Bishop Martin’s Homily at the Diocesan Post-Primary Schools Mass of Gratitude in the Cathedral of Saints Patrick & Felim, Cavan on Wednesday 26 May 2021
It has been tough for the past year and a half since February 2020. Over that period your school routine has been disrupted. Initially, some of you were delighted to be off school, grateful even, and then as the time away from friends, the experience of loneliness, time apart from school activities like sports, school shows took effect, just being in the company of others again, you were perhaps grateful to get back to school, to be with others.
Our theme for our Mass is Gratitude. You may or may not be feeling grateful at this time as the impact of Covid-19 public health guideline restrictions are still being felt. While it is good to be in company again, there is an anxiety about re-engaging with others. Apart from the having to wear masks, you may have had trouble even in recognising each other – as was the case on my recent visit to my native Tipperary with my nephew Sean; he has grown and has passed me out in height in the past six months! Also, those of you who are in Leaving Cert have not had the formal Graduation or the certain prospect of a Debs to look forward to.
The disruption in your routine in the past year, year and a half may have caused you to reflect and perhaps given you an appreciation of what was the norm! Yet now you may be feeling like you have been brought to the edge, to the limits of your patience. You may be feeling pushed to your limits, frustrated with the hassle, the inconvenience brought about by this coronavirus pandemic, feel the world has forgotten you and concerned about the future. You may feel you are on the margins of normal life, in what is called a liminal space.
We meet Jesus in our Gospel of today, along the borders with Samaria and Galilee, on the margins at the points of tension between two peoples, not unlike the situation between Gaza and Israel today, where people are pushed to their limits of endurance. That is where Jesus wanted to be, just to be a presence with those who are suffering and going through tough times. Jesus went to such places to bring about reconciliation, healing of difference, not to eliminate difference but to promote an acceptance of unique differences. The border areas, the margins were and are often occupied by those who are excluded, in this case by those who were rejected by society, the lepers. We meet ten lepers in our Gospel who pleaded for healing and for inclusion, for their acceptance by others. Jesus felt called to engage with the lepers, chat to them and bring them physical healing to ensure that they would be included by others.
We can presume that all ten lepers were grateful for their cure and were delighted to be accepted by others, however, just one expressed his gratitude. It is the norm, we often forget to say thanks; the other nine got on with their lives, their families, their work and did not take time to reflect upon what had happened to them, the source of their healing. When we are recovering from a tough experience, we may not always feel grateful as we are still feeling the negative effects of that experience. You may still be preoccupied with the questions of ‘why this ongoing pandemic is happening in my time, in our time?’ You have questions, questions about the meaning of life – it is important to ask those questions.
Whether or not you are feeling grateful, we want to say thanks to you, whether you are a first to third year who has had difficulty setting in due to the disruption of Covid-19 or in the senior cycle where you are in the process of forming or have hopefully established solid friendships.
In the spirit of our first reading, (St Paul to the Philippians) we want to say to you that we are grateful for you; you’re staying going during this pandemic, your energy and resilience. You are the best chaplains to each other in the ways in which you listen to each other, talk about what are your concerns and discuss the key questions that arise for us all.
You give us hope for the future, you are our future in the way you care for each other – “your love for each other” as is the phrase in our first reading. Each one of us is called to be there for each other, that is the way Jesus was and is present to us to each other. That is how Jesus Christ operates, through each one of us! We gather today with you, your schools, your families to show that “when we think of you we pray for you” – we are grateful to God for you and your gifts. We want to declare that ‘You have a place in our hearts’ as is a key phrase from St Paul in our first reading.
In this Mass of Gratitude, we want to say thanks for our coming together today, as Secondary Schools of our Diocese of Kilmore, with our banners displaying the crests of each of the secondary schools that are located in the diocese of Kilmore. We want to say thanks to the schools, their management, staff, in particular, those with responsibility for Religious Education, the Chaplains for their ongoing presence and pastoral care and our Diocesan Advisor, Patricia Sheridan for organising our Mass today.
We want to pray with all those who are completing their exams at this time and in particular, for those who are preparing for the Leaving Certificate this year, be it by way of Accredited Grades, the regular Leaving Certificate Examination or a combination of both. We wish you well as you take you leave of Secondary School and move on to the next phase of your life into the future.
To conclude, in the spirit of our Communion Reflection – May the Beauty of God Surprise Us – it is a prayer for all students which asks, in particular, that,
- ‘the presence of God guide us’ – may you know how God in Jesus is with you always,
- ‘the Word of God, (the scriptures) inspire us’ – as it does in our Readings today and
- ‘the Wisdom of God instruct us’ – a prayer for all doing exams now in the next few weeks!
Thank you once again for joining in this Mass and I wish you well after the exams for the summer months ahead.