Diocesan Pilgrimage to Knock 2024 – Homily of Archbishop Farrell

Diocesan Pilgrimage to Knock 2024 – Homily of Archbishop Farrell

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Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage to Knock
4th Saturday after Easter
April 27, 2024

Homily of Archbishop Dermot Farrell

In our Gospel today, Philip expresses a request that is often in the hearts of people of faith, or people on their way to faith: “Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.” (John 14:8) We might not be able to say it with Philip’s clarity or with the passion of the psalmist—‘It is your face, O Lord, that I seek; hide not your face,” (Psalm 26[27]: 8–9), or with the pleading of Moses who begged the Lord to “Show [him his] glory.” (Exod 33:18) What they express, however, is stirring in many hearts—maybe in our own. To go on pilgrimage is go on a search, even if we don’t always know what we’re looking for.

What Philip has yet to See          

Philip has been following Jesus since the beginning of his ministry. (See John 1:46). One can spend a lot of time with Jesus, as did Philip, and still ask the question: “Let us see the Father.” In a way, Philip has yet to realise that in Jesus, God is revealing himself profoundly. In Jesus, God is showing us how He is. Jesus is “the image of the invisible God.” (Col 1:15). This is the heart of our Christian faith, its pivot, the point on which it turns: in Jesus we come to know God in a new way. As St Paul told the Corinthians, “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor 4:6) This is very important for us here in Knock. Our pilgrimage to Knock is a pilgrimage to a place of apparition. What happened in Knock was a vision; there were no word. The 15 witnesses saw; they saw that hidden light which is shining in our hearts, to use the inspired words of St Paul.

“Let us see the Father.”

Philip was with Jesus, but the apostles and himself had not yet arrived. There was a journey to be undertaken, and while Philip and his companions had been following Jesus ‘outside,’ as it were, Jesus called them to a deeper, more essential journey. That is why Jesus explains: Philip, “have I been with you all this time, and you still do not know me? To have seen me is to have seen the Father, so how can you say, ‘Let us see the Father’? (v. 9). For the Christian, it is Jesus who reveals the true face of God. In Jesus, the compassion of God takes flesh, and touches us. In Jesus, the faithfulness of God becomes visible. To come to know the Father in all his richness, we must come to know the Son, the Lord who walks with us, who lives in us, and shows us how to live.

As one Cistercian mystic expressed it: we are brought to Christ, as the “place” of God, where above all God can be found by us and we can be found by God (William of St Thierry). Following Christ brings us to the place where we can let ourselves be found by God. This is a journey for all our lives: encountering the Lord in every person, each one is made in God’s image and likeness (Gen 1:27)—and encountering him in opening our lives to his mercy, his healing, his silence, his peace.

The Apparition at Knock—Its Significance for our Church Today

The apparition of Mary, St Joseph, and St John here in Knock is a call to acknowledge and welcome the silent faithful presence of the Lord in the very depth of our lives. It is in the centre of our lives, in our hearts—that our God reaches out to us, and reaches out to us in mystery. What happened here is a profound outreach to God’s people. The apparition in this very place bears particular witness to three fundamental realities, three realities surprising in their ordinariness.

First—the ordinariness of the visionaries. In the ordinariness of the visionaries, the apparition proclaims that the mystery, otherness, and wonder of God is offered to every person. God has no favourites (Romans 2:11); our Father is Father of all. Coming away from here, let us bring with us the reassurance that God’s closeness, and its consolation is offered to every person, no matter who or how they are.

Second—the apparition is to the 15 witnesses together. It is not to one, and then another. This is a profound witness to the reality of the Church: the Lord and his mysteries are revealed to us together. Táimid ar an t-slí seo le chéile. This is not to deny that we see with our own eyes, but while we see with our own eyes, and feel with our own hearts, we do not do so in isolation. To come on pilgrimage to Knock together, is to proclaim that the Church happens when we are together.

And third—the apparition is in silence. It not an apparition with words or messages—is a call to put before us the manifestation of the Living Lord to his people in his mystery and wonder, in beauty, and otherness or strangeness. When God reveals himself—directly or indirectly—God is always more than we have imagined. In the actual birth of a child—the appearance of this new life, there is more than we have imagined. In the death of a loved one, there is more than we have imagined. When someone says, “Yes, I will marry you,” there is more than we have imagined. Equally, when someone precious to us, a child perhaps, moves away from us, there is more than we have imagined. In all those situations, we are brought to silence.

The Silent Apparition and the Silence of Mary

This is the experience of Mary at the Annunciation: the word of the angel Gabriel leaves her troubled and wondering. “How can this be…,” she asked. Let us not think, the Annunciation happened in a flash! It took time—Mary “pondered all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:19).

In the silence of Mary’s heart, the word of God unfolded, the mystery of God happened. The same silence is already in our hearts. The apparition here at Knock witness to that same mystery, and our invitation into it. “Behold I stand at the door and knock,” says the Lord in the Revelation of St John (3:20)—that same St John who appeared here. That invitation was given to ordinary people. It is for ordinary people today, it happens for ordinary people today. This same mystery happens in the Eucharist and we are called into it. Many of you know the power, consolation, and hope that flows from time spend with the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration. This same mystery happens when we spend time in quiet prayer in our homes, either alone and with our families. This same mystery happens when we spend time with the Scriptures—the word of life where we deeply come to know who and how Christ is—where we are “brought to see Jesus.”

Our Pilgrimage and its Fruits

 Since ancient times, right back into the days of Jesus and before, people have gone on pilgrimage. And since ancient times people has brought back signs of their journey to the holy places. What will you bring back with you today? Water? A rosary beads? A holy book for someone? A fridge magnet? Or will you bring back something that will bring to mind what has been placed in your hearts? Would the request of Philip, “Lord, let us see the Father?” not make a wonderful souvenir? What a life-giving sign of your pilgrimage we would bring back! What a faith-giving gift we would have! And then with Mary, Our Lady of Knock, we could pray, “Be it done unto me, according to your word (Luke 1:38). “Lord, let us see the Father!” Amen.

Dermot Farrell
Archbishop of Dublin