’ It was not 12 anymore. Betrayal and tragic death had depleted them. The arrest, condemnation as criminal, the torture and execution of Jesus had left them in shock, & on top of all that there was their own cowardice and denial of him…

Nevertheless, the Risen Lord has only one message for this shattered and fearful group: ‘Go out to the whole world’…no less!…and ‘proclaim the good news to all creation’.

This is not the world’s way of doing things. Then or now. It is not our way either. We seek out the best, the qualified, the experts. Nothing wrong with that. Only it’s not seemingly the whole story, as the world is inclined to make it.

Mysteriously, Jesus tasks the weak, the sinners, the depleted….with continuing his own work.

St Paul remained awestruck all his life that he himself, a sinner, a persecutor and collaborator in the murder of Stephen the first martyr, was chosen by Jesus to continue his work. ‘Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world…God’s foolishness is wiser that human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger that human strength’.(1 Cor 1, 20, 25) ‘God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong’. (1 Cor 1, 27)

This is as true today as it was on the day of the ascension or the day Saul was knocked off his high horse… And he leaves the weak weak.

Jesus continues to rely on those who know their weakness and sin to continue his work. That is something the world never understands. But it is the truth of our Christian faith. It was so from the moment Jesus ascended, and consigned his own work and mission, lock stock and barrel, into the hands of this reduced, fearful and broken remnant of his disciples.

St Mark goes on to tell us – so matter-of-factly- you could miss it – that while Jesus was being taken up to heaven, ‘they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it’ . On Sunday next we will celebrate with Pentecost the Lord’s ‘working with them’ and in them – the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The extraordinary fact is we matter to God. Each and every one of us. Our weakness, difference or inability is no barrier to us doing his work. His Kingdom is founded on forgiven sinners and built by them, beginning with Peter and Paul…and all the rest of them.

The Confessional Chapel here in Knock isn’t underground for nothing. It is foundational to all that happens up here at ground level and everywhere else in this holy place. Without repentance – and the joy of the prodigal’s return – Jesus’ task cannot continue, God’s Kingdom cannot come. And our celebrations in this Basilica will lack all substance. It is from the joy of forgiveness and reconciliation that we become messengers of the Good News…men and women who are capable of communicating the love of God.

Today is also the 49th World Communications Day. Pope Francis has issued a Message for this day in which he invites us all to reflect on the theme: Communicating the Family: A Privileged Place of Encounter with the Gift of Love.  He reminds us that the Family is the subject of profound reflection at the moment by the church, in a process involving two synods over two years.

The family deserves profound reflection at this time, not least in our own country. The stability of our whole society depends upon it, as does the welfare of all people. ‘It is in the context of the family that we first learn to communicate’, the Holy Father tells us, and that is so true.

He then goes on to ponder the passage in St Luke’s account of the Visitation which tells us that ‘When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant in her womb leaped for joy’… Pope Francis says:

‘The womb which hosts us is the first school of communication, a place of listening and physical contact where we begin to familiarise ourselves with the outside world within a protected environment, with the reassuring sound of our mother’s heartbeat. This encounter between two persons, so intimately related while still distinct from each other, an encounter so full of promise, is our first experience of communication. It is an experience which we all share, since each of us is born of a mother’.

Pope Francis then goes on to say that we move from the mother’s womb to the womb of the family, made up of interrelated persons, ‘where we learn to live with others despite our differences’. And the Church is a further family to which we belong and in which we hear God’s word and become ourselves communicators of his Good News to the world …

The decisions we make around life in the womb and family life are crucial– more critical probably than we can even imagine at this point. That is why we must pray in a particular way today for our own Irish people and the decision our votes will make on Friday next. Family does matter, mothers matter, fathers matter, supporting the best possible environment for the upbringing of children matters. Marriage as the complementary, self-sacrificing union of man and woman matters. It matters for the whole welfare of society, not to mention the future of our race.

Knock is a place where a very profound communication took place 136 years ago.[Like many of the most effective communications we experience,] it was a silent communication. No words, but the picture, the scene that people witnessed on the gable wall of the parish Church on the miserable wet August evening speaks volumes: the entire mystery of our faith is present in the vision. Mary along with St Joseph, her husband, and St John, the Beloved Disciple, stand silently in prayer and contemplation before the Lamb on the altar, their child Jesus, very much at the centre of the vision. Jesus, the Lamb of God ‘who takes away the sins of the world’, the lamb of sacrifice and of Salvation, is all – for Mary and for Joseph… AND for the beloved disciple holding the Book of God’s Word, which is each and every one who is simple and humble enough to believe and accept the Word with joy. John stands for us all.

 ‘You will be my witnesses’ Jesus said to his disciples in the first reading we had today, ‘indeed to the ends of the earth’. This place was in a way ‘the ends of the earth’ back in 1879. And like at that moment of the Ascension with the eleven, he appeared this time with his family to 15  ordinary parishioners, and it is because of their word, their going out and telling what they saw and experienced, their witness in other words, that we are here today, and countless thousands keep coming here to be reconciled to God and to be built up and made stronger in faith and as family of God.

