Archbishop Neary’s thoughts on climbing Croagh Patrick.

Jesus had a reputation for taking to the mountains.

  For many modern people this is not actually hard to understand.

  He met every day with terrific and endless human need. He experienced endless demands from people in great distress looking for miracles. Day after day he would give health to the chronically ill, give sight to the blind, give life again to wasted limbs and give reassurance to those who felt broken with sin. Is it any wonder that he would go into the solitude of the mountain to put things in a proper perspective and to seek direction from the Father?

 

This morning, we come here with our own personal struggles – financial difficulties, the illnesses of our loved ones, and our own private pain. In the storm and stress of current controversies, and with the struggles of the Church to adjust, we come to this sacred mountain to get things in their proper perspective and seek the guidance of God.

  The Ireland of today is not the nation of yesterday.

  We are happy that the days of abject poverty have been replaced by days of sufficiency even if dole queues have recently appeared again after our days of plenty.

  For all that, old certainties, in the sense of broad social agreements, have gone. Many have lost faith in the Church, in political promises, in the stable institutions of the past and we are not sure where our solid ground lies.

  Even the God of our past is a hide and seek God who is not the centre of our lives as in days gone by; yet with the Psalmist we say: “I lift up my eyes to the mountain, from where shall come my help?

  My help shall come from the Lord who made Heaven and Earth …

. The Lord will guard your going and coming both now and forever”.

  We need that reassurance in these days of confusion, anxiety and doubt.

 

What is interesting is that the divisions, different lifestyles and beliefs in our society today are not unlike those at the time of Jesus.

  They may have different names today, but the tendencies represented by, for example, the Pharisees, Sadducees and others are still with us.

  These groups, however unintentionally, help us to highlight the distinctive way of life proposed by Jesus and proclaimed by his followers today.

  

In his teachings, and especially in his Parables, Jesus used a very effective “mirror” technique, holding up a mirror before the people, enabling them to see themselves, their reactions, their prejudices and their fears in the lives of others.

  For example, in depicting the Pharisees Jesus was putting his listeners on their guard against falling into a similar trap of self-righteousness, hypocrisy, harsh judgement of others and lack of compassion.

  He was effectively stating that these are a perennial temptation even for those in the best of faith.

  As individuals, as Church leaders and members of the Church we acknowledge the powerful temptation to succumb to that mentality.

  It is so easy to criticise and condemn rather than empower and encourage.

  Perhaps in the past we have been preoccupied with fault-finding, failing to appreciate the heroic struggle of men and women to make ends meet, rear their families and provide an education for them.

   Today, I think we listen more willingly to witnesses rather than to preachers.

 

We have great admiration for those who identify with others, especially the oppressed and downtrodden, those who work to remove oppressive relationships of one person or group over another.

  In our society, as we speak, many people are working quietly but very effectively to liberate others from any kind of fear, refusing to condemn them or imprison them in their negative experiences or their sinful past.

  It is always so life-giving to witness men and women who work to provide people with a new future and a hope that brings life, enabling them to oppose what is untrue and has no future.

  In his own day Jesus stood in stark contrast to the religious groups of the time, breaking out of the traditional legal straitjacket.

  In doing so he liberated people, challenged them to question the way things were and move forward to build a new society based on love, forgiveness, hope and compassion.

 

If we lose contact with Jesus Christ we deprive ourselves and others of the powerful source of healing and liberation.

  We are all familiar with books and articles which analyse what is wrong with the world, with society, with the Church.

  We are frequently the analysts of evils, the diagnosticians of disaster.

  The truth of past pain is certainly coming to the surface.

  But this is good news. We should embrace the truth even though this can be a painful task. However, we should also be aware of the dangers contained in what some have called a “culture of blame”.

  We seek out the negligence of doctors, the health service, bankers, the Church or the school.

  Maybe this makes it easier to deal with our own shortcomings, the neglect and indifference of others and the tyranny of blind chance.

  Yet, even in righteous anger, the temptations of the Pharisees present themselves again, as subtle and powerful as they were two thousand years ago. Christ did not encourage us to imprison people by their human failings. Instead he taught us the way of forgiveness.

 

As followers of Jesus Christ we are commissioned to announce good news, 

gospel.

  There is no 

gospel in simply telling people what is wrong.

  A major question after all is not “what is wrong”? But “what can we do to put it right”?

  We don’t find Jesus indulging in any prolonged analysis of the evil he saw around him. He knew the arrogance, the cruelty, the pride in the human exercise of power. He saw every day the suffering, the illness, the greed, the hostility that were to him quite contrary to the will of God.

  What he was concerned with was not an endless diagnostic discussion but a liberating cure.

  There is a world of difference between a paralysed, or even merely prurient, fascination with human evil and the insight that leads to freedom.

  If we omit God, then there is nothing but endless analysis of our evil and our problems.

  If our evil is indeed a dark and inscrutable shadow on a life we know to be full of promise and endless hope, then we can either wallow in despair or begin an active, inspired life of positive choice and direction.

  

The 

Gospels are rich in the stories of Jesus’ understanding, compassion and love for the sinner.

  He never turned away the man or woman immersed in sin because they might cause him embarrassment.

  The sense of compassion is completely immersed in the love of God.

  That compassion and forgiveness makes our lives and our parishes rise above the tragedies and devastation of today, transforming sadness into joy, despair into hope, and death into life.

  Jesus does not ask us to be hammers of judgement or seekers of condemnation but to be the leaven, the yeast in our own parish so that, in our small ways

, we may make God’s love rise among us.

  The essence of faith is not a grim recognition of our guilt, but the reality and certainty of pardon.

