Pentecost Sunday 2014
GOLDEN JUBILEE OF PARISH LIFE IN THE PARISH OF OUR MOTHER OF DIVINE GRACE BALLYGALL
Homily Notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin
Our Mother of Divine Grace, Ballygall, 7th June 2014
“By pure coincidence over these past weeks I met with a number of people, unconnected with each other, who had grown up here in this Parish or who still live here. I asked them about the establishment of the parish fifty years ago, hoping to hear some anecdotal memories of the event, and about the construction of the parish church, which I might mention in my homily. To my surprise I came away with very little of what I had been looking for, but instead with a real wealth of stories and anecdotes and memories of the tin church. Everyone wanted to talk about the tin church.
Today’s memories of the tin Church have probably been more than a little romanticised and embellished, but there is no doubt that a real sense of community was built around the tin church, a sense which became the heart of the renewed sense of community which flourished with the building and opening of this Church. The word community is an essential part of our celebration this evening. We are not just celebrating the history of a building or of a juridical entity called parish. We are celebrating the history of a community and even more so of the life of a vibrant community which is still today very much alive and well in the changed situation of today.
The Ballygall Parish Jubilee Directory is a remarkably well-produced booklet which documents so many aspects of the life this Church community. It focuses on the faith life of the community, a faith life which then blossoms into a community of charity and care and solidarity which is truly outstanding and of which you can be rightly proud.
As well as the Jubilee Directory, the parish website is a great practical source of information – and I am happy to see that it is well looked after and up to date. Actually it is even more than up to date as the latest addition is the parish newsletter dated tomorrow 8th June. I congratulate all those who are responsible for the website. “My Ballygall TV” is also a remarkable service for the elderly and housebound living in the parish.
We have come to give thanks God for the graces that have been received trough the faith life which was sustained over these 50 years in this parish and is still today sustained within this Church. We remember all those who worked to build up this faith community: the priests who have served here, the sisters, the teachers in the parish schools, the parents and the families who have kept the faith strong. We remember those who have helped in nay way in the preparation and celebration of the liturgy: the Family Mass team, the ministers of the Word and of Holy Communion, the RCIA and the Baptism and Funeral teams, the choirs, the altar services, those who look after the Church and the sacristy.
We thank God also for the many personal experiences that you have had: the great moments of baptisms, first communions and confirmations, the weddings, as well as the sadder moments of funerals. All of you will have had those moments of sadness or joy for which you will have made a short visit to this Church to say a silent prayer. If these walls could speak they would tell us of deep faith and trust in God by people young and old.
As well as the memories of the tin church, the other comment that I heard form those people I met with over these weeks was about the number of priests who came from this parish. I am pleased to see some of them here this evening and I know others would like to have been here with us were it not for other duties.
The number of vocations that have come out of this parish is tribute to the great priests who worked here over the years, up to an including your two current priests, Father Brendan Quinlan and Father Harry Gaynor. But the number of priests that have come out of this parish is above all a witness to great families who lived their faith, and transmitted that faith to their children, and witnessed to what faith means in life. Faith in a God of love is the fundamental root of any Christian faith community.
Community has many meanings. Today, on the Vigil of Pentecost, we are called to remember how central the idea of community is to the Christian life. Our first reading was the story of how the folly of trying to establish kingdom of God without God, or in a sort of competition with God, led to the division of people. It is the story of the Tower of Babel. These people, our reading noted, “wanted to make a name for themselves”. They wanted to build a tower which would reach to heaven. The result of this folly of unmeasured human ambition was that the Lord struck them into confusion and they could no longer communicate with each other.
The idea of creating a kingdom of without God is not an idea just of the distant biblical part. We have seen in our own days how uncontrolled greed and self-centeredness and corruption are not only the evil actions of individuals, but they have still today the same effect as at the time of the Tower of Babel of dividing and destroying community and leaving those most in need in ever deeper distress.
Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit is presented in the scriptures as precisely the opposite movement. The Apostles when out into the streets of Jerusalem preaching the Good News to people who had come from every aspect of the known world and they all understood the words of the Apostles in their own language. The Spirit heals the divisions which human ambition destroyed. The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost shows that the disunity caused by naked human ambition can be healed and that true communication can be re-established in the human family.
It is the Spirit who has established that real sense of community and unity among all people which is at the root of this parish and which should be at the roots of every aspect of human activity: in the economy and politics, education and care for each other. The sign of the presence of the spirit in any community is precisely how well we communicate in the deepest sense of that word. The presence of the Spirit is to be seen in how we speak to each other and recognise in each other, with all out differences, that we are truly bothers and sisters and that we share responsibility for each other. A Spirit-filled people will always be a people of respect and love and care and support for each other, especially the poorest and the abandoned, the forgotten and those who society considers on its margins.
In the context of Pentecost I would ask you all to pray for a special initiative of Pope Francis over this weekend where he has invited to the Vatican the Presidents of both Israel and of Palestine – along with the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church – to pray for peace in the Holy Places. In our responsorial Psalm we recognised that that the Spirit can “renew the face of the earth” and can change even the hardest of hearts and inspire men and women, to use the riches of the earth in terms of the wisdom with which God had created them.
In the book of the Apocalypse we are warned: “If anyone has ears to hear, let them listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches”. We look back over fifty years of the life of this parish, but we must also look closely to what the Spirit is saying to us about today and tomorrow. This parish, like most of the parishes in our diocese, will witness probably more change in the next five to ten years than it did over the past fifty years. The challenge is daunting. But we know that the Spirit will be with us as we move forwards. We will find that lay men and women will be called to be much more involved in the life of the parish. I congratulate the parish pastoral council, the finance team and all the parish groups for the work that they do.
The challenge is not to find new structures, but to deepen our faith and our knowledge of our faith and above all to reach out and to present the Gospel message as Good News for our young people and those who fail to find in the Church a true home. We have to learn to be able to speak about our faith and not keep it as something just for myself.
In the past Catholicism in Ireland had become too focussed on observing rules and not enough on the message of Jesus who wishes that everyone can flourish in love and in their God-given talents and abilities. The Church was at times too quick to judge, rather than to liberate and enhance, to accompany and to support. We have to recover that sense of the message of Jesus Christ as “Good News”. Pope Francis calls us to reach out to those on the periphery and frontiers of existence and bring Jesus to them.
The curious thing is that the more we reach out to the periphery, the more we will realise that Jesus is there. Jesus is there in those who suffer, in those who are ostracised, in those who fail and fall into sin, in those who seek the meaning of life, and it is in the periphery that we learn at times the weakness and the false certainties of many of our own ideas of faith.
The challenges are great. Few know better than I do the difficulties we have to face. But we must put our trust not just in our own efforts. We celebrate this Church has a house of prayer and we recall the words of our second reading that “when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, that the Spirit comes to help us in our weakness”. Trusting in the Spirit we can, in our weakness, attain more than when we try to build a future kingdom of God without God. May the Spirit give us courage and may the Spirit continue to enrich this faith community with his gifts in the years to come and fill us with the joy of the Gospel.” ENDS