Saturday, November 28, 2009

1st Sunday of Advent Year C - Gospel: Luke 21:25-28, 34-36 - Hope

[This homily is written in light of the recent 'Dublin Report' which exposed terrible corruption and cover-up of child abuse in the diocese of Dublin]

Well after all that we’ve heard in the last few days it is hard to know what to say, and in truth it is not easy to stand here before you during a time of such terrible shame and pain. However, I want to share a few thoughts with you which I believe are important.

As I was listening to the news on Thursday night I noticed at one stage the news caster Sharon Ní Bheoláin said to Joe Little, ‘so is there any hope at all for the Church...?’ I can’t remember exactly what he said in reply, but he began by saying, ‘well there is very little, but...’ When I heard this question and respone it struck me that the question they had just asked, and the response given were both very human. From a human point of view there is little or no hope. It seems to be the end of the Church as we know it. However, it also reminded me that the Church is not a human organisation, it is from God. If it were a human organisation it would have disappeared centuries ago. Our life-time is not the first one where the Church has been battered by scandals, and no doubt it won’t be the last either. To me the very fact that the Church is still here at all is the strongest indication that it is from God. What else could survive centuries of scandals, bad practice, etc? Another thing for sure is that I would not be a part of this Church, or continue to be a priest, if I believed that it was merely of human origin. At times like this I am tempted to quit, but then I am reminded that it is God I am trying to serve and it is the message of Jesus Christ that I am trying to pass on, and so why should I be afraid?

The more I continue to try and work as a priest, the more I am absolutely convinced of the power of God at work because there are far too many odds against us being able to survive, and yet we do. In spite of all the terrible things that have happened people continue to believe; men and women continue to dedicate their lives to God and people put up with all kinds of difficulties. Another thing that continues to amaze me is what in religious terms we call ‘grace’. In other words the power of God at work in the most unexpected ways and at the most unexpected times. When all hope seems gone, doors open, things happen, people respond. That is the power of God and I have seen it enough to be convinced beyond doubt that God is working in and through this too.

The truth is that it is the mercy of God that allows all these scandals to come out, because God could not allow us to continue with all this poison under the surface. How could there be any fruit in the Church with all this sickness? So God is getting rid of the sickness and it is painful, but it is absolutely essential that it happens.

Recently I was in a place called Subiaco, which is a small town north of Rome, where St. Benedict lived for three years in a cave. When I visited the monastery there I saw a lovely quotation on the wall which read: ‘Why do you sit in the darkness seeking the light? But persevere, because the stars can only be seen when it is dark.’ As we begin Advent, which is a time of waiting and a time of hope, let us remember that perhaps it is necessary to go through this darkness to be able to find the light again properly. Let us remember too that it is God whom we believe in and God in whom we put our trust. And even though we will hear of scandals and other terrible things, God continues to work in and through his Church and that is what we must stay focused on .

The message of Jesus Christ is one of hope. ‘I am the Light of the world.’ That is the light that we focus on, not the messages of darkness, but the light that comes from God.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.’

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