19th Sunday B
8th August 2021
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
“Anyone who eats this bread will live forever”
This past week was a lively one in political terms for reasons I do not need to go into. However, the Church, Bishops and Sacraments became a focus in a new way. While the rest of society was opening up at a great rate, the celebration of 1st Communions and Confirmations remain restricted. And those Bishops who have indicated their wish that some celebrations may take place in late August are accused of irresponsibility, rebellion and defiance!
What the exchanges have brought to the fore is the priority afforded to faith and religious practice in society in the face of the risk of the spread of the new Delta variant. The reality is that any gathering of people big or small carries some measure of risk. Society has been prepared to live with some measure of risk so that our lives are not put on hold entirely. We know we are not out of the woods yet. But we also know that we will be living with this virus for quite some time.
To-day we continue to read from and reflect on the Bread of Life discourse and the central place of Jesus in the Eucharist has in our lives. Holy Mass, the Sacraments are important to us. Just because many in public life no longer share that faith does not permit them to abdicate their responsibility to respect its importance for so many of our people.
Parish and faith communities have been conscientious in observing their duty to those who have gathered for prayer and will continue to do so. Equally our principals and teachers have been assiduous and generous in enabling the ongoing education of our young people. Through all this time life in parishes has been fractured and disrupted for a long time now. Our life in the spirit, no less than our life in mind and body, needs the nourishment and nurture of shared prayer through these testing times. It is important for our parishes to begin reconnecting with one another. Otherwise, deeper invisible losses will be inflicted on fragile souls.
I, from my long experience of 1st Communion and Confirmation was left very uneasy with the hype and excess that often surround some celebrations. The irony is that it took Covid to bring our parishes and schools back to a simpler, dignified and more reverent celebrations. It is precisely those small, simplified celebrations we wish to return to. In desiring to do so there is no wish to defy anyone. Rather to gather in faith, prudently and safely.
We can do both responsibly.
The importance of these sacramental celebrations has been underestimated by those setting the guidelines. Life in its practicality finds direction and inspiration from our shared
spirituality and family culture. It ought not to be dismissed as a secondary and optional concern at the whim of those who do not share its vision.