Homily at Mass for Deceased Priests

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Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin

Pro-Cathedral, 8th November 2014

“I have made your name known to them”: we heard these words of Jesus in this morning’s Gospel reading.   Our God, the God who is Blessed Trinity is a God who communicates.  Our God is not a God who lives in splendid isolation.  Our God is not a fearsome judge who dispassionately observes us noting our faults and failings from a distance unknown to us.    Our God is a God reaches out to us.  Communicating and reaching out are of the very nature of God.

The Gospel reading also notes that Jesus wishes those who were given to him should remain with him, so that they too might be encircled by the same love which the Father has for him.   As we remember eleven priests who ministered in this diocese over many years and who have died during this year, we are consoled by the fact that God’s plan is a plan in which we are destined to be with him in eternity and that the eternity is love.

We know nothing about the afterlife except what we know from scriptures.  There are no pictures of the afterlife except those painted by humans and these reflect solely their human imagination.  It is interesting; however, that even in some of the most gruesome of mediaeval paintings with graphic visions of hell there is almost always one side image:  that of someone being rescued from hell at the very last moment – being caught as we might say by the scruff of the neck and dragged back to the arms of God. God loves us even beyond the limits of human life.  God’s love reaches out to save all.

God wishes to save and he wishes that we be saved through being captured into the net of his saving love. That is something that begins already in this life

Our God is a patient God.  The entire history of God’s dealing with his own people is a story of his faithfulness in the face of the continued infidelity of his people.  God is not a God of fire and brimstone.  He is a God who respects our freedom even to reject him, but he is constantly present alongside us, in whatever the circumstances of our lives, simply waiting that we turn towards his love that saves us.

As we remember our deceased priests we remember especially how they were ministers of the God who communicates his love.  The priest is called to be a minster of God’s love; to speak of God’s love through preaching the word of God; through administering the sacraments which are signs of God’s healing, accompaniment and reconciliation; through the celebration of the Eucharist which brings about the presence among us of the sacrificial love of Jesus.   The priest also communicates the love of God through his life and the manner in which day after day, very often unknowns to others, he is ministers that love of God to those who are weak or troubled or distressed.

We give thanks to God for the ministry of these thirteen priests and indeed today for the ministry of all the priests who work in this Archdiocese. We pray for our priests.  We pray for those young men who are training for priestly ministry.   We pray for vocations and we know that the vocations grow out of the witness of the life of good priests and faith-filled communities.  The witness of good priests is what attracts young men to a possible vocation to the priesthood.

Priestly ministry is a ministry of patience, of day by day helping people in the darkness of their lives to open themselves to that love of God which enlightens and leads towards the ultimate light.   Priests are called to be alongside others on their life’s journey.  That journey may be difficult and rarely is it always on track.

Our God, however, is a God of mercy not a God of ultimatums.  He heals even those who are slow to respond.  A pastoral of reaching out even to sinners is not just one of stating or relentlessly repeating truth; it is about leading people towards the truth and leading them into the truth which is always a truth in and about love.  There can be no fundamental conflict between mercy and truth, because both are combined in God.  Conflict arises when we humans cease to look for that unity and prefer our own definitions.  The truth cannot be put aside.  The path towards that truth will not just be found intellectual assent, but in the ability to be led to understand God’s love through also through the witness of the fragile human love of his ministers.

We will understand that fundamental bond between mercy and truth only when we encounter God face to face in death. At that encounter God’s love will transform us and heal us.

We pray that these recently deceased priests of the diocese whom we commemorate today now experience that full unity with God which is eternal life, as a reward for the way in which in so many ways they made that love of God known to us through the goodness of their lives.

We pray together this morning – relatives, friends, priest colleagues and representatives of the parishes in which the served – that these priests, now resting in peace will continue to care for us and intercede for us so that we will know the name of God and his caring love in our difficulties. ENDS