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Homilies - Bishop Brendan Leahy

Charismatic Renewal Conference - 6 November 2016

Last Wednesday, at Rome’s largest cemetery, Pope Francis said that “The commemoration of the dead has a dual meaning: Sadness mixes with hope, and this is what we all feel today in this celebration. The memory of our loved ones, in front of their remains, and hope. But we also feel that this hope helps, because we too have to make this journey! …Sooner or later… everyone…But in this sadness we bring flowers as a sign of hope, and also, I dare to say, of celebration - not now, but in the future.”

He explained that the reason for this hope is the Resurrection, that “Jesus is the one who made this journey first. We’re walking the path he walked, and he brings us through the door…so that we can enter into where we’ll contemplate God.” He finished by saying “Let’s go home today with this dual memory: the memory of the past, of those who’ve gone, and the memory of the future, the path we’ll go with the certainty…of the words that came from the lips of Jesus: I will raise him up on the last day.”

You’ve spent a weekend living in the atmosphere of hope in God’s mercy. It’s so important to keep this hope alive. Pope Francis invites us not to let ourselves be robbed of hope! I heard once an explanation of how a false humility can actually be a temptation against hope. Sometimes we think humility means recognising our limits, our faults, our littleness. There is a risk, however, that in a wrong understanding of humility, we end up just noting the imperfections and sins and stop there. We might not take the positive step of trusting in God. And that is a temptation against hope that stops us moving forward. We’ve all had moments of that. Moments of discouragement, one of the great tricks of the Devil.

Humility, while certainly acknowledging all this, recognises that I am what I am but God is the One who can do so much more than I can imagine. Our God is the God of the Living, as today’s Gospel reminds us. Hope builds on this. It is the trust that a child has with his mother. In hope, we abandon ourselves to God, believing God loves us and is at work in our limits and sins and in the limits and sins in the world around us! The Holy Spirit is drawing us forwards, always going ahead to the Jesus who is going to come and wants to bring us with him into heaven.

Lack of trust in God is not humility! It is a temptation against hope and we need to be careful to not fall into that error. We must have the trust of believing in love in all circumstances, even those apparently negative, and in all times.

If we can hope in God’s mercy for ourselves, we must always believe and hope for it for our world. That’s why the Church offers a message of hope to the world. For instance, speaking about the family recent, Pope Francis said, no family drops down from heaven perfectly formed. It’s on a journey. We are all needing to take steps.

The Church also reminds us to keep going in life even when there are obstacles. I have recently experienced some wonderful examples of that – the “pairs” of bishops commissioned by Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby in Rome and the recent event in Lund.

But hope applies also to our future in the next life. The Church gives us the great doctrine of purgatory – we’re given a chance to get ready! It’s also why prayer for another is so important also for the dead. Prayer isn’t something external to that person, not even after their death. In our mysterious interconnectedness, my gratefulness to the other—my prayer for him or her—can play a part in her or his purification. In love and prayer my earthly time is transformed into God's time. In the communion of souls simple earthly time is left behind. It’s never too late to touch the heart of another, it’s never in vain. Especially this month of November we’re praying that all our beloved faithful departed may soon see Jesus face to face, and they will help us to realize better each day we’re growing nearer on our journey to sharing for ever with them, the vision of God who is Love.

I’ll conclude with a word about Teresa of Avila who suffered a certain pain for the time she felt she had wasted in life. She wanted to make up for lost time. But how could she make up for the time she has lost? Life is irreversible and yet Teresa wants to recuperate the time lost. Again she turns to God’s mercy that makes all things possible, including recovering lost time, and so, acknowledging God’s great power and mercy, she prays,

O my God and my Mercy… You, Lord, if my soul, looking upon the time it has lost, is right in its belief that you, in a moment, can turn its loss to gain. I seem to be talking foolishly, for it is usual to say that time lost can never be recovered. Blessed be my God!... Recover the time I have lost, my God, by granting me your grace in both the present and in the future, that I may appear before You with wedding garments; for if You want to, You can do so.[1]

Mercy is the constant feature of that relationship. On the day she died, she could say with great trust in Christ’s mercy, “O my Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another”.

Let’s go out from this Conference with a new sense of hope in God’s mercy, praying for those we loved who have died. But also remembering again that we too will pass through that doorway from this life to the next. Let’s pray that we’ll be able, in the Spirit, to say those words of Teresa of Avila with hope and trust: “O my Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another”.



[1] Exclamation IV in Complete Works, Vol. II, p. 405.