Homily of Bishop Brendan Kelly

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The following is the text of Bishop Brendan Kelly’s homily delivered during the Centenary Mass of Thanksgiving in Straide Church on Sunday, June 26th last.

First of all, I just want to say how good it is to be here with you on this very special occasion for the parish and for this community of Faith. Thank you for inviting me.

‘As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the Road for Jerusalem’.

The road for Jerusalem. The meaning of the name Jerusalem is ‘City of Peace’. So, for the people of Israel, Jerusalem was no ordinary city. It was much more. The city of Jerusalem symbolised that place of peace every human person longs for in ‘the deep heart’s core’. This is why their religion demanded of them that they make the journey regularly. We all know, for example, that Mary and Joseph brought their new baby Jesus up to the Temple to present him to the Lord. The Jewish religion, like our own Christian Faith is all about enabling men and women fulfil that deepest longing for peace that’s planted in our human hearts and psyche.

No wonder Jesus set his face for Jerusalem. He preaches and teaches primarily by example. He shows you and I the road to peace. That’s the deeper meaning of these words today. Jesus took the Road to Jerusalem resolutely: regardless of personal cost…which we know could not have been higher, for Jerusalem became the place where he will be rejected, crucified and was put to death

When we gather to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, what we are doing is remembering and celebrating that cost: Passion and death – and the Resurrection, the new life that passion and death bought for us all. ‘He made peace by the blood of the Cross’ St Paul tells us. That’s the mystery on which our Christian faith is founded

When we Christian Catholic people build a church we do so primarily in order to provide a suitable place in which to celebrate the Mass, the Holy Eucharist, which is the great Memorial that brings that pivotal Paschal moment of Jesus’ life in Jerusalem alive. It was for us that Jesus went through the passion and death that brought him to Resurrection in Jerusalem, for our sake, to show us the way to peace

For a community of men and women who profess Christian Faith therefore, a church is essential. It is our little Jerusalem, our place for the Eucharist, place of peace and of prayer, the place where we become our best selves because we come and worship… The place where we remember we are one with Jesus and with each other, where we become a holy communion.

‘As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the Road for Jerusalem’.

Heaven and Jerusalem are closely connected. Both places speak of peace. I remember years ago in France, entering an old church in the centre of a town and being struck by the words written in large letters on the door: ‘This is the house of God, this is the Gate of heaven’. These are the words exclaimed by Jacob in the Book of Genesis when he woke from the dream in which he saw a ladder linking earth to heaven. Now I realise these are words written often at the entrance of churches.

Because this is the reality. This is the house of God, this is the gate of heaven the place where we connect consciously with God, in the Eucharist and in prayer, and with others. Here we receive the food that gives us strength for the journey that is our lives…Lives that are often so full of threats and challenges,

I can’t help but think of the challenge (or is it threat?) many feel with the triumph the other day of Brexit. We live in a world of constant turmoil, of seemingly endless challenge and threat…at the big level: witness the unending catastrophe of Syria, the hunger and famine, the challenge of climate change, the tragedy of displaced millions…thousands on the move …refugees…seeking a new homeland…peace, an opportunity to live and flourish.. And similarly at the ‘smaller’ level of our own lives: sudden deaths, bad news from the doctor, break-up of relationships, loss of employment etc. Peace is so elusive…

But I can’t help thinking either of the context in which this beautiful church was opened 100 years ago…an Ireland in the grip of change, filled with uncertainty, convulsed by the recent Rising at Easter and the subsequent summary executions of its young leaders; I think of a Europe which on the 27th of August 1916 when this church was being opened and blessed with great celebration and hope for the future and all that this new church would mean for the people, Europe was in the throes of an unprecedented War, and specifically of the horrible and futile conflagration that was the Battle of the Somme: hundreds of thousands of men slaughtered hopelessly, stupidly.

The world doesn’t change. War and inhumanity thrives. The ugly face of evil wreaking destruction…the innocent the first victims of our fear and our folly.

And yet there is Jerusalem: The place built for peace, named for peace, the City of God. And there is this church of St Peter and Paul, in this little parish of Straide! Why? Because there is so much more to humankind than war and hatred. In 1916 your ancestors choose the way of peace, the journey to Jerusalem with Jesus, resolutely, when they built this sanctuary of peace in their midst. And it wasn’t easy, and it took a lot of courage and faith. And they weren’t the first. Their ancestors before them had done the same thing a thousand years and more ago when they built the Teampall Mór, that gives its ancient name to this parish, and when they supported the Franciscans first and then the Dominicans in building the Priory of the Holy Cross, Straide Abbey, from its foundation in 1240 to the death of its last friar in the middle of the 19th century. And then they built the penal church, which this Church replaced a hundred years ago.

And today, on this Sunday that is nearest the feast of Sts Peter and Paul in 2016, you celebrate the centenary of this Holy Place, dedicated as it is to the same Sts Peter and Paul. You have the church in pristine condition…as is fitting for what is always the House of God and the Gate of heaven for us… lest we forget, in the midst of all the threat and fear of our day, lest we forget…our God who loves us and waits for us, and that we are ourselves, first and foremost, his children, brothers and sisters of Jesus, destined by his grace for the glory of heaven, and already, please God, on our way there….

Congratulations! This celebration does you proud as people and as a parish! And May God the Father and Our Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercession of Sts Peter and Paul, keep you strong in faith, in hope and in love so as to live always, and no matter what comes, in peace. Amen.

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