On Sunday, 2nd July 2017, Fr Michael Toomey delivered RTÉ Mass on Sunday with a congregation and singing from the Suir Valley Choir, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. The music director was Mr Billy Byrne.
Young people are getting involved in our parishes
Fr Michael is the Pope John Paul II Award coordinator for the diocese of Waterford & Lismore. In his homily, he speaks of the vibrancy and enthusiasm of the JP2 participants who serve in their parishes and work in their communities.
While composing this homily for today a few weeks ago, the news of the terrible tragedy of the tower block fire in London was occurring. The fire at Grenfell Tower sadly killed so many people, and displaced many hundreds who lost everything– including their homes.
As sad and as devastating as this has been, what struck me was the outpouring of goodness, which followed.
Within a matter of hours, so many people opened their doors and homes and offered refuge, collected and sorted clothes and toys, and food, providing basic toiletries and nappies. This was done for so many families who were affected by this tragic event, and given a place of safety and shelter.
It for me highlighted the absolute goodness and generosity so prevalent in our society – particularly when disasters and tragedies occur.
In our first reading today, we hear how the prophet Elisha, in need of help and shelter on his travels, was welcomed into the home of a woman and her husband who may have had everything – except a family. Not content with just opening their door, they built him a room so any time he was passing – even though the room was very basic with just a small bed, table and candle lamp – it made Elisha comfortable and welcome. When he offered to give her something she declined. She was happy knowing she was doing her small bit of good. Yet he rewarded the un-named woman and her husband with a promise of something they both quietly longed for – the birth of a son – and the start of their complete family.
In our Gospel today – Jesus gives us a challenge. In order to truly follow him, we are asked to leave our own comfort zones and go and proclaim the Gospel – not just in words – but also in good deeds. There is a vocational theme in this – calling women and men to a life of service. In following Christ and serving him in ministry is an on-going challenge – yet Christ himself never said it would be an easy life. Indeed, any vocation requires a gift of sacrifice – even leaving homes, families, the comfort zones, and going into many difficult situations physically and spiritually. Yet there is the reassurance: “Anyone who loses his life for my sake – will find it”.
Vocations to the priesthood and religious life in Ireland is obviously a priority for all of us. Just yesterday, The National Vocations Office of the Irish Bishops’ Conference was opened in Maynooth. The Office will oversee, and coordinate, the work of training diocesan vocations directors and the promotion of vocations to the priesthood, and we pray that its work will bear much fruit.
Serving others in turn, ultimately serves Christ. This year the Pope John Paul II award here in Ireland celebrates its 10th Anniversary. This award allows teenage students to play an active role in their parish and community. I have been privileged in our own diocese and on the national committee to see first hand the vibrancy and enthusiasm of many students who serve in their parishes by proclaiming the Word of God, singing in our choirs, welcoming people to Mass and assisting at many prayer and religious services in their schools. As well as in the parish, each student undertakes to work in their communities in many various ways, including sports clubs, nursing homes, charities, the list is endless. Here, these students inspire me – because they remind me as a priest of my vows of love and service on a daily basis. These young people are the church of tomorrow who follow the call of Christ in today’s Gospel to give the cup of cold water – a symbol of service. Our young people are getting involved in our parishes – the door is open to them – the challenge for us inside is to keep open our doors and let them in and share their gifts and talents in service.
It is this service so prevalent in many parishes across the country in those who minister as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, in our dedicated choirs, our Ministers of the Word and our altar servers and their families who support them.
Let us always be thankful of what we have – not what we lack. We have a lot going on for our church in all our parishes, in so many ministries and vocations. Ireland is still one of the top ranking countries in the world in charity work and fundraising. We have a lot to be thankful for.
Let us always be willing to help those in our own town’s villages and cities – and give that cup of water without seeking recognition or reward. That is what the woman did for Elisha; that is what the people in London did for those who lost everything in that terrible fire; that is what Christ asks us to do every day of our lives.
The Pope John Paul II Award
The Pope John Paul II Award recognises and celebrates the work young people do in their church, parish and community. It encourages more young people to get involved in their faith, parish and community. It is for anyone between the ages of 16 and 18.
21 dioceses in Ireland and 2 in Britain have adopted the Award. It is launching in 2 other dioceses in Ireland in autumn 2017. Over 25,000 young people have achieved the Award since it was created.