Opening of St. Anthony’s Room Ballywaltrim

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14th Sunday of the Year 2016


Homily Notes of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Saint Fergal’s Ballywaltrim, 19th June 2016

“Who do the crowd say that I am”?  The question about ‘who Jesus is’ is still a vital question today. The answers that one would receive today would probably be as varied as those which Peter gave in his answer to Jesus.

The answers of Peter were first of all the answers of people who had at least put the question to themselves.  There were obviously many others who seeing Jesus, simply passed-by and got on with their day-to-day lives and never really became engaged with the question of who he was and what his teaching involved.

The answers which Peter brings are interestingly the answers of people who were engaged in questions of belief.   These people clearly recognised that Jesus belonged to the tradition of the prophets.  The prophets were those who brought about renewal; who brought people back to the integrity of their faith and their life.

The question about who Jesus is remains still a fundamental question today.   Where do we look to find the right path?   The default position of many today is to live with no real reference to God, to live as if God does not exist.

There is no black and white check list to help us find almost mathematically the true identity of Jesus. Jesus himself did not provide a quick answer or a focussed promotional campaign telling us who he was.  Indeed, on many occasions the indications he gave the disciples was the opposite: “he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this”.

The answer to the identity of Jesus is not something that can be sold to us by slick marketing; the criteria for coming to know the identity of Christ identity are different.   You come to know Jesus; you are not dragged there or forced there much less simply told to do so.  You come to know Jesus not by following a carefully planned strategy but by entering into the mystery of his identity.

Let us go one step further.  Recognising the identity of Jesus is not something that we achieve once and for all and can then sit back with our certainty.  The quest for the identity of Jesus is a lifelong quest.  At the moment in which Peter seems to realise that Jesus is the Christ, what does Jesus do?   Rather than telling Peter that he has gotten it right and that he should keep on that track, Jesus shatters the certainty of Peter.  Jesus says that he is to be rejected, to suffer grievously and to be put to death.  Faith must be deepened and developed and pondered on again and again.  The thirst for God about which our Psalm spoke must be kept alive in all the circumstances of our life.

We encounter Jesus in the Church.  I encounter many people who tell me that they are believers in the message of Jesus Christ, but that they reject the “institutional Church”.  They stress that “we are the Church”, we the people.  What worries me is that very often when people say “we are the Church” they are saying “I am the Church”, and I would have to admit also that many of those who have responsibility for the Institutional Church are often through their actions saying the same thing: “I am the Church”.

The Church is not ours.  The Church is the Church of Jesus Christ.  The fundamental reform of the Church will come the more each one of us enters into the mystery of the identity of Jesus Christ.  Reform of the Church can never mean just structural reform; otherwise the Church would turn to a consultancy firm rather than to the Gospel.

Let us look at another dimension of the search for God.  Faith in Jesus Christ is never just individualistic.  When we read the Acts of the Apostles, we see that the early Christians were known by the fact that “they gathered”: they gathered to share the prayers, the word and in the breaking of bread and their gathering developed a particular style of life, that of sharing, that of communion.

For many of my generation, coming to Mass was more about fulfilling an obligation and “getting communion” than about gathering as a communion, as the body of Christ.   It was fulfilling an obligation which each one of us could do in our own time and in our own form, without any interaction with others.

The event which brings us together today is about how we as a Eucharistic communion can develop and deepen our faith.  The Meeting Room and the Grotto we dedicate are places where we can come together and reflect on what faith means in today’s world.  They are places where we can come to reflect on what being Church community means and how the Church can witness to true community through witnessing to a Jesus who cares.   The Grotto reminds us of the importance of prayer, prayer like that of Mary whose faith was developed through pondering on the Mystery of her Son.

We pray that this sense of communion will develop and grow and that through the preaching of the word of God and the witness of a life-style of communion the young men and women of future generations will be challenged to ask themselves the question about the identity of Jesus Christ and that they will open themselves to the mystery of his life and mission and find fulfilment through it.  May God’s blessing fall on these new places of this parish community.  May God’s loving presence touch our hearts and provoke a thirst for the God who has been our help through the ages.  It is in seeking “who Jesus is” that we come to understand more deeply who we are and the deepest meaning of our lives and that Jesus is the one who is the answer to the many thirsts present in our hearts.