Homily of Bishop Martin Drennan at ordination to the priesthood of Rev Daniel Gallagher for service in Galway Diocese

17 Jul 2016

In the German language the phrase Gabe ist Aufgabe has a richness of meaning. It says that gift is task, that gift brings responsibility. Every gift of God has on it the label ‘for others’; his gifts are always given for the good of the whole community. So it is in sharing that our lives become really fruitful. Today we say thanks for the gift of ordination to the priesthood, a gift for Daniel, for his family, for the diocese and for the Church. To be chosen is always a privilege. To be chosen by God is a wonderful blessing. Gift is task. To live out the gift of ordination is to live a life that raises questions. Why a life of obedience, why celibacy ? Ordination is a call to turn your back on ways of life that focus on possessions, on fashion, on style, on power. Fidelity to Christ is be the measure and motivation of your words and actions. It is your privilege to lead people to God and be a channel of God’s blessings for them.

I once asked a priest who was moving to a new appointment what his plans were for his new parish. When he said that he would play it by ear I suggested that was the most overused part of the human body! In today’s gospel story of Jesus’ visit to his friends Martha and Mary playing it by ear means, for Mary, listening attentively to Jesus and then moving to action. The story gives us an insight into the strategy Jesus chose for passing on his great message. There are three key factors; first, building bridges of trust; second, touching the heart; third, offering a message that guides people into the way of peace.

Building trust. As it was in the time of Jesus trust has to be earned. We test the ground to be sure we can have confidence in those who ask us to trust them and their message. A child said, You know whether people love you by the way they speak your name. If they love you, then your name is safe in their mouths.’ We test the message also to decide if it is worth heeding and worth passing on. Priests and people alike are called to be prophets, people who by their lives and words give God to others. Unless we listen to God we have nothing to say to the world. Mary is praised by Jesus in today’s gospel for choosing ‘the better part’; she has found that the ‘one thing necessary’ is listening to God. A man of God who listens and is formed by God’s word, he speaks with authority, the authority of God behind his words and the authority of his own integrity. The word he speaks is credible, you can trust it.

Touch the heart. In the gospel we just heard we sense Martha’s earnest wish to do what is best, but in her anxiety she fails to see that what Jesus wants now is an attentive ear. He responds to her anxiety and sets about healing it. There are many restless hearts in our world that seek peace. The writer Simone Weil was asked, what are you looking for? Her response was, ‘I am looking for someone to obey because doing your own thing makes you look silly, even to yourself’. We can see with our own eyes how people go to the places where they find nourishment. Hungry hearts need a good diet if they are to be satisfied. Many in our world are undernourished, their hungers are not being met, often because they pursue what is unable to satisfy. For many in our society religion has become an optional extra and deciding what is right and wrong a purely personal matter. Their search is authentic but often the answers they come up with are not leading to peace.

A message of hope. Jesus points to the importance of putting first things first, to getting our priorities right if we are to grow. Pope Francis shows us how to follow through on this wisdom. In a reflection he gave last June at a retreat for priests he said, being merciful as the Father is merciful is not only a “way of life” but “the way of life”. The mercy of God invites people to face reality, name it and take responsibility for it. He sets us free from illusions, free to put aside the masks we sometimes wear, free to know the hope which comes with facing reality. His mercy inspires and motivates all of his care for people. The gospels tell us that Jesus had compassion for the crowds who gathered around him. His compassion led him to forgive sinners, to heal the sick, to gather the scattered, to feed the hungry, to teach the people. His mercy responds to all the pain points of life, to wherever we are hurting. His way of being merciful points the way for us. His compassion never ends. It enables us to live differently. Jesus enabled Peter to unlive fear through courage, it enabled Nicodemus to unlive caution by becoming a risk-taker, it enabled Zaccheus to unlive greed through becoming generous. The mercy of Jesus gave hope, real hope. In a world groaning for hope we are all called to continue the mission of Jesus by being merciful as the Father is merciful. The world needs the reality of mercy and forgiveness, the message of compassion and peace. Every priest is challenged in a particular way to be a bearer of these gifts and be a beacon of hope for the world. It can be a great time to be a priest.

Notes to Editors

  • The ordination took place in Saint Patrick’s Church, Galway City on Sunday 17 July. It was the first time an ordination has ever taken place in that church.
  • Daniel was the third priest to be ordained for the diocese this year. Father Michael King from Renmore and Father John O’Halloran from Killanin
  • were ordained in January.
  • Eighty priests concelebrated the ordination Mass.
  • Daniel is from Cooks Terrace in Bohermore. His parents are Patricia and Alan. His siblings are Sarah, Rachel and James. Three of his grandparents are alive and attended the ceremony.
  • Father Daniel will be given his first appointment by Bishop Drennan in the coming weeks as part of the annual ‘Diocesan Changes’.