Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock, Co. Dublin
‘Overcome Indifference and Win Peace’
Homily notes of Fr Damian Mc Neice
“In His message for this year’s celebration of the World Day of Peace Pope Francis says something that we perhaps can welcome more readily at Christmastime than any other season, because Christ was born into the world to make of us one family.
Pope Francis said: “We are related to all our brothers and sisters, for whom we are responsible and with whom we act in solidarity. Lacking this relationship, we would be less than human. We see, then, how indifference represents a menace to the human family.”
Indifference: when we close our eyes to what is happening and turn aside to avoid encountering other people’s problems. This is not something new in humanity. It is as old as Cain protesting “Am I my brother’s keeper? In our day, Pope Francis notices a certain ‘globalization of indifference’, being so self-absorbed and feeling so self-sufficient that we become indifferent to the sufferings of our neighbour, indifferent to the damage we do to the environment, indifferent to God and our hearts grow cold. We can be very well informed of what’s going on in the world, thanks to the media, but at times we won’t allow ourselves to be truly moved with compassion. How many times in recent years have innocent victims of war in the Middle East asked of the human family: “Where is your response? Are you indifferent to our suffering?” I am aware myself of seeing a news feed of horrors of war on my smartphone – only to become distracted seconds later scrolling down the page by the latest video clip of a dog or a cat doing something funny and trivial. Families — men, women and children suffer because of weapons of mass destruction and we fail to respond, seduced by weapons of mass distraction.
As Pope Francis remarks: “today’s information explosion does not of itself lead to an increased concern for other people’s problems… Indeed, the information glut can numb people’s sensibilities…” And the itchy finger on the remote control chooses another channel.
The Holy Father wants to encourage everyone not to lose hope in our human ability to overcome evil and indifference, not to lose trust in our capacity to show solidarity. Do not be indifferent. Why? Because as Pope Francis begins in his message: “God is not indifferent! God cares… God does not abandon us!”
As we heard in our first reading today, the Lord longs to bless us, to keep us (safe) and to give us his peace. And when God gives peace, it is not in the form of some vague force. God always gives in a personal way. God gives us His Beloved Son, the One who is peace. As we heard the Prophet Micah describe the one to be born in Bethlehem for us: “He himself will be peace.” When God revealed himself to Moses, a key text of this Jubilee year of Mercy, God says: “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry… I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them…” Note the verbs: God sees, God hears, God knows, comes down and delivers. God does not remain indifferent. God is attentive and acts.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus challenges us who “pass by on the other side” and fail to help our sisters and brothers in their suffering. We know all too well the many excuses indifference tries to find: citing all the other things that need to be done. But the God who shows total solidarity with us in Jesus calls us to show the same, to be oases of the tender mercy of the heart of our God. As Pope Francis writes: “We too, then, are called to make compassion, love, mercy and solidarity a true way of life… For solidarity is much more than a ‘feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far’. Solidarity is ‘a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual.’”
Remember that, in the Beatitudes, Jesus does not say: blessed are those who admire peace. He does not say: blessed are those who like peace or even those who love peace. He taught: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Matthew is, perhaps deliberately, vague about what kind of peace to which he was referring; whether in families, between tribes, communities or in time of war. But what is clear is the emphasis is on peace-making, going to places where there are wounds and suffering, on the peripheries, where there is need of reconciliation and healing and taking a risk – standing to lose something in order to work for the creation of peace.
To choose to be a peace maker, you say ‘no’ to a much easier life! It requires a willingness to accept what is unpleasant, imperfect and negative around you – and yet to go to that place and to choose to walk with others, to be a bearer of God’s peace, precisely there. Following Christ means also to seek to widen possibilities in those places by the creativity of Love, with whatever humble gifts and abilities we have.
Mindful that Christ Jesus himself is our peace, that he has destroyed enmity and the wall of hatred, what is He proclaiming to us, as we face the centenary of the 1916 proclamation? It is a document that opens with the words: “In the name of God” and calls the children of Ireland “to sacrifice themselves for the common good.” How can we invite the light of God’s face to shine through our remembering of the 1916 Rising, and the commemoration of the Battle of the Somme, so key to the identity of many on this island? Can we do so in a way that leads to a new springtime of the hearts of all on this island, a springtime of hope, solidarity and the common good? Can we overcome the indifference of calcified positions and together win a deeper peace?
So often we are asking: ‘How can I keep peace?’ Let Peace keep you. St Paul, even though he was writing in prison, said: “Let your gentleness be evident to everyone… and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” Let Peace keep you.
In this way, we try to be in touch with something more real and lasting than our own panic or fear or emotional reactions to what is happening around us. Otherwise we could end up giving our fears and our anxieties free rein to rule our life. When we open the door to them we are easy prey. Instead let us be involved in the firm and persevering determination to make room for something else – someone else. May the Lord, who is Peace, bless us and keep us.” ENDS