 

For years people have said that we Catholics have gained a reputation for dwelling on sin and guilt along with the idea of a vengeful God. Yet the God of the scriptures is slow to anger and his nature is always to have mercy.

  History is stained with the vendettas of tribes, religions and states that nourish perpetual hatred.

  There is only one way to break the vicious cycle that tortures the human race – that is the way of forgiveness.

  Once we have seen this we know why it is that Jesus put this in the forefront of our prayers; “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. The acceptance of the forgiveness of God only becomes real for those in the forgiveness of others.

  In the words of St Gregory of Nyssa “Lord, from you flows true and continued kindness, you have cast us off and justly so, but in your mercy you forgave us.

  You were at odds with us and you reconciled us

.”

 

In all of this, we need to accept that God is independent of our limitations.

  When someone once said to Padré Pio “I don’t believe in God anymore”, he smiled and replied: “But God believes in you”.

  God has put his faith in you this morning, reminding you in the words of St. Teresa of Avila: “I have no hands but your hands, no feet but yours, no eyes but your eyes and no heart but yours”. On this morning of pilgrimage we remember the men and women who have climbed the generations before us and are with God.

  We ask them to guide our feet in the difficult terrain of today’s world and to bring us to a place founded on forgiveness.

  As you leave the mountain top today an old Irish blessing seems appropriate; “may Christ, the gathering of hope, the bringer of spring time, the brightness of the seasons be upon you as you set forth today.

Eamonn Mallie

  • sammymehaffey

    Fine words indeed. So the sinners should be forgiven? Of course they should, that is the way of the lord. But he also said that we should confess our sins and repent, nay apologise and recognise the hurt we have caused. I find no reference to apology in Mr Nearys homily. Time moves on and nothing changes.

  • AlanMaskey

    Sammy: What would you have liked instead? A statement by the LVF? A declaration that Oragenism is God’s way? An invocation to read the works of the Protestant Truth Society? I would have preferred some passing mention to the late Mr Higgins and a few bars of the Saw Doctors. But that is just me.
    If you want the tune changed, convert to the One, Holy and Apostolic Church, join the priesthood, become a bishop and climb up Croagh Patrick to make the speech. If that is too much, just become a Catholic. That makes you eligible to be bishop of Rome and Pope or Holy Father. Then you can spout all you like and we have to listen.

  • Of course he said the sinners should be forgiven! The RCC in Ireland have been right up there with the biggest sinners of all. Fine words ring hollow when faced with the facts.

  • sammymehaffey

    What would I have liked instead? Nothing instead, as i said fine words indeed. I would have liked an apology not an absolution of all past sins.Absolution is easily given but not much use in the real world to those who have been sinned against.

  • Argosjohn

    Sammy: Do you think he has to apologise to you every time he opens his gob? I remember being in Kerry after Casey’s demise. The drunken yobs singing of his fall in the boozers were no example to follow. No wonder STI rates are up 300% in Rebel Cork.

    Pilgrimages are a good day put, a stretch of the legs, a renewal. The Catholic Church is almost unique in the awful standard of the sermons. Priesthood is a mixture of many things, most of them vain.

    A renewal is needed. But not the one its critics would like.

    As for apologies. Apologies my arse. Would you like one from Gerry Adams too? In the True Faith, apologies aren’t worth sh-t. You gotta make atonement.

    Now many chancers have got rich by suing the Church. But buggering boys ain’t its bigest problem. A bigger one is getting a good cadre of leaders and priests, gay or otherwise. Plus there are no more Christian Brothers or gullible nuns to do the hack work. It is a problem it shares with political parties.

    But,unlike them, any Catholic can become Pope. My hat is in the ring. Richard Nixon said he would make a good Pope. I would make a better one. Prob,em is, too many vested interests even for Peter the Roman.

  • joeCanuck

    I have no problem with supernaturalist religious folk forgiving sinners. But if the sins involve crimes, they also need to face their accusers in court and be given appropriate legal sanctions if found guilty.

  • joe

    Agreed, but priests never used to have to report a crime confessed to them, hope that at least has changed, only think how convenient!

  • AlanMaskey

    Run for Pope guys and change the rules. Better read the rules first though.
    Croacgh patrick is a good day out. Tough old climb

  • AlanMaskey

    No one ever changed anything from within that institution. I know Croagh Patrick, I can see it from my house. You’re right it is a tough old climb, but something for those who do it to remember and another thing to remember: it was Pagan first.

  • AlanMaskey

    You should have gone up it so and heckled the guy to your heart’s content. Really piss off the good people.

  • AlanMaskey

    I would never deny people their faith. Indeed I hope it is their God they believe in and not just their church.

  • Pete Baker

    “Jesus had a reputation for taking to the mountains.”

    Source?

  • AlanMaskey

    “Jesus had a reputation for taking to the mountains.”

    Source?

    how about for taking to the blankets? aka the Mafia.

    I guess the mountains refer to the search for monasticism and quiet aka Jesus and the desert and the Irish monk whackos of the early centuries.

    The Jesus story is a myth so to imagine him on the Mourne Walk is not that big a deal. the greatest story ever sold. There has been so much written on this from at least the time of Erasmus and Bacon.
    That said, religion will survive. People want it. Catholicism comes in different shapes: intellectual (as in the arguments Christ’s vicar on earth ties himself up in); midle class social climber (who want to send their snotty kids to the Jesuits etc) and working class (depend on miracles etc).

    There will also always be Protestants, people who want to have (not read) a book and interpret its ocntradictions as they will.

  • In Soviet Russia

    Croagh Patrick climbs you!