Homily September 23rd 2007: 25th Sunday

Father Tony’s last homily as Parish Priest

This is my last weekend as your Parish Priest, and I want to reflect briefly with you on the passages from Scripture that we have just heard. Jesus speaks in the Gospel about genuine riches. It seems to me that I have been entrusted with genuine riches during these last eight years as I have tried to serve you as your Parish Priest. When I came here in September 1999 I began my ministry by kissing the altar at the start of my first Mass, and I will end my ministry tomorrow (this morning) by kissing the altar again at the end of my last Mass. The Altar is a symbol of Christ, and it is a place of great riches. It is the place where Christ becomes present under the appearances of bread and wine. It is at the altar that I have stood on so many occasions representing Christ, acting in the person of Christ, in making present here the Sacrifice that He offered on the Cross. Nothing in my life as a priest, and nothing in the life of the parish is more precious than the Holy Eucharist. Week by week our sick and housebound parishioners are fed from this altar with the Body and Blood of Christ. How grateful I am to those special ministers who share with me the privilege of bringing Communion to those who cannot be here with us at Mass. It is very consoling that so many people come during the week to share in the Mass, and it is wonderful that our church remains open all during the day for those who wish to come here to pray, as many do.

Behind me is the font where adults and children have received the grace of Baptism. The priest is addressed as “Father”, and it is in Baptism that that spiritual fatherhood is exercised in a special way.

St Paul tells us that God wants everyone to be saved. There is only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus who sacrificed himself for them on the Cross. In the Sacrament of Penance it has been my privilege to act once again in Christ’s name bringing God’s forgiveness and healing to those seek it. Here too are genuine riches. If only people could appreciate what a wonderful thing it is to be forgiven and to be at peace with God!

The Church is our home, and like every home it knows joy and sadness. Here couples come joyfully to celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage. Every marriage is a sign of hope for our world. It speaks of the power of love to transform people’s lives. A Marriage is so much more than just a ceremony or a piece of paper. It symbolises the relationship of love between God and His people, between Christ and the Church. Sadly the Church sees a large number of funerals. Sometimes they can be wonderful, even joyful celebrations of our faith in the Resurrection and the promise of eternal life. But they are always an opportunity to help people to look beyond the sadness of the present moment, and perhaps to draw strength from a faith they have largely abandoned.

I have focussed on the Church and the Sacraments. The Liturgy is the Source of the Church’s life. Everything flows from it. It is the summit towards which everything is directed. It has been my privilege over these last eight years to celebrate the Church’s Liturgy here with you, and to try, as best I could to preach God’s living word to you. I have tried to share my own thoughts and reflections on that Word with you.

Today’s first reading however reminds us that what happens here in church must be translated into practice in the world outside. The prophet Amos, speaking in God’s name, makes it powerfully clear that God expects us to live out our faith in our concern for others, for justice and peace and reconciliation.

Today I want to thank all of you for your love and support over these years. I ask forgiveness for my failings. I want to encourage you to continue with your journey in Faith. We are all pilgrims in this world moving onwards towards God. As pilgrims we need each other. I have been grateful for your help and support and for your example of faith and love. Some of you have helped me more than you will ever know. Please continue to be there for each other, and not least for your new Parish Priest.

I invite each of you today to renew your own faith in Christ. He will never be outdone in generosity. Trust Him and He will never let you down. Let me end with the prayer I shall be saying at the end of Mass:

Lord, help us with your kindness. Make us strong through the Eucharist.
May we put into action the saving mystery we celebrate.

Thank you.

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