Knock Homily 2019
Our Gospel today is a heart wrenching scene. Our Lord is in agony on the Cross and at the foot of the Cross is Our Lady and St John. Very often, when we see films that portray the crucifixion, Jesus speaks very freely from the Cross. But in reality, Jesus would not have spoken so freely because Jesus was in so much agony that to even say a few words would have taken so much effort. Now we should be attentive to all the words of Jesus and especially attentive to what Jesus says from the Cross because what Jesus says on the Cross took all His strength and effort to say. And what does Jesus say from the Cross in our Gospel; ‘Woman, behold your son. Son Behold your Mother’. From the Cross Jesus gives us a beautiful gift, the gift of His Mother to be truly our Mother.
This is a real gift. Our Lady loves you with a beautiful Motherly love. She loves you as if you were her only child. And when we allow her to enter the home of our heart, we become like her. All of us are striving to be apostles. We celebrate today Our Lady Queen of Apostles and when we allow her into the home of our heart and enter relationship with her, she communicates to us the gifts we need to become Apostles of Jesus in the world we live in. What are these gifts? Firstly, the Apostle of Jesus needs to have a great love for Jesus. We can go out and preach and do all these good things in the name of Jesus, but we must do it with a love for Jesus. Our Lady is the one who loves Jesus in this beautiful and perfect way. See, what is the thing that blocks relationships, that makes us struggle with each other and not get on. Ultimately the answer is sin. Sin blocks us from loving each other as we should. But in the relationship between Our Lady and Jesus there was no sin, so they love each with a beautiful and perfect love and when we allow Our Lady into the home of our heart, she allows us to share in this beautiful love she has for her Son.
The Apostle also needs courage, apostolic steel. Sometimes when we look at Our Lady, we might think that she is so gentle and sweet, which she is. But its important to remember that she is also tough. A tough Mother. In our first reading Judith cuts off the head of her enemy. Well Judith and all the Holy women of the Old Testament prefigure Our Lady. Just as Judith cuts off the head of her enemy so too Our Lady cuts the heads off our enemies when we let her into the home of our hearts, our enemies of the sin and weakness we struggle with. She is a Mother who will fight tooth and nail for her children, because she is a Mother who knows how difficult life is. She knows what it’s like to suffer. In her own life she experienced the sorrow of loss, separation from her homeland, having to witness her Son being rejected, mocked, beaten and crucified. So, when we come before her with our sorrows, she knows how to deal with them in the best way because we come before a Mother who knows what it’s like to feel the upmost sorrow.
As Apostles we also need the Holy Spirit. If we are to be Apostles in the world, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us and fill us with His love. Our Lady is the one who co-operated with the Holy Spirit in the most beautiful and perfect way throughout her life. We say that Our Lady is full of Grace. There is no sin in her, she is full of Grace and full of the Holy Spirit and when we allow her into the home of Our heart, she teaches us to receive the Holy Spirit in the best possible way.
It is in prayer that Our Lady transmits these gifts to us. In our second reading we hear about the Apostles gathered in the cenacle with Our Lady. It is in the silence of this time of prayer that she helps prepare us to be Apostles. To communicate to us the gifts of love for her Son, apostolic courage and the gift of receiving the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we might look at ourselves and feel our own weakness and inability to be apostles. But if we look at the apostles in the cenacle, we see a group of weak and sinful men. Peter denied Jesus, Thomas doubted Him, and all the Apostles besides John ran away when Jesus needed them the most. But being apostles is not about us, it’s about the power of God working through us. If we can imagine ourselves as flowers, flowers offered to Our Lady in the cenacle. We may be battered and withered flowers but as a Mother she is delighted to receive these flowers no matter what state we are in. She then takes us, fixes us, straightens us out and makes us beautiful and offers them us to Her Son. We then leave the cenacle as she plants us in the different parts of Ireland, Corduff, Shankill, Thurles, Cork, Cahir and Knock so that these parts of Ireland become beautiful. This beauty comes from that place of prayer with Our Lady.
This is the beautiful example that St Vincent Pallotti gives us. A man steeped in prayer and from that place of prayer, the cenacle, he goes out to the world as an Apostle filled with the love of God. Elizabetha Sanna also gives us this example. And I think this year we can also take the life of Helen Mahon as an example as well. I know this year in Knock is a year of mixed emotion because we miss Helen. She was always such a big part of the day in Knock. Helen was a Pallottine lay woman who lost her life to cancer one month ago. Helen was a great woman of prayer and a great example of this cenacle love. One of my first experiences of Helen was when we had our own loss as a family twelve years ago. Within hours of it happening Helen was down in our house. She stayed for about five days and in those days, she stayed quietly in the background and whatever needed to be done she was available and ready to help. And I have to say in that time of sorrow this made such a difference. Without even realizing it at the time, I was encountering the Pallottine spirituality being lived out for the first time. This is just one example. I know Helen was always quietly doing apostolic work like this and affecting many lives. This Pallottine way of life is very deep and also very practical. And I know Helen wouldn’t want me talking like this because I know she wouldn’t want to be praised and while we do look to St Vincent Pallotti and Bl Elizabetha Sanna, Helen’s life is also an example of the Pallottine Apostolate lived out in a beautiful way.
So we pray today that we will let Our Lady into the home of Our hearts more and more and allow her Motherly love to form us as Apostles in our world today and for Helen we pray: Eternal rest grant unto her Oh Lord and let perpetual life shine upon her and may she rest in peace, Amen. And may her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace, Amen.