TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM AND DUBLIN LATIN MASS CHAPLAINCY
Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin
Saint Kevin’s Church, Harrington Street, 24th September 2017
” In our Gospel reading, Saint Luke tells of Jesus going to a meal with a leading member of the community of the Synagogue, that Synagogue where Jesus had most likely been preaching. This man happened to be a Pharisee.
Saint Luke uses this framework to gather together a number of sayings of Jesus. Jesus however, probably to put many of his hearers to the test, sets out first of all to heal a man who was among the crowd.
Knowing who his hearers were, before working a miracle Jesus puts a question to those present: “Is it lawful to cure people on the Sabbath or not”. He knows well how they would be likely to answer. The teaching of the lawyers and the Pharisees was clear. For them it was lawful to heal someone only if it was a question of saving life. The healing of the man with dropsy would not have fallen into that category. His hearers, however, remain silent.
Jesus then puts a challenge before them: how could it be possible that their laws permitted them to heal an animal on the Sabbath, and yet be so insensitive to the idea of healing a human being? Again his hearers have no answer and they are clearly are not prepared to put in question or challenge their own laws. Jesus’ loving kindness upsets the security that their system of narrow laws seemed to give them.
Jesus then takes up another question about the behaviour of the Pharisees. He tells them a parable about the way they always look for places of honour and rigidly want to sit in a hierarchical order of their own sense of importance.
The parable set out a warning to them about what happens to those who are too full of their own importance. Jesus crudely tells them that it is better to take the lowest place when you arrive rather than face the humiliation of being removed from the place of honour should someone come who was more important. Jesus is telling those who refuse to recognise the newness of his message that they run the risk of eternal exclusion. The path to eternal life is not to be found in a cold rulebook. We attain eternal life through opening ourselves to the mercy of God and becoming ourselves men and women of mercy.
When we become trapped in a system of norms and regulations that are our own, then we miss what is essential. When we become trapped in our own ideas of God, then we remain where we start out: alone with ourselves. When we are trapped in an idea of God that is our own, we do not allow Jesus himself to enter into our lives and challenge us and change us.
The Lord reminds us: “My thoughts are not your thoughts; my ways are not your ways”. God turns many of our apparent values upside down and leads us to view life and its values in a new way. The first thing we have to do in our search for God is not to construct our own God; it is to let God surprise us.
Jesus’ logic is different to our logic and there are times when we find that hard to discern. We live in a world where everything is measured in its minimum details and you get exactly what you deserve or pay for, nothing more, and nothing less. The measure of Jesus is generosity.
Our modern world tends to recognise usefulness and places those it considers less useful on its margins. Our culture prizes wealth, prosperity, and celebrity. Jesus however prises humility, generosity, and integrity. His logic is different to ours.
Our God is a God of mercy. We are called to embrace, fully and courageously, the goodness and mercy of God who transcends our every human reckoning and desires that all be saved.
In our world where everything is measured, there is a tendency for us to place our human limits and measurement on God’s mercy. As believers in a merciful God, we have to put aside relativism on the one hand or of narrow judgementalism on the other.
There are those who find it difficult to understand the logic of Pope Francis. Pope Francis stresses that the mercy of Jesus is greater than the casuistry of any rulebook. This is not an invention of Pope Francis. Pope Paul VII wrote: “the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness. This is in no way to detract from the importance of formulae – they are necessary – or from the importance of laws and divine commandments, but rather to exalt the greatness of the true God, who does not treat us according to our merits or even according to our works but solely according to the boundless generosity of his Mercy”.
Jesus cares for us and treats us with a generosity that goes way beyond our merits. When we realise that then we develop a different spirituality: a spirituality of trust and a spirituality that always stresses that our salvation comes from God’s generosity rather than from our merits and actions.
Similarly, when we realise that our salvation comes from the generous mercy of God, then our worship will take on a different character. Liturgy is not about the protagonism of its leaders. It is not about hyper-activity and a cacophony of words. Worship is humbly placing ourselves in the presence of the almighty God, the God who is almighty in his mercy towards us.
I thank you for the manner in which this community has over the past ten years has built up a liturgical tradition where prayerfulness, dignity and the reflectiveness of its music has led its members more deeply into the mystery of our salvation.
One of the many images that Pope Francis likes to use is that of the doors of the Church. He reminds us that the doors of our Churches must remain open so that people can enter and encounter the healing power of Jesus. They must be doors that are not one-way, that do not tempt us to remain enclosed within the Church building as a Church of just the comfortable and the like-minded. The Pope stresses above all that the doors of the Church must be open so that those who encounter the message and the love of Jesus in word and sacrament can go back out again into our challenging world bringing a witness to the care, the generosity and the love of Jesus.
In the face of a world that can for many be harsh and uncaring, may we, disciples of Jesus, be witnesses to the healing power of God’s mercy. “