Homily, Fourth Day of Retreat to Priests of the Diocese of Galway
Knock Shrine, Co Mayo
Thursday, 11 May 2017
I am astonished at the liturgical providence of God displayed for us today in the texts of this Holy Mass. There is not a day in the calendar when God does not, in some way, reach out to each of us through the sacred liturgy. There is not a day when God, acting through His liturgical providence, does not address to each of use the word that cleanses, that heals, that illumines. If we hear nothing, retain nothing, and go away empty, it is not because God has failed us; it is because we have not known how to open the ear of our hearts to God. Rightly does the Church make us say, morning after morning: “Would you but listen to his voice to-day! Do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 94:8)
Today’s Entrance Antiphon speaks directly to our departure from Knock, and to our going forth after these days in the presence of the Lamb.
O God, when you went forth before your people, marching with them, and living among them, the earth trembled, heavens poured down rain, alleluia. (Entrance Antiphon, Psalm 67: 8–9, 20)
God goes forth with us. At no point in our journey are we left alone. God journeys with us as He did with the children of Israel, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. Christ will walk with you; you will recognise His presence by the fire burning in your hearts, provided that you listen to Him “expound to you in all the scriptures”, through the liturgy of His Church, “the things that were concerning him” (Luke 24:27).
Not only does God take the road with you; He lives among you. His Face shines through every page of Sacred Scripture; it is the countenance of the Beloved in the Canticle, that appears mysteriously through the lattice–work of the text. Seek His presence in His Word. His Face, invisibly radiant, is turned toward you in the Sacrament of His Love. Go to the tabernacle — go there often, go there daily, tarry in His presence — expose yourself to the healing penetration of His gaze.
“The earth trembled, heavens poured down rain” (Psalm 67:20). The psalmist here evokes two manifestations of the presence of God. How are we to understand these images? Where are the earthquakes and the downpour of rain in our lives? Every time in your life, dear Fathers, you experience the tremors of change, say to yourself, Dominus est, “It is the Lord” (John 21:7).
It is a good thing to be shaken in one’s securities, disturbed in one’s comfortable patterns of thinking, saying, and doing. The man who never allows himself to be shaken by God is spiritually unstable. Welcome the tremors under your feet. They are permitted by God that you might throw yourself to the ground and, like the people with Elijah on Mount Carmel, say again and again, “The Lord he is God, the Lord he is God” (3 Kings 18:39).
The higher one rises in the ranks of the clergy, the more one appears powerful, influential, and clever in the eyes of men, the more one needs to be shaken and thrown to the ground. Adoration in spirit and in truth, the adoration that the Father seeks (John 4:23), begins on the ground. Thus does the psalmist pray: “Deep lies my soul in the dust, restore life to me, as thou hast promised” (Psalm 118:25).
“The heavens poured down rain” (Psalm 67:20). Rain, in Sacred Scripture, is the sign of the drenching grace of God, a grace that soaks the earth, and soaks man, “fashioned from the clay of the earth” (Genesis 2:7) through and through. We alluded to this in the Postcommunion Prayer yesterday, when we said:
Graciously be present to your people, we pray, O Lord, and lead those you have imbued with heavenly mysteries to pass from former ways to newness of life. (Postcommunion, Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter)
You may not have noticed it, but the Latin verb used in this prayer is imbuisti. The prayer might properly be translated: “Lead those you have soaked in heavenly mysteries to pass from former ways to newness of life”. The prayer also uses the paschal verb transire, to pass over from one thing, or from one state, to another. This, dear Fathers, is what the retreat has been about: a passage from former ways to newness of life. I pray that we not refuse the grace of change. I pray that we welcome the shakes and jolts and tremors that wake us to the action of God. I pray that we welcome the drenching rain of grace that, even on the brightest, sunniest day in May, God will not refuse to those who walk in His presence.
And, as if the Entrance Antiphon were not enough; the liturgical providence of God will strike us afresh in the Communion Antiphon: “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age, alleluia” (Matthew 28:20)