Work with us too, Lord, that we may be your witnesses today, bringing your Good news to our own world. For the sake of all who are crying out for compassion and love.

Our Lady of Knock pray for us today. Pray with us always. Amen

Chrism Mass Homily

chrism (Gospel: Lk 4:16-21)

Jesus, at home with his own people in the Synagogue of Nazareth, searches out in the Book of Isaiah the passage that was our First Reading today, and proclaims it for his own people.  Everything Jesus does in this short dramatic reading is very deliberate.  Most of all, this is true of the word he spoke at the end, when all eyes were fixed on him: “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen”.  [And please God it is being fulfilled today through our agency]

When Pope Francis spoke to the assembled Bishops and other participants at the end of the Extraordinary Synod last October in Rome, he might have been commenting on this reading when he said:

“The first duty of the Pastor is to nourish the flock that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome, with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears, the lost sheep”. 

But then the Holy Father immediately corrected himself: “I made a mistake here”, he said, “I said ‘welcome’…rather it is ‘to go out and find them’”.

The challenge Pope Francis has been putting to us constantly and unrelentingly since he succeeded to the See of Peter has been the challenge to become a missionary people: each one of us personally, and together also, to be a community of men and women who go out to the very people Isaiah speaks about in this text that Jesus searched out and proclaimed to his own people at Nazareth at the beginning of his public ministry.

‘Missionary’ now for us, then, means going out to our own people primarily and finding them. And it’s not a task for some priests or some people, but for all priests and all people. It is what we must turn our attention to in our diocesan and parish councils, in our teaching and preaching and above all in our renewed prayer. And there is room in this mission for all: for all adults of course, but also for all children, for all who are ill, suffering or disabled, and for all who are in the Golden Years of old Age. All of us Missionary together, going out actively if we are able, and in spirit if not so able, but going out to the lonely and the lost, the poor and the friendless, going out in our hearts all of us, and with our feet if blessed with physical energy and limbs that are still strong …

We live in a very inward-looking, self-regarding world. Even the most critical and noble of human quests, like the quest for justice, fairness human rights or freedom, can be turned into a narrow and egotistical pursuit. Realistically, this has always been the case. The love Jesus proclaimed and modelled for us supremely in the events we commemorate this week, was never easy for people to accept, not to mind embrace. Peter very blatantly and the other apostles too (except for the youngest, John), not to mention the crowd who cheered Jesus on last Sunday, demonstrate that this week so well.  Showing scant regard for the greater good of society and the future of humanity is not new.

To love is to go out of oneself, to put the other before oneself, to serve the other and to die in his or her defence if it comes to that.

In other words, it is the Way of the Cross, as this week that we call ‘holy’ proclaims. To love in this way, the way Jesus loved, is not easy.

But our call is to live ourselves the love he lived ‘to the end’ during these days. It is not for us to demand it of others, but to be examples of this love to them ourselves. With regard to how others may act, he set down the marker for us all: ‘Father, forgive them. They know not what they do’.

The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians. Laying down our own lives is what achieves the society we wish to build. There is no other way to establishing the Kingdom of God.

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The first prayer of this Mass today, our prayer today, asked God to grant: ‘…that being made sharers in Christ’s consecration, we may bear witness to His Redemption in the world’

The arena in which we live out our priesthood is ‘the world’. We are secular priests. For you and I, that world is now the world of 2015 here in the diocese of Achonry.

Our gift for this world is that we be ‘witnesses of His Redemption’ in it. Otherwise our words are empty.

This witnessing comes because we have accepted the call of God to share in Jesus’ consecration, as the prayer puts it. That is what happened when we were solemnly anointed with Holy Oil of Chrism at our ordination: we were made participators in Jesus’ own consecration as the Christ, Redeemer and Saviour.  So we are part of Christ…which means Jesus has washed my feet and I continually allow him do so. “If I do not wash you” Jesus said to Peter setting him straight, “You can have no part with me”.

To know how much I need this washing and to want it is the first step always… And tonight we will be challenged again with Peter….and there must only be one response, the response of Peter: “Then, Lord, not only my feet, but my hands and my head as well”.

In other words, I come to him all the time to be cleansed, refreshed, and restored. I am to be Act of Contrition, morning noon and night. The first word of Jesus with which he began his public ministry was the cry: “Repent!”. If we have not made this first invitation of Jesus public’ ministry our own as priests – or is it not rather a demand, a sine qua non? -, we have no right to proclaim to anybody the second part of that invitation/command: ‘believe the Good News’

This means surely regular reconciliation, along with constant intimacy with him in reflection on the Gospel, prayer and contemplation. So that we ourselves be believers, first and foremost.

A lifestyle based on these foundations is what makes me a worthy and suitable minister of Christ’s sacraments to God’s people, the Sacraments so present to us all today in the Solemn Blessing of the Sacred Oil of Chrism, along with the other Holy Oils of Baptism and the Sick, to which we will proceed now as soon as we have made the renewal of our priestly promises.