70th Anniversary of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER 2013
Homily Notes of Archbishop Martin at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Mourne Road, Drimnagh, 6th April 2013
” We look back and give thanks to God for seventy years of the faith and of the life of this parish which was established on the 9th April 1943. 1943 was a very difficult year. The Second World War was at a crucial moment. War was raging right across Europe, in North Africa, in Asia and in the Pacific. The first signs of the Allied troops having success in Russia and in North Africa were emerging but the battles were still furious. Beyond the actual battlefields major difficulties were being experienced in communication: ships and planes carrying food and supplies needed by ordinary people were being torpedoed or shot down at sea. Civilian towns were being massively bombed.
Certainly, Dublin was lucky to escape the harshest of the horrors of war but that did not mean that 1943 was not a year of real hardship and anxiety for most families. It is very hard for any of us who did not experience those events to imagine the effect that they had on people. The future was under a dark cloud. People were hungry and food was scarce and rationed. Poverty was growing and jobs were hard to find. The risk of the war spreading to Ireland was always present in the back of people’s minds.
That was the world in which this Parish was born. In the midst of the fear and the anxiety and the poverty of the day, this parish emerged as a place where community and hope and future were to play a central place, then and right down until our day. The early parishioners in many cases came here with a genuine spirit of hope as the newly emerging Irish State began the work of creating better opportunities of housing and education and heath care especially for the people of inner-city Dublin and for those who were coming to Dublin in search of work and a more secure future.
Those who came here to Drimnagh in those early years were great people. They knew that the only way forward was through building a true sense of community. The residents association was established very early on in the history of the area. The schools brought an enormous contribution to the formation of the next generation of young people from Drimnagh. Money and resources were scarce but there was something else, another resource, which ensured that new housing estates would soon become true communities of which all could be proud and that resource was the people.
Many of those who were the first to go to the new schools here in Drimnagh are still alive and with us and they better than anyone could tell how future and hope and opportunity and a better chance for the next generation were nourished and made a reality through a spirit of hard work, good neighbourliness, generosity and a spirit of faith. We owe a great debt of gratitude to that pioneering generation. You will find today their sons and daughters and grandchildren right across the world having built successful lives but still always proud of their origins.
The first reading of today’s Mass spoke about the early Christian community. It spoke of how the Apostles witnessed to the Resurrection with great power, and how that power was influential in shaping a strong sense of community. We heard in the reading that even “the people [who did not believe in Jesus] were loud in their praise” of these early Christians.
That sense of community of the early Christians is still today the model of how we construct the community of the believers in Jesus Christ. The parish must be a community where all – even those who do not share our belief – can see that it is a place where the sick, the troubled and those who have come from afar in search of healing and future are made welcome and enabled to move forward with new hope, through the witness of our faith and our love. Parish is not a territory marked out on a map, but a community of those who care, drawing in prayer on their faith in Jesus Christ. In the parish, our communion with Jesus in the Eucharist establishes a unique bond of communion with one another.
The challenge of believing is not an easy one for the men and women of today, especially for our young people. Times have changed in this and in other parishes. Just look at the number of confessionals that were originally in this Church which tells us of the number of priests who ministered here in the past. Today here in Drimnagh there are only two resident priests, Canon John Flaherty and Father David Brannigan and they share responsibility for an even larger pastoral area with the priests in Crumlin and in Clogher Road.
I wish to express my sincere appreciation to your priests for the work that they do day-after-day in animating the life of the parish and the community. I greet also other priests who have served in the area in earlier years. I thank the Parish Pastoral Council and all those who help animate parish life and those who look after the upkeep of the Church. Just taking a brief look at the Parish website I could see the number of organizations there are in this parish and the numerous activities. I was especially glad to see that it is a website that is kept up to date, something that does not happen everywhere!
I said that the men and women of our generation find faith difficult. Faith in Jesus Christ is never easy. Faith in Jesus Christ is not just a matter of feeling or of formulae of doctrine, but of an encounter with Jesus Christ as a real person, a real person who reveals to us in his life and mission that God is love and thus changes the way we live as individuals and as a community.
In today’s Gospel we encountered the apostle Thomas. The other disciples are overjoyed when the Risen Jesus appears to them. Thomas was not there and he was not taken by the same enthusiasm as the others, but wanted to see for himself that it really was Jesus who had appeared to the group.
Thomas falls into the temptation of thinking that it is he, and he alone, who can determine who Jesus is and when he should be accepted, rather than opening himself without preconditions to the power of life that flows from Jesus.
Today, the doubt of many about faith is not just doubt about one or other dogma or one or other aspect of the moral teaching of the Church. It is doubt about the very ability and usefulness of believing in Jesus Christ.
How then do we pass on and strengthen the faith among our young people today? Faith, Saint John says in our Gospel reading, comes through encountering those “signs” which were worked by Jesus Christ and which alone open out the possibility of having life in its fullness.
What are these signs? Where do we find them today? The signs will be recognised through how we allow God’s love to work in our lives. The signs are encountered by others through the manner and in the measure in which we allow God’s saving and healing work to be recognised through how we live.
We all have our doubts about faith. The example of Thomas can help us and help those who are finding faith difficult. Thomas is normally known as the one who doubted, but he is also the one who overcame his doubts and came to belief. And his expression of belief is one of the most profound to be found in the scriptures. He recognised who this Jesus truly was: “My Lord and My God”, he exclaims.
On numerous occasions the apostles had recognised Jesus as their Lord, but Thomas is the one who most clearly recognises that this Jesus who had died and is raised is truly God.
What changes Thomas? Thomas changes when he sees Jesus. It would perhaps be more accurate to say that he believes when he sees the real Jesus and no longer a Jesus of his own making. Faith comes when Thomas allows Jesus to shape his life, rather than himself trying to shape his own ideas of what Jesus should be like.
Thomas believes when he understands that Jesus is risen still bearing the signs of that self-giving love which had led him to the ignominious death on the Cross for our sake. It is in seeing the wounds of Jesus that Thomas fully understands how much Jesus loved him and how much Jesus loves us. Jesus had taken upon himself the wounds of humankind, and in rising he had healed those wounds and enabled humanity to cope with its own doubts and uncertainties, with its own troubled history.
Drimnagh is changing. Dublin is changing. The people of Dublin today are facing challenges not all that different to those faced by those who built this community seventy years ago. There is uncertainty about jobs and livelihoods and homes. Times are hard and old certainties have vanished. Our young people have to face the new temptations of drugs and exploitation. Talented young people have had to leave our shores. The elderly who gave so much and so generously to the community face cuts in the services they need.
The mission of this parish is today more necessary than ever. It is called to be a place where care and solidarity are mobilised not as anonymous forces but with a face, with the face of a someone who cares, who calls, who reaches out and visits. The parish is called to witness to the hope and sense of purpose and transformation that faith in Jesus Christ brings. Like Thomas we can move from unbelief to understanding that faith in Jesus can truly transform and bring about a caring society.
And just as with the early days of the Christian community, the way we live as a Christian community today is the key to ensuring how others judge Jesus and the Church. It was because of the way that the early Christians lived that “the numbers of men and women who came to believe increased steadily”.
We thank God for all those who have worked to build-up this parish community over the pat 70 years. We renew our hope and our commitment to building a renewed community of faith which responds to the changing times that are ahead of us. May the Risen Lord be our guide on that journey. “