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Homily of Bishop Denis at Mass in St Patricks Missionary Society, Kiltegan Sunday 5.3.23

Second Sunday of Lent – Yr.A: 05.03.23
St. Patrick’s Missionary Society, Kiltegan – Mass @ 11am


Advent’s focus is clear and precise … John the Baptist sets the tone … the One born in swaddling clothes offers us enormous hope!

I sometimes think Lent needs a focus … it’s a longer season and while the solemnity of Holy Week prepares us intensely for the desolation of Calvary and the newness that comes with Easter, it’s the Lent bit that stretches us … the wilderness … the fasting … the mountain climbing.

I’m delighted to be here with you in St. Patrick’s, Kiltegan to say thanks as always for the supportive presence of so many of you or your colleagues in appointments or generously supplying in different parishes, but also to remember those gone before us. When I visit the cemetery above I’m always moved at the amount of fresh graves. The sod turns too quicky for those we’ve ministered alongside, loved and lost to God.

As we gather in prayer, at a time of deep reflection for us in Kildare & Leighlin and in the Universal Church as we continue our synodal journey, let us together acknowledge our past, recognise our present and anticipate our future …


It’s this Transfiguration account that offers us one of the best understandings of the concept of a tent, as Peter speaks: “‘Lord,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish I will make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah’” . The Universal Synod document that has tried to capture the voices of men and women from around the world who have to date participated in the synodal process is titled: ‘Enlarge the Space of Your Tent’. It concludes that “the vision of a church capable of radical inclusion, shared belonging and deep hospitality according to the teachings of Jesus is at the heart of the synodal process” . In other words it tell us everything we have is here, there is no need for a new paradigm, a new body, a new platform, everything is here already, but we need to ensure every voice is heard and no one feels the pain of exclusion.

Peter wanted to build three tents, the Synod document invites us not to build three but to enlarge the tent we already have. Enlarge it in generosity! We need to look at the contradictions in our church that have been voiced by those who participated in religious houses, in parish centres, in schools, in community halls in the initial stage of the synodal journey.

Contradictions of inclusion, where people feel excluded, left on the outside. And in doing this we need somehow to hold onto those for whom the church in its imperfections, since the time of St. Peter, is a place where today they feel very much at home. It’s holding this polarity that at times can be Church. Our listening must go beyond the two ears and one mouth synodrome, we must enter into a deep attentive listening, not jumping into to defend, to protect, to correct.

Peter never got to build his three tents, he didn’t even have time to put together a spec, when the “bright cloud covered them with shadow” and a voice came from above. We have got time, just enough time, to enlarge our tent, to welcome those who exeperience being on the outside, to welcome them in. It is not for us to say who is on the outside, when you are there, you know you are there. We could spend weeks, months, years, waiting for the parameters and the design spec of the tent. The longer we wait, the more that will be outside, rather than inside.

Pope Francis often uses the image of the church as a field hospital. For some reason the BBBc sitcom ‘Dad’s Army’ comes to my mind, with the large tent which served as the hospital. A field hospital essentially has a tent to bandage the wounds of the injured and offer respite for those traumatised. We are called to heal the wounded. And there are many wounded for whom healing will be a long journey, a difficult journey. Our church must be one of accompaniment and inclusion.

Three tents fracture a community, a church, let us enlarge the tent we have, to welcome all who have with pain told us their story during parish, diocesan, national, regional and universal synodal moments. I include women. I include those who have suffered sexual abuse and will always carry that pain. I include the young who find it hard to identify with church much beyond their Confirmation. I include the LGBT+ community who experience with pain our language and teaching. I include the refugees who are displaced and have no where to call home. I include the young families who are seriously time poor. The list could go on, which shows how large our tent must be, while still holding onto to the richness of our teachings but doing with a newness and freshness.