Mass of the Eleventh Sunday of the Year
14 June 2015
St. Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan 10.30am
My dear friends,
A story is told of a man who grows tired of his family and of his little home town. He sets off on a journey hoping to find the ideal town and the ideal family. As night falls, he finds a little place deep in the woods where he can lay his head. Knowing how disorientating the woods can be, he places his shoes in the direction in which he is travelling, so that in the morning he will know which way to go. Off he went to sleep.
During the night a curious and playful monkey comes and unknowingly turns the shoes around. The next morning, the man continues his journey taking his cue from the direction in which the shoes are pointing. Little does he know he is returning to his own town and family. As he arrives back he is surprised to find such a lovely family and such a nice place to live. In reality, his outer circumstances had not changed but, through journeying, he had found a new heart, a new sense of himself and a new way of being in the world. He had arrived at a new manner of seeing. Life had been renewed in the simplest and most unexpected way.
In 1900 Frank Baum wrote a best-selling book called The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It is the story of a person’s journey, Dorothy’s journey. She leaves her home and Kansas and, at the end of her journey, arrives home again having grown and changed and developed in understanding. On the way, she discovered her inner strength and courage, her capacity for compassion and her ability to love. Lessons learned on journeys of discovery enable us to find our potential and to sort out our values. In the process, our inner world may be turned upside down.
Think of the two disciples walking away from Jerusalem and towards Emmaus. They had their own notions and understanding of things. They had hoped and believed that this man Jesus, in whom they had placed their belief and trust, was who he was made out to be – the awaited and expected Messiah who would restore the kingdom to Israel and send the Romans packing. They explained to the stranger who joined them how this dream had been shattered. This man Jesus had been arrested, tried and killed on a cross. It was all over. It had been a terrible mistake. They were trying to leave it behind them and find somebody or some cause worthy of their belief and trust which might give them a reason for living.
By the time they had finished their journey, the biting cold of winter had been penetrated and another seed was settling into the relative warmth of the beginning of a new cycle of nature’s rounds, mysteriously changing the inner life of the sod of earth. The stranger was offering them a new dream, a transformed dream, which gave a new and different vision to the disciples. It gave a new meaning to what had been happening from the beginning to the point of time in which the disciples found themselves. It all began to fit and knit together and make sense as they listened. They could feel a glow of warmth in their hearts. Patches of green were already beginning to replace the black and grey landscape they had passed through on the early stages of their journey.
The description of Pentecost we find in Scripture, does not make for happy reading. The Apostles and Disciples were confused, down at heart and scared. Tension and danger filled the atmosphere and they withdrew to where they might safely comfort one another and feel secure. Their hopes shattered and vision gone, they closed the doors and tried to make themselves comfortable in the upper room where they used to gather to pray and break bread. It was for the early Christians the kind of shattering experience that the post-referendum days were for many of our fellow countrymen and women. To many of them it was the last straw. Politicians had now joined with the media in opposition to the message of Christ. We were now a clearly secular state, and had abandoned the moral code which went with the faith. We had lost the youth. They worshiped at the shrine of Baal, while the grand-parents did the babysitting and child minding. Winter had dug in permanently. Spring and Summer would fly by in haste. It was past five minutes to midnight. There was no future.
But then, Abraham answered what seemed like an impossible call in the circumstances. He is now venerated as the faith-father of his people. Mary said let it be to the Angel, who brought to her an extraordinary invitation. She became a pivotal figure in the history of mankind in their communing with God. Paul had his life turned upside down and inside out. People who knew him could not believe what their eyes told them and many suspended judgement.
Nothing that grows is instant but gradual, like the seed sown in the earth. The God in whom we believe and trust, has shown that he can bring to fruition every effort we make as a community to pass on the faith to our children. While we get discouraged that they rarely come to Church after Confirmation, there are mysteries that unfold unseen to our eyes. We trust in the seeds that were sown, that something of value has taken root and will surface on a distant dawn when other avenues have disappointed. In today’s Gospel passage, the farmer declared that night and day the seed is sprouting and growing while he sleeps and when he is awake – how, he does not know. But his eyes tell him that, of its own accord, the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time. He starts to reap, because the harvest has come.
Brendan Kennelly, a modern Irish poet wrote:
‘Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in,
Something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.’
Speaking in the name of God, the prophet Ezekiel says:
‘I the Lord am the one who stunts tall trees and makes the low ones grow,
who withers green trees
and makes the withered green.
I, the Lord, have spoken and I will do it.’
+Liam S. MacDaid
14 June 2015