Homily for feast of Our Lady of Lourdes
My dear people,
During the holidays I read an excellent book by Professor Taylor on “A Secular Age”. The Professor said millions of people in the western world live without God. He suggested that this happened partly because the western world today lacks transcendence, while its people do not search for personal transformation. They have no ambition to live at a higher level. They are satisfied to live at a purely human level, at what the great St Augustine would describe as living in the city of man rather than the city of God. Taylor was not pessimistic because he sees this as a temporary situation. Like St Augustine he believes that we are made for God and our hearts “will ever restless be until they rest in thee”.
The feast we celebrate today happens in an area of the world that recognises transcendence. It is not the boring, everyday world in which so many people live on a day to day basis. For them they live life and die, and sadly for so many people today that is all they believe. “When you are dead, you’re dead!” they seem to suggest, and “life is then over”. For us as Christians we open our eyes to see a remarkable new world, a world of the Kingdom of God, a world in which we are connected with the angels and saints, a world that is full of life and vitality, a world that like the beautiful song by an Australian group called “Youth Group”, suggests that we are meant to live forever, a world in which the Holy spirit communicates with us on a daily basis, a world in which “Our Lady” can appear if she so desires as she did to St Bernadette at Lourdes, France 150 years ago. That transcendent world is a magnificent world filled with mystery which we neglect at our own cost, and which we can reduce to the most boring life imaginable if we lack faith. When I went to Lourdes in 1971, what caught my attention was not so much the crowds, large as they were, not so much the beauty of the location, not so much the hope of the sick people who come to seek healing, but the atmosphere of holiness that filled the place. It was a heavenly experience and I have never forgotten it.
So tonight let us thank God for our faith that enables us to see the world as Jesus saw the world. At a recent gathering in Lourdes to celebrate 150 years of the apparitions Bishop Jacques Perrier of Lourdes said “Mary did not seek devotion from St Bernadette and Catholics but instead sought devotion to Jesus and the Eucharist.” That is what we are doing tonight, promoting devotion to Jesus and the Eucharist, so let us realise the transcendence that surrounds us here as we gather with other believers of Sunnybank and elsewhere, knowing that tonight in this Eucharist we are surrounded by Fr Tom Hegarty and past parishioners, as well as the community of saints and angels who hover around this gathering as together we praise and worship God and ask Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, and mother of Jesus, to pray for us always, and lead us to her son Jesus. Having found Jesus ourselves we may lead some of those millions who live without God to find Jesus too. The marvellous gift of life here on earth is wasted, if, for whatever reason we live only a half or quarter life. Instead Jesus came to bring us life and life in its fullness.
May God bless you always.
Archbishop John Bathersby DD
February 12, 2008