3.00pm Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Knock, Co Mayo
“Without doubt there was a healing, a cure of the illness that beset Marion for several years” – Bishop Duffy
The Gospel today is about God knowing us and God knowing what is best for us. God is indiscriminate in his love for his people. We cannot measure, gauge, or limit God’s love. We cannot say God should love this person more than that person. Today’s Gospel captures something of that all-embracing God, there are no seats of honour because everyone is honoured and everyone is a guest of honour. Just as parents care for, look out for and worry for their children God cares for us, looks out for us and worries for us. He does so uniquely for each person. He does so directly or through other people. In the Gospels Jesus’ healings are presented as signs of God’s care for His people. They are signs of God’s care working through Jesus and through other people.
Many come to Knock, to our national Marian Shrine, and many healings of body, mind and soul take place. Think of people who bring worries for their children and grandchildren. For their parents and grandparents. For husbands and wives, for friends, for people dear to us who have asked for prayers, for people maybe not well known to us but we know they need help.
Today, this is a very special Diocesan pilgrimage to Knock. Thirty years ago to the day, on this pilgrimage, on the first Sunday in September 1989, Mrs Marion Carroll was healed.
Marion came here on that September day with a bleak future. Marion’s book I Was Cured at Knock describes her words to Our Lady that morning: “You are a mother too and you know how I feel about leaving my husband and children.” Marion continued, “It wasn’t a prayer, it wasn’t a statement, it was one woman chatting to another” (p84).
On that special day, Marion recalled the key moment during Benediction and Blessing of the Sick: “It was at that time I got this magnificent feeling – a wonderful sensation like a whispering breeze telling me that I was cured. I got this beautiful, magnificent feeling telling me that if the stretcher was opened I could get up and walk”.
And so Marion did.
I recognise that Marion was healed from her long standing illness while on pilgrimage in this sacred place. Marion’s healing is good news for her, for her husband Jimmy, for her family and friends. Marion’s healing is life changing. Many have attested to the dramatic change that came about in Marion here and on her return to Athlone in 1989. Without doubt there was a healing, a cure of the illness that beset Marion for several years. Marion was liberated from sickness and its impact on her and on her family. It is also a healing for which there is no medical explanation at present, it is definite and yet defies medical explanation.
“This gift was not to me alone but to the people of the world, to let them know that God was there, and that all people had to do was to ask and they would receive. People tell me prayer had not worked for them, but just as we are very good at telling our children what is best for them, God knows what is best for us” (p 112).
Today we acknowledge the Lord’s work, through the intercession of Mary. Today we give thanks to God for this healing, a healing within the tradition and practice of Jesus when He walked this earth, and healing that has continued since then.
The apparition at Knock 140 years ago was a silent one, no words were spoken. Many people like that unique feature of this Marian apparition. Saint John holding the book of the gospels points to the importance of the Word of God. God speaks to us in Scripture. God uses us, uses you and me to be channels of His healing to other people.
God uses our silence. The silence of being there, being with, comfortable and comforting, being a balm for others, reminiscent of the apparition of Knock itself, no words, no sounds, silence and being present, Mary, Joseph, John, the Lamb of God, the Angels the Altar. Sometimes words can get in the way, they may not be needed, just being with someone who is ill, hurting, anxious can be enough to usher in peace and calm, the balm of being with and accompanying. This is indeed a sacred space.
God may also use our words. Words are powerful – they can help bring healing, what we say and what we hear can have a great impact. We all like to be recognised, praised and thanked and given a boost by what people say to us. We can use our words to do great things for others. One of the great things we can do is use words that give freedom. Jesus spoke about visiting prisoners – setting prisoners free – those imprisoned by the opinion of others, imprisoned by fears, by inadequacies, imprisoned by petty issues or by great matters. Pope Francis wrote about words that judge others. The Holy Father said,
“The Lord asks us above all not to judge and not to condemn. If anyone wishes to avoid God’s judgement, he should not make himself the judge of his brother or sister. Human beings, whenever they judge, look no farther than the surface, whereas the Father looks into the very depths of the soul” (Misericordiae Vultus 2015, 14).
Many feel lonely or troubled and have a great need to talk to someone they can trust and who will listen. The opportunity to do so can often be the difference between despair and hope. Certainly, we can help free people, help them grow and flourish, by the careful and gentle use of words that lift up, that build confidence and that open up hope. The Lord can work through our words to heal.
I mention the gentle use of words. Our first reading, from the Book of Ecclesiasticus says, “…be gentle in carrying out your business”. Gentleness is a wonderful quality to have, it can be a means of touching another, accepting them, making them feel at home and needed and valued. Mentioning ‘gentle’, I mention that gentle man, Jimmy, Marion’s husband. Jimmy is referred to as Marion’s ‘beacon’, and I quote, “Jimmy was the quintessential conduit of kindness, of thought, word and action” (p 70). The Lord also works through you Jimmy and through many others.
Today is an occasion to have great joy and thanksgiving to God for healing Marion. It is also an occasion to be thankful to God for the good that Marion has carried out in His name. Amen.
- Bishop Francis Duffy is Bishop of Ardagh & Clonmacnois.
- The story of Knock began on the 21 August 1879 when Our Lady, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist appeared at the south gable of Knock Parish Church. This miraculous silent apparition was witnessed by fifteen people, young and old. Knock is an internationally recognised Marian Shrine and was visited by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1979 as part of his apostolic pilgrimage, and in 2018 by Pope Francis as part of the celebrations in Ireland for the IX World Meeting of Families. Archbishop Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam, is the custodian of the Marian Shrine and Father Richard Gibbons is parish priest of Knock and rector of the shrine. Please see www.knockshrine.ie for more information.
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