News archive 2011

Bishop Leo O’Reilly Chrism Mass Homily

PRESS RELEASE

21 April 2011

Bishop Leo O’Reilly Chrism Mass Homily 2011

Chrism Mass, Holy Thursday, 21 April 2011 Cathedral of SS Patrick & Felim, Cavan, 

The priests here will remember the retreat we had last June. At the beginning of the first talk the priest giving the retreat went up to the table in front, sat down and spent a full half minute in silence. Then he began to sing. The song was “The Bantry Girl’s Lament”, a song in which a girl laments the departure of her boyfriend to fight in the civil war in Spain.
Oh, who will plough the fields now
And who will sow the corn
And who will watch the sheep now
And keep them neatly shorn

And the stack that’s in the haggard
Unthreshed it may remain
Since Johnny, lovely Johnny
Went to fight the king of Spain.

As long as the job gets done, we don’t worry too much about who does it. It’s only when the workman is gone that we begin to think about who will do the work now – or will it get done at all?  Jesus often compared the Kingdom of God to a farmer sowing a field, or to a reaper gathering in the harvest. He referred to the apostles as shepherds of the flock. He said: The harvest is great, but the labourers are few. In our time they are getting fewer and older. In the fourteen years since I became bishop I have had the privilege of ordaining six great young priests for the diocese. During the same period 21 priests of the diocese have died.

So we have to think of the future: Who will carry on the mission of Jesus? Who will bring the Good News to the poor, bind up the hearts that are broken? Who will proclaim liberty to captives and new sight to the blind; who will set the downtrodden free and proclaim the Lord’s year of favour? Who will baptize the children of the future? Who will absolve the sinner? Who will celebrate the Sunday Mass? Who will visit the sick and give them the sacrament of anointing. Who will bury the dead and comfort the bereaved?

The work of priests and religious has been so much part of the landscape of our lives that we can easily take it for granted. We thank God too that we have some young men in the seminary preparing for the priesthood. They will help to carry on this invaluable service. We still have priests in all our parishes and we have more priests per head of population than most dioceses in the country and most countries in the world. But we cannot afford to be complacent. Tomorrow will be different.

Today is a day to thank God for our priests, for the quiet work they do day in day out, year in year out in parishes, schools, hospitals and communities. They don’t get headlines for what they do. The countless good deeds they do will pass unnoticed in the media, but the one bad act will make the headlines. At the same time, when a great tragedy happens in an area, when     people are killed in an accident or a family dispute, the media know the one man in the parish who will be able to give them a comment on it – the priest. Our people still value the work of priests. I don’t think we realize how many people pray for us and wish us well. It’s important that we know we are prayed for and that our work is appreciated. And perhaps some of you, our people, do not realize how much we need your prayers and support and encouragement in our ministry.

Today we renew our commitment to our priestly ministry. We pledge ourselves once again to celibacy and to giving ourselves generously to the service of God and God’s people. When we are tempted to get discouraged by the fall-off in Church attendance, or the scandals that have beset the Church, or the a la carte type of Christianity of those who just come to Church for the big occasions – at times like that we need to remember that it is not our Church, it is God’s. We need to remember that we are not in this alone – that God is with us. The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, for he has anointed us. We don’t have to take ultimate responsibility for everything. That belongs to God. We can’t make the seed grow. All we can do is sow it. T.S. Eliot said: “Take no thought of the harvest, but only of proper sowing.  We have a wonderful message to impart, a message of hope and joy. Good News. We can only impart it if we have experienced the joy and the hope it brings in our own lives through the Spirit whom we have received.

So, once again, we put our faith in God, the Lord of the harvest. We ask God to send labourers into his harvest to bring his Good News to new generations. We ask God to inspire young people, and maybe those who are not so young, to answer his call and offer their lives to him as priests or religious. And we ask God to give us families where there is faith and prayer that will nourish vocations in the young and help them to respond generously to them.

Oh, who will plough the fields now
And who will sow the corn
And who will watch the sheep now
And keep them neatly shorn

And the stack that’s in the haggard
Unthreshed it may remain
Since Johnny, lovely Johnny
Went to fight the king of Spain.

Ends

+ Leo O’Reilly

Bishop of Kilmore

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