A special Mass to mark the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Diocese of Down and Connor was held in Saint Patrick’s Church, Belfast, on Sunday 13 November. The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor, and the homily was preached by Father Eddie O’Donnell.
In his homily, Father O’Donnell said, “The Gospel, written in the first century at a time of turmoil, speaks also to our twenty-first century. Today, as then, architectural wonders are razed to the ground; nature capriciously asserts its destructive power; humanity appears incapable of avoiding the catastrophe of war. Nevertheless, the Gospel will have us hear the reassuring voice of Jesus Christ, making clear that, ‘throughout the history of humanity, God will always be the One who is present, close, provident, holy and merciful’ (MV 6). With the Church, we proclaim once more, ‘for his mercy endures forever’ (Ps. 136).
“In proclaiming the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis was seeking to underscore for today’s world the reality that, ‘we live and move and have our being’ (Sunday Preface V1) ‘under the merciful gaze of the Father’ (MV 7). This divine mercy Pope Francis describes as God ‘throwing open the doors of his heart’. During this Holy Year we have, in various ways, and at various times, crossed that threshold, rejoicing in a love which has no limits; A love which comes to meet us (cf MV 2, 5) in the person of Jesus Christ; Jesus, who is mercy incarnate.”
He continued, “At the beginning of the Jubilee, Pope Francis exclaimed, ‘Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world … may we reach out to [the afflicted] … break down the barriers of indifference!’ (MV 15) We have sought to do this in Down and Connor, for example, by our response to the Pope’s appeal for the displaced in Ukraine; in our support for the Bishop’s initiative to welcome refugees from the Middle East; through our annual Lenten Trócaire campaign; added to this are the many ways in which parishes and individuals have reached out and, by prayer and action, put a supportive arm about the shoulders of a suffering community or person. The Jubilee of Mercy has reawakened our conscience, challenged our indifference, touched our hearts, and caused us to realise that it is by being revolutionaries of tenderness (cf EG 88) that our faith becomes credible (cf MV 10, 25).
“A special feature of this Holy Year has been pilgrimage; many have journeyed to Rome to reach the Holy Door; many hundreds have come here to St Patrick’s, and to Clonard Monastery, to pass through the Holy Door, and associated with this are our annual pilgrimages to Lourdes, Knock, Lough Derg and Saul. These pilgrimages represent that most important pilgrimage of all – the journey each of us must make in this life (cf MV 14).”
Father O’Donnell concluded his homily, saying, “The Jubilee has demanded that we look at the world with the eyes of mercy, and see its misery – a world starving; starving not only for material things, but starving for the love of Christ … As we come now to the close of this great Jubilee of Mercy, may we continue to feel the love of Christ about us, like an arm upon the shoulder; and may we hear his gentle but persistent voice say ‘What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the beloved, to point him out, to make him known?’ (EG 264)”
“Lord Jesus, may your gentle hand of friendship shake up my lukewarm existence. “Let me allow God to surprise me” (MV 25). Give me the courage, to go out into the world as your missionary disciple.” Amen.