Canon Mc Donnell Jubilee

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Fifth Sunday of Easter 2014


Homily Notes of  Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin

Church of Saint Joseph, Terenure, 18th May 2014

“Our Gospel reading this evening is about faith and trust in God.  Faith is not about our own actions; it is about the fact that we can trust in our God and he will reach out to us in our troubles and in our failings.  Our hearts should not be troubled.

Far too often in the past we have transformed faith from being a trusting relationship with the God revealed in Jesus Christ, into a relationship not just with a God of judgement, but with a God of judgement according to our ideas of judgement.   God’s judgement is very different to human ideas of judgement.

The God revealed in Jesus Christ is not a God who sets out rules and norms with which we can buy or loose merit with God.  It is a relationship of trust, knowing that no matter how far wrong we go in life, God is there reaching out to us to welcome us back.

We have to overcome any ideas that we have that we can barter with God.  We do not avoid God’s judgement or condemnation by thinking that we can barter with God.  Likewise we do not win the affection and the appreciation of God by barter.  On our own, we can never merit God’s love.  There is no need to anyway, because God loves us and wishes us to feel the effects of his trusting care in ways which go way beyond human understanding.

In today’s Gospel, Thomas asks the way to be with Jesus, as if somehow you could get a quick road-map of ready-made handy-hints with which to do that.  There is only one way to find and understand God, and that is Jesus Christ himself. He alone is the way, the truth and the life.  We reach Jesus though knowing his truth and living his truth.  We come to Jesus through knowing him through his word and by prayerfully living that word authentically and without compromise and by placing our trust in him.

Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life”.   The truth is a fundamental dimension of the way to the fullness of life.  We are called as individuals and as a society to foster a way of life that it based on what is truthful in the deepest sense. 

The call of Jesus is not a call for others to be truthful, but that we ourselves are called to learn what living truthfully means, in terms of the integrity of our lives and in terms of the truth of love and concern and care and respect for each other.  Faith is not about looking inwards, but it is about breaking out into every aspect of human life bringing with us the love revealed in Jesus Christ. 

This evening we have come to celebrate with your Parish Priest, Canon Francis McDonnell, his Golden Priestly Jubilee.  Frank was ordained priest on this day, May 17th, fifty years ago.  Tonight we celebrate his ministry over these fifty years:  in High Street, and in Raheny, and in University Church and in Ballymore Eustace and twice in Wicklow before coming here to Terenure.  I have to be careful, because when you start listing places where a priest ministered, the list can easily begin to sound more like an obituary than a celebration.   We are here to celebrate, to give thanks to God and to wish Father Frank many more years of fruitful priestly service.   

Fifty years service in any position is an achievement.  Fifty years as a priest is not just an achievement which has been reached.  It is about having been a priest each and every moment of those years, as one who trusted in God’s goodness and who lead others to that trust.  Priestly ministry is not about outward signs of popularity-seeking; it is about the witness of a holy life which attracts others.  The really popular priest is the good priest, without self-seeking and without the flourish of acquired airs and graces.

The holiness of the priests of the Archdiocese of Dublin is never a demonstrative one, but that does not mean that it is not a profound one.  Dublin priests shun attention to their own personal spirituality. They live a spirituality which is not focussed on themselves but on the one Jesus in whom we place our trust.

Our celebrations this evening were planned well before Frank began to learn of them.  He would personally not have wanted to focus so much attention on himself.  Our celebration is the work of this parish, especially of the Parish Pastoral Council. Our celebration is thus a sign of the great affection which people have for their priests.       

Our celebration this evening is the also the wish of many priests who ministered alongside him and who benefitted from Frank’s gentlemanly presence and his generous encouragement and support.  That is why there are so many priests here this evening.

We give thanks to God for the ministry of Canon Frank and to those who were ordained with him fifty years ago.  They set out – in the years of the Second Vatican Council – on a path which was to open the Church to great change and many new challenges.  Fifty years later Frank and his classmates can hold their heads high for the manner in which they lived their ministry in changing times, keeping their sights focussed on what is essential in the Christian life.

We give thanks to God for Father Frank’s ministry and we ask the Lord to keep him strong and safe for many years to come.

The power of Jesus’ words – our Gospel reading reminds us – comes from his closeness to the Father.  The strength of our Christian faith comes through our closeness to Jesus, who leads us also to the Father.  It is that closeness to Jesus which fosters growth of the Church, as our first reading reminds us.  It is such closeness to Jesus which permits the Church to “perform even greater works”.  

In our times we can be tempted to loose confidence in our Church.  We need more and more to remember that the word of God continues to be present in our midst.  The more we prayerfully enter into that spirit of the Gospel, the more the number of disciples will grow.  Our pastoral strategies and visions are just human activities if they are not rooted in the one who alone calls us out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “