At the Mass of Chrism the Bishop calls on all in the diocese to be confident and courageous
as the diocese more and more relies on the contribution that all the People of God are called to make
by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation. The Spirit of the Lord has been given to all.
Homily at Mass of Chrism Killarney Cathedral 16 April 2019
Welcome to those who join us having completed a Parish Walk for Fossa, led by their Confirmation candidates.
Our Gospel has Jesus in Nazareth among his own people. It is the Sabbath day; all are gathered in the synagogue, presumably the whole village, and his neighbours and relations. It must have been daunting for Jesus to make such a major proclamation before family, relations and neighbours: ‘this text is being fulfilled today, even as you listen’ concerning the words of Isaiah, ‘The Spirit has been given to me, the Lord has anointed me, He has sent me . .’ Isaiah speaks of being ‘sent me to bring good news for the poor’, of caring ‘for the people struggling with the heartbreaks and the difficulties of life’. Those words point to the Messiah, no small claim, the ultimate longing for the people of Israel.
Our gathering is similar to Jesus’ in Nazareth. We are gathered from all over the diocese, we represent all the baptised, those baptised who are ordained bishops, priests and deacons, the baptised of all ages and all ministries and all positions in life. Just as for the prophet Isaiah, just as for Jesus, so too the Spirit is speaking to us today: ‘this text is being fulfilled today, even as we listen’. ‘The Spirit has been given to us, the Lord has anointed us, he has sent us . . . ’. We appreciate who we are, we appreciate our own. We are among our own. We represent the whole faith community of our diocese.
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit was given to the People of God, to the Church. Towards the end of his life Jesus had said: ‘I will not leave you orphans, I will send the Holy Spirit’. I have spent the past six weeks celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation. Two thirds of the ceremonies have been completed, over 1300 girls and boys confirmed. Confirmation is the Holy Spirit ever present in our lives. All of us have been anointed with Chrism and received the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation. The Holy Spirit comes to us for a purpose, to care for us, to be our strength and guide.
This day, on behalf of all the People of God in our diocese, let us count our blessings, and let us face the challenges that lie ahead. Isaiah’ words focus on care for people in need and remind me of so much care of the needy in the life of our parishes: the Vincent de Paul collection each month at our churches, the generosity of people and those in need who benefit; so many of our people give so much time to individual charities, charities connected with cancer or disability; organisations connected with service to the community be it cultural, sporting or musical; organisations in our parishes, – the Pastoral ministry or Youth ministry courses, pre-sacramental meetings, training and support for the various liturgical ministries. All of these serve our people, the young and the old, those with disabilities and those who are ill. Thank God for all whose everyday caring is ‘good news’ for others who are in need.
As well as counting our blessings, we are honest about the great challenges too: Handing on the faith and keeping people engaged with their faith and Christian living is a great challenge. The great challenge of living faith, hope and love. The absence of so many children, teens and young adults from participation in the regular life of the Church is sad and worrying.
Another great challenge that we are most conscious of, is that of having fewer and fewer priests. We have all felt it in the past ten years, we realise we will feel it much more in the years immediately ahead. It is a challenge faced by every diocese in Ireland. Mindful that in a few minutes our priests will renew their commitment to priestly service, I thank them for their constant, dedicated, whole-hearted service. The necessary adjustments over recent years have been quite demanding on them. Thank you also to the many retired priests among us for their continuing ministry.
In the past year we ordained our first priest in ten years, Fr Sean Jones. Thank God for his responding to his calling, thank God for his ministry in St John’s parish in Tralee. Also we ordained our sixth permanent deacon, Francis White. Our deacons are giving good service in their local areas in the diocese. Continue to pray for vocations to the priesthood and diaconate. Along with other Munster dioceses we hope to begin another formation programme for deacons shortly.
How have we coped with fewer priests? How will we cope in the years ahead? In recent generations, great numbers of religious sisters and brothers, great numbers of priests in religious orders and our diocesan priests, and, all our teachers in our schools, gave wonderful service and were the backbone of so much in the Church. The People of God having fewer priests means the laity taking more and more responsibility. In ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ Pope Francis reminds us of the right and responsibility of every baptised Christian to be fully involved in all aspects of the life of the Church by virtue of their baptism:
“In all the baptised, from first to last, the sanctifying power of the Spirit is at work, impelling us to evangelisation. (119)
In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (Mt 28:19). . . . Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: (120)
All of us are called to offer others an explicit witness to the saving love of the Lord, who despite our imperfections offers us his closeness, his word and his strength, and gives meaning to our lives. (121)”
More and more in our diocese all the baptised will make their own todays Gospel words, “the spirit of the Lord has been given to me, the Lord has anointed me, he has sent me”, “this text is being fulfilled today, even as you listen”, The laity with their priests will more and more be sharing responsibility for:
- nourishing the faith of the whole People of God
- reaching out to people who have become disconnected from the faith
- handing on the faith to the next generation
- caring for those in need in our midst
- bringing the light of the Gospel to bear on economic and social realities around us.
The years ahead will be full of great challenge. We will have moments of doubt, ‘how will we cope?’ God’s word this day is a word of hope and courage. WE do not rely just on our own abilities and strengths, the Holy Spirit is with us. The Holy Spirit is the true source of our hope and courage. ‘The Spirit has been given to us, the Lord has anointed us, He is sending us’. ‘This text is being fulfilled today, even as we listen’.
Bishop Ray Browne 16.04.2019