DUBLIN DIOCESAN PILGRIMAGE TO LOURDES 2015
Homily notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin
Lourdes, 11th September 2015
Our pilgrimage days have gone so quickly. This evening we celebrate our final Mass together as we give thanks to God for our experience of his goodness and grace during these days.
The theme that the Bishop of Lourdes has set for this year is: “Lourdes – the Joy of Mission” and the Gospel reading that we have heard takes up that theme of bringing the Message of Jesus to all nations. “All nations” means reaching out to every individual, every category of people, every new generation and making known and witnessing to the name, the person and the teaching of Jesus Christ.
At the Opening Mass I spoke about how in Lourdes in our encounter with Mary we come to understand the Church. Mary is the model of the true believer. Mary is the Mother of the Church.
As we leave Lourdes we renew our commitment to pray especially for the Church of Jesus Christ in Dublin and for the renewal of the faith of our Christian community.
Here in Lourdes all of us, priests. Religious, lay men and women, young and old, have had this special experience of Church: we have prayed together; we have each day celebrated the Eucharist; we have prayed with the sick and the troubled and we have prayed for them as we celebrated the sacrament of the sick; we have experienced healing in the Sacrament of Reconciliation; we have joined in adoration of Jesus present in the Eucharist; we have honoured Mary carrying our simple lights in the in procession, concluding by witnessing to what happens when the individual lights of our life fuse together into the warmth and unity of being together in faith.
We have experienced the joy of the Gospel lived out in a joyful Church. Pilgrimage is a place of prayer and penance but also of joy, that deep joy which helps us to understand the fleetingness of superficial enjoyments. But Christian joy is true enjoyment and we have genuinely enjoyed being together.
The slogan: “Lourdes, the Joy of Mission”, hides within it one of the motives which can inspire renewal in the Church. We need a Church which becomes more visibly a Church of carers. We need to be a community like that of the early Christians in Jerusalem who shared: they shared their possessions; they shared their life and worship and through that sharing they brought the message of Jesus to a world which found it hard to understand the teaching of Jesus. The way we live as Christian community can be a key to leading people to know Jesus
Why do we come back to Lourdes year after year? Why are so many of our young people already searching for the cheapest flight to Lourdes this time next year? None of us can explain this fascination in a purely rational way.
There are just two phrases in our Gospel reading which might help us to discover how we can be more effectively missionaries of the Joy of the Gospel.
The first stresses the negative side. When the disciples met Jesus we are told that “they fell down before him”, but then the Gospel adds: “though some of them hesitated”.
The biggest obstacle in all of us towards being true disciples and missionaries is our own hesitation. We get afraid. We do not want to be different; we do not perhaps have the language with which we can communicate what we experienced here and therefore we are embarrassed to talk about it. Many of our young people will have no difficulty in saying that the experience of the Dublin Diocesan pilgrimage was “cool”; but it was cool with a real difference and that difference is what is important and what leaves something in our hearts that we will never forget.
How to we overcome that hesitation. Again we find the answer in the Gospel reading: “Know that I am always with you”, Jesus says. I used the phrase of Pope Benedict in my opening homily, “Mary exemplifies the paradox of grace which touches those who cannot accomplish anything by themselves”.
If we simply rely on our own efforts we will hesitate at the first and at every successive hurdle that we encounter on our way. If we trust in the fact that Jesus is with us always we will attain the courage to place our trust in that transforming grace, which allows us to accomplish many good things even in our weakness and doubting.
The Church is not just the Church of the perfect. It is the Church of pilgrims, who day by day recognise their weakness and sinfulness, not in any sense of pessimism but in the awareness that the presence of Jesus can change us and enable us to speak of him through the way we live.
In these days we have enjoyed the special peace of Lourdes. May we bring that peace back firstly in our own hearts and then may we bring that peace and the joy of the Gospel into the lives of others, extinguishing all that destroys or shatters peace in individuals and in communities.
We pray as we conclude our liturgy for all those who find themselves far from that circle of joy which comes with the presence of Christ; we pray for those trapped in drug and substance abuse, in gambling and other addiction; we pray for the victims of violence; we pray that God will change the hearts of the perpetrators of violence and those who traffic and exploit people; we pray for those who struggle to make ends meet for their families in difficult circumstances; we pray for the sick and the troubled; we pray for those trapped in consumerism and superficiality; we pray for those who cannot find direction and hope in their lives. We pray for peace in our world and we remember in our prayers those who have had to flee from their homelands that they may find peace through the welcome of believers in Jesus Christ.
We leave now this experience of peace and true joyfulness here in Lourdes. We carry that experience with us not just for ourselves, but we wish to share that joy with others, through being alongside them in their difficulties as the caring hand and heart of Jesus.
Thank you for your participation in this 2015 Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes; thank you for your prayers. May we remain united in prayer and care and support in the times ahead, learning from the prayer and care of Mary, Mother of Jesus, Mother of the Church.