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Never Forsaken – homily, Bishop William Crean, 16th Sept 2018

Bishop Wm. Crean, homily,

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B,

given at St Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh,

on September 16th, 2018.

“Though tried and tested a Christian can be but never forsaken” (Emil Gustafsson)

My friends,

These past weeks since before, during and after the visit of Pope Francis have been marked by much conversation about its significance and impact.

For many people of faith, it was an uplifting and celebratory experience. Certainly, for the families who participated in the World Meeting of Families Congress at the R.D.S it was a memorable experience.

However, that sense of what is best in the Catholic Church was difficult to hear in so much of the social commentary which focused primarily on abuse issues from the past and their mismanagement by those in Church leadership.

It has led to a very difficult climate for those who seek to profess and practice faith in Ireland today. The language and opinion of many journalists is offensive, derogatory on a personal level, bigoted to the point of inciting hatred. The expressions of apology count for nothing. Scant acknowledgement has been given to the Safeguarding structures now in place. The narrative is partial. The self-righteous call for truth rings hollow.

How are we as Christians going to find a path through this venomous and toxic social and spiritual climate? I recall an atheist friend of mine advising me more that 25 years ago. He had asked how I was doing? It was in the 1990’s when the first reports were emerging. I indicated the best thing I could do was “keep my head down!”. He immediately reprimanded me – saying – if you believe firmly in the truth and values of the Gospel – why should you keep your head down? It was the perfect word of encouragement from the most unlikely source.

I recall it to-day in the light of our current experience and wonderful words of encouragement in the readings we are invited to reflect on to-day.

The words of Isaiah are so apt for those who are inclined to be downcast.

The Lord comes to my help
So that I am untouched by the insults
So too I set my face like flint
I know I shall not be shamed (Is. 50:7)

We need to make a distinction between the Church with our capacity for sin and failure and the Lord, Jesus our Saviour and Redeemer.

Many who claim to write with authority on Church matters are often pathetically ignorant of its true mission. Too often the Church is understood solely as a self-serving political entity when in fact its mission can only be understood fully through the life and teaching of Jesus, who Peter confesses is the Christ, the Anointed One of God.

Even Peter, close as he was to Jesus, misunderstood the mission of service and sacrifice. So much so that Jesus had to rebuke him “Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s”

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.’

My friends, this is a time of testing for us all. We need the prayers and fellowship of one another. Many good priests are downcast. Pray for them. Many parents struggle to guide their children in the right path. Pray for them for the wisdom and direction they need.

The lives of so many are marked by deep levels of anxiety and stress – keep them in your prayer that they may find in the love of God the path to serenity and peace.

The Responsorial Psalm is worth spending some time with as a source of prayer and meditation.

“I love the Lord for he has heard
the cry of my appeal
for he turned his ear to me
In the day when I called him”…
He has kept my soul from death
my eyes from tears
and my feet from stumbling
I will walk in the presence of the Lord
in the land of the living”

“So though tried and tested a Christian can be but never forsaken” (Emil Gustafsson)

+ William Crean

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