While there is a need for repentance and humility, the bishop said, it is “only in the service of making space for grace”.
“We here do not have to beat ourselves for the faults of others, to cease believing in love, hope and community just because others failed to live up to that dream in the past.”
Neither, Bishop McKeown went on, is now a time to seek to return to a model of Church that belonged to an earlier era.
It is important not to glamourise the present and demonise the past because for most people, the experience of growing up in Ireland was “not one that recognises the late Frank McCourt’s dismal view of a damp and heartless Ireland”.
The general experience of education in Ireland was not one of “unrelenting brutality and grimness” and parishes “ruled by cranky clergy and out of touch bachelors or spinsters”.
“There is a risk of rejecting a myth that glamourised the past and replacing it with an equally trite myth of a merely evil past and a glorious present.”
He said it was important, in these difficult times for people in the Church, not to go down the road of “presenting a mass-produced Messiah, a spiritual junk-food Jesus, the very sort of phoney saviour role that Jesus was tempted to play but which he refused to accept”.
The Scriptures read at Mass echo the challenges faced in Ireland today, said Bishop McKeown.
These include destitution on the streets of Dublin while we throw out about 30% of the food that we buy, the response to the credit crunch of cutting money on hospitals and education but not touching obscene expense on armed forces and aggressive wars.
Helen Toner of the Knock Youth Ministry said the weekend was about reaffirming Christian values and for young people to discover how suitable and approachable the Church is for them.
“Numbers may have fallen at Mass, but lots of people don’t understand Mass.” she remarked. “What we try to do is get people to understand it.”
Part of the focus of the weekend, said Ms Toner, was to show people how to be active Christians in everyday life.
“Not everyone can get up and go to Africa and work on a mission but you can behave in a Christian way with your friends and family.”
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