Homily preached at the Mass for the Grandparents Association in Cathedral, Tuam. 26th July, 2017.
Grandparents fulfil many important and beautiful roles in family today. In so many ways the Grandparents are the link between the past, the present and the future. Grandparents not only have that experience of the past, they incorporate it into the present with their grandchildren and in this way they help the grandchildren to look forward in hope to the future. That link between past, present and future is crucial in the society in which we live today. The neglect of one has its impact on the others. Grandparents fulfil the role of the experienced teacher. They have a sense of the family history and can relate stories which make a huge contribution to the identity of the family. That sense of family tradition was very much in evidence at the time of Jesus.
The 1st Reading today comes from the Book of Ecclesiasticus about 200 years before the time of Christ. The author was faced with a delicate problem which confronts us today, namely, acknowledging the changes that are taking place in our society and the various trends which are presenting themselves, while at the same time preserving the essentials of their religious faith as it was handed down to them from the past. The author is an experienced and learned individual who is concerned about the future generations and how best to instruct and prepare them. We find in this author an intense appreciation of the religion which he has received from the generations who have gone before him. This is something in which grandparents excel.
In this 1st Reading, which is probably one of the best known passages of Ecclesiasticus, he focuses on the great religious heroes of the past with the very practical aim of motivating his young hearers to similar loyalty. In many ways we can identify with the author in what we have received from parents and grandparents who have influenced us and contribute to enabling us to be the kind of people that we are today. In that sense grandparents are real heroes and heroines, though they may never have received public recognition.
Looking at it from another perspective we can recognise the hugely significant role which grandparents and indeed our generation have. We have a responsibility to pass on to children and grandchildren and future generations something in terms of faith values that will enable them to cope with and challenge so much that is being blared at them today from sources that are hostile to faith and spiritual values.
The 2nd Reading today focuses from the Letter to the Ephesians, on the religious or faith-link which joins the various generations. The author emphasises above all the loving initiative of God the Father in all of this work. It is part of the Father’s plan of salvation. It is centred in Jesus Christ, who is the key to understanding the world in which we live and with which we try to cope. There is an emphasis on the fact that every family is part of God’s own family. There is a recognition that we are called upon to lead our family, husbands, wives, parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren to share in the light of Christ. As men and women we have benefitted from our training and the way in which we were inserted into the faith tradition of those who have gone before us. Today we recognise that our faith tradition is being challenged and in some ways crowded out by the myriad of voices which are clambering for a future where God would not have a part. In some ways we are witnessing the attempt to rebuild the Tower of Babel and we know what the outcome of that project was.
In many respects the role of grandparents has taken on an urgency and a significance that it may not have had in other times. When you consider the way in which parents are pressurised in trying to provide for their children – both parents working, responding to various demands as they endeavour to provide an education for their children and recognising the pressures under which both they and their children labour today. Grandparents are being asked to take on a role which they may not have had to the same extent in other times, collecting and dropping off at sports and other after school activities. Grandparents are the first port of call in a crisis and are readily available for child care, child development and sharing life experience in a way that grandchildren could never gain from school. In those formative years of their grandchildren, the fact that the grandparents have moved over from the fast-lane of life and are now more at leisure and free to spend time with their grandchildren is a wonderful blessing for both. Isn’t lovely to see the way in which grandparents play games with their grandchildren. The stories which grandparents tell to their grandchildren and the way in which they share their own experience of life with them will never be forgotten.
Today, we thank God for grandparents and the important role which they play in the formation of the society of the future. We remember also those grandparents who do not have ready access to their grandchildren either through geographical distance or perhaps for other reasons. Today, we thank God on this feast-day of Saints Joachim and Anne for the way in which grandparents become such a wonderful blessing, not just for the grandchildren but for the Church and society at large. We thank God for the wonderful work being done by the Catholic Grandparents Association and again I would like to commend the heroic efforts of Catherine Wiley, her husband Stewart, the Diocesan co-ordinators, Frank and Noreen Burns, the devoted committee, all who promote this association and yourselves for the way in which you come out in such numbers to celebrate this special occasion for grandparents.