10/11/07 Mass for Deceased Priests

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Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland
Pro-Cathedral, Dublin – 10th November 2007
We have come to remember the life and mission of sixteen priests who had ministered in the Archdiocese of Dublin and who died the past year.  We remember how in their life and ministry they mirrored the love of God, through the good that they did, the love that they showed to us and the manner in which through their prayer life and especially through the celebration of the Eucharist they tried to conform their lives to that of Jesus, their Lord.
We welcome among us relatives and family members of the deceased priests; we welcome representatives from the parishes in which they served. We welcome their priest colleagues, young and old, who have laboured together and who shared in each others ministry.  We are united in prayer with the entire family of the Archdiocese of Dublin which cherishes the gift of so many good priests.
The Gospel reading reminds us of the generosity of God who, when he comes in glory, will restore justice and equity in relations.  He will prove himself a just God by revealing the depths of his own faithfulness when he invites to their reward those who proved their fidelity to him during their lives on earth, even in those times when the nearness of God may have appeared elusive to them.  God is the faithful one.  When we conform our lives in faithfulness to his design, then his reward will surpass anything that we might have imagined.
Our reflection today is about the meaning of life and the meaning of priesthood.  Life is God’s gift which we are called to bring that gift to full realisation through the way we live. 
As human beings we are created in God’s image. If as human beings we are created in God’s image then being fully a human person in its essence means realising that image more fully in our lives:  it means that we are called to holiness and can be holy.   Being holy means reflecting the love and the truth of Jesus Christ in our lives and spreading that message and love as something relevant and vital for our times. Being a member of the Church is being inserted into the life of grace and holiness.  Holiness is not the prerogative of the few.  Every Christian is called to holiness.    
Most of us would prefer not to call ourselves holy or be called holy. Few of us would consider ourselves saints. But being a Christian involves orientating our lives towards sainthood, towards holiness.   It is about rendering actual in our daily lives what happened through our baptism, in which the life of Christ entered in a special way into our lives and made us members of the communion of saints.  Holiness is attempting day by day to make the reality of baptism a true reality in our lives.  It means that we realise each day the image of God in which we have been created. It is about becoming what we truly are. 
The lives of these deceased priests tell us something of what holiness is. There is no stereotype of a saint.  Saints are so varied.  Each of us has our favourite saints, the ones which speak to our lives.  The priests we recall here were very varied, in age, background, type of ministry and character and personality.  That variety shows all of us  that holiness is possible for all of us, that holiness is something real and that is in fact the fundamental call of each Christian and of each person. 
Our call to holiness is a call to be radical in our lives.  There is no such thing as a bourgeois, salon, air-conditioned holiness, which protects us from the heat and the cold of that forceful dialogue between the Gospel and current values.  Encountering the word of God must leave us uncomfortable.  It must spur us everyday out of comfort and security, to permit us to take the leap of faith in Jesus.
          Being holy means allowing Jesus to change our life; it is conversion and repentance, day after day, after day.    Our lives must become open books.  People must be able to encounter Jesus through our lives, lives through which Jesus Christ and his message and his love transpire, through the authenticity of our actions.
        As Archbishop I had occasion to visit most of the sixteen priests we remember here during their final illness and to assist at their funeral rites.  I only pray that each of us will be able to encounter death when it comes with the same sense of faith and serenity that I watched in them.  Look at the list and you will find men who were men of life, who enjoyed life, in some cases one would say were larger than life.  As they then journeyed towards the fullness of life their earthly bodies and minds became weaker, in some case through long suffering, in others in a matter of moments.  In their last moments they gathered together what was best in their lives and entered with confidence that into the encounter with the Risen Lord, happy to have been priests.
        I see that the extraordinary outpouring of sympathy and loss that I encounter at the funeral rites of priests constitutes the recognition by Christian communities of just how significantly these priests had influenced their lives.
I often feel that it would have been great if young men could have had the experience that I had with these priests as they prepared to die.  There is a strange way in which the death of a priest, in a way that life does not always do, reveals the deep satisfaction that being a priest brings.  It was in death, in leaving this earthly life that they brought to me and to others a realization of what life truly is, what the fundamental values of life are.   We all saw this in an extraordinary way with the death of Pope John Paul II.
I thank you again for coming to thank God for the life and ministry of these sixteen priests.  We commend them to the Risen Lord.  We pray for all our priests.  We pray for vocations.  We commit ourselves to our own call to be holy.
We remember that for these priests death was not a rupture with this life, but a transformation of a personal relationship in faith with Jesus Christ which they kept alive in this world through prayer, into that intimate and eternal union with the Father of all goodness which is their reward for ever.   May the Lord grant them their reward and may they look down on us in our lives and protect us.