11/07/05 Reception of the Remains of Monsignor John J. Greehy

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Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland
Church of Saint Joseph, Terenure, 11th July 2005
We have come to say farewell from this earthly journey to our friend, priest and teacher Monsignor John Greehy.
Those of us who were in Clonliffe in nineteen sixty seven will well remember John’s arrival on the staff there.  We had heard his name and knew that he was teaching in Oscott in Birmingham. His reputation as a scholar preceded him.   It was a period of intense theological renewal encouraged by the Vatican Council and we were pleased that a new professor was coming who would hopefully bring a further breath of fresh air to our courses.
If we were expecting a breath of fresh air then that is not what we got.  We got a tornado, a tornado of scholarship and learning, of a passion for the scriptures out of which he would draw out spirituality but also practical applicability to the realities of life – I remember his excitement for Paul VI’s social encyclical Populorum Progressio which had just been published.    We got a tornado of a man, full of humanity and warmth, kindness and thoughtfulness, of humour and above all of freedom.
John Greehy was a free man.  He could never be enclosed within the walls and the system of the seminary.   His very presence in the seminary meant that the seminary was going to change. He was not one for contestation; if anything he shunned confrontation because he never really wanted to offend anyone.   For some, that might have appeared as weakness, but it was something rooted in an extraordinarily deep spirit of Christian charity, which was his strength.
John inspired.  He was by far the best lecture I ever had. And he encouraged.  None of us will know just how many people, clerical students, laity, religious and priests that he kept going in difficult times.   I remember, living abroad, when those envelopes with that unmistakable handwriting would arrive, always with a word of encouragement, recognition or support, always with the remark would make you smile, never with the conventional cliché but always with something strikingly personal and original.  If his memory for names was proverbial, it was because he had a personal affection for all of us here this evening.
John was bundle of energy.  But his energy was at its best when it was the channel for an outpouring of the word of God, when the scriptures would flow from his intellect and his heart, with that mixture of scholarship, passion for life, and insight into that love of God.  It was the love of God which drove him in his own life and which he spread wherever the Lord placed him. 
Even visiting him during what was certainly a difficult and painful illness, you came way somehow feeling that John had encouraged you, rather than that you had been able to bring a word of encouragement to him.
John knew “how much love of the Father had lavished on him”, to use the words of 1 John which he had chosen himself for this liturgical moment. And he ensured that that love was lavished on others. 
If there was one word I would use about John Greehy it was that world “lavish”; not that he sought out lavished surroundings for himself, he was totally detached from questions of possession and money; but he lavished his love, his attention and his care on others, reflecting that superabundant love which God revealed in Jesus Christ.
This evening, as friends, we come to thank God for the gift that he represented for each of us.  We recall, each of us in our own way, how we experienced that love, during his many years in Clonliffe as teacher and as President.  This parish remembers his fidelity to preaching the word of God and to his ministry over twenty two years.  The Church remembers him for his scholarship; he was a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, under the Presidency of Pope Benedict XVI.  
John ministered to all and he was known and respected by all, Catholics and members of other Christian communities.  Only yesterday the Chief Rabbi spoke to me of the attention he brought to the Jewish school and of his spiritual links he shared with the Jewish community who traditionally had roots here.
We express our deepest sympathy to John’s only living sister, to the members of his family and friends, to Maureen who was a pillar of support to him over the years, especially during these months of sickness.
I remember in particular one course which John taught those of us who were in Clonliffe during his first years there.  It was a course of the biblical theme of the Land, and the significance of the Land for the pilgrim for the people of God.
For the people of Israel the Land was symbol of God’s fidelity and promise. John lived the experience of promise, day day, witnessing to that joyful hope which can overcome all anxiety.  That was especially evident in his final illness when he faced that future with serenity, slowly abandoning himself to the fidelity of God.
John has now been called to the fullness of promise, where he will see God as he is and become like him.  May the Lord be kind to him, forgive him his failings and admit this remarkable human being and priest into the joy of the Resurrection and that great feast of his love which is God’s eternal life.