08/09/04 Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes – Opening Homily

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Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes
Opening Homily
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin

I am particularly happy to open the 2004 Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes on the Feast of the Birthday of our Blessed Lady on this 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

This is my first occasion to lead the pilgrimage, but it is not the first occasion for me to be here in Lourdes.  My first occasion was in 1962, just before I entered the seminary, and I have been in Lourdes on a number of occasions since.  

I greet in particular Cardinal Desmond Connell who for so many years led and guided spiritually this Diocesan Pilgrimage.  We are all so happy to have Your Eminence with us on this occasion and I am pleased that you have accepted to preside and preach at the concluding Mass.

I greet the many priests and the many parish groups who have joined this pilgrimage.  It is a great event of grace for the entire diocesan family.

Mary, from the first moment of her life was destined to become the Mother of God.  Pope John Paul II has noted that “The affirmation of the Divine Maternity enlightens our understanding of the Incarnation.  It shows us how the word of God became man”.  It shows us that Jesus is not just a religious symbol, but a real man with a specific history, who became man for our salvation.

In the Apostles’ Creed, after the words “conceived by the Holy Spirit”, come the words “born of the Virgin Mary”.  This short phrase shows us that Mary is at the focus moment of the history of salvation, at that moment in which the expectations of generations of the Saviour who was to come were realized in the birth of the Son of Mary who is the Son of God.

Mary became the Mother of God, when she gave her assent to the Word of God, revealed in the message of the angel.  She made the Word of God the pattern of her life.  She abandoned herself to that Word: “Be it done to me according to your word”.

But the Creed stressed that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary.  Mary is “Virgin and Mother”.  This is something that is difficult for us to understand.  It goes beyond human understanding and human ability.  Indeed there are even theologians who would try to interpret the Virgin Birth only in a figurative way.

But it is precisely this mystery of Mary, Virgin and Mother, which reveals for us an important dimension of the Incarnation.
The birth of Jesus is the fruit not of any human endeavour, but of an extraordinary intervention of God.  The Incarnation is not the fruit of our endeavour.  The birth of Jesus is something radically new, it is something unique and unrepeatable in human history.  It is a gift of God, something that we could never have ever imagined.  It is God himself who intervened in human history with radical newness, Jesus is the new Adam, the new man who brings redemption for the sin of Adam, and the sins of humankind.  In Jesus we become new, open once again to the radical newness of the life of God.  Mary’s yes to the word of God opens the way to the initiative of God who transforms humankind and human history.

Mary places her entire life at the service of the word of God, not placing her own plans, her own desires, her own expectations at the centre.  Through her assent she played that private role in our redemption.  She permitted the gratuitous initiative of God to become reality.  She permitted the radical newness of God to enter into and transform human history, through the birth of her Son, God and man.

We come here to Lourdes, each of us with some special prayer, some special concerns, some special hope.  Together with us we have our group of sick persons.  In these days they will very much be a part of our lives. 

We feel close to each one of you.  We will remember you in our prayers, along with your families and loved ones.  You will also be in the prayers of many at home through the Archdiocese who have joined with us spiritually. 

Like Mary, we do not know in what way God will enter into our lives in these days.  God always surprises us.  His intervention in history, his intervention into our lives is always marked by newness, by something we neither expect nor initially understand.  What is important is that we, like Mary, permit that radical newness pf Jesus’ message to become reality in our lives, that we accept the newness that his life brings for us, knowing that in that way we will be transformed in and through Jesus.  Each of us will return home changed and transformed, in the measure in which we manage to let God’s word change our lives.

Today we pray also for the Diocese of Dublin.  We pray that the Gospel will reach deeper and deeper into the minds and hearts of all, especially our young people.  I came to Lourdes first when I was 17 years old.  It is an experience of faith and of service which had a deep effect on me.  I am happy to see that again this year there are so many young people here with us, from schools and parish groups.

You are an important part of our pilgrimage.  You bring great joy to the sick whom you serve.  I know that you will go away enriched by this experience, as well as through your participation in the prayer life of this pilgrimage.  Make the most of these days.  Make it a real pilgrimage and a real moment of decision for your lives and your future.  Allow the word of God to touch your hearts.  Allow the radical newness of the Gospel to shake you out of mediocrity and to open out new possibilities in your life.  When you do that, you become yourself fully.

We pray that in the coming years the Diocese of Dublin will become more and more open to the word of God, that we will all be evangelized, touched by our meeting with the saving power of Jesus and that we in turn will witness to the name, the power and the love of Jesus in our world.

The Dublin of tomorrow, just as that of the past, needs that encounter with Jesus and with the Gospel if it is to find itself truly amidst the changing social and economic realities of our time

May I ask you all in conclusion to offer special prayers for the victims of that terrible tragedy in Baslan, where so many people, and especially children died, or suffered injury and trauma.  Through our prayers we show our solidarity also with our brothers and sister of the Russian Orthodox Community in Dublin, who are especially struck by this senseless act of violence. 

Jesus became man to save us and to transform human history.  We pray, therefore, through the intercession of Mary, Virgin and Mother, for peace in our world and in our lives.  Grant peace in our world.  Protect each of us from all anxiety.  Let us faithfully live in that joyful hope which comes to those who hear the word of God and make it reality in their lives.