MASS ON THE OCCASION OF THE SESQUICENTENARY OF THE CHURCH OF SAINT ANNE, BOHERNABREENA
Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin
Church of Saint Anne, Bohernabreena, 16 September 2018
“I very much enjoyed the drama presentation before the celebration of Mass. It brought out two things: it showed firstly the long faith history of this community, going back way beyond the current Church building, and it showed the great affection there is for this Church building and what it signifies today.
We celebrate one hundred and fifty years of this Church of Saint Anne. We celebrate the history of this faith community and we celebrate a faith community which is vibrant in our own days and which looks towards the future with confidence.
I would like to thank Father Michael Hurley and Father Piaras MacLoughlainn together with Deacon Padraig O’Sullivan, the Syro-Malabar priests, the Parish Pastoral Council and the entire team who are preparing this Jubilee celebration. I greet the priests present with us this afternoon who have worked in this parish over the years.
Some years ago, I found an old map of the Archdiocese of Dublin – it was from the late 1960’s I think – on which each of the parishes in the diocese was clearly marked and defined. I was surprised to see that there was no parish marked Tallaght. There was only this Church in Bohernabreena – a rural Chapel of Ease – that belonged to the Parish of Rathfarnham. Times have certainly changed and the map of this area of Dublin has decisively changed.
Times have changed not just in the demographic makeup of this area but also in the religious culture of our times. Yet it is interesting to note that with all that change, this Church building still generates a great attraction and affection among people of different generations.
This Church is a historic house of faith that has not lost the ability to speak to a modern community. It is a Church built very much by a rural community of one hundred and fifty years ago which maintains the affection of the changed population of today. It is a Church that was built by the handwork of the local people and has remained a place where people worship and pray and spread the message of the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.
There is a sense in which this Church building is an icon of the challenge of believing today. How do we present faith in Jesus Christ in such a way that the faith of tradition touches the hearts of our young people today?
Jubilees are occasions to look back with gratitude and to recognise what has been achieved. Jubilees are also an occasion to look forward. We have to ask the question: what will the church of tomorrow be like? It will not just be a church just of priests and brothers and nuns, but one in which men and women, fathers and mothers, and indeed young people themselves will be active participants.
Through prayer and reflection, through the inspiration of the scriptures and the tradition of the Church, all believers are called to work together to discover and appreciate the answer to the question which is at the heart of today’s Gospel reading: Who is Jesus Christ and what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus?
Actually, the formulation of the question is slightly different: “Who do people say that I am”. Just as in the examples mentioned by the apostles of that time, there are still so many answers given to that question, many of them wrong or only partially true.
Each of us tends naturally towards an understanding of Jesus that is shaped by our own experience and faith. The danger arises then that we get a wrong idea of who Jesus is or that we make one up which simply suits ourselves.
Even if we can give the right answer in words, it does not mean that we have really understood it. Peter, in today’s gospel, proclaims that Jesus is the Christ, but he did not want to hear about an identity of Jesus which would involve suffering and unpopularity for Jesus – but Peter was really fearful about what such suffering and rejection might involve for himself.
The path of Jesus is the path of the cross, which is a path of contradiction with what is simply popular or appears easy and satisfying, but which in reality in the end leads to emptiness.
Jesus is the one who calls us to form the Church as a community that cares, within a society that is often marked by individualism and at times even by a harshness. Many people today are lonely and deeply troubled. On an occasion like this, it is important to remember that it was a sense of community that brought the people of this area together in times that were difficult. It is that same sense of community that will be necessary for the years to come.
Our second reading today is absolutely clear that faith in Jesus must result in a particular life style. Faith without good works is dead. Faith is never about simply having what we need ourselves, but ensuring that everyone can enjoy the necessities of life and flourish.
If our faith does not involve a combination of caring and prayerful reflection, it will not draw others towards the true understanding of what Christian life means and how living an authentic Christian life brings unique values to the world in which we live.
When we look back one hundred and fifty years, we see how a small rural community got together to build a Church with a real sense of simple beauty which it still maintains today. Beauty takes us beyond the purely pragmatic. It elevates our thoughts above the everyday. It provides a frame within which our prayer takes on a different character.
We encounter Jesus in the life of the Church. The challenge of faith today is not just about the structures and institutions of the Church. It is not a call to conformity or flight from modernity. It is a call to know who Jesus is and to allow him to open our hearts to his message of love.
We have just celebrated the World Meeting of Families. This is an occasion for us all to help families to understand their special vocation to bring the knowledge of who Jesus is and what his message means to the generations of the future, just as that faith has been nourished within the families of this area of Bohernabreena over the past one-hundred and fifty years.” ENDS