Blessing of St. Mary’s Church,
Friday, 22 June 2012, 7.30pm.
Fellow Priests, brothers and sisters,
Despite strong opposition to it, 38 States of theAmericanRepublicstill have the death penalty. Most of these states allow a last meal for condemned prisoners. This is a tradition which dates back to ancientGreece. Believe it or not, a few prisoners have unselfishly ordered their large last meal to be shared with other death row inmates. Most just thought of themselves. Oklahomabomber Timothy McVeigh apparently ate two pints of chocolate mint ice cream for his final meal. Joan of Arc requested only Holy Communion. We all differ in values and in our taste for nourishment.
Food and meals play an important role in the lives of the individual and of the family. Food provides us with nourishment for our bodies and gives us a reason to gather together in community. In gathering, we share our hopes and our experiences and form strong bonds of friendship and kinship. The family table and what is shared around it educates us in living together and can create deep relationships between us. The nourishment offered and enjoyed extends beyond the body and penetrates into the human spirit. At its best, the food shared brings peace harmony and love.
There is an Indian legend which describes a scene at dusk, when the air was still and the wandering holy man settled under a tree, near the big rock, beside the path at the foot of the mountain. There he would spend the night with a stone for his pillow. He had few belongings and had long ago given up the idea of becoming successful or of making a lot of money, or even of being popular. He had what he needed and he needed very little. Now he was simply trying to find himself.
His evening meditation was disturbed by the shouts of a businessman who came running up to him in a bit of a state. “I had a dream last night,” he said, “telling me to come to this tree, near the big rock, beside the path, at the foot of the mountain. Here a wandering holy man would give me a precious stone that I have been looking for all my life. I cannot believe that I have found you.” The holy man rummaged in his bag and said, “Perhaps this jewel which I found today is the stone from your dream. It is very beautiful. Please take it.”
The businessman’s mouth dropped open in amazement and his eyes grew large with delight. As he carried the huge diamond to his home he was bursting with pride and satisfaction. He would never see a poor day again. But the feeling did not last long and by the end of the evening he was deeply troubled. He tossed and turned all night trying to plan what he would do with his incredible richness, with all the possessions that would soon be his. How changed forever his life would be!
But even more, something else was bothering him profoundly – he could not get his meeting with the holy man out of his mind. There was something about it that disturbed him to the core. Before dawn broke, he got up and went back to the tree, near the big rock, beside the path, at the foot of the mountain. The holy man was already up and was saying his morning prayers. The businessman laid the shining diamond before him and said, “I have a more important favour to ask you now. Please, can I have the most important gift of all – give me the secret that made you give this precious stone away?
My dear people of the parish of Galloon, you have gathered this evening around the table of the Lord, in your refurbished and extendedparishChurch, to celebrate something special. Under the guidance of Fr. Michael King and Fr. Eddie Murphy the architect, Oliver Quinn, has designed and overseen the building of a new Adoration Chapel, a room for small group meetings as well as office and administrative facilities. They have also directed the building of a new kitchenette, toilet facilities, a new car park, access ramps and landscaping. All in all, you now have a worthy and tasteful refurbishment of your Church as well as a fine addition of facilities. The main contractors, Woodvale Construction, are to be commended on their good work, as are the many local and other subcontractors who also did such excellent work.
The artistic touch of Thomas Glendon, in designing and sculpting the statue of Our Lady and in carving the lettering on the stone lintel, is deserving of special mention. So is the lovely work done by Helen McLean and her team on the stained glass windows of the Adoration Chapel as well as the tabernacle doors. The Tree of Music window is rather special and has the lyrics from the local “Lovely River Finn” as it inspiration. The core of the design of the Adoration Chapel is the fish as the symbol of Christ and the symbols of the main Church tabernacle are the nourishing grapes and the wheat.
My dear brothers and sisters, you and your people have for many decades been fed and nourished as a community, in family and individually in this building. As the reading from the Book of Kings proclaimed “Day and night let your eyes watch over this house, over this place of which you have said : “My name shall be there.”
St Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, puts it even more strongly, “We who believe are carefully joined together with Christ as parts of a beautiful, constantly growing temple for God. And you are also joined with him and with each other by the Spirit, and are part of this dwelling place of God.”
St. Augustinewrote extensively about our longing for salvation. We yearn to be rescued from death and to be brought to eternal life. In the Gospel extract from John we just listened to, that is what the Lord promised us. Jesus loved us to the end and calls us to this persevering love. He calls us out of the narrow confines of our individual selves and invites us to let go on jewels that fade. Instead of joining the tragedy of the world, unable to reach each other in our fallen state. Instead of allowing greed, self-interest and pride dominate our relationships, let love in the form of unselfish self giving and humble service bridge the distance between us and lead us together to eternal life.
As we ask God to bless ourselves and our beloved Church, should we accept in the Eucharist we celebrate here the secret of the Indian legend, the most important gift of all, the capacity to trade in precious stones for the possibility of eternal life?
+Liam S. MacDaid