On behalf of the entire MSJ community, we would like to join our country in welcoming His Holiness Pope Francis to Ireland. This is a precious and important event in the life of the Catholic Church in Ireland, and we hope and pray that Pope Francis’ visit will be a great success.
In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to those who have gathered around Him – both believers and non-believers – and said: “It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” Many of those who accompanied Jesus were not able to accept His teachings; they did not believe Him. And it is then that Jesus turned to St Peter, the Rock, to ask: “What about you, do you want to go away too?” Peter answered: “Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that You are the Holy One of God.”
We rejoice at the Apostles’ faith and hold it up as our own inspiration. But even in those times, when people saw Jesus, walked with Him, heard His teachings from His very lips, there were many who did not believe. It is the same now, even as we work to be His ambassadors, and as we make our life into a search for Him.
Belief in Jesus Christ does not mean an end to suffering in this world; faith in Him does not mean an easy road. Sometimes, we will have doubt in our minds, not least when we are faced with the darkness of hatred, scandal, oppression and abuse. To trust when we DO trust is one thing. But to trust when we DO NOT, that is a powerful act of faith.
Even – and possibly especially – in today’s Church, when we are coming face to face with the scandalous evil of abuse within the Church and within all of society, we must recognize that a life of faith is often a life of hardship, wherein we must navigate sometimes treacherous waters. We feel great pain when we consider the victims of abuse at the hands of those who have used the Church as a hiding place to commit evil crimes, and every day we pray fervently for those who have been affected.
When we are stricken with doubt in this perplexing world, we might turn to the inspiration of Peter. His declaration of Jesus as the Christ did not mean he would never crumble, that he would never deny Him. Yet Jesus foresaw this and He told His disciple so. In this we see the endless horizon of God’s mercy of love. It is something we do not understand. The Gospels, too, teach us that Christ’s work concentrated around the broken, the fallen, the sick, the outcasts. He is to be found where there is suffering, oppression and long-term wounds. As we prepare for the World Meeting of Families, we pray to the Holy Family for the gift of faith, and for the healing presence of Christ within our country and throughout the world. We pray that many people will begin to develop a real, living relationship with Jesus, the King of Love.
Jesus told Peter that he is the rock on which He shall build His Church, and that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.” Now, perhaps more than ever, is a time for building up the body of Christ and reaching out – even if in the smallest ways – to reaffirm the startling message of Jesus, which is the message of love. What can we do, say or write, to broadcast this message of love? As Catholics, what posture can we take to redact the works of darkness, to mitigate negativity, cast out darkness and become ambassadors of the Kingdom of God?
Jesus IS love. Being transmitters of love – that is, being true members of His body – does not mean we shall never suffer. Nor does life in Him mean an easy journey through life. And not all of the assaults against our faith are from outside the Church, as we have come to see over the past few years. To hold fast to Jesus, to make His Gospel message a real, living landscape for our own lives, is to live as the spiritual successors of the Apostles. For, as Peter said at the Petrine Declaration, directly before he was given the name ‘Peter’ by Jesus, “we know that You are the Christ, the Son of God.”
We pray for Pope Francis, for our country, and for the success of the World Meeting of Families. Let us all live in the Spirit of life and love. Amen.
A group of us from the community will be attending the Papal Mass in Dublin on the afternoon of Sunday 26th August, and we will post photos of our experience in the coming week, via our Facebook and Instagram platforms.