Mass to commemorate the beginning
of the Year of Faith
St. Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan, 10.30am.
14 October 2012
My dear friends,
I wish to firstly address words of appreciation and thanks to those present, and to those unavoidably absent, who have worked in the Monaghan centre and elsewhere with Accord. You have offered to others the understanding and love of Christ. Knowing your own weakness and frailty, you have trusted in God and, moved by compassion, you have given your time and talents in humble service to your brothers and sisters. That involved training and in-service, reading and study, meetings, assessment and learning on the job. You have supported and learned from each other. You have prayed, reflected on what you learned and helped young people to prepare for marriage. You have shared your wisdom and experience with young married couples. You have walked with the downcast and the suffering on the roads to Emmaus andJerusalem. Warmed by God’s love, you have shared it with those hurt and wounded in love and in marriage. You have truly loved your neighbour. We thank you and ask God to reward your generosity and to inspire others to follow in your footsteps.
The writer Patricia McGerr wrote a short story called “The Eight-Cow Wife”. Johnny Lingo was an entrepreneur on the Pacific island of Kiniwata. It was a place where and a time when dowries were expected. Usually a dowry consisted of three cows or five at the most. Johnny offered eight cows to the father of Sarita, whom he wished to marry. Sarita was plain and considered to be too thin; she walked with her shoulders hunched and her head down. She had no self-esteem whatever. Everybody was shocked at the generosity of the dowry.
Months later, a visitor to the island of Nurabandi, where Johnny and Sarita now lived, came over to get to the bottom of the story for himself. He had heard of the eight-cow dowry and the plainness of Sarita. But when he met her he was astonished at her beauty – the lift of her shoulders, the tilt of her chin and the sparkle in her eyes. The fact that her husband loved and respected her enough to offer an extravagant dowry for her made all the difference. She had become her best and most beautiful self. Two persons who love one another more then themselves can call forth the best in each other and show to the world that true love and mutual respect are very powerful forces in any situation, especially in marriage and family life.
The author of Genesis tells us that the union of man and woman as husband and wife was built into creation and blessed by God. He intended that the two became one and be helpmates and partners in all that they do. Together they are to be the stewards of all that God has made and participate in the creative power of God by passing on life to their children. Church leaders are urging our Government at present to exercise their stewardship responsibilities to that God given life, by giving full protection in Irish law to life in the womb. This can be done while ensuring that women in pregnancy continue to receive every treatment necessary to safeguard their lives.
The Gospel Reading of today’s Mass describes how the Pharisees questioned Jesus on divorce, reminding him that Moses allowed for it. His response was both firm and compassionate. He acknowledged that Moses allowed for divorce but pointed out clearly that this was a concession which was due to the hardness of heart of the Jewish people at that time – they were “unteachable” he said. It was not the way God intended it to be. Men and women who divorced due to human weakness and failure were settling for less than the fullness of life which was meant for them and their children.
The Pharisees were probably trying to put Jesus on the spot, trying to find something they could use against him. He takes the discussion on marriage to a deeper level based on its true nature, putting the emphasis on love and respect. Jesus brings us back to Genesis where we are reminded that God’s original design is written in our bodies. Man and woman are equal. They are made for one another. They become one body. Into this world of love and respect the child is born and nurtured. We need God’s design and intention for our guidance. When we leave these aside, to satisfy contrary drives, we lose our way. “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them;” he said, “for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”
Jeanette Winterson was fifty years of age before she met her mother. At six weeks old she had been given up for adoption. Now, fifty years later, she was nervous and unsure at the prospect of seeing her real mother for the first time. As things turned out, it was a gentle and a happy encounter. Over the course of five hours on that first day, daughter and mother rejoiced in one another and began the long journey of putting their two stories back together. Most of all Jeanette heard the words that she had never heard before, “You were always wanted, Jeanette,” her mother said to her, “You were always wanted.”
For fifty years, Jeanette had lived with the feeling that she was not wanted; not wanted by her natural mother who had given her away and not wanted by her adoptive mother who treated her with coldness. Jeanette’s new mother lived a rigid and miserable life of duty and loneliness. Her version of Christianity knew little of human warmth and touch, but she was an expert on control. At sixteen, Jeanette could endure no more and escaped into the world. Today she is a well-known English writer. After a harsh childhood and a turbulent early adulthood, finally, and after her meeting with her birth mother, she arrived at a place of peace. To her, love had always seemed unreliable; she could not trust it, she could not trust herself. Now she felt differently, – “You were always wanted, Jeanette.”
We come into this world in a vulnerable state. We need all the help we can get. This normally comes from those who love us. We are clothed and fed, cuddled and comforted. Our parents tells us how much they love us. We are taught respect. When all this comes together, happiness is ours. When it does not, our troubles begin. Our first steps in learning come through imitation. We usually grow up to do as we have seen and heard. Many times we fail, not necessarily because we are evil, but because we do not know any other way.
The child in us needs the protection of family and society in its laws and services. We want to grow up and be happy. Very often the child will arrive at Accord’s door in the skin of a grown-up. We may be older but not necessarily grown up. Perhaps we all grow up only when we are loved as Jesus taught us. On the day that Jeanette Winterson left her home in pursuit of happiness, her adoptive mother challenged her, “why be happy when you could be normal?” Normal to her meant a strict and miserable life of duty. Jeanette sensed that life had more to offer her than that. She went in search of more satisfying nourishment. It was a long journey. It led her, eventually, to her own birth mother and to the words she needed to hear, “you were always wanted, Jeanette.”
When we are wanted there is no danger to the safety of our life; there is no threat to the security of our relationship. Abortion and divorce do not belong where we are wanted. May the Lord enable us to discover and accept his love so that we can share it with one another. May he bless us and our families.
+Liam S. MacDaid
14 October 2012