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Discipleship in ‘the great cathedral of creation’

David Tuohy SJ was the invited preacher at the ordination of four Church of Ireland Deacons, on Sunday 18 September, in Christ Church Cathedral. Archbishop Michael Jackson presided at the ordination of Deacons, Tom O’Brien (St Mary’s, Howth), Rebecca Guildea (Zion Parish, Rathgar), Stuart Moles (St. Patrick’s, Greystones) and Anne Lodge (Raheny Parish). David had conducted a two day retreat for the Deacons in September, in Manresa Jesuit Centre for Spirituality in Clontarf, Dublin, and is involved in ongoing accompaniment of participants in the Anglican Church’s Mission programme, Come and See.

In his homily, he said that the four ordinations challenged everyone present to reflect on their own call to discipleship and the journey it entails.  “The first dimension of our journey is inwards, to the depth of our own being, to let God touch and transform our human weakness.” Referencing the first reading in the liturgy – the call of the prophet Isaiah – he continued, “Isaiah saw God in the glory of His heavenly kingdom. We see him in the great cathedral of His creation. Our familiarity with the word of scripture directs us to the drama of God’s presence in our world and our lives. Our discipleship seeks the wisdom that goes beyond the superficial to the drama of God loving and caring for us. We let God open up a sense of wonder that captures our minds and our hearts.”

We are never alone on the  journey of discipleship and sharing with a community of believers, all with their differing gifts, marks the second dimension of discipleship, he continued. But this part of the journey can be fraught, with individualism and eogism threatening the harmony of unity. “Our world is characterised by different tyrannies,” he said. “The tyranny of majorities who demand conformity from others in order to preserve their own privilege; the tyranny of minorities who demand special treatment in a way that undermines others. We are flooded with media images that portray irreconcilable differences between communities and individuals caught up in a selfish pursuit of excess privilege,” he said. This being the case, true discipleship, following the example of Christ, “requires a language that speaks of hope, reconciliation, mutual understanding and community in a new and creative way.”

For the follower of Jesus, this language also entails action. And the action, as modelled by Jesus, is of compassionate service. As well as looking after the needs of the poor, the sick, the homeless, the prisoner, David said the disciple of Jesus is also called to challenge a life strangling and pervasive fundamentalism.”To-day, there is a need to engage with the fundamentalism of science, and to let the religious imagination engage with new discoveries in cosmology, medicine and the social sciences, where it will find a creative and loving God.   There is the need to engage with the fundamentalism that values the human person only as an economic unit of production, giving rise to the exclusion of certain groups from sharing in a society’s wealth. There is a political fundamentalism that seeks to exclude all aspects of religion from public debate. The call of service is to open people’s minds to the way some philosophies and structures can oppress, impoverish and dis-empower both those who hold these philosophies and their victims, as well as reaching out and ministering to those victims.”

He concluded by acknowledging how the ordination of the four deacons was an encouragement to all present. “As they take on a new role of journeying with and serving the community, we are invited to pray for them. Above all, we are invited to give thanks for their generous response to God, and to give glory to the God who continues to call all of us to work with Him in building up his Kingdom.”

All four Deacons had taken part in the the Mission programme that David is involved in leading. Participants reflect on the Anglican Church’s five marks of Mission and seeing how they apply concretely today in the diocese of Dublin and Glendalough. Those marks are: Tell (Preach), Teach (Nurture friends and newcomers), Tend (Look after with loving care), Transform (the unjust structures), and Treasure (enable and look after God’s creation).

David says that as a Jesuit, being part of this journey with people exploring Mission in the Church of Ireland, has given him a new insight into different ways of organising Church and engaging with Church. “And I’ve found the female clergy and female lay participation with Synods very affirming of the faith of all the people and their lives in a Christian community.”