Last Sunday, Bishop Donal McKeown celebrated public Mass in Saint Eugene’s Cathedral, Derry, for the first time since the lockdown began.
At the outset of his homily, Bishop McKeown welcomed “For 15 Sundays, we have been unable to celebrate Mass with at least some of God’s people. It is wonderful that, even imperfectly, we can today celebrate hope and community. I know from seeing tears in people’s eyes during recent weekday Masses that getting back to sacramental worship rather than just participating in virtual prayer is deeply important for so many.”
Bishop McKeown spoke of the importance of making the Eucharist available to those who need it most, particularly the overburdened. He said, “I know we have to ensure that the virus cannot spread. There are those who will prefer to stay at home for health reasons and others who can be content with a somewhat more intellectualised form of faith practice. But, if we are to hear Jesus today, we have to build what we do as parish around giving priority to those who need to experience sacramental communion with Christ and a sense of concrete belonging in community.
“Church renewal will come from the overburdened, not the learned and clever.”
Bishop McKeown continued by drawing attention to the lack of clarity around the lifting of restrictions in terms of administering sacraments, particularly baptism. He said, “I know that it sounds ridiculous that Churches have to get political clearance to baptise a baby or an adult! Of course, I can understand the thinking behind the earlier temporary baptism ban because, for some, sacramental events seem to refer to the large parties afterwards. Now we can have the baptism parties – but I am unclear whether we can actually have the baptism before the party!
“When politicians accuse others of not understanding government messages, that might suggest a lack of clarity in the messaging rather than merely culpable deafness on the part of the listeners.”
In conclusion, Bishop McKeown emphasised the hope the Jesus brings to our lives. He said, “Many people have suffered through the pandemic. Very many people will face very challenging times ahead as key economic decisions have to be made. Jesus’ message today says that our focus should be on those who labour and are overburdened. He presents himself on the Cross as a victim of the strong who wanted to silence him. He is in solidarity with those whom social systems crush and condemn. He offers us a share in his Body and Blood, broken and poured out for us. He does not offer a magic wand. But he walks with us and announces by his Resurrection that grace is stronger than evil, that the Father, the Lord of Heaven and earth is wiser and stronger than human power. The possibility of eternal life stares back at the strong who mistakenly think they have the last laugh.
“That is a great message from Jesus as we face the future with trust in Him.”
To read the full homily, click here.