Bishop Denis celebrated Mass in Newbridge Parish on Sunday August 19, 2018.
These past few weeks we have been scripturally digesting John Chapter 6. In fact, it’s not over yet, and even after what seems like the central message delivered this morning, we will still have one more Sunday where the focus remains on John 6. First things first, to today: “anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world”. How well do we believe that what we receive at Mass, in the Eucharist, is indeed flesh for the life of the world?
Flesh for the life of a broken and bruised world. We are in the coming days going to reflect deeply on our understanding of the simple term ‘family’. The focus will be on Dublin and our World Meeting, but it is exactly that a World Meeting not an Irish Assembly or Jamboree, a World Meeting. This very day next week Pope Francis will celebrate the conclusion of the World Meeting with the much anticipated Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park.
As a diocese and a church we have been preparing for this World Meeting of Families now for the past two years, intensely over the past twelve months. The parish of Newbridge have been most supportive at every aspect of that preparation. This morning I have primarily come to say thanks for that huge support.
The nearer we get to the World Meeting beginning, more scandals and most destressing revelations continue to unfold from the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report into six dioceses in the United States. Nothing I or anyone can say will necessarily soothe the pain of victims of abuse by people in positions of sacred trust, yet perhaps it reminds us all that families like the church are never perfect, we have much to say sorry for and much to do to repair the trust and confidence that has once again been so seriously shattered.
As we gather as a humble church around His altar, as a parish family, as the family of God, let us prepare to accompany one another as family and accompany Pope Francis over the coming days as we pray for God’s love, grace and mercy …
John 6 moves up a gear this Sunday morning with a message, a key message about Eucharist. “Anyone who eats this bread will live forever”. I often remark about casual communions, where we slouch up to receive Holy Communion, without any reflection on implications, repercussions, messages. The implications of our Communion Time ‘Yes’ at the altar, at the back of the church, over at the side aisle here in Newbridge are profound – it’s Yes to a better world with Jesus as the focal point; it’s Yes to His commandments as they apply to our life; it’s an unqualified Yes to being a better Christian, a more convinced Catholic, not just a cultural one, a rolled up sleeve Catholic willing to get our hands dirty.
And before ever any of us, celebrant or congregation receive at Mass the following prayer is said: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”. Celebrant and congregation, none of us are perfect; none of us come from perfect families. The World Meeting of Families over the coming days celebrates all of us on that journey towards some kind of normative situation that allows our family to grow, to be nourished, to be complete.
Of course we’ll fail, we’ll struggle, we’ll at times make a blooming mess of everything, but remembering it is His food – His body & His blood – that should make our struggle all the more worthwhile. I had those thoughts myself as I reflected on this latest abuse report from Pennsylvania in the United States. A report that covers a seventy year period. For us in Ireland on top of the Murphy Report, the Dublin Report, the Ferns Report, the Cloyne Report, this was a further reminder that all of us as Church leaders have much to do to win the patience of excellent lay people in all our parishes, to give encouragement and support to our very good priests and religious and to earn the confidence and trust of State Authorities with whom we are accountable.
And also to the Lord with whom all of us, Bishop and priests, celebrant and congregation, must give an account of our lives. In our woundedness and brokeness we much more reflect His church operating as Pope Francis often challenged us in the battlefield with scars seeping and wounds festering. It is this Church that Pope Francis too operates in. He comes amongst us next weekend literally as a ‘Man of His Word’. He will come to encourage family life in the Festival of Families in Croke Park. He will come to embrace the homeless and hungry at the Capuchin Day Centre. He will come to encourage and affirm the engaged couples and newly weds in the Pro-Cathedral. He will come to challenge Civic and Church leaders to identify more with the poor, the wounded, the broken. And he will come to meet the poor, the wounded, the abused and the broken to hear their pain and walk with them in their struggle.
Pope Francis will preach to us next Sunday on John 6, the text that directly follows on from todays gospel about the bread that will live forever. Next Sunday he will unpack the verses from John that talk about people walking away, because this teaching is so tough, then and now and Jesus giving them permission to walk. I was asked in a local radio interview yesterday morning: “what about those who have walked away from the Church, what message will next weekends Papal Visit mean to them?” I took my cue, as I think Pope Francis will, from the recent Jubilee Year of Mercy where the church door reaches out as well as swinging in. Those who have walked are most welcome to return. There are many empty chairs in families, let us do our best to fill those chairs in the weeks to come. Amen.