6th Sunday of Easter
22nd May 2022
Sacred Heart Church, Rushbrooke
“The Community of Believers”
Judging by the recent debate about the location of the National Maternity Hospital one would be forgiven for thinking that the Catholic faith was some kind of deadly virus or toxic poison. Though the government have made a decision one doubts if this is the last we will hear on the issue.
It is part of the wider question of the separation of Church and State. Given the churches involvement in education it will not be long before we will have a similar debate about how education is structured and governed. Presently several dioceses including Cloyne is engaged in a pilot project ‘round the “reconfiguration of school patronage”. The aim is to provide an alternative to those who do not wish to have their children subject to religious education.
This will not be easy to resolve, given that there are so many schools that are the only local school available. On the other hand, we all know how many present their children for 1stCommunion and Confirmation who at best are lukewarm in their participation in parish and at worst are entirely indifferent and really don’t care one way or the other while a few are hostile.
It really points us to ask the deeper question about the value and purpose of our faith in the Lord Jesus. From some debates one senses an intolerance, antipathy and downrightrejection of any semblance of religious faith. The removal of religious symbols is frequently a first step. It is difficult to know at this point how widespread that perspective is in society. Maybe the new census figures will tell a lot. If non-religious ceremonies of marriages are any indicator, we know that the trend is toward a lower number of church marriages. Choices are being made not to give expression to Christian faith at key moments in life, like christenings, marriages and funerals.
This has profound implications for our parish “communities of faith”. We need to distinguish between the parish of Cobh, which comprises the “Great Island”, and the “communities of faith” in Ballymore, Norwood and the Cathedral. The “communities of faith” need to be distinguished from the general way we use community to comprise all the people. It is a stark question to ask. But it needs to be asked – what percentage of the overall parish attend Mass on a regular basis? Would you say 20%, 15% 10%? Does it matter anyway? And what consequences follow the abandonment of religious practice? On a personal level and for society? How does it affect your own faith?
They are sombre questions but I do not wish to be pessimistic rather the opposite. For all gathered this morning there is a real message of Easter hope and light.
“Then let all who are thirsty come; all who want it may have the water of life, and have it free” Apoc. 22:17
The hunger and thirst of the human spirit finds satisfaction in the Lord Jesus, the one who is the message and fulfilment of eternal life.
It is beautifully expressed in the verses of St. John’s Gospel this morning.
Father, I want those you have given me
to be with me where I am…….
I have made your name known to them
and will continue to make it known
So that the love with which you
loved me may be in them
And so that I may be in them” John 17:23-26
This promise of God’s love is a wonderful gift to enable us to embrace life with a sense of joy and hope. It is not easy to share it in a climate of negativity but as Jesus persevered out of love so must we.