8/9/10 Lourdes Mass Homily

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Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland
Lourdes, 8th September 2010

Once again, on the Feast of the Birthday of Our Lady, we gather at this holy place, at Mary’s Shrine in Lourdes.  This annual pilgrimage has know been taking place for over 60 years and it has become an important annual event in the life of the Archdiocese of Dublin.   I greet all of you who have journeyed with us this Year, especially the sick.  You are at the centre of our pilgrimage.  You are at the centre of our prayers.

Our pilgrimage is a moment of prayer.  It is a moment in which we experience that extraordinary silence and recollection which marks this grotto at any moment of the day.  Our pilgrimage is a moment in which Mary, the one who pondered the word of God in her life, leads us into the silence of contemplation and allows us, whoever we are, young or old, sick or blessed with good health, priests or laypersons, to reflect on our lives, on who we are and where we stand with God.

Mary’s prayer was always a prayer of placing herself trustfully in the hands of God, of listening to her Son and associating herself with his message of self-giving love.

Each of us comes to Lourdes with many things in our hearts.  There are things in our hearts that we wish to pray about and feel that we can turn to God in a special way in Lourdes in these privileged days of silence and reconciliation.  We share in our hearts also the thoughts and hopes of those who have asked us to pray here in Lourdes in their name.

In some cases we have things in our hearts that we may find it hard to face openly.  The power of the intercession of Mary can help us address these thoughts and challenges.  We can turn to God for forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation.  We can come away with our hearts changed in our relationships with others.  We can release hidden energies within us which can bring freshness and purpose as we look to our future.  Mary who stood faithfully in that dark moment at the foot of the Cross can bring hope and light to those of us who may be passing through moments of personal darkness.

Let us not waste this moment.  Silence is such a rare thing for many of us.   We should not be afraid of silence or run away from it into the noise of distraction.  Cherish this moment while we are here.

We come here to Lourdes each year as a diocesan community.  This past year has been a difficult one.  It has been a very difficult one for those struck by the effects of the economic crisis. Jobs have been lost. A financial crisis is not just about banks and international financial institutions; it is about people’s livelihoods, people’s jobs, people’s mortgages and people’s security.  We remember those who have suffered financially but above all those who have suffered and still suffer in the depth of their personality.  We remember those whose lives have become ever more precarious.  We remember the young people whose opportunities and dreams at the beginning of their working life have been dramatically restricted or even shattered.  We remember those who have been forced to emigrate. We remember those who are sick or troubled or simply on in their years and for whom necessary services have become scarcer.

We remember also the many in our diocese who work to support those in difficulty, especially our own Crosscare and the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and the support services in many of our parishes.   We thank God for the generosity of so many.  Lourdes is not a place where we come to think of ourselves.  Lourdes is the shrine of generosity and care for those who are weak.   We must return home renewed in Christian generosity.

This past year has been a difficult one for the Archdiocese of Dublin with the revelation of the extent of the suffering that was caused to children who were abused within the Church community and by the fact that their hurt was not heard or was ignored or set aside.   We pray for those who are still suffering from that hurt and that sense of betrayal.  We pray that they can find healing.  We pray also for those for whom healing is still a long way off, that they will receive support.

It has been a difficult year for priests. We have great priests in Dublin.  They feel a sense of shame for what happened, yet they continue day after day to carry out their ministry in difficult circumstances with zeal and generosity.   I thank them for their ministry and their fidelity; I thank all those who have supported their local priests in these difficult times.  My hope is that in the days and months to come all of us, priests and lay people, will use every occasion to renew ourselves in our ministry and in our Christian life.  Renewal in the Church is never just renewal of structures, but of renewal of the spirit, renewal in prayer, renewal in witnessing to the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

Lourdes is a place of reconciliation.  Our world needs reconciliation.  We need to work for a more reconciled Church. We need to be reconciled with those from whom we have become estranged.   We need to be reconciled within our own often divided hearts.

I renew once again my own expression of regret for any way in which I have hurt or offended people or have failed in my ministry to provide leadership on the path to a renewed and reconciled Church.
There is great positive ferment in the Church in Dublin.  We have reasons to be hopeful.  But we also have to be crystal clear about the fact that things are not as they were and our response cannot be as it was in the past.  Change is painful, but change is needed.

What is need is not something superficial.  We need to deepen our faith, to renew our faith, to want to spread the good news about Jesus Christ to others, especially to the coming generations.

Lourdes is a place of faith.  I think of the fidelity of those who have come here for many years to support the sick on their pilgrimage.  Their witness is a witness of faith and generous love.  Lourdes is a place where young people learn of faith through their encounters with those who have been less fortunate than themselves.  Indeed we can say that Lourdes re-defines what it means to be fortunate.

We see here above all the faith of those who are sick and who come here in faith not necessarily to be relived of their suffering but to be able to regain hope in their lives.
As members of the Christian community of the diocese of Dublin we gather now around the Lord’s Table. Jesus speaks on many occasions about who will be invited to the banquet of his Father’s table.  His invitation is not printed on elegant gold embossed invitation cards.  His invitation reaches out way beyond the categories of worldly respectability and politically or socially correct thought.  We have seen in many Gospel passages that the invitation of Jesus reaches out to the crossroads and the byways of everyday life, of everyday suffering and misery.  Jesus brings into the banqueting hall the blind and the lame, the sick and the troubled.
What does that mean?  Who are these people who seem to be the rejected but who become the principle guests at the Father’s banquet? What are the criteria of their presence?  Why them rather than others?  Those who are invited to the Father’s banquet are those who recognise that what counts is not what we can give, but the generosity of God revealed in Jesus Christ.  They are the humble, the ones who in recognising their own inadequacies are sensitive to the inadequacies of others, who recognise that contact with the generosity of Jesus is not something that comes just from our own merit.  It is that love which changes us and makes us worthy to encounter Jesus. Our problem is that we tend to want to dialogue with Jesus on our own terms and want him to respond to us on our own terms, rather than opening ourselves to the torrent of love and embrace with which Jesus waits to greet us.
  Lourdes is a special pace in that it translates into reality that design of God, which privileges those who recognise their lowliness as Mary did.  The sick with us today are here the privileged.  They are at the heart of our prayers.  But we also need prayers of the sick and we count on those prayers that we can allow the generosity of God to bring humility and a spirit of service into our lives.