Holy Thursday, 2011
Mass of the Lord’s Supper
My dear friends,
Winston Churchill, hardly considered in these parts to be the most quotable of politicians, once said, “We make a living by what we get and we make a life by what we give”. An eighty-five-year-old woman was interviewed on her birthday and asked what advice she would like to pass on to a younger generation, she said, “I look after an old lady in my neighbourhood. It is important to be with people and, if at all possible to earn one’s living through service. That keeps us alive and well.”
Service is the message of Holy Thursday. At the table, that evening, Jesus not only served but he washed the dirt and dust of the road off the feet of his apostles, a task normally reserved for a slave or a servant. In doing this he gave a shining and probably shocking example to his disciples and to us all.
Selfishness is probably the most common form of slavery. Jesus was aware of this and wanted to deliver us into the freedom of loving and serving others. The service that counts is the service that costs. Jesus gave us the Eucharist, the spiritual food of his Body and Blood, to nourish those who unselfishly serve their fellow human beings. He wanted this spiritual food to be available in the Church till the end of time so he said to his Apostles “do this in memory of me”.
In the Gospel reading we listened to, St. John tells us that Jesus wanted to show his disciples how great his love for them was. After washing their feet, he took bread in his hands and said “This is my body.” Then he took the cup of wine and said “This is my blood”. He shared himself, body and blood, just as he did the following day when he gave himself up, body and blood, on the cross. His death, with all its pain, was the revelation of how far God is willing to go in loving us.
When he had finished, Jesus asked, “Do you understand what I have done to you?” “I have given you an example, so that you may copy what I have done to you”. His disciples are called to do the same, to offer themselves for one another. The Mass in which we participate is not simply a remembrance of things past, a ritual. It represents Jesus giving of himself for others. We celebrate Mass properly only if we do so with the same attitude of self-giving in the service of others. Jesus gave his followers more than food for thought. He gave them himself. We can respond genuinely to such love only by obeying his words and imitating his actions – “Do this in memory of me”.
+Liam S. MacDaid
21 April 2011
Good Friday 2011
Celebration of the Lord’s Passion
My dear friends,
I listened to the news headlines on the national radio network at one o’clock. The first item stated that a group of dissident republicans, hitherto unknown, had claimed to have murdered Ronan Kerr and intended to continue the campaign. The second item described how an armed gang had roughed up three women in an attempt to raid a Post Office in Co. Kildare. The third item said Good Friday was just an hour in when two men in Dublin set upon another with a machete or meat cleaver and almost severed his arm from his shoulder. In coming to the Cathedral today to listen to God’s word, to be nourished by communing with God, to pray for ourselves and for others and to venerate the cross as a symbol of Christ giving his life for us, we have chosen and committed ourselves to a different way. Jesus has shown us how we can cope with the evil around us, the weakness within us, how we can forgive and be forgiven and in spite of all can choose a life lived in a spirit of love of God and neighbour.
In the famous sermon he preached before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King declared “I have been to the Mountain Top. I have seen the Promised Land. I am not afraid to die. I am ready to meet my maker.” In tomorrow evening’s Vigil and ceremonies and in Sunday morning’s Easter Mass we are invited to reflect on and confirm our belief in the final stage of the life-journey of Jesus. He assures us that the life he offers us in following his way leads beyond death to eternal life.
+Liam S. MacDaid
22 April 2011
Easter Sunday, 2011
My dear people,
There was once a famous circus performer called Charles Blondin and in his day he performed some extraordinary feats. On one occasion a wire was strung across a two hundred and fifty feet wide gorge and blindfolded, he pushed a wheelbarrow across it. A great crowd of people had gathered to see this great feat and they were absolutely silent as blindfolded he pushed the wheelbarrow very carefully from one side to the other. A great cheer went up when he arrived safely at the other side.
In the midst of all the excitement, a young man ran up to Blondin and said “You’re the greatest.” Blondin looked at him and asked “Do you really think so.” “I do” said the young man. Blondin turned to the crowd and said “For my next act, I’m going to cross the wire again, and this time, blindfolded as before, I will push this young man in my wheelbarrow. When he looked around the young man had disappeared.
We can all point to occasions and circumstances where we get carried away with something and we make statements and even commitments and then, in the cold light of day, when emotion evaporates, the sober reality of life soon helps us to make a distinction between what we may say and what we actually believe. When our own faith is put to the test we can soon realise the difference between proclaiming Alleluias at Easter and accepting the reality that faith-in-the risen-Christ demands of us in a given situation.
It must be said the Gospels make it clear that the disciples of Jesus did not find it easy to come to terms with the resurrection and it took many of them a long time to come to conviction about it. But it can be deceptively easy for some of us to profess belief in the resurrection and in the goodness of God, when children are healthy, life is fulfilled, a marriage is happy, work is going well and the sun shines for us and for our loved ones. But when the clouds gather and someone we love is dead, a child is seriously ill, a marriage breaks up or a job is lost – then it’s quite a different matter to incorporate these experiences into our life of faith.
Faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not a magic potion that we apply to the ailments of life and make them disappear. It is rather a perspective that gives us both the insight and the courage to face life as it is, to manage the pain of illness, to cope with the loneliness of bereavement and to deal with personal failure. Faith says “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining; I believe in love even when I am alone; I believe in God even when he seems to be silent.” Faith in the resurrection tells us that we are empowered by the risen Christ to brighten the darkness of our world, to bring courage and hope and strength into whatever set of circumstances we happen to find ourselves.
We know from our own experience of life that having the faith, living a good life saying our prayers, doing novenas, going on this or that pilgrimage does not automatically mean that everything is going to work out well for us, our sickness will be cured and our young people will pass their exams. What faith in the risen Christ will give us is a reassuring presence, a quiet strength and a perspective on life enabling us to face and to influence in the right way the life that God has given us. Accepting the evidence of our experience that we do not have here a lasting city we can believe in Christ’s assurance that by living as he has shown us in this city we prepare ourselves for a fuller and richer life beyond death.
May our faith in the risen Christ give us the courage and strength to cope with the responsibilities which God has given us to carry. Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!
+Liam S. MacDaid