FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME 2021
Homily Notes of Most Rev. Dermot Farrell Archbishop of Dublin
Church of the Holy Spirit, Ballymun, 7th February 2021
The words of Job strike a chord with us: “My life is like a breadth, and my eyes will never again see joy.” On the other hand, life is also a gift of unfathomable beauty. God gives us a choice. We can either grow weary over the days we experience life as drudgery, or we can emerge from bitter lament, to declare that the world is “new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23). Most of us spend our days somewhere between these two extremes.
Part of the story of the Book of Job is that he experienced one disaster after another—that brought him to the brink of despair. This bleak beginning of this story tells how one after another, he lost his children, his income, his home, his health. The story of Job has become the story of one family in this community in recent days: the Dunne family have lost their son, Josh. Suddenly, darkness has descended upon them, their neighbours, and their friends. I share in the grief of the family of Josh Dunne, and pray that they may experience consolation, healing, and reconciliation through God’s grace.
Standing back from that incident, and irrespective of those involved, I want to say a word about knife violence. Carrying a knife does not ensure your security. You do not leave your home carrying a knife with you for the sole purpose of peeling an apple. Rather, when you carry a knife you are travelling down a dangerous road full of risks. Sooner or later, it will be used in a malicious way which puts yourself and others in the way of serious injury or death. This is not the way to construct a world that is safe—safe for ourselves, safe for each other, safe for our children, and safe for the vulnerable—be they old or young, friend or stranger. Violence is the not the way of the strong; in the end, violence is the way of those who see no other way. Regaining hope is the way we must work together to build a culture of non-violence in our city.
Where do we begin? First, human life is sacred, and we need to address the threat to life posed by knife violence with the full strength of our Catholic faith. Knife crime and violence, which is self-destructive, must always be condemned. Let us not forget that our Lord knew first-hand what violence could do—and never succumbed to it himself.
Secondly, we have become desensitised to knife violence and the resulting tragic deaths. People of peace remain shocked by all manifestations of violence. Violence—on the street or in the home—is never “the way things are.” While laws and regulations may help, we need a different way of thinking which turns such a dominant and destructive culture on its head. We need to come to the realisation that in wielding a knife, everything can be lost, and nothing gained.
Thirdly, there is a spiritual issue in that there is a loss of empathy towards other human beings. The truth of who we are—and of what we are—is at stake. Genuine empathy is the entry point into the commandment to love your neighbour and to live in peace. If the problem of violence in our country is to be overcome, we need a spiritual and moral conversion. We need to recover how we truly are—what it means to be a neighbour, what it means to be a sister or a brother, friend and neighbour.
Like the disciples in today’s gospel the draw is nearly always to go back to what we knew, and indeed where we are comfortable. Jesus leads his disciples: we follow. Of course, that is not to say this is easy. But courage is the mark of faith. In the end, the person of dynamic faith is not a credulous person, but a person of courage. Today we need God-given courage to communicate our vision of non-violence to a culture advocates carrying knives and wielding them to intimate people or settle disagreements.
We can look to today’s Gospel for ways out of our malaise. Like Simon Peter’s mother-in-law in today’s Gospel, we encounter Jesus and our world is radically changed. When Jesus says, “For this purpose I have come,” we are reminded that we too have a purpose in life. When the power in Jesus healed a physical illness, it pointed to his spiritual healing. Jesus’s healing miracles point beyond themselves to a universal need and mission. Like the people of His day, we need to see the values of His kingdom and to listen to the voice of the Spirit.
There is a line in today’s responsorial psalm which states: “The Lord heals the broken hearted.” Today, we pray to Lord for the one who has been mortally wounded in this latest act of inhuman violence. We pray for innocent people accidentally involved in evil. Bring the light of consolation, forgiveness, and healing to all broken hearts; Lord, console them with Your strength and, at the same time, take away any hatred and a desire for revenge. Bring us to serve our sisters and brother in new ways and with a new life.
We should have no hesitation in bringing our brokenness to God in prayer. Sharing ourselves with God in this way is not quite the same as asking God for something; we are telling our story to God, opening that story to God’s presence, to God’s influence.
We pray that we may be able to offer up whatever is on our hearts and minds to God and in doing that to find new strength, hope and courage. ENDS