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Priest: Fr. John Halton, Parochial House, Tempo.
Telephone : 895 41344.

Sunday 17th March 2010

St Patricks Day Sermon

We live at a difficult time in Ireland, and we live in a difficult time in the Church. All the structures we took for granted for so long seems to be crumbling around us. The paedophile scandals in the Catholic Church, has sent an electric shock through the Body of Christ, and the recession has sent another electric shock through our society. There is a lot of anger within our people. Everyday this anger is expressed against the church, and it seems to get worse rather than better. It is also expressed against the state, as people suffer the consequences of the recession. Many have no employment, and feel let down by our country. Other suffers because of cut- backs, and feels that they must carry the burden for others, whom they believe caused the recession in the first place. In this kind broken society people have become alienated, dissatisfied, and unhappy. Anyone who reads the papers, or listens to the News knows that our society is ill- at- ease.

This anger is expressed against leaders in the Church, and the leaders in Society. Indeed some have lost faith in our leaders both in church and society altogether, and we are now left with a cynical society. This makes life uncomfortable for everyone, for a cynical society is not a happy place to live. Priests find it a very difficult time to be a priest. Many people have lost faith in our institutions, and consequently we have lost faith in ourselves, and in each other, and this is a tragedy for all of us. I am not saying that there is not a good reason for our anger, cynicism, and lack of confidence in the way our church and society have been led in the past. But I am saying that it is unhealthy, dangerious, and divisive if it has no direction, or has no vision for the future. And there seems to be no direction, or vision for the future. Yet Jesus did come to give us a vision for the future. But there is little emphasis on that vision at the moment.

The energy from our anger, cynicism, and lack of confidence must be channelled if we are to come to terms with our past, and build a better future. We build a better future by building a better “now”. We must begin “Now”, and build our future. We all know that we have had paedophile priests who destroyed the lives of some young people. We are rightly horrified, ashamed, and sick. We know also that paedophilia is widespread in every strata of society, and this creates fear in all of us. We must work hard now to create a society, and a church in which our children are safe, secure, and treated with dignity, respect, and justice. Our sincerity will be judged by the effort that we make in creating such an environment. We know too that we must live with less, and this involves coming down the ladder some steps in our living standards. We know that we have got many things wrong in the past, and that many have suffered the consequences. But we cannot let fear dominate our lives, for fear is the worst emotion of all. It paralyses our capacity to act, and create a better world “now”. Fear causes us to hit out in all directions, and in the crossfire many more get hurt.

Many people have noted that the anger, cynicism, lack of confidence, and fear in our society has revealed another great absence in our society. In our discussions, commentaries, and reflections on the church, and society there is very little mention of Christ. Christ has almost been relegated to the back burner. Yet Christ is not the cause of our troubles. It is the absence of Christ, and the absence of his inspiration, that has caused our troubles. If we leave Christ out we are in real trouble, for we cannot have a renewed society, or church without him. We need to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with a new sense of urgency this year. We need Jesus more that ever. We need a Saviour, for we have failed on our own yet again. We need to remind ourselves that we are all sinners, that we are a sinful church, and a sinful society, and that we need Jesus to help us, to direct us, and to lead us. On our own we end in a cull de sac, and that is where we are at this moment in time. We are a lost people who have ended up wounding each other. We don’t know where we are going, and this is the unhealthiest sign of all.

St Patrick came to remind us, that every one of us is a sinner, and that “He who says he is without sin is a liar and deceiving himself”. This is a message that is forgotten, or not mentioned in our analysis of our problems, or in our assessment of our church or society. And this avoidance of a basic truth is not helpful to anyone.

Jesus doesn’t say that “some are sinners, but that all are sinners” In fact the common denominator between every member of the body of Jesus is that each member is a sinner. This is why St Patrick starts his confession by saying: “I am Patrick a sinner”. He doesn’t begin by accusing everyone else of being sinners, without including himself. This is an important message to realize, when we talk about the church, and about the society in which we live. It doesn’t matter whether one is a leader, a bishop, a journalist, a newscaster, or priest we are all sinners. Those who report the news, as well as those about whom they report in the news, are sinners, and each and every one of us needs a Savour, and Redeemer. We need Jesus to come among us to save us from our sins.

This is why St Patrick responded to the Irish when they called: “Come back and walk once more among us” We now have to decide if we want Jesus in our lives, or if we are going to ignore him because we are disillusioned with human beings who are not God. We can easily throw out the baby with the bathwater.

I believe that this now a real danger in Irish society. In our disappointment with some leaders, we can become disillusioned with Jesus also, and expel him form our lives. We expel Jesus from our lives, if we fail to put on the mind of Jesus which is revealed in the Gospels. Here we learn that we cannot have his mind, if we refuse to love one another. We cannot have the mind of Jesus if we refuse to forgive one another. We cannot have the mind of Jesus if we are not just with one another. We cannot have the mind of Jesus, if we seek revenge against one another.

St Patrick gave his life for us to bring this “Good News” to us. He came to tell us that we have one leader whom we can rely on, and he will never let us down. He is Jesus our Saviour, for we are sinners. We need him if we are to have authentic freedom. On St Patrick’s Day he calls on us to turn back to him with all our hearts, and minds. Only then can we celebrate the feast of St Patrick, and only then can we renew our society and church, and create a better future. I wish all a very happy St Patrick’s Day, and may you have peace, joy, and love in your family. May we look forward to a better future.




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