June 11, 2017 – Homily by Bishop Noel Treanor At Diocesan Pilgrimage to Knock
DIOCESAN PILGRIMAGE TO KNOCK
TRINITY SUNDAY, 11 JUNE 2017
Readings : Ex 34.4-6,8-9; Dan 3.52-56; 2 Cor 13.11-13; Jn 3.16-18
I Pilgrimage : the search for God
Like Moses, as depicted in the first reading (Ex 34.4-6,8-9) we set out early this morning on a journey to this shrine of Mary, Mother of God, at Knock.
Our mood and personal situation may reflect that of Moses, troubled as he was by his wayward people who had given up on God (Ex 32.1-6). Others may have come here in thanksgiving, in the mood of the responsorial psalm (Dan 3.52-54). Or we may have come like Nicodemus, somewhat under-cover, inquisitive, not too sure of our ground. Knock, like Mary at Cana (Jn 2.1-11), and all centres of pilgrimage, has a listening ear for all needs.
A pilgrimage is time taken for a journey to a place of religious significance. It involves effort and displacement. It is a personal undertaking towards a heightened encounter with God and with the things of God.
Often it becomes a time of discovery or re-discovery of the significance of religious faith. Pilgrimage can unfold as a time of conversion, of profound experience and re-discovery of God’s mercy. At a shrine such as this, as we pilgrims meet, worship and bond in the grace of Christ, in the love of God and in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 11.13), the peace of Christ, a peace beyond understanding (Phil 4.7) , rises in the hearts of many.
For all of this we give thanks and praise with the words of the responsorial verses taken from the book of Daniel (Dan 3.52-56), a hymn and litany of thanksgiving that is reminiscent of Psalm 136 : “you are blest who gaze into the depths, to you glory and praise for evermore”!
With the lines and words of this litany, our sense of the ultimate mystery of God, of the mystery of creation and of life itself are articulated for us in prayer on this feast day, Trinity Sunday.
II Trinity Sunday
Somehow there is a certain extra, a plus, to being a pilgrim here at a shrine, such as Knock, on Trinity Sunday, a feast initiated by Pope John XXII in 1334.
Firstly, there is the fact that as we celebrate this Feast of the Holy Trinity here at a shrine of Our Lady, we are united with millions of fellow Catholics and Christians throughout the world who in their Churches, parishes, and at other shrines, ponder in prayer and worship on the mystery of God as revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
With these peoples of many nations and cultures, in baptism we constitute the living body of Christ in time, in history and in society.
Energised and shaped in mind and heart by the Good News of the gospel, we are all part of a fellowship, a community, (koinonia), in and through which the divine plan of salvation is at work and is unfolding in history. Being on pilgrimage offers an opportunity to take a few moments to ponder on this and realise something of the potential, beauty and significance of this reality, this Christian presence in human history and its unfolding.
There is a further plus to being here on Trinity Sunday : for the liturgy of the Word with its readings from Old and New Testament signals salutary religious insights for every pilgrim on the pathway of life into the mystery and life of the divine, of God.
Firstly, the extract from the book of Exodus portrays a scene of reconciliation, of God as “a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness” (Ex34.6). Moses intercedes on behalf of his people who gave up on God and worshipped the golden calf. A sinner himself, Moses asks for mercy : “forgive us our faults and our sins, and adopt us as your heritage”(Ex 34.9) – at once a plea for mercy, a prayer of reconciliation and a prayer to sustain a future of hope.
Then in the gospel text, which is part of the conversation with Nicodemus, as presented by the author of the gospel, the theme of salvation is continued. It is continued in new terms and categories. The scene is no longer an other-worldly experience on a mountain side, as in the first reading.
The reference points have changed utterly : the language chosen to speak of God on foot of the author’s experience of Jesus of Nazareth is the language of family relations and ties. The words used to speak of God are Father and Son. For in the experience people had of Jesus, God revealed Himself as person, as a loving personal being, incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth through the action of the Holy Spirit. This foundational experience of Jesus, which involved Mary to whom this shrine is dedicated, is the ground and background to the beautiful closing salutation which we read from St Paul’s second letter to the Christians at Corinth : “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor13.13).
III Grace, love and fellowship
Just as it is worth dwelling on the significance of the choice of family language to speak of God on foot of the apostles’ personal experience of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, so too our pilgrimage time on this Trinity Sunday allows us a time to stop and think over three key words in St Paul’s closing salutation – grace, love, fellowship.
In baptism we are grafted into the life of grace, which is renewed in us by engaging with the Word of God, by celebrating the sacred liturgy and the sacraments and by our charity and care of the neighbour. As we listen to the Word of God we glimpse in it and particularly in the sayings and doings of Jesus the love of God in action to the point of giving one’s life in obedience. Fellowship in the life of grace we experience and we make possible as we are inspired and emulate the very human, yet faith-inspired figures, such as Moses and Paul, once known and feared as Saul of Tarsus. That fellowship is available to all, in every corner, nook and cranny of the world, in parishes, chaplaincies and monasteries on all continents – a point worth recalling and re-telling to all our emigrants who people and enrich so many parts of the world. In those communities they will find places to grow and flourish as persons and citizens.
On this Trinity Sunday, here at Knock, we give thanks for the love of God the Father for humanity, revealed in the life, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and for the eternal gift bestowed on us, even in our sinfulness, of fellowship with God through the promptings of the Holy Spirit.