Sisters of the Divine Master

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Homily notes of 

Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin

Archbishop of Dublin

Sisters of Divine Master, Dublin, 27 October 2019

”The Gospel reading we have just heard is a fascinating and complex text.   It comes after the presentation by Saint Matthew of a series of contentiousencounters between representatives of the various religious leaders in Jerusalemand Jesus.  The arguments involved were aimed, as Saint Matthew pointed out, “to put Jesus to the test”.  

Jesus however answers the questions put forward by his antagonists andhis answers are such that his opponents are stunned and reduced to silence.Saint Matthew points out, in the passage immediately before our reading, fromthat moment on, no one dared to question him.

In our Gospel reading today, the tables are turned and now Jesus speaksto the people and his disciples accusing the religious leaders.  His language is strong and uncompromising.     His words end in the section after today’sreading when he says Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.

Jesus sets out some of the ways in which their hypocrisy is expressed.  He speaks of the fact that what the Pharisees and scribes say and what they do are not coherent.  That is hypocrisy and none of us like hypocrisy.

However, Jesus is saying something deeper.  He is drawing attention to the fundamental fact that the attitude of these hypocrites is radically theopposite of the behaviour of Jesus himself and how he witnessed in his own life.  Jesus’ credibility came from the fact that his words and his actions were trustworthy and coherent.  So much that on many occasions the authority of his teaching left the crowd speechless and in wonder.

On the one hand, the scribes and Pharisees tie up heavy burdens and lay them on the shoulders of their hearers and they do not even lift a finger to helpthem. Jesus however was a teacher who is mild and humble of heart.  All can come towards him, especially the weary and the opposed, and they will find not burdens but true rest for the lives.  Jesus, the Divine Master, is the opposite of the attitude if the Pharisees.

Who is Jesus speaking to?  Jesus is addressing his words against the religious leaders of his time but these words are addressed also to men and women over all the centuries, even down to our times. We can remember the words of Saint Jerome in his time, “woe to us who have allowed ourselves to fall into the same vices as the Pharisees”.  When we allow ourselves to become like the Pharisees we can only witness to the message of the Pharisees.

We cannot announce the Gospel of Jesus if we do not live that Gospelwith integrity in our own lives.   We attain that coherence however only if we recognise that Jesus is the sole Master and guide for the Christian life.

How does Jesus show that he is Divine Master? The authority with whichJesus teaches is rooted in the fact that he came to serve and not to be served.  Jesus lived that message of service with a life of integrity and coherence and sohe is the sole model of all authority within the Church.

The words of criticism of Jesus are indeed hard words.  There is however a note of mercy and comprehension if we understand them properly. WhenJesus in line with the prophets – uses the term “woe to you”, we are not talkingabout a curse or a condemnation. His words are rather calls – if indeed starkcalls – to conversion.  When Jesus speaks in these sharp terms, he speaks as one who always holds out the hope that those who listen and hear his words willreturn to God.  Jesus is Master in his teaching. He is also Master in his mercy.

That is important to remember in our days and in our culture of litigiousness and denunciation where internal debates within the Church oftentake on a harsh judgmental tone.  All of us are called to recognise our failings and all of us are called to journey towards conversion.  Renewal in the Church is not about attaining the Church that we judge to be correct, but about a humbleseeking for the depth of Divine truth and always seeking that truth in charity.

We celebrate our Mass this morning on the Feast of the Sister Servants of the Divine Master and at a moment of change in the local governance of the Sisters. The aim of any change in governance in a religious congregation is always to allow the mission and the charism of the congregation to emerge withgreater clarity in situations that may not always be clear to us.  

The founder of the Sister Servants of the Divine Master, don GiacomoAlbereone, was a man who attempted throughout his entire life to discern what the Lord was asking of him, in times that were changing. He entered the seminary to be a diocesan priest.  As he watched the ending of the nineteenth century, he felt called in a special way to find new ways of bringing the Christian message and the Christian life into the newly opening twentiethcentury. He became aware of the importance of communication and this was a central dimension of many of the religious congregations that he established.

His discernment took place always within a deep context of prayer and it was that sense of the importance of prayer that inspired him to establish the Sister Servants of the Divine Master.  The mission of the Sisters is a mission ofprayer, especially around the Eucharist and a mission of practical service to theliturgical life of the Church and of service to priests.

I have experienced and have reason to be grateful to the Sisters for the manner in which they offer compassionate charity towards priests at various stages of their ministry.  I know of the prayerful and caring assistance to priests in difficulty.  I know of their openness to fostering spiritual formation for priests.  I know of their care in many places around the world for elderly and sick priests.


Through an understanding of the bonds which link the Eucharist, liturgical life and priesthood the spiritual vision of the Sisters is rooted in trying to live that same offering Christ made of Himself in the Paschal Mystery.

The Sisters lead this community at White’s Cross and similar communities in so many parts of the world to pray and celebrate the Eucharist in dignity and beauty.  We are all grateful to them and pray that their charism will continue flourish in the years to come.

Wherever you find the Sisters, you find them as true apostles of the Eucharist.  In that context, they witness in a coherent way to Jesus who is full of mercy.  That Jesus reaches out to us in all our difficulties.  Jesus does not abandon us under the weight of our trials as the Pharisees did.  His is that message we find message at the tabernacles of all the houses of the Sisters Servants of the Divine Mercy, Do not be afraid, I am with you, from here I wish to enlighten hearts.