Homily by Bishop Larry Duffy for the Clogher Pilgrimage at the Knock Novena
“You are the Church – you are the present and future of our Church. We can adopt two contrasting attitudes. One, where we become discouraged and lament the present situation and fail to have hope and complain. Or we can be filled with hope because God is ultimately in charge” – Bishop Duffy
The Diocese of Clogher has one student preparing for priesthood – Stephen Sherry. Last week, Stephen and I met to reflect on vocation to priesthood. We were preparing for a programme on Radio Maria. Interestingly we both spoke of the influence of priests, family and teachers. Stephen is about to begin his pastoral year when he will experience parish life in its various form. I ask you to keep Stephen and his classmates in your prayers this year. As seminarians they have responded to Christ’s invitation to “come and see” just as Nathanael did in today’s Gospel account from John. “Come” – walk and spend time with Jesus; “See” – who He is and what He offers. Yes, we are all invited.
Isn’t it surprising, even amazing, how God calls ordinary people to support him in his work. We see it in the Old Testament with Abraham and the prophets. In the New Testament we note the call of the Apostles.
Today we gather to worship at the Shrine of Mary, Mother of God. At first Mary seemed puzzled by God’s call but then came the wonderful response “I am the handmaid of the Lord.” When Mary said “Yes” to God, she meant it. There was no: “I’ll try it” or “Let’s see how it goes.” No, Mary’s “Yes” is total and final.
She is not afraid of responsibility. When Mary says “Yes” her life’s plans change. She becomes the first person to hear the Word of God and take it to heart.
Interestingly, almost every time we meet her in the Gospels, there is difficulty or trouble –
No room at the inn.
Flight in Egypt.
Jesus lost in the temple.
Wine shortage at a wedding.
At the foot of the cross.
Mary, full of grace remains calm. She ponders all these things in her heart.
As I have noted, today’s Gospel speaks about the call of Nathanael. What is significant is that he is brought and introduced to Jesus by another person – Philip. Never doubt how in prayer and encouragement we can influence people’s relationship with Jesus Christ.
We live in changing times. As a Church, we are facing significant changes, considering what we have been used to. The numbers going for priesthood and the religious life are much reduced on 30-50 years ago. That challenges all of us to respond.
We thank God for the numbers presenting themselves to prepare for Permanent Diaconate. I thank them and their families for their generosity.
I have to say I read with interest the submission of returned missionaries to the Synodal Pathway documents: “We had no option but to trust and train lay leaders who gladly undertook the various ministries. In retrospect it is clear that it was the actual shortage of ordained ministers that enabled the laity to take their God-given role.” I think that is an important observation.
My dear friends it is good to see you here. It is good for us to be here at Knock. You are the Church – you are the present and future of our Church. We can adopt two contrasting attitudes.
One, where we become discouraged and lament the present situation and fail to have hope and complain. Or we can be filled with hope because God is ultimately in charge. The God who died for this Church and who rose again. Like him, we as people of the Resurrection will rise again too.
This is the outlook of the Word of God.
In spite of persecution, they rejoice because God is in charge.
My final thought – it is God who calls us and leads us. Rejoice!
May this pilgrimage bring blessings to all.