Hi, just in from morning Mass in Kilmovee. Lovely to see so many people there and what is certainly a wet and dreary Sunday morning.
There were one or two lines from the readings that I wanted people to take away with them. One was from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians; “I would like to see you free from all worry” (7:32) I think there’s great consolation and hope in that line. Paul, expressing his belief in God’s wish for us, would like us to be set free from worry. If that’s God’s wish for us, and surely it is, then He will help us towards that end if we allow Him. I think there’s something there about letting God help us sort out and move away from our worries.
The other line is central to the Gospel today where Jesus makes a lasting impression on his hearers because he teaches/speaks “with authority”. (Mark 1:21-28) Authority doesn’t necessarily mean control or power or booming voice but authenticity. What he was saying and how he was saying it was rooted in authenticity. He was what he was about.
Last night I attended a function in St Aidan’s National School, Monasteraden. It marked the retirement of the School’s Principal Teacher, David O’Gara and, in a way, the handing over of the “reigns” to the new Principal Teacher, Anne Moriarty. I’m happy to say I consider both to be good friends of mine and I was glad to be there. David has been in the school for thirty-five years and more. He was a good Principal and best summed up in the closing comments of the Chairman of the Board of Management, Fr Joseph Gavigan, when he said “we came here tonight to pay tribute to David O’Gara, teacher and gentleman”.
There were fine tributes paid to David and deservedly so. The night was, in some ways, stolen by his eldest daughter Geraldine in her words. She spoke of her father with love and admiration. She said that for twenty of his thirty five years in the school there was at least one member of his family attending as pupils. She talked of travelling to the school with “daddy” and travelling home again with him. For the hours in between he was “sir”. It could have been a confused relationship. Travelling to school in the family car, your father at the wheel and maybe the odd argument to be sorted out along the way and then school and classroom. Daddy as teacher – principal – the one to whom you might be sent if you misbehaved and the one certainly on whom you were depending for the teaching of lessons that would last a lifetime. Geraldine, together with her sisters and brothers managed this relationship. How?
I think the answer lies somewhere in authority. Not control or fear but authority such as Jesus is admired for in the Gospel passage. There was authenticity. David knew his role as father and teacher and lived both with authenticity. For this he is remembered in the words of a thankful and proud daughter.
There’s something of this in our relationship with God. Maybe at times we see Him as teacher – a bit removed, authoritarian, laying down commandments and curbing our freedom. We see Him as one wanting us to learn the lessons of life. There are other times He is “daddy” – close to us and for us. Indeed Geraldine said the only exception to the weekly routine of daddy before and after school and “sir” in between, came on a Friday at lunchtime when the children went to the local shop to buy a few sweets. He was “daddy” then, as she went to him for a few pence to do just that. The father in him overtook the “sir” and she was not denied. That’s surely a fitting image of God. That balance between the one wanting what’s best for us through His teaching and the one who allows us root in His pocket for small change!
Authority and authenticity go hand in hand. They leave and make a lasting impression. Rightly so.
On Monday of this week, I visited with a friend from home who now lives in Donegal. Two years ago he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and though, adamant in his conviction that he is, “not SICK”, he lives each day with this condition. It was one of the most humbling experiences I have had in a long time. I sat beside him while he wrote his words and thoughts on a little white board. He erased the words but the thoughts and their message remain. The little board he used was, he told me, bought in a local shop in Ballaghaderreen. I thought afterwards that I’ve most likely walked past that little board so many times in search of other things. It would not even attract my attention. Now it is a central part of his daily communication. How easily we can miss the important things or fail to see their potential to be important. He spoke to me of his condition and his awareness of his journey. He spoke volumes and though, as I said, the words were quickly erased, their memory lingers.
He spoke to me – like the Jesus of today’s Gospel passage – with authority, authenticity because he totally knew what he was talking about and where he was talking from.
I have a lot to think about after this week. Certainly I want to be able to speak to people with “authority” – with “authenticity” and, to do that, I need balance and example. I observed and was touched by both in a Monasteraden School and a Donegal kitchen. God Bless all who come to me – come to us – to make us think again ….