First Sunday of Lent 2019
REFURBISHMENT OF THE CHURCH OF SAINT JOSEPH THE ARTISAN BONNYBROOK AND DEDICATION OF THE NEW ALTAR
Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin
Church of Saint Joseph the Artisan, Bonnybrook, 6pm 9 March 2019
“New Beginnings” is the theme that this Parish has chosen for the occasion of the refurbishment of this Church and the dedication of the altar. The Church was opened on 12 October 1969, fifty years ago. It was then also a time of change and new beginnings for this parish.
Unusually I can remember exactly where I was on 12 October 1969. I had been ordained May of that year and appointed to do further studies in Rome. The 12th October was my first Sunday in Rome and it was the first time that I was in Saint Peter’s Square to see a Pope, Pope Paul VI.
50 years later, I am here this evening in Bonnybrook at this event linked with another Pope, Pope Francis, as we dedicated this altar that was used during the celebration of the Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park at the World Meeting of Families.
I am really pleased that the man who was responsible for the design of the altar itself and of the other altar furnishings for that occasion, Mr John Bosco O’Hagan, is with us and that with his sister, he will dress the altar for Mass in its new home.
I congratulate Mr O’Hagan on his workmanship and I am sure that like me he is pleased that the altar and ambo have found a permanent home in this parish. I am sure that Pope Francis would not have wished better. It is a fitting prolongation of what the World Meeting of Families meant.
For over fifty years now, this parish Church has been a vital part of the entire Bonnybrook area. It was the families of this parish who, fifty years ago, turned newly built housing estates into a community that despite many difficulties has been a source of life and light and support for generations.
The ceremony of the dedication of an altar is a complex liturgy. The prayer of consecration reminds us of what the altar means. The altar is called “a sign of Christ, a table of joy, a place of communion of peace, a source of unity and friendship, a centre of praise and thanksgiving”.
We gather as a believing community around this altar and we become ourselves body of Christ, the Church. We become the community of new beginnings, of new beginnings each day as we renew our faith, as we renew community, as we reach out in loving care to those who are marginalised and in difficulties, as we support the faith of young people who are the new beginnings of this parish. “New beginnings” means being believers in times of change but also new beginnings in the things that endure.
Our celebration takes place on the First Sunday of Lent. Lent is an invitation to us not to fall into the trap of simply going along with the fashions of the times, but that there are fundamental and unchanging values that must inspire our lives.
Jesus knows the difficulties and challenges of our lives. Our Gospel reading shows us how he allowed himself to be tempted by the devil. He recognises the reality of the power of evil in the world and reminds us how easy it is for us to be tested and tempted.
The Gospel passage comes immediately after the story of Jesus being baptised by John. At the moment of his baptism, the Holy Spirit rested on Jesus and indicated that he was the anointed one of God. Jesus thus begins his public mission.
Just as Jesus begins his public mission, where does the Spirit lead him? The Spirit, we are told, leads him out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Why is this? Why not lead him out straight away to preach the Good News. Why does the Spirit not lead him out immediately to heal the sick and to comfort the troubled and convert sinners?
Jesus is called to bring his saving power to all who suffer and are lost or who have gone astray. Jesus chooses to do this by himself entering into the drama of our weak humanity. He must experience the trials of our humanity as they really are, in order to save us.
Jesus is tempted. Satan tempts Jesus to act in the ways that people who exercise power and authority have done over the centuries. Jesus resists the temptation; He exercises his authority not in the way that over the centuries despots and dictators, the corrupt and the unscrupulous have done and indeed still do today. Satan attempts to get Jesus to use his power in an arbitrary way, using even the words of scripture to tempt Jesus in the wrong direction.
Jesus rejects the temptation. He reveals to us who God is: God is not revealed by shows of cold power but through the manner in which Jesus cares for others and restores those who are wounded to full healing. God is almighty in his power: but the manner in which Jesus carries out his mission radically changes how we understand the terms power and being almighty. Jesus shows us who God is by using his power to heal and to restore, not to lord it over others.
“New beginnings” in parish life is about mirroring that loving care of Jesus and witnessing it in our community. You can never be just an individualist Christian. Believing Christians belong to a community, a special community forged by the celebration of the Eucharist, the Mystery of faith and of God’s love. Gathered around the Lord’s Table we renew ourselves and bring his saving message to others. At the end of Mass, we are sent out to “glorify God by the way we live”.
It would be amiss for me not to recall that this parish has had its dark moments by the failures of the Church in dealing with the abuse of young people by clergy. What saddens me most is how Church leadership failed, where families who suffered abuse pointed to the right response. The simply asked that no other family or child would have to undergo what happened in their family. They were not heard. We can never bury that hurt.
“New beginnings” means renewed community. The parish can be a place where strong community addresses the challenges and the hurts of today, especially of young people. It is sad to note, for example, in our Dublin of today the numbers of young people who die through drug related causes. We have to save our young people from a drug culture by providing them with opportunities. We have to reach out to young people when the fall and not allow them to be trapped forever.
We have as a community to show that we reject violent attempts to impose drug rule. Just as Jesus rejected the life style of the despots and dictators, the corrupt and the unscrupulous of his time, we have to say a strong and visible “no” to the despicable exploitation and violence of drug lords and merchants of death. We cannot overlook the evil of such violence.
This evening we thank God for the goodness that has sprung up within this parish over generations. “New beginnings” must be more than a slogan. It must be a programme; it must be an attitude; it must be a caring and hope- filled outreach to those in need or distress.
I congratulate all those who have worked towards the refurbishment and renewal of this Church building. I congratulate the architect and hand workers. It is a credit to the community. It is something that you can be proud of. I congratulate the Parish Pastoral Council, the Parish Sisters and of course the tireless Father Joe Jones and the team who work around him.
The challenge is to transmit that sense of pride in this Church to younger generations and help them to experience how faith in Jesus Christ can bring renewal and purpose to their lives.
May this refurbished Church be a landmark in the community and a beacon of what is good and caring and loving and a witness to the presence of Jesus in our community.