7/5/06 Mater Anniversary Mass

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Fourth Sunday of Easter 2006

20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE OPENING OF THE
MATER PRIVATE HOSPITAL

Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland
———–
Pro-Cathedral, 7th May 2006

Opening Remarks
 
          On this Fourth Sunday of Easter we come to celebrate the work on the Mater Private Hospital on the twentieth anniversary of its opening.  We give thanks to God for the care that it has provided over these years.  We remember the service of all those who have worked to make the Mater Private a centre of excellence in health care and a place where those who are sick experience the loving kindness of God through a caring community.

        No other group is mentioned more often in the Gospel as objects of the care of Jesus as the sick.  Everywhere he went Jesus proclaimed the word of God, he cared the sick and he freed those who were trapped in the burdens of sin and anxiety.

        We pray that this anniversary will be a moment of renewal in the spirit from which the Mater Private draws its original inspiration, that of the Sisters of Mercy and of Catherine McAuley, an extraordinary Catholic woman who was a real leader in the renewal of the Church in Dublin in her time and a great champion of the sick and the excluded.

Homily

The liturgy of this Easter period recalls for us how the early Christian community was changed by the reality of the Resurrection.   From being a group of timid and fearful disciples who fled at the moment of Jesus’ trial, they have now changed totally and are there in the streets preaching the message of Jesus and making the loving care of Jesus a reality in their community.

Right throughout the Gospels we find depicted in various ways contrasts which emerge concerning the message of Jesus.  The Gospels constantly depict the contrast between those who accept Jesus’ message and those who remain stubbornly closed to its newness.  Encountering Jesus and his message always involves taking a decision, a decision to follow his message in its radical newness or to reject it.

Rejecting it may not be an explicit rejection.  In our time rejection of the message of Jesus is more likely to occur through practical indifference than through outright rejection; it may be through a sort of nominal or superficial acceptance, without recognising and accepting the consequences for the way we should conduct our lives if we want to be true followers of Jesus.   In today’s culture there are many who would not wish it to be said of them that they have rejected the message of Jesus, but who in real life are a long way from understanding it and putting it into practice. 

The first reading of today’s Mass is interesting because it shows us that there are those who remain closed to the message of Jesus even when it appears clothed in the loving kindness of God.  The controversy which brought Peter before the court was about “an act of kindness to a cripple”.  Why would people reject the followers of Jesus because they did good?  Why did they reject Jesus himself because he went about doing good?

We need a Church which is clearly a caring Church.  That was the great witness of Catherine McAuley.   But we also have to remember that witnessing today to the care of Jesus – like witnessing to the care of Jesus in any age – will always be a sign of contradiction.  Christian care will always have a dimension to it which differs from that which is current at any specific moment in history.  Jesus was “the stone that the builders rejected”.  His message and his messengers inevitably run the same risk of misunderstanding and rejection.

If we look carefully at the controversy in the temple court mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, we will see that, as is often the case, many people are not able to accept the radical newness that the Gospel demands of us; they get bogged down rather in their own interests; they are unable to move away from the positions in which they are entrenched. They opt for security or comfort, rather than allowing the love of God to embrace them, to shake them up and to free them to be loving people.  The radical nature of the Gospel message comes, in fact, as the second reading reminds is, from “the love that the Father has lavished on us”.

When the scriptures speak about the love of God, they speak in superlatives.  God’s love is superabundant.  It is lavished on us.  God’s love is so great that it goes beyond our comprehension and even at times beyond what we think might be reasonable. But the believer realises on the other hand that it is only when we open ourselves to receive God’s mercy and love, that we can rise above our human limitations and become witnesses to a self-giving love that transcends human boundaries and thus can truly heal. 

Many in today’s world, and in today’s Ireland, will today find their path in life in a secular spirituality and they will live out their worldview with dedication, idealism, generosity and satisfaction.  The originality of faith is however that it is not of our construction, it is response to a personal action of God.  It is response to an invitation made to me in my personal situation.  Christian faith, as opposed to other spiritual visions, is above all the recognition that God loves me personally and that that love can change me beyond even my own expectations.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his Encyclical Deus Caritas Est (#28), stresses the relationship between faith and reason in the social context:  “Faith by its specific nature is an encounter with the living God—an encounter opening up new horizons extending beyond the sphere of reason. But it is also a purifying force for reason itself. From God’s standpoint, faith liberates reason from its blind spots and therefore helps it to be ever more fully itself. Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly”.

