Bishop Colm O’Reilly, Bishop Emeritus of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, gave the homily at the Rededication of St Mel’s Cathedral, Longford on Sunday 17th May 2015.
…. One native of Longford living abroad wrote about his first visit to the cathedral after its restoration as follows: “Walking into this newly restored building is an extraordinary experience. How could this space feel exactly as it always did, as if it had been always there, when in fact it was completely burned and destroyed? How could it feel extraordinarily fresh and different, like a cathedral of a brand new century, while it is really the same old building minutely and lovingly restored in all its finest details?”
We are very grateful to have received these thoughtful observations. BUT they point to something more important. They point to the faith itself which is ever ancient and ever new. They point back to a time long before there was a cathedral in Longford. They point back to Mel and Ciaran, the patrons of the Diocese, and the many men and women, some known, some not, who lived and died for the faith they planted. Let’s think, for instance, of two Dominican friars, Laurence and Bernard O’Farrell, who were martyred in Longford in 1651. They are remembered because their Order preserved records of their heroic lives and deaths. How many other witnesses to the faith lived and died here without any record of their heroic courage? There is no knowing.
In remembering the lives of our ancestors in faith we find encouragement and hope. But on this day we are reminded by the words of Scripture that we cannot just think of great heroes of the past. As the Apostles stared into the sky when Jesus was taken away, they were asked by angels: “why are you men from Galilee staring into the sky?” The Gospel leaves no doubt in our minds about what we should be doing. “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Gospel to all creation”.
Here is what Pope Francis tells us in his Encyclical Letter, “The Joy of the Gospel”:
The Church’s closeness to Jesus is part of a common journey, ‘communion and mission are profoundly interconnected’. In fidelity to the example of the Master, it is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one is excluded.
There aren’t two kinds of Christians. There are only missionary Christians. That is what we are. Let us become what we are called to be.