Homily of Archbishop Michael Neary at the Pilgrimage of Eucharistic Adorers in Knock
On this Corpus Christi weekend I welcome all present in the Basilica in Knock today, those who join us on line and especially all who are celebrating the National Pilgrimage of Eucharistic Adorers.
The world in which we live today is one of hectic speed, rapid change with so much swirling about us: new ideas, and different approaches. Everything seems to be in flux and we are out of breath trying to catch up. We like to think we are in control and will determine what will and will not happen.
Yet we realise that we are limited, we are reminded time after time each day of our needs. Every morning, acknowledging our dependence on God we dedicate our whole day to the Lord in the Morning Offering. Before the time of Christ, the people of Israel, did likewise in a special psalm which was an act of adoration to the Lord. This is a psalm which religious, priests and those who pray the Divine Office each day say in the words:
“Come in, let us bow and bend low,
let us kneel before the God who made us.
For He is our God and we the people
who belong to His pasture
the flock that is led by His hand”
Adoration is the only fitting response of the creature to the creator.
In the Eucharist we are in a particularly privileged presence of Jesus Christ for 45 minutes during which we are moved along rather swiftly from acknowledging our sins (in the penitential rite), to listening to God’s word, offering our petitions, receiving His body and blood in Holy Communion and His blessing.
It is the experience of many that the Mass is over before we have an opportunity either to thank God or to ask Him for His help, or simply to speak to Him as a friend and tell Him how we feel and appreciate what is happening. In a world where everything is changing rapidly there is also within us a hankering after stability and security, a feeling that we need to know where the real centre is so that we might be close to and make contact with that centre.
In a busy consumerist culture Eucharistic Adoration has a special appeal. In a noisy world there’s a special attraction about being able to focus in peace and quiet on Jesus Christ in the Sacred Host. The simplicity is very inviting and authentic. Here we realise that we are at the centre not just of the world but of the whole universe. We are at the mid-point of time and history. Jesus Christ, as the Epistle to the Hebrews reminds us (13:8), doesn’t change, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever”. He is always reaching out in love towards us, listening to us, familiar with our worries and anxieties, our concerns about our children and grandchildren. He understands our disappointment, fears and frustrations. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament enables us to put things in perspective, neither exaggerating nor diminishing.
In adoration we are welcomed, accepted, loved, renewed and revitalised. We don’t have to explain why we are there or account for our time. We are just here and we don’t have to introduce ourselves. The Lord knows us and has just as big a welcome for us as He has for any Pope or Bishop.
In adoration the Lord has an opportunity to speak with us. It’s a two-way conversation. He doesn’t have to compete with a myriad of voices clambering to be heard. So often in adoration the Lord gently directs us to choose the right path.
In the Gospel of Luke we get a hint of Mary’s adoration perspective when the Evangelist underlines the fact that Mary “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart”. Moving from Nazareth to Knock, we see in the Apparition Scene Mary’s attitude was one of silent adoration. No words were spoken. Again, the scene is Eucharistic with the Lamb of God on the Altar. Here at Knock we are in a particularly privileged place for the National Pilgrimage of the Apostolate of Eucharistic Adoration.
As Adorers you all have your own experience and can verify what time spent with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament means to you. If I might remind you of an important invitation of Jesus in St. Matthew’s Gospel: “Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The authority of Jesus’ appeal comes from his intimate relationship with his Father. The “rest” which Jesus promises to the burdened is not simply rest in a general kind of way. The Greek word is very special and implies the refreshing break which travellers across a desert find in some oasis along the way. Jesus is the one who leads burdened humanity to peace and rest. This does not just refer to the future. Jesus lifts the burden of those who come to him here in the present in Eucharistic Adoration.
Now that we are celebrating our National Pilgrimage for Adorers here at Knock might I mention three people, known to yourselves, who came like you on pilgrimage to Our Lady’s Shrine: firstly, Pope Saint. John Paul II. In his extremely busy pontificate he always made provision for significant periods of Eucharistic Adoration each day and particularly prior to his celebration of the Eucharist. I was privileged to witness this over the years when joining with the Irish Bishops in concelebrating Mass with the Holy Father in his private oratory in Rome. There was something very special about seeing Christ’s vicar on earth in deep prayer and meditation before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. You sensed that the whole Catholic world was converging in the Holy Father as he brought the world, its people and its problems to Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. We are all aware of the energy that characterised his Pontificate as he travelled across the world to make Jesus Christ known and loved.
Secondly, Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa). Some years ago (June 1993) she too visited Our Lady’s Shrine at Knock. The priest who accompanied her into the Apparition Chapel tells about the way in which as soon as she entered the Chapel she said “lead me to the Tabernacle,” and there she spent some time in quiet prayer and adoration. Working with the poorest of the poor in Calcutta one could easily become discouraged and wonder whether any progress was being made. On one occasion an interviewer asked Mother Teresa whether she was having any success in working with the street children in Calcutta. Mother Teresa answered, “God did not call me to be successful, he called me to be faithful”. Before spending her day among the poor of Calcutta Mother Teresa would spend time before the Blessed Sacrament. It was there that she derived her strength and realised that while the problems were huge she was not on her own and entrusted them to the one who had the whole world in his hand, Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. We are all aware of the impact which Mother Teresa has made across the world where she has influenced people of different faiths and of no faith at all.
Thirdly, Pope Francis who prayed before the Blessed Sacrament in the Apparition Chapel when he visited here in August 2018. You will recall the silence that descended on all the pilgrims in the grounds as the Holy Father prayed and as the pilgrims prayed with him. This was the most memorable moment of the World Meeting of Families.
Adoration is a time to reflect and relate to Jesus Christ. Central to the ministry of Jesus Christ was a compassionate love that reached out to people who found themselves alienated, hurt and disregarded. His approach was one of sensitivity and support, never nailing them to their sinfulness or their brokenness but always endeavouring to build them up and enable them to be their best selves
I commend all those who have pledged themselves to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I am convinced that great blessings will result for families, individuals and all Adorers.