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Homilies - Bishop Brendan Leahy

Mass celebrating the Canonisation in Rome by Pope Francis of Saints John XXIII and John Paul II - 27 April 2014 - St. John's Cathedral

Homily notes for Mass celebrating the Canonisation in Rome by Pope Francis of Saints John XXIII and John Paul II

St. John’s Cathedral

April 27th, 2014


Today is a special day. All over the world Catholics are celebrating the gift that God has given to us of two popes now declared saints. Representatives of 110 countries were in Rome this morning for the canonisation ceremony, including many from Poland and Italy. The Taoiseach was also present.

The ceremony is taking place on this Sunday that concludes the Easter Octave. Pope John Paul II named today “Mercy Sunday”. The Gospel we have just heard reminds us of mercy. Thomas had trouble believing Jesus was really risen. We know from other parts of the Gospel that had been among the more enthusiastic of the disciples so it was obvious that he was clearly shattered by Jesus’ death. The Risen Jesus appears to him and shows him his wounds. And Thomas believes. What does he believe? Not simply that God exists or that Jesus has come back to life. Much more. He obviously came to understand the meaning of the Cross and that the Crucified Christ is the Risen Jesus now alive, seated at the right hand of God and living among us.

How is the Risen Jesus present among us? He is working all the time in radiating his mercy and peace. What must have clicked that day for Thomas was that by dying on the Cross, the Crucified Christ had become the heart of the world.

Yes, Jesus has taken onto himself our wounds and healed them. He bears the wounds of the world. So now, in God, where Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, we have a human heart beating. Jesus knows our wounds and he intercedes for us constantly. Thomas realises – we have not been left orphans. We are not alone in carrying out sufferings. Jesus, the Lord of History, my Lord and my God – an acclamation much loved by the Irish – is with us always. Mercy has won out.

It was this belief that sustained the two new saints. They both lived in the twentieth century that saw the most horrendous suffering. They both knew personal sufferings. But they both entered into the merciful heart of Jesus from there within that hear they saw, and judged and acted in this world. They kept believing in the great mercy of God. Mercy, as John Paul put it, is God’s second name. They kept on loving, entering into the wounds of the world in which they lived and seeking to bring peace. They were not scandalised by wounds but rather recognised them as the wounds of Jesus.

And so, Pope John XXIII, “a leader who was led”, as Pope Francis put it this morning, (led by the Holy Spirit), kept himself open to what the Spirit wanted and called the Second Vatican Council that was to profoundly mark the life of the Church in a world that was rapidly changing.

John Paul II did so much it is difficult to summarise. But Pope Francis has emphasised how much Pope John Paul did especially for families. He had a tremendous regards for the importance of the family in society and how much the family is the domestic Church. Pope Francis reminded us this morning that it is timely that Pope John Paul is being canonised because this year and next year the Catholic Church will be dedicating two Synods to the theme of the family in the morning world. Let’s entrust our own preparations for these synods to the Holy Spirit and to the intercession of Saint John Paul.

Let’s remember also that both John XXIII and John Paul II wanted the Church to be alive, a sign in the world of the unity, sharing and fraternity that the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles speaks of. It is the direction in which that the Second Vatican Council pointed us if we want to give Christ in today’s world.

So we can be grateful today for the new saints. In embracing the Risen Crucified Christ in their own suffering and in keeping on loving others, both Popes radiated peace and joy – hallmarks of the presence of the Risen Jesus. As we see in today’s Gospel, Jesus’ Easter greeting is: Peace be with you.  Both Popes communicated this gift to others in their daily lives and ministry. Both Popes know what the Second Reading tells us: “You did not see him, yet you love him; and still without seeing him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe; and you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward, that is the salvation of your souls”.

We in Limerick cannot but be grateful for Pope John Paul’s visit to this city where he was conferred with the freedom of the city. We can rejoice that one of the freemen of the city has been canonised.  And it was here in Limerick that he spoke of the importance of the lay vocation in transforming the great forces of the world – from politics to education, from media to the arts and, here too, he reminded us of the importance of the family.

As we savour those memories and as we celebrate today, inspired by the example of the two new saints, let’s make a proposal ourselves today to be instruments of divine mercy by:

Always being open to the Holy Spirit

Working to build up the human and Church family

Following the way of the Crucified Risen Christ, always believing in merciful love and going out to love others, entering into their wounds and bringing peace.