Homily, Third Day of Retreat to Priests of the Diocese of Galway
Knock Shrine, Co Mayo
Wednesday, 10 May 2017
If a man believes in me, it is in him who sent me, not in me, that he believes; to see me is to see him who sent me. (John 12:44)
We continue, day after day, to read the Fourth Gospel, and we shall do so until Pentecost. It is the Gospel of the Father. Everything in the Fourth Gospel, from the first page to the last, draws us forward, by faith, into the bosom of the Father, in sinu Patris, and this, in fulfilment of the priestly prayer of the Son:
This, Father, is my desire, that all those whom thou hast entrusted to me may be with me where I am. (John 17:24)
It is by the gift of faith that the Father, through the Son, and by the secret operations of the the Holy Spirit, draws us to Himself. How can I not recall here the experience of Saint Ignatius of Antioch: “There is within me a water that lives and speaks, saying to me inwardly, Come to the Father” (Epistle to the Romans, Chapter VII).
Faith is that gift by which a man’s eyes are opened to the light of Christ. It is urgent that we priests pray, and pray ceaselessly, for an increase of faith in ourselves and in the souls entrusted to us. When the faith of a priest increases, so too does the faith of souls increase in an immense radius all about him. The faith of the shepherd conditions the faith of the flock.
A great darkness is creeping over the land: it is the loss of faith. This, however, is not a reason to close up shop, shutter the windows, draw the curtains, and wait for death. God waits to give faith to all who ask for it. Few souls ask Christ to increase their faith; still fewer ask Him to quicken in them the faith that He gave them at Baptism. A faith that is not increasing day by day is decreasing day by day. Ireland is but one of many nations once illumined by the true faith and now threatened by the encroaching darkness.
I have come into the world as a light, so that all those who believe in me may continue no longer in darkness. (John 12:46)
Who will summon the whole nation to cry out to Christ for a quickening of the gift of faith? Who will gather children together to teach them to pray for an increase of the gift of faith? Where are the missionaries to the island that once sent out missionaries to every place on earth? I sometimes fear that we are falling prey to a deadly lethargy: “Times have changed. The culture is against us. We are bullied by the media. What remains for us if not a dignified retirement?” To this sort of discourse, I say, “Get thee behind me, Satan” (Mark 8:33). Christ promises faith to every soul who asks for it. Christ will quicken the faith in entire nations — “a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting” (John 4:14) — if even a few people persevere in asking Him to do it.
And Jesus said to them, The light is among you still, but only for a short time. Finish your journey while you still have the light, for fear darkness should overtake you; he who journeys in darkness cannot tell which way he is going. While you still have the light, have faith in the light, that so you may become children of the light. (John 12:35–36)
The renewal of faith begins, dear Fathers, with you and with me, in the humble pleading that Christ finds irresistible: “I do believe, Lord: help Thou my unbelief” (Mark 9:23). Make this your prayer today and every day and, all around you, souls will wake up to the light of faith, and in that light, begin to know, with Christ, the embrace of the Father.