8/9/2011 Lourdes Mass Homily

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DUBLIN DIOCESAN PILGRIMAGE TO LOURDES 2011
Opening Mass

Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland

Grotto of Our Lady, 8th September 2011
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Once again we gather here in Lourdes as a community representative of the Archdiocese of Dublin.  Significantly we begin our pilgrimage early this morning in the silence and calm of the Grotto where Our Lady appeared to Saint Bernadette.  We are specially privileged to be here on the Feast of the Birth of Mary.

We are not just celebrating a birthday.  We are celebrating a significant moment in the history of salvation, the birth of the women chosen to be the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God.   Our reflection is a reflection on trust and simplicity.  We recall the trust and fidelity with which Mary in all simplicity opened her heart to do whatever God would call her to do.  We come hoping to glean something of that trust, fidelity and simplicity through which Mary shows us how we should live as Christians, as disciples of her son.

We gather as a community, but each of us here today comes with his or her own personal sentiments and anxieties, hopes and aspirations.  Some have been here many times.  I greet in a special way Cardinal Connell, Bishop Dermot O’Mahony and Monsignor John Maloney who this year celebrates the 70th anniversary of his priestly ordination.

I greet the sick.  I greet those who come as helpers.  I greet our many young pilgrims especially those who come for the first time.  The calm and serenity of this place will hopefully be a help to you to step away from the hectic pace of your lives to reflect on what direction you wish to give to your own future.  I greet those from various parishes right across the diocese who come here out of devotion to Mary.   I greet the priests who accompany and lead you. I greet and thank Father John Gilligan and the pilgrimage leadership.

If we look more closely at the way in which Saint Matthew presents the announcement of the birth of Jesus – that we have heard in the Gospel reading – we see that the message he wishes to teach is not simply a chronology of events that took place.  It is not a journalistic account of an event.  Matthew takes the opportunity – as was typical of his Gospel – not just to give us a news report on events; he wishes to help us interpret the meaning of those events. He wishes to interpret the events in particular in terms of Old Testament prophecies.

Matthew wanted throughout his Gospel to show how many of the events in the life of Jesus were the fulfilment of the promise which God himself had revealed throughout the history of salvation.    Jesus was to be the Saviour – that is what his name means – that had been predicted throughout the long period of preparation of God’s people as recorded in the writings of the prophets.  Matthew wanted to set out clearly how Jesus is central to the history of salvation and central to the history of humankind.

For many people in our world it is difficult to understand really who Jesus is.  One reason is of course that many have never been formed properly in the scriptures.  They have never read or learned the teaching of the prophets; they have only a vague general knowledge of the New Testament.  Without knowledge of the scriptures we will never get to know Jesus and our faith will not be established in Jesus Christ, but founded on our own preferences or on a vision shaped by the culture of the day.

I am not sure that many today would recognise the significance of the Jesus who Matthew describes as a “Saviour”.  Saviour from what, they will ask.   Do we need to be saved and redeemed?  Can we not ourselves take hold of our lives and our future and the future of our society?  Should we not put our trust in human progress and the progress of science to find the way to establish a better world?

The Christian faith is above all faith a person Jesus Christ, who showed us who God is by giving himself for us, by loving us so much as to give his own life for us, so that we can have new life.  Our faith must be established in Jesus Christ.

That faith in Jesus can enable us to do much more than if we rely on ourselves alone.  We need the sense of knowing that God gave himself so that we could be redeemed from sin and that he gives himself still for us so that we can see and reject what is untrue and unauthentic in our lives.

Too often we really do not know who God is and what he is like.  We create our own idea of God and build a God around us and our needs and often around our own self-centredness.  God and self-centeredness can never belong together.  The Christian God is a God who communicates, who goes out to encounter us, who loves us.

The theme of all pilgrimages to Lourdes this year is focussed on how Bernadette can teach us the Our Father. How do we relate to God who is presented as our Father?  How do we pray and to whom do we pray?  The way we pray reflects the God we turn to and also the manner in which we turn to God.

The God revealed in Jesus Christ is different from the Gods of the pagan people who sought God in the strength and awesome character of nature.  These are images of a God who generates fear.  The Christian is one who knows that God comes out to meet us in Jesus Christ and that when we know Jesus we know the Father.

Mary and Bernadette show us the way.  It is the way of simplicity and trust which they showed and lived.  When our faith and our prayer become totally ritualised then we have lost the sense of relationship that we should establish with God.  In encountering the Father we recall our own inadequacy and our sense of being a child.  When we lose that childlikeness then we can easily turn to a type of arrogance and dominant sense of our own self-importance.

Mary was the one who quietly trusted.  Bernadette in her troubled heart developed that same sense and encountered Mary as a sign of kindness and gentleness and true purity.  The events of Lourdes took place in much the same simplicity as the events of the birth of Jesus, where his the true identity of what was taking place was recognised only by the simple shepherds or the wise men who had pondered the word of God.

With Bernadette we pray the Our Father.  We recognise that ours is a God who gives us the daily bread of meaning and hope in our lives, who not only recognises our weakness but offers us forgiveness if like Mary we pray:  “thy will be done”.  May our days here in Lourdes help us to understand what the Lord is calling us to in our lives and in our Christian living.

If we look more closely at the way in which Saint Matthew presents the announcement of the birth of Jesus – that we have heard in the Gospel reading – we see that the message he wishes to teach is not simply a chronology of events that took place.  It is not a journalistic account of an event.  Matthew takes the opportunity – as was typical of his Gospel – not just to give us a news report on events; he wishes to help us interpret the meaning of those events. He wishes to interpret the events in particular in terms of Old Testament prophecies.

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