Addressing the congregation in a packed Canovee Church in Kilmurry parish to mark the 150th anniversary of the building of the church on Sunday Oct 27th, Bishop Fintan Gavin said that we are commemorating is not just a building but the faith that built this Church and the faith that sustains this church.
“We are commemorating a sacred place at the heart of this community,” the bishop said on his first visit to the parish. “We’re commemorating a still centre in our community devoted to worshipping our God.”
“We can trace a Christian presence here right back to the 8th Century. So, what we are celebrating is a faith that extends back into the mists of past centuries, a faith that is, thank God, still vibrant in this community.
The Church is the place where we worship as a faith community; where new members of God’s family are welcomed in baptism, where our children growing in faith go to Confession and Communion for the first time; where our young people are confirmed in their faith in the sacrament of confirmation; where couples exchange their vows in the sacrament of Marriage; where we bring our dead as we pay our last respects in the rituals of Christian death and burial; where the sanctuary light continues to burn, as a sign of God’s presence among us.
So, it’s right that we should remember with joy and with pride the faith that has fuelled the life of this community going back the long and difficult centuries of our history. We should remember those who like St Paul in today’s second reading kept the flame of faith alive. Those who out of their minimal resources provided a house for God’s people to worship, those who came to Mass, who said their prayers, and gave their families a sense of God and the things of God. So, we remember today the dedication, service, faith, hope and love that made this Church possible. We think of the many priests who have served this faith community over the last 150 years whose names are listed in the commemorative booklet put together by Peter Scanlan.
But our remembering isn’t just a mere remembering. It’s not a nostalgic revisiting of times past. Our remembering is also about preparing, preparing for another generation to carry the flame of faith into the next generation.
In today’s gospel we are reminded through the story of the pharisee and the tax collectors of who we are before God. It highlights the kind of attitude that we are called to have in relation to God. Like the tax collector the only attitude on our part, that opens a genuine meeting with God, is one of humility. We should stand naked before the Lord, aware that there is nothing we can bring to God that is not, in the first place, his gift. Our response as individuals and as a faith community is to offer our lives back to God as a response to that gift.
Pope Francis in the papal mandate appointing as Bishop asked that we as a diocese set out with one accord on the path of renewal.” We are beginning that path of renewal together as missionary disciples of Jesus, entrusted with his message, as married and single people, young and old in our complimentary service as the People of God, beginning that renewal by living our faith in our parishes. We set out anew building on all that great work through the years, as we collaboratively find new ways of witnessing to the gospel message confronting with faith, hope and determination in joyful witness the many challenges that face our diocese and Church today.
So, we don’t just look back in gratitude and in pride at the faith that has sustained our community over the centuries, we look forward in faith and hope into the future. The flame of faith carries with it both a privilege and a responsibility.
It is a great privilege to be part of a vibrant faith community, but we have a responsibility too to bring that faith, intact, active and real into the next generation. May God be with us on another stage of life’s journey.”