Homily at Mass for the Deceased Past-Pupils and Staff of CBC Monkstown Park

Homily at Mass for the Deceased Past-Pupils and Staff of CBC Monkstown Park
Bishop Kevin Doran

St Patrick’s Church, Monkstown, Co Dublin, Sunday 16th November 2014

I’m very happy to be here this morning to offer this Mass for the deceased past-pupils and staff of CBC Monkstown Park. They include quite a number of people who played an important part in my own life; my teachers, some of my classmates and, of course my father.

One of the strange things about modern technology is that it allows us to pretend that night is day and Winter is Summer. I’m talking about things like the possibility of playing football or tennis under lights, switching on central heating, or taking a quick flight down to the Canaries after Christmas. All of that technology is available in rural Ireland just as it is in the cities, but the country roads ARE dark at night and the landscape DOES look very different in Winter.

I mention all of this because, for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, where Christianity has its roots, there is a natural connection between the onset of winter and these last few weeks of the Church’s calendar. There is a sense of emptiness and of things coming to an end. November is, in many ways, a very suitable month for remembering the dead. These last few weeks of November are, likewise, a good time for us to reflect on what the Church traditionally calls the “last things” (death, judgement, heaven and hell).

The parable of the talents, which we read in the Gospel this morning, uses the language and imagery of the first century, but the lesson it seems to teach us would be easily understood by a first year economics student or by someone working in the labour court. Investment should bring profit. Employment should be related to productivity. Labour should bring its reward.

God, of course, has no need of anything that we can do for him. The profit and the productivity that he seeks is to see us become what he has called us to be. The second century theologian, St. Ireneus, wrote “the glory of God is man (or woman) fully alive”. The expression “fully alive” can be interpreted in two different ways. It could refer to the way we live our lives here on earth, but it could also refer to our hope of fulfilment in the Kingdom of Heaven. The two things are closely connected. It is important that, in the midst of all the technological advances which are of such benefit to humanity, that we don’t lose sight of the ultimate purpose of our human existence, which is to be fulfilled in our relationship with God.

In our second reading, St. Paul invites us to keep our focus on this ultimate goal, which gives meaning to everything else that we do. He points out to the people of Thessalonika that, now that they have received the good news of the Gospel, they are no longer living in the darkness. When death comes, they should not be taken by surprise and they have no need to be afraid, because they are not going around with their eyes closed.

If Paul were with us today, he might say the same to us who are baptised and have received a Catholic education. We are “sons of light” and it is not for us to be living in the darkness. If we have understood and tried to live the parable of the talents, there is no need for us to fear the “Day of the Lord”. In fact we can look forward to it with confidence because our God is a God of love.

So, whether you are a first century Christian looking forward to the second coming of Christ “very soon” or a twenty-first century Christian, looking forwards at or backwards on your seventy or eighty years, the gospel on this second last Sunday of the year, invites you to consider two things.
1. The gifts of nature and grace, of education and experience, that God has given you
2. Whether you have used them in his service and the service of others, or whether you have buried them.
This is precisely where the unique contribution of Catholic education comes in. A Catholic school, as well as helping young people to discover and to develop all their gifts, helps them to see those gifts as the gifts of a loving God, and to place them generously at the service of humanity in the Spirit of the Gospel