Homily notes at Ballyheigue Holy Well Sunday 8 September 2019
What meaning has Ballyheigue Holy Well had through the centuries, through the millennia? What meaning has this annual Pattern Day, this 8th September gathering and this shrine of Our Lady? What meaning has this once a year event, the abundant fresh water from the well, this honouring of Our Lady and this amazing gathering of people?
It is an opportunity to ponder the mystery and meaning of life. It is an opportunity to give thanksgiving for the passing years. Time passes. It demonstrates an appreciation of community. We support one another, we depend on one another and we enrich each other’s lives. United, together life is wholesome. Isolated, alone each of us is so vulnerable. Community takes all sorts and nobody is perfect.
Sentences from our first reading, from the Book of Wisdom are appropriate: “It is hard enough for us to work out what is on earth . . . who, then, can discover what is in the heavens . . . What man can know the intentions of God? Who can divine the will of the Lord?”
The Virgin Mary points us to the answers to these questions. Mary never just draws us to herself. She leads us to Jesus. Always, always that is the way of Our Lady. She came to full faith, through all the years of the life of Jesus up to his death and resurrection: she leads us now to full faith in Jesus.
The heart of what we believe is in the following lines of the Creed: I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. . . . I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, . . . For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven. . . He is seated at the right hand of the Father.
Note another sentence in our first reading: “As for your intention, who could have learnt it, had you not granted Wisdom and sent your holy spirit from above”. Many centuries after these words were first spoken they came to complete fulfilment in the life of Jesus.
Pope Francis reminds us that the heart of what we believe can be summarised in a few simple sentences: a few simple sentences that can take a lifetime to appreciate. His short summary is: “Jesus Christ loves you, he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” Poe Francis refers to this as the Kerygma.
Is not this Kerygma echoed in the words of the consecration of the Mass: “Take and eat, this is my body given up for you”. Those eleven small words say so much. Gathered here at the Well in such wonderful numbers this warm Autumn Sunday morning, I urge three things of us all:
The two most valuable and important things in every person’s life are, family and community. Regarding Ballyheigue Pattern, how many family members make a point of returning home for this morning, and what a great sense of community there is always among all present.
Realise the importance of family and community. Value family and community in your own life. Work for the good of both. Be one community of all ages, of all educational backgrounds and all financial situations as one. Contribute to your community/family with your time and your talents.
Family and community enrich us all, they are a blessing, a treasure. They are never a burden or a waste, never outdated and of the past. Whatever befalls us, whatever trouble or crisis, or accident, or financial situation, whatever heartbreak in a relationship, whatever physical or mental health issue, whenever a loved one dies, we can cope, we can come through it, with the support of family and community.
We are gathered on a Sunday. If it was not Pattern Day, would you celebrate Mass in your community this day? This is the third thing I urge this day. Keep Sunday Mass important in your life. Let Sunday be a day:
- To gather with family and neighbours to encourage one another in the belief in God you share
- To open your heart to God
- To stand back and see the bigger picture of the world and your place in it
- To give thanks, to entrust your cares and concerns to God
- To help your children, little by little, to have a sense of God and of Jesus and Mary and of praying to God
If Faith Hope and Love are to remain strong in our homes and parishes, I am convinced that a sense of a Christian Sunday is vital. Sunday can be a day of rest; a day for family and loved ones; and a day with ‘time for God’. Sunday gives us time to see the bigger picture, to see God’s Presence, to see how God gives meaning to our lives and time to gather as a community to celebrate our shared faith.
Encourage one another in valuing these three: FAMILY, COMMUNITY and a PLACE FOR GOD in each Sunday. Bishop Ray Browne