This past weekend, the Diocese of Elphin celebrated The Jubilee of Mercy for the Family. Bishop Kevin Doran celebrated Mass in Kiltrustan on Saturday evening and in Highwood on Sunday.
In his homily at Mass in Kiltrustan, Strokestown, Bishop Doran said, “A few days ago, I was driving home from Dublin to Sligo. Just after Mullingar, there is a place where the road passes close by Lough Owel. The sun was just setting on the other side of the lake. I pulled into the little car park and, as often happens when I see a beautiful sunset, I felt a deep desire in me to pray. It wasn’t a complicated prayer. Thank you Jesus.
“I can’t really explain it. I just felt that I had been given a beautiful gift. I had done nothing to deserve it. I needed to acknowledge it.
“In the Gospel today, we hear the well-known story of the ten lepers. It is difficult for us today to enter into the experience of a leper; the fear and the isolation. Some of us may be old enough to remember a time when people died of TB in large numbers. They called it “Consumption”, because of the way people were consumed by it, and it struck terror into the hearts of villages all over Ireland. These days mental illness or AIDS or cancer, give rise to similar fears and to a similar sense of isolation.
Imagine, then, the relief of being healed unexpectedly. No more pain; none of the awful tiredness. The smell of disease is gone and the strength is back in your limbs. Each leper was healed in the same way. All ten went off to show themselves to the priests, so that they no longer had to shout “unclean; unclean” and they could return home to their families. All ten were healed, but only one came back to say “thank you”. Why was that? Maybe it was because somehow they felt entitled. They missed the fact that this was a gift.”
Jubilee of Mercy
Bishop Doran went on to say, “Sometime back in December, when we were beginning to think about the Jubilee Year of Mercy and how we might celebrate it here in the Diocese, we decided that we would try, each month, to focus on one particular way in which we experience the mystery of God’s presence, reaching out to us and lifting us up. This weekend was designated as the Jubilee of Mercy for the Family. That was months ago.
“When I sat down during the week to reflect on the Scripture readings for today, I have to admit that I was a bit challenged. The connection between the healing of the Ten Lepers and the average Irish family is not that obvious. Then, all of a sudden, the penny dropped. It is not about leprosy, but about the attitude of gratitude. Appreciation and saying “thank you” are at the heart of what family is all about.
“Each one of us here, young or old, married or single, belongs to a family. It may be a big family or a small family; a family of birth or of adoption. But in that family you were welcomed and given the space to grow. In his recent letter on the “Joy of Love”, Pope Francis tells us that: “The family is the setting in which a new life is not only born but also welcomed as a gift of God….Children are loved before having done anything to deserve it.”
“Just as most of the lepers found it difficult to say thanks for the gift of healing, people sometimes find it difficult to appreciate the gift of a child, either because of the challenging circumstances of their own lives, or because they are too focused on themselves. It may make a difference, Pope Francis suggests, if parents pause to think of how their child is destined for eternal life, as indeed we all are in the plan of God. He puts this very nicely when he says: “God allows parents to choose the name by which he himself will call their child for all eternity.”
“We might just pause for a moment to give thanks to God – for the gift of our children; for the gift of our parents; for the love that we have experienced in our families. Maybe this might also be a time to recognise that our children and, indeed, our parents are only human and to ask God’s help in letting let go of some of the hurts that we have experienced in the rough and tumble of family life. We remember, too, the family members, young and old who have gone before us into eternal life.”
The Family as a School of Gratitude
Bishop Doran said, “I often think that there are two kinds of people. There are the people who are always complaining. They take offence at everything and they think the world owes them a living. Then there are the people who, even when they are faced with very real difficulties, seem able to devote their energies to the needs of others. They are filled with a spirit of gratitude themselves and all they want to do is to share with others the gift that they themselves have received, whatever it is.
“In the family, Pope Francis says, “three words need to be used. I want to repeat this! Three words: ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’, ‘Sorry’. Three essential words!…. Let us not be stingy about using these words, but keep repeating them, day after day. ….The right words, spoken at the right time, daily protect and nurture love.” (AL 133)
I think the family is a great school for gratitude. Children learn to say thank you, or NOT to say thank you, at a very early age. It is not just that they are taught to say thank you, like a dog is taught to give the paw. They learn to express gratitude because they see it in the way their parents act towards one another. Sometimes we forget the difference it makes to others, but we all know how much it means to us when somebody notices and expresses appreciation for what we have done. The family is a great place to practice the attitude of gratitude.
“There are some lovely passages in the “Joy of Love” where Pope Francis talks about the different gifts that mothers and fathers bring to the life of the family. He also writes about grandparents. “We must reawaken the collective sense of gratitude, of appreciation, of hospitality, which makes the elderly feel like a living part of the community. Our elderly are men and women, fathers and mothers, who came before us on our own road, in our own house, in our daily battle for a worthy life. Indeed, how I would like a Church that challenges the throw-away culture by the overflowing joy of a new embrace between young and old! (AL 191)” I think we can all say Amen to that.”
The Family is a Place for Prayer
Concluding his homily, Bishop Doran said, “When we see other people as a gift, and when we take time to appreciate the earth which is our common home, then the next step is an attitude of gratitude towards God himself, who is the giver of every gift. Pope Francis encourages families to find a few minutes each day “to come together before the living God, to tell him our worries, to ask for the needs of our family, to pray for someone experiencing difficulty, to ask for help in showing love, to give thanks for life and for its blessings, and to ask Our Lady to protect us….. With a few simple words, this moment of prayer can do immense good for our families.” He encourages us to return to the tradition of grace before and after meals, as a way of giving thanks for all the blessings we have received but also as a way of remembering the needs of those with whom we share the earth, who have less than we have.
“You probably know that Eucharist means “thanksgiving”. To celebrate the Eucharist together as a family is a wonderful way to end one week and to begin the next, because it allows us to gather all that are and all that we have done and to lay it before the Father who is full of mercy and compassion and who loves us week after week after week. His love is the power that helps us to love.
“May he bless each family here and may He especially keep alive and strong the bonds of love with family members who live in other parts of the country and other parts of the world.”