Homily of Father Thomas Lalor for Funeral Mass of Jonathan Byrne RIP

05 Feb 2014

Homily of Father Thomas Lalor for Funeral Mass of Jonathan Byrne RIP

We are a Faith community. We believe that death is not the end of life – life continues forever with God. We gather in solidarity with the Byrne family. We stand beside them shoulder to shoulder because we are aware of their grief. We want to carry some of their grief for them. Some of the awful grief because of the loss of their son. And our hearts go out to Patrick who has been through so much in the last few days.

I call him Jonathan, his school mates/class mates, and friends all call him Jonny. I asked his father why they Christened him Jonathan and he explained about all the John Byrnes that were around and they wanted something a little different. They called him Jonathan. I always knew him as Jonathan from his primary school days and I like his family, call him Jonathan. Calling him Jonathan, the family appreciated his difference from the beginning, his specialness, his uniqueness. And Jonathan was unique/special. To highlight some of his specialness, his family/friends bring to the sanctuary little bits and pieces that emphasise his character.

Bringing up of Symbols
Hurley – Peter Shaw; Football – Philly Keogh; Jersey – Jordan Doyle; Photograph – Patrick Byrne

Last Saturday evening shortly after six o’clock, the Byrne family from Tomard were dealt an awful blow. Their world was torn asunder. The news spread. Around nine o’clock the Gardaí rang me to say that there was a tragedy in Milford and that the family would like me to be there. They gave no names. I went straight away. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and then Joe began telling me what happened. I was dumbfounded, I couldn’t understand. And the news spread Saturday night, all day Sunday. The ripples still spreading out on Monday. Today we are standing beside the Byrnes, trying to lessen their pain. We know we can’t. We feel so helpless. Jonathan 19 years of age, fine young man, a lovely character. I always found him very respectful, mannerly, courteous and easy going. Lots of you knew Jonathan from the world of sport. I was surprised to hear that he was so good at hurling. I didn’t think he would be assertive enough for hurling or football but his father pointed out to me that it was the special bit of skill that he had that gave him the edge.

Life is full of risks. We are always taking risks. If we didn’t take risks we wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Betting on a horse, passing a car at speed, robbing an orchard. Exciting- we get a buzz from it. Often the risks are harmless. Often we make great calculations before taking a risk. We know that if we fail the result can have disastrous consequences. And then add alcohol to the situation as is the case in so many of these ‘Neknominations’. And the peer pressