19 March 2011
Homily of Bishop Colm O’Reilly, Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, at Mass in the Cathedral Centre, Longford marking the publication of the pastoral response Towards Healing and Renewal
The life of every follower of Christ is framed by the words ‘come’ and ‘go’. The first word that is spoken ceremonially to us on the day of our Baptism is ‘come’.
The celebrant says to the parents, sponsors and child or adult coming for Baptism: “the Christian community welcomes you with great joy”. At the end of life a priest who is present and prays for a dying woman or man will say: “go forth, Christian soul in the name of the Father who created you”. Between these two highly significant moments we are invited to come and go many times as we make the journey of life sealed with the sign of the cross which was traced on our foreheads in Baptism.
The words ‘come’ and ‘go’ occur in the readings of this Sunday. We hear how God told Abram: “leave your country and his father’s house for the land which I will show you.” The Gospel tells us that Jesus invited three of the Apostles who shared ‘high and low’ experiences with him to come to the summit of a high mountain with Him. In these examples of the invitation to come and go we hear the call of God to us on this Sunday in Lent. In these days we are challenged to leave some things behind and go bravely for an uncertain future. There are high hills to be climbed and some long roads to be travelled.
One year ago Pope Benedict XV1 said to the People of Ireland: “the task you now face is to address the problem of abuse…with courage and determination”. He warned us that this would not be easy. He said: “no one imagines that this painful situation will be resolved swiftly”. No one knows this better than those who continue to live with the pain of abuse in their own childhood. Only someone who knows that ache in the heart can fully appreciate the kind of struggle which survivors of abuse face day after day.
In spite of the difficulty that any of us can feel in being connected to others in times of pain there is never a time when we should say that we are doomed to isolation. Most importantly, we are never condemned to be cut off from God. The encounter with God takes places in our own hearts and our journey is an inward one to that place. Our National Apostle, St Patrick, whose feast we recently celebrated, knew the intense pain of isolation in his time as a young slave in Ireland . He made the inward journey and so began for him a time of healing and an experience of lifelong union with God in prayer.
In our pastoral response entitled Towards Healing and Renewal, just published, the Irish Bishops have stated that “prayer is an essential part of the journey to healing and renewal”. Pope Benedict called on all of us to “unite in prayer for the grace of healing and renewal”. Placing confidence in the power of prayer the Bishops renew their commitment to restoration of the trust, seriously damaged by abuse and our failure to deal with it. Our letter outlines a way forward involving continued sensitive listening and spiritual support for survivors. It repeats our commitment to safeguarding measures, review of Dioceses and Religious Congregations and ongoing financial support for more counselling as well as spiritual direction.
Today’s pastoral response of the bishops ends with an expression of commitment to work with Catholics and all people of good will to ensure that every child gets proper care. We have evidence that we will have the support that we need. There are many who do for us what St Paul asked of Timothy, his co-worker: “with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News”. We too have people prepared to “bear the hardships” with us. To the many people who are playing their part in safeguarding children we are very grateful.
I urge you all to read this short pastoral response Towards Healing and Renewal which is available here at Mass and also onwww.catholicbishops.ie
Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444