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Homily of Bishop Denis at Mass in Duiske Abbey, Graignamanagh 21.08.2022


It’s the 21st day of August and the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time. I am delighted to be with Fr. Mark and all of you this morning here in the spendid 12th century Duiske Abbey, to celebrate Sunday Mass. It’s in the Mass we are nourished and its in Sunday Mass we have the opportunity to bring the past week and the week ahead before the Lord.

Let’s take a moment to look at Luke’s gospel – there was always someone to interrupt Jesus … this time it’s on a whistle-stop tour of towns and villages en route to Jerusalem. On other times it might have been a disconcerting lawyer, a rich young man, a small sized tax-collector, a haemorrhaging woman.

Today it’s just “someone”[1], we are offered no name, no identity or profession but that someone is any of us who cares about their faith; reflects on it and it’s consequences. Their question “will there be only a few saved?” could be asked again this morning! The narrow door, opens both ways … do we squeeze in? … do we wait our turn? … do we jump the queue? … let’s pray for forgiveness … 


I’m not a fan of narrow doors; I’m not sure most of us are. I always think of the narrow passage that leads to the chamber at Newgrange. The Newgrange tumulous built by our predecessors to honour their dead, is not far from where I grew up at home. I would have visited it most summers. The further you entered the passageway, the narrower it became. In the very early years one had to climb over a neolithic carved stone to enter the chamber, our predecessors didn’t make it easy! Not to be encouraged as National Heritage Week ends!

One of the most beautiful gifts I received on becoming Bishop in the diocese was a painting of the Romanesque doorway at Killeshin. The sixth century doorway is all that remains of a monastery established there by St. Diarmaid. Today the Capuchins on Dubln Street in Carlow turn the lock on their door and little chapel for the last time. These are sad moments. What will be remembered of their legacy in years to come? I suggest much.

Some years ago in the Jubilee Year of Mercy we had doors of Mercy assigned throughout the diocese, one of them being here in Duiske Abbey. A door of welcome, a door of mercy, a door calling us not only to come to church but to leave, missioned to bring the good news to all and sundry. In other words what happens in Church on a Sunday has a direct impact on our life through the week.

Msgr. Seán Swayne, fondly remembered always in this very abbey might begin a homily with a particular story: “A visitor to a monastery asked an old monk: ‘What is a monk?’. To which the old man replied: ‘A monk is someone who every day of his life asks, ‘What is a monk?’”[2] We could adapt his story and apply it all our lives as Christians. What is a Christian? Someone who enters by the narrow door. Someone who takes time to allow others to go through. Someone who holds the hands of others to lead them through. Someone who squeezes through. And we are all there, like our friend in Luke’s text, we are that “someone[3].

Entering through the narrow gate; entering by the narrow door; the gospel suggests entering the Kingdom entails gaining entry legitimately and at a point where we can only enter one at a time. We’re sent out two by two, but we return one by one!

Enter by the narrow door, is Jesus’ reply to that anonymous question “Sir, will there be only a few saved?[4] – the combination code, the ticket, the access fob – is within our reach. Salvation must be earned, it’s not a right, a gift or an inheritance – we must earn it individually – one by one. The only thing that stands in our way going through any narrow door is clutter and baggage; in the case of the door going into the Kingdom it is clutter and baggage that is the result of sin.

The sins, the failings, the shortcomings of others are of little consequence to us, only our own, because it’s on our own that we squeeze in that narrow door! Our own sin is the one thing that might block us entering the Kingdom. But remember we’re never alone, He is there, holding us by the hand and sometimes even carrying us across that doorway, often allowing the last to be first and the first to be last. As Pope Francis so often reminds us and regularly did so during the year of mercy, that “The name of God is mercy[5]. Let’s not be afraid, but equally lets do our bit to assist others and ourselves on the journey towards that narrow door.

[1] Lk.13:23

[2] Scripture in Church, Dominican Publications, Vol. 52, I July to 30 September 2022, no. 207.

[3] Lk.13:23

[4] ibid

[5] Pope Francis, ‘The Name of God is Mercy’, 2016.