Homily at Mass in Rathmines

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Thirty Third Sunday of the Year 2013


Homily Notes of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin 

Our Lady of Mary Immaculate, Refuge of Sinners, Rathmines, 17th November 2013


“The Gospel of this mornings Mass is a complex Gospel, which is presented to us as the Church’s liturgical year draws to a close.   It might seem a frightening reading, pointing to fearful times and events that are to come and to divisions and persecution which Christians will experience.

It is a text that on many occasions throughout history has been taken up at moments of cataclysm and natural disasters, in order to interpret then as in some way the deliberate intervention of God.   And despite these fearful signs listed in the Gospel reading, we are also told unambiguously by Jesus in the same text: “do not be frightened” and he warns us in particular to take care not to be deceived by those who say that they know when the signs of his coming are imminent.

It is a complex Gospel reading because it was written at a particular moment in the history of the early Church.  Many of the early believers felt that Jesus would come back very soon after his ascension into heaven and that he would bring his kingdom to fulfilment. Others interpreted Jesus words in terms of the destruction of the Temple which actually did take place.  Saint Luke is writing his Gospel in this complex situation and is attempting to draw attention away from fears and anxieties about the Lord’s coming and helping believers to learn that they must not be looking for a special day of the Lord’s coming, but rather they should be looking at each day and learning to live always as if the Lord might come on that day.

The Gospel is a call to reform and integrity of life and a call to be alert in our faith.  It begins by drawing attention to some people who are admiring the external beauty of the Jewish temple and how it was adorned. When Jesus says that the time will come when not a single stone will remain, he is not just talking just about the physical destruction of the temple, but rather about a change of Spirit.  What is important is not the elegance of the building or even of the rituals and ceremonies that take place within it.  They will not last.   What is important is that we become true temples of the Spirit through the way in which we live.  Christian worship is not just about buildings, but about the integrity with which we live our Christian lives.

But it is still not an easy Gospel.  It speaks of the disasters that will face the community of believers and it speaks of those who will come with false teaching and false expectations.  Being a Christian means that we respond in our lives in an authentic way to the teaching of Jesus Christ which we profess.  The Christian is called to stand out and to witness uncompromisingly to the teaching of Jesus of the world in a world of conflict and ambiguity, of violence and injustice, of untruth and hardness of heart.

No matter what the situation is and no matter what the culture is in which we live, we are called to witness fully to the generous love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.  The way we witness to the message of God’s loving care is the eloquence which will witness to our integrity, even in the face of opposition and persecution.

Our faith will give us the strength to live a life which is truly a reflection of the life of Jesus Christ.  Being a Christian does not mean that we will necessarily be popular in a world where there is a tendency to find quick solutions and to compromise and to try to get an empty message cross through spin and management of facts.

The language that Jesus uses in today’s Gospel may seem frightening to us.  We have often heard stories of fire and brimstone coming to destroy creation and bring judgment to those who were unfaithful to Jesus and themselves.  We have so often read or seen on television of false heralds of the end of the world, giving date and time and place, and interpreting any signal of nature as signs of the “time of distress”. But these false heralds have had to come down from their prophecies and return disappointed the next day to ordinary life.  They had misread the scriptures.  They had not understood the teaching of Jesus.

Jesus is not entering into details about how the world would end or what his second coming would look like.  In the first place he is pointing towards a fundamental truth:  there is a sense to history.  We have all seen and experienced and continue to see the ups and down of history, the history of our own lives and those of our families and of the entire human family.   At times our frustrations with the ups and downs of our lives can lead us to dejection and hopelessness.   Jesus is reminding us that history has meaning if it is directed in a particular direction, that of the realization of the plan of God.  The message of today’s Gospel is not a message of gloom but one of hope and of how we can realise hope within the realities of our day if we recognise the true signs of the times.  

I am very pleased to be here this morning to induct your new Administrator of this Parish of Mary Immaculate, Refuge of Sinners, Father David Brough.  This is a parish with a long history and with a very mobile population, alongside families which have lived and worshipped here over generations.  It is a community which is called, like all our parish communities, to renewal and it is indeed already on the path of renewal.  It is a parish well known for its innovation, if we look back for example to the origins of the Folk Mass.  I would like to express my thanks and appreciation to Father Richard Sheehy for his work here over the past years and I am glad to know that his health is almost restored.  In his time here he also fostered working relationships with the neighbouring parishes and with the other Christian communities.

I can assure you that Father David Brough, with his varied experience in parish ministry and as a university chaplain, is well suited to continue that work of formation in the faith, leadership in Christian care and in his reaching out to those who have lost contact with the message of Jesus Christ. 

The message of Jesus about the future of creation and where the world is going is in fact a message about how we live today.  It is a message that goodness can prevail and that goodness will prevail if we respond to evil with goodness and if we respond to the effects of greed and selfishness by living a live of goodness, generosity and love.