These reflections raise challenges for us, challenges as to how Christians should best be present in the delivery of health care in today’s world, where medicine by its nature has become so complex and indeed so expensive. We thank God for the progress of technology which enables the human genius to do so much to improve the health standards of people.  But in health care, people need to encounter not just technology, but also heart.  They need to find themselves accepted and welcomed in the depth of their own personality and individuality.  As I said in my introduction to this Mass: Everywhere Jesus went he proclaimed the word of God, he cared the sick and he freed those who were trapped in the burdens of sin and anxiety. The outcome of his care was always restoring the person fully to wellness and freedom, and indeed to goodness and being people capable of selfless love.

In the sick person we encounter not an object that merits our technical intervention.  There is an extraordinary scene told in the Gospel of Saint Mark (Mark 5: 5-6) in which Jesus visited his own home town and was not accepted by his townspeople.  Mark notes that Jesus “was amazed at their lack of faith” and that therefore “he could work no miracle there”.  But Mark adds immediately “though he cured some sick people by laying hands on them”!  Jesus special care of the sick remained even when he was unable to work any other miracle.  His care for the sick is so great that even the lack of faith of his townspeople could not hold it back. 

In the midst of all the unbelief and ingratitude of his townspeople, Jesus recognised faith only in that group of sick people.  The sick are a sign for all of us of what faith is.  Being close to Jesus is not a question of being his townsperson or of having any other special claim, but depends on something much deeper: it is a question of the depth of our faith.   Most of us are probably closer to the unbelief of townspeople of Jesus, as we live in self sufficiency, fixed on our own ideas and ways, rather than having the humility of the sick to recognise our need of redemption.

The sick remind us that there is much more to life than utility.  Each of us possess a dignity would precedes and goes beyond our usefulness at any given moment.  A world which prized only the talented, the well and the useful would be an inhuman world.  It would also be an insecure world, because all of us would have to live with a fundamental anxiety about what would become of us when one day we too became weak and be considered a burden on society as we became outwardly less useful.

Working with the sick therefore can never just be business.  A business management model can indeed be a source of efficiency in the utilization of resources and in more effectively responding to needs. But, as the late Pope John Paul II noted in his Encyclical Centesimus Annus: “There are many human needs which find no place on the market place”.  These needs must be addressed, for the sick and those who are suffering and indeed for the good of society as a whole.   There is a sense in which the fruits of Ireland’s flourishing and healthy economy will only be sustainable when they are used to create and sustain a healthy society: a society which cares and where all those who suffer are sustained and enabled to flourish.

The good shepherd, who is depicted in today’s Gospel, is the one who is there for those who are entrusted to his care.  The good shepherd who knows those entrusted to his care; he is the one who stays by those entrusted to his care, come what may.  A relationship is established which is never shaken by contingent factors, however dramatic they are.  The good shepherd’s love is also one which potentially embraces all.  No one is lost in the fold of Christ; no one is beyond the care of Jesus, of which we are his ministers, all of us as his followers.  We can draw on his power – the power of his love – which even if he gives himself totally even unto death, cannot be taken away from him.  If we do not seek to be ministers of that love in our work it is not just that individuals will be less happy or hurt, the “sheep will be scattered”, the coherence which should mark our environment of care will break up.

As we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Mater Private we are called to reflect on and relive the values of the early Christian community who saw very clearly the link between faith and the sharing of what they possessed.   The message that they proclaimed was the message of Jesus Risen, a message that taught us all to live in such a way that our lives reflect life, that celebrate life, that heal life where it is broken, that reconcile lives that are hurt.  May the Mater Private continue in that sense for the years to come. May we be living stones building up the kingdom of love which Jesus Christ came to reveal.

The liturgy of this Easter period recalls for us how the early Christian community was changed by the reality of the Resurrection.   From being a group of timid and fearful disciples who fled at the moment of Jesus’ trial, they have now changed totally and are there in the streets preaching the message of Jesus and making the loving care of Jesus a reality in their community.

On this Fourth Sunday of Easter we come to celebrate the work on the Mater Private Hospital on the twentieth anniversary of its opening.  We give thanks to God for the care that it has provided over these years.  We remember the service of all those who have worked to make the Mater Private a centre of excellence in health care and a place where those who are sick experience the loving kindness of God through a caring community.

Homily Notes ofArchbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland———–Pro-Cathedral, 7 May 2006

Homily Notes ofArchbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland———–Pro-Cathedral, 7 May 2006

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