November 10th 2019
Homily notes: Bishop Wm. Crean
At various times in history there have been periods that were marked by the destruction of religious images and with them the religious faith and belief that they represented. Those responsible for the destruction of this kind are know as ‘iconoclasts’ coming from the Greek word ‘icon’ meaning image. In our time the ‘iconoclasts’ are at work again wrecking and tearing down much that is held sacred and revered by people of faith. We live in an ‘iconoclastic’ time/age. We are not the first, it has happened many times throughout history.
On this 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time the Church invites us to reflect on the Old Testament narrative concerning the Maccabees – a people who suffered greatly to the point of martyrdom for their fidelity to the Law of their ancestors. It is a chilling narrative of the suffering and humiliation endured at the instruction of Antiochus Epiphanes all because they refused to abandon the blessings of the Law and submit to the dictate of King Antiochus to embrace a new order of his liking.
It was pointed out to me recently that Pope Francis offered a morning meditation on the Book of Maccabees on November 21, 2017. In it he draws on the example of the old man Eleazar who under the pain of death refused to succumb to the threats of the King. He could not conform to the way/path of life of the foreigner. “Therefore, if I am man enough to quit this life here and now, I shall prove myself worthy of my old age, and shall have left the young a noble example of how to make a good death eagerly and generously for the venerable and holy laws”.
Pope Francis uses this narrative of religious persecution to illustrate the cultural persecution and colonisation that was going on then and is underway in society to-day. An insidious ‘iconoclastic’ persecution of religious faith values and images is operative in our midst. This cultural and spiritual colonisation is wreaking havoc in the lives of so many individual young people, on families with the mockery of faithful commitment, on the fabric of social structure that make for fair, decent and wholesome society.
A real ideological colonisation has taken place in society and it is incrementally being consolidated into our institutional and legislative structures. We are not too far from outlawing people of religious faith and belief. It is happening in the name of social progress. At a minimum it is dishonest and disingenuous – at worst it is the slippery totalitarian slope to religious persecution.
These observations are intended to set in context the situation of the person of Christian faith in Ireland today. Increasingly political correctness has silenced many good people of faith. This reality makes your prayer gathering this weekend all the more important as a support to
one another as disciples of the Lord Jesus and to draw from the well of Christian witness that this gathering in faith represents.
You are blessed with the sure spiritual guidance of Fr. Pat Collins, Sr. Josephine Walsh.
You, like all who gather in the Lord’s name, have rest assured that He has been in your midst blessing you with all the gifts of the Spirit you need.
Your prayer of praise and thanks have risen like incense to the Almighty. As is fitting, your prayer for healing is constant. This frailty of our human condition leaves us prey to many afflictions of mind and body. The Lord’s invitation to each of us to “come to Him all who are burdened”. His promise to bless us with calm and rest is balm for our souls.
Some struggle with forms of evil that threatens their stability and judgement. They need special assistance, spiritual and medical.
Addiction to a destructive life pattern is a profound challenge to manage and copy with. Our mutual prayer and support is necessary to enable those so afflicted to rise from confusion and chaos to walk again with dignity and self-worth restored.
There are those from outside our gathering who are arrogantly dismissive of Christian faith as a crutch of some kind. They are to be pitied because their lack of humility closes them off from the inexhaustible comfort and sure hope it gives to our lives. (2 Thess. 2:16).
In a time of great turmoil, we rightly turn to the Lords promise “not to be afraid”. His invitation to have courage because the forces of darkness are ultimately defeated, I have overcome the world. He is in the words of today’s Gospel “God of living rather than the dead”.
When we are tested and subject to trial and suffering it is this bigger picture we need to keep in focus. Our prayer in all its forms is our pathway to grace and peace.
Your gathering in prayer and reflection over these days is a wellspring of blessing – by way of praise, thanksgiving, reconciliation and healing. Taking this longer time, as you do, affords a deepening of understanding, a more rooted contemplative spirit while enabling the work of the Holy Spirit among you.
Your gathering also strengthens us for mission, for bearing witness to the blessing and joy of our faith and life in the Lord Jesus. Light of its nature needs to shine out. The light of our faith needs no less. Humbly yet respectfully share your faith – enable others to open their heart and minds to see the hope that the Lords promises hold for them.
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father who have given us his love and, through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say.
May the Lord turn your hearts towards the love of God and the fortitude of Christ”. (2 Tim.)