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Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Text: Archbishop Neary's homily for anniversary of Knock
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¬†The Archbishop of Tuam, Archbishop Michael Neary gave the following homily yesterday, for the anniversary of the apparition at Knock, in Co Mayo, Ireland. It is 125 years ago since that silent apparition on an August evening. It had been a day of driving rain drawing to its predictable close when the history of this place changed forever. Those were stirring days in the history of Ireland. Crop failures, bad weather and falling prices were leading to evictions and exile again. It was against this background of depression and low morale that a glimmer of light broke through on this hillside village at Knock. Since then thousands of people from Ireland and across the world have brought their sick, their pain, their own personal darkness, their hopes and thanksgiving to this hill of Mary, Cnoc Mhuire. Every generation has ways of recognising her as a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim people of God. We live in different days now. There is not the grinding poverty of those days. We live in an Ireland which has international standing, its sons and daughters of this province can hold their heads high in financial, medical and planning circles in any corner of the earth. The sense of hopelessness has long since evaporated, yet failures in the church, in political, legal and financial circles have diminished trust. Rampant excesses in drugs and alcohol cultures give rise to murder and mayhem on our streets, increase fear in the elderly and vulnerable and bring blight on too many homes. Mary is actively present in the midst of the ever changing world as she highlights the compassion and the caring traditionally associated with the mother of God. We all have the tendency to live lives of quiet despair, bemoaning the loss of all those bright days of the past in what seemed faith-filled times. It is easy to huddle in lost hope but the silence of Knock asks us to pause, take heart and find new hope again. Silence is when the wholeness of God embraces the wholeness of all of us. Indeed Christ's life sets the pattern for silence: silence at the beginning in Bethlehem, silence at the end in the tomb and long silences between. In these days we have heard over and over again promises that will end pain. People in power point to a promised land as we trudge through the great path of everyday life, punctuated as it is by pain and parting, by sickness at home and famine abroad, by death and division, by grief and greed. Today we are drawn to the silent scenario of that Knock apparition of 1879 and are challenged to enter a time of quiet reflection. In a Knock far changed from that wet evening in 1879, we might lapse into silence and take stock. Mary would want us today to do what she did, to commit our lives to a great cause, one that will outlast life. There are many demanding tasks which meet us face to face every day in loving loyalty to family and in making time for those who cannot keep pace with the demands of our time. All great causes are not at the ends of the earth. There is hunger in the lush greenness of Ireland as well as on the desert wastes while loneliness today is still the greatest pain crying out for some companionship and presence. The Gospel reading shows us Mary as queen of communication and receptiveness. The mystery of the visitation is the mystery of the material communication between two women, diverse in age, environment and characteristics and their respectful sensitivity towards each other. Each one bears a precious secret, most intimate and profound ≠ the expectation of a child. The joy of Mary and Elizabeth is the joy of all who look forward with wonder and thankfulness to the birth of a baby. Mary needs to see someone who understands and from what the angel has said she senses that Elizabeth is the most suitable person. She leaves in haste not only because she wants to help her cousin but in order to seek help herself. Mary feels herself understood, accepted, recognised, loved and exalted. Elizabeth feels understood to the depths of her being, her fear is transformed into joy. Mary rejoiced that God had looked on her with favour and here we have her great hymn of praise to God, The Magnificat. In the past 125 years how many thousands, millions of men and women have come here on pilgrimage to Knock. They have discovered that they are visited here by Mary. They find here an acceptance, recognition and a communication that is deeper than words can express. Perhaps, after all, the silent apparition of the mother of God here a century and a quarter ago was saying something deeper than words could express and continues to make an eloquent and powerful statement today of the presence of Mary in this place to all pilgrims ≠ the attentive, discreet, sincere, authentic communication of a mother with her children. Real communication makes it possible for God to intervene and in fact welcomes and invites him to do so. This is because genuine communication demands time and effort, walking step by step with others in pain and beauty, and becoming aware of ones own gifts, strengths, shortcomings and weaknesses. Technology is something in which we rejoice and which can be very supportive but it can never be a substitute for this kind of genuine communication. What took place at the visitation when Mary journeyed from Nazareth to the town in the hill country in Judea takes place here at Knock when the pain and heartbreak, the joys and the successes of the pilgrim are placed before the Mother of God. When this ruthlessly honest communication takes place we find ourselves introduced to the God of the Magnificat, the God who despite all appearances to the contrary is in control, the God who scatters the proud, exalts the humble, and fills the hungry with good things while sending the rich away empty. On the 21st of August 1879, Our Lady, St Joseph and St.John the Evangelist appeared at the south gable of Knock Parish Church. The apparition was witnessed by fifteen people, young and old. From this miraculous occurrence Knock has grown to the status of an internationally recognised Marian Shrine. The personal pilgrimage of Pope John Paul II in 1979, commemorating the centenary of the apparition, inspired and even greater devotion to the Shrine and endorsed the indelible seal of Vatican approval. Mother Teresa of Calcutta visited the Shrine in June 1993. One and a half million pilgrims visit the Shrine annually. Source: Irish Bishops Conference Media Office
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