24/10/09 Feast of Jesus the Divine Master

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Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland
Divine Master centre, Dublin, 24th October 2009

I am particularly happy to be here with you this afternoon to celebrate with the Sisters and with the friends of the community the Feast of Jesus, the Divine Master.

        My association with the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master goes back almost forty years when I would occasionally celebrate Mass for their community in the Vatican. One of the things I treasure most is a small, but beautiful statue of Our Lady which the Sisters gave me on the occasion of my ordination as a Bishop.

        My experience in celebrating Mass for the community opened my eyes to the extraordinary spirituality of the Sisters, capable of using the most modern information technology to carry out many and varied tasks, most linked to the support of priests and the worthy celebration of the liturgy, especially the Mass.  The Eucharist is very much at the centre of their spirituality, with the Sisters spending long periods each day in prayer and adoration.

        In all the houses of the Sisters which I have visited you immediately note the deep sense of spirituality and calm which marks their activity and the sense of prayerfulness and simplicity which marks their life style.

        In many ways I imagine that most of you who come here as part of the community which supports the Sisters come precisely because you find here that charism of prayerfulness, calm and simplicity which is so helpful in our day, when it is hard to find a place of silence and contemplation amid the constant busy-ness which has became a characteristic of our society; a characteristic which I would describe as a trap which draws us away from encountering ourselves and encountering God.  I sometimes have the feeling that many today are almost afraid of silence.  Silence, being alone with ourselves and with God, is something many people desire, but when they encounter silence they somehow quickly flee from it.
        In your name I would like to thank the Sisters for their presence here in this diocese and in this community and to express the hope that they will be able to develop this house more and more as a house of spirituality and particularly Eucharistic spirituality.

        Looking back at my early religious formation I must say that in our catechism and catechetical texts there was very little attention given to the word “disciple”.  In some ways we were left with the impression that the disciples were the nondescript crowd of followers of Jesus, distinct from and perhaps – it was almost implied – much less important than the apostles.
Yet the word disciple is an essential word in the Christian vocabulary.  It means literally, being a pupil, an apprentice.  Being a Christian is not about being signed up as a member of an organization.  It is not in the first place a commitment to external norms or a moral code or a likeminded cultural grouping.  The essence of being a Christian is about being a disciple.  Every Christian is first and foremost a disciple: Popes, Bishops, and every other believer.  Suffice it so say that the disciple par excellence, the model of all discipleship is Mary. It was Mary who was open to the expectation of the coming of the redeemer and who accepted his word from the very beginning; Mary went through every moment of her life pondering Jesus’ words and accepting the sword of suffering which pierced her heart; Mary at the last, was one of the few who remained close to the Cross of Jesus; Mary was there at the beginning of the Church as the disciples received the gift of the Spirit.   Compared even with the Apostles, Mary has a unique place in the history of salvation precisely because of her discipleship.

Discipleship means a learner, one who listens.  The command of Jesus to his disciples is that new commandment (Jn 13:34-35) “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another”.  That same commandment of love is echoed in the Gospel reading we have just heard.  Saint John’s Gospel, you know, does not contain a direct narrative of the institution of the Eucharist, but presents the washing of the feet as an image of what the Eucharist means, the self-giving sacrifice of Jesus.   Christian spirituality – being a disciple of Christ – is always a spirituality of love and of the Eucharist, the greatest example of God’s loving presence among us.

Today we face many challenges in Church life.  There are many external signs of those challenges: the drop in the number of vocations to the priesthood, scandals, uncertainty about the faith, a secularization which at times takes the floor from under the ability of many even to think about God.  There is a sense of self sufficiency which leads people unwittingly to create their own Gods, Gods who are convenient, Gods of my choice.

Discipleship reminds us that we do not choose God much less create our own God.  We are learners, pupils and apprentices to a God who loves us first and embraces us with his love.   Following Jesus is not a question of a cold rulebook but of, as we heard in the Psalm, of learning to know the ways and the paths of the God. 
We need God in our lives.  When we exclude God in our lives then we leave ourselves open to a real emptiness. To use the words of Pope Benedict:  “When we are far away from God, we remain is unsettled and ill at ease…”   Often we fail to recognise that the deepest cause of suffering is actually the absence of God in our lives.

Many of our plans for ourselves and for others fail because, again to quote Pope Benedict, a “Kingdom of God” accomplished without God—a kingdom therefore of man alone—inevitably ends up as the opposite of what we intend. 
        Jesus is our Divine Master.  Belief involves being his disciple, opening our hearts to him, learning from him, for he alone is the way, the Truth and the Life who guides us away from all self-centeredness and frees us to love, through opening our hearts to the love of Jesus our Divine Master.