Mass for the Feast of St. Macartan
21 March 2013
St. Macartan’s College, 10.00am.
Brothers and sisters in the Lord,
The Feast of St. Macartan, which we celebrate today brings us closer to Easter and to all the events we commemorate and re-live in our Holy Week ceremonies. Most of these events are not happy ones. An innocent and good man is rejected, made to suffer physically and mentally, made carry a cross and, with the use of nails, is left to hang and die on this same cross. We know the story does not end there but, up to this point, it is not a happy story.
A South American bishop was killed with a bullet on 24 March 1980. He was a brave outspoken man and paid the ultimate price for his courage. Like our newly chosen Pope, he was a defender and patron of the poor and, in supporting them in their struggle for justice, he made a lot of enemies. While he was still alive and active, in 1978, Bishop Oscar Romero wrote the following piece under the title of ‘The True Church.’
A Church that doesn’t provoke any crises,
a gospel that doesn’t unsettle,
a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin,
a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin
of the society in which it is being proclaimed –
what gospel is that?
Very nice, pious considerations that don’t bother anyone,
that’s the way many would like preaching to be.
Those preachers who avoid every thorny matter
so as not to be harassed,
so as not to have conflict and difficulties,
do not light up the world they live in.
They don’t have Peter’s courage, who told that crowd
where the blood-stained hands still were that had killed Christ:
“You killed him!”
Even though the charge could cost him his life as well,
he made it.
The Gospel is courageous;
it is the good news
of him who came to take away the world’s sins.
Historical sources tell us that for many years St. Macartan assisted St. Patrick in all his ministerial labours and accompanied him on his journeys. In the “Lives of the Irish Saints”, O’Hanlon says, “On many occasions when St. Patrick, worn down with age and infirmity, found it difficult to proceed on foot over rugged and marshy places, St. Macartan bore him on his shoulders with ever-willing zeal, affection and care.” St. Macartan is often described as the ‘champion’ and ‘strongman’ of St. Patrick, while St. Patrick himself referred to St. Macartan as “the staff of his declining years.” While we might be slow to admit it, we all have people who carry us and help us to get to our destination whether it be our parents, family members, a friend, a neighbour, a stranger or the Lord himself. The greater our weakness, the more numerous our sins, the heavier the load we are for those who have to carry us.
The great symbol of Holy Week and indeed of the Christian Way is the cross. There will always be people who love Christ’s kingdom but few who will carry his cross. Christ finds many to share his table but few who will join him in fasting. Many are eager to be happy with him, few wish to suffer for him. Many love Christ as long as they encounter no hardship, many praise and bless him as long as they receive some comfort from him. But if Jesus leaves them for a while, they complain or become dejected.
We are all invited to take up our cross and follow Jesus. There is no other way to life and to true inward peace than the way and discipline of the cross. The cross is unavoidable. It waits for you everywhere. No matter where you may go, you cannot escape it, for wherever you go you take yourself along. If you willingly carry the cross, it will carry you. If you carry it unwillingly, you create a burden for yourself and increase the load, though you still have to bear it. If you try to do away with one cross, you will find another and perhaps a heavier one.
Let’s pause a moment to check our bearings. We are at the table of the Eucharist breaking bread together, listening to the word of God, celebrating the Feast of St. Macartan the patron of our school. We are recalling the witness and the words of a modern Christian martyr, Bishop Oscar Romero. We are looking ahead to next week when we assemble together in church to reflect on the mystery of our own life and death. In doing so, we are trying to give meaning and purpose to our lives, in the light of what Jesus Christ taught us. We are reflecting on the significance of the Christian symbol of the cross in the context of the responsibilities we take on, remembering that at times we need carrying ourselves just as at other times we may be called on to do the carrying for others.
In our Scripture readings in today’s Mass, Isaiah tells us he has been sent to bring good news to the poor. Paul, in his letter to Timothy, reminds him that God’s gift to him was a Spirit of power and love and self-control. In the Gospel reading, John is retelling Christ’s instructions to his disciples, love one another in the way that I loved you; there is no greater love than laying down your life for others. He confirms that this is how we give meaning and purpose to our lives; this is how we produce a fruit that will last.
Maybe we should leave the final word to Bishop Oscar Romero. Months before he died, he spoke the following words to his own people in El Salvador, and they have a special relevance to you young people present:
I call on all of you,
makers of so many families,
builders of so many homes:
Let each family in El Salvador not be a hindrance to the
urgent changes that society needs.
Let no family isolate itself from society as a whole
because it is itself well off.
No one marries just so the two of them can be happy;
marriage has a great social function.
It must be the torch that lights up the way
to new liberations for other marriages around it.
From the home must come the man or woman
able to promote the changes needed
in politics, in society, in the ways of justice:
changes that will not come about as long as home life opposes them.
But it will be so easy once boys and girls are trained
in the heart of each family to aspire
not to have more but to be more,
not to grab everything but to give abundantly to others.
They must be educated to love.
Loving is what the family is all about,
and loving means giving oneself,
surrendering oneself to the well-being of all
and working for the common happiness.
Your school crest says ‘Fortis et Fidelis’, ‘Strong and Faithful’. The Lord says : “This is my commandment : love one another, as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for others.”
+Liam S. MacDaid
21 March 2013