Lourdes Pilgrimage Closing Mass

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Homily notes of

Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin

Archbishop of Dublin


Saint Bernadette’s Church, 8th September 2019

Our pilgrimage is drawing to a close.  We have joined together in these days in prayer and reflection.  We have cared for our sick pilgrims and our sick pilgrims have inspired us.  We have been renewed in our faith and in our devotion to Mary, our Mother and Mother of the Church.

The reading we have heard brings us back again to the theme established by the authorities of Lourdes for all pilgrimages during 2019 – With Bernadette, Blessed are the Poor.

Our reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians takes up a fundamental theme of ourfaith. It is the theme we spoke about at our opening Mass:  God’s logic is different to the logic of theworld.  

We have heard: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame to strong… there is no place for human pride in the presence of God.”

It is a reminder for all of us that the only true wisdom that we can boast of is the wisdom that flows from Christ.  Earlier in that same chapter from the First Letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul had noted how “Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom,but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.

We are called to witness to Christ crucified in the reality of our world.  Right across Western Europe,we can see a reduction in the numbers of those whoexplicitly follow the message of Jesus. In manyEuropean countries, the numbers of those who affirm that they are believers has fallen below 50%.  We are not talking here about enemies of the Church, but of men and women who have not come to understand Jesus and his message. They can often be very good and honest and caring people.

Ireland faces similar challenges.  48% of these between the age of 24 and 29 in our own diocese registered as the last census as having no religion.

How do we make faith in Jesus more relevant to the young man and women of our time?  Certainly,many things require change in the life of our Church.  

The reading is a stark reminder that renewal in the church is not just a question of modernising or trying to make the message of Jesus less challenging.  There is no way in which the Church can preach a different Gospel or preach a compromise or accommodation which might in some way attract people.

It is a question of preaching and living themessage of Jesus crucified a message that clashes with many of the values of our society. Our revised school catechises is renewing itself and placing the person of Jesus in a more central place.    

We have witnessed here in Lourdes something of what the community of the Church must be like.  The Church must be that community where those who suffer and are troubled or who fall into sin and distress or who feel abandoned are never rejected but are encountered with love and mercy and support.  The God revealed in Jesus Christ is a God who reaches out to us and invites us to change.

As we conclude our pilgrimage, my hope is that we will take away with us the lessons we have learned about our God who looks after the poor and the weak and who challenges us to renounce a logic of power and possession.

Once again, I thank all those who have worked to make this pilgrimage so fruitful.  After this ceremony, we will accompany the sick to the Grotto for a final prayer and we will light a candle as a gesture of thankfulness to Mary for the graces we have received, and in some way a sign that the light we have received will keep burning in our hearts for all to see.