Bishop Toal’s Homily for the annual Mass at Scalan on Sunday 3rd July 2022.
For all who have enjoyed coming to Scalan for this yearly Pilgrimage Mass it does feel quite emotional to here again today after the last two years when the Covid pandemic prevented us attending. Thank God we have been able to come back and enjoy again the tranquility of this historic setting and to honour the past and pray for the present and the future as we celebrate the Sacred Mysteries of the Holy Eucharist. Sadly some well known pilgrims are no longer able to travel and some have gone to their eternal rest – as always in the Mass we commend both the living and the dead to God’s mercy and compassion.
Today’s Gospel tells us
“The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit.”
The Lord is sending out his disciples on the mission, all 72 of them, and they were to prepare others for his coming. He was entrusting them with the task of making him known, so he appears to be confident that they were ready to do this, indeed even to being able to cope with a hostile reception and rejection. They were chosen and blessed by him to be his missionary disciples, a description used often by Pope Francis to describe all the baptised, as we are called by the Lord to participate in his Mission in our own time and place in the Church’s history. It is a great call and all of us here can hear the Lord’s invitation to respond and to do all we can – in action and in prayer – to give of our lives in his service.
An interesting point too is that the Lord sent them in pairs. They were not be lone figures trying to do everything themselves but rather companions on the Mission, who would support and give strength to one another in whatever situation they would face and in speaking to the people they would meet.This idea of doing things in pairs continues to be a strong part of the Church’s missionary and apostolic endeavours, for example members of Apostolic groups making house visits, and as well as being wise it also witnesses to the shared, communal mission of the Church. Our modern culture does tend to be quite individualistic, with leanings towards asserting the individual’s ability to get on, to make up one’s own mind, and to be right in doing so, so it is challenged as the Lord tells us to go together, listen to one another, share the burden, cooperate in planning and carrying out his work. Present initiatives in promoting a Synodal way of thinking and acting are very much founded on the Lord’s own instruction on how his disciples are to act and prepare the way for him.
In the Gospel Jesus then says:
“The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.”
Although the Lord’s words do apply to all the labourers in his harvest, every baptised person, they are often used also in reference to those who serve in the ordained ministry in the Church and the tremendous need the Church has for priests, those called and chosen to carry on the Ministry of the Apostles, to preach the word, celebrate the Sacraments, and to tend to the Lord’s flock. Coming here to Scalan we honour the memory of those who laboured here in the challenging times of 18th century Scotland to educate Scottish boys and set them on the way to priesthood. We are grateful for the work done here, and carried on in the following centuries at Acquhorties and for 157 years at Blairs. In providing for them these places of prayer and learning, the boys who came persevered in their response to the Lord’s call and many gave their lives to him as priests in the Scottish Mission. Through the celebration of this Eucharist we give thanks to God for what has been achieved and ask that he may call labourers to his harvest in the present day. While we are blessed to have ordinations to the priesthood in a number of our Scottish Dioceses this summer we do need more Vocations and we must pray constantly for them.
The ministry of a priest is necessary for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the Centre of the Church’s Life and Worship, and as Catholics we need to hold on to our precious faith in all that the celebration of Holy Mass means for us. In our letter on the Feast of Corpus Christi a couple of weeks the Scottish Bishops renewed our call for Catholics to return to Mass after the separation caused by Covid. We presented the Mass as the great gift given to us by the Lord at the Last Supper so that we are constantly reassured of his true and lasting presence among us until he comes again. We explained the need to believe in the Renewal of the Mystery of the Lord’s Saving Death and Resurrection in every Eucharist, to be present at the celebration of the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day, each Sunday, and to live the Eucharist to the full in every aspect of our daily living.
On the afternoon of Corpus Christi I had the privilege of carrying the Blessed Sacrament in Procession from the Church of St Theresa’s, Newarthill to Carfin Grotto and a great crowd of people joined in the offering of this public worship of the Lord. Some of you may have been there or joined precessions in your own parishes. It seems good for us to express our faith in this way and let others know we are indeed people of strong faith and that we wish to give our time and energy to showing this faith in public and, more importantly living it to the full. Coming to Scalan may seem far from Carfin but the purpose of our journey and the strengthening of the desire to be true to our faith are the same.
Pope Francis sent an Apostolic Letter to us all a few days ago entitled Desiderio desideravi (“I earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” Luke 22:15) on the Liturgy. Although longer and more detailed than the Scottish Bishops’ letter its intention and basic content is similar, namely a heartfelt call to love and cherish the Divine Liturgy as we now celebrate it and to participate in it fully and actively. In being reminded of the great work done since the 2nd Vatican Council in producing the renewed Roman Rite of the Eucharist I recall here today in particular the Council’s desire that the Liturgy be marked by “a noble simplicity”. A simplicity in order to allow the central mystery to be the focus of attention, performed in a noble and worthy manner as set down by the Church. Our Mass today here is simple, perhaps not as adorned as in other places, but it is real and true and the Lord is with us as we celebrate this great sacrifice of praise which he has given to us as the memorial of his Redemption. We give full thanks to God and bless his holy name in the company of the souls who have gone before us. Thanks be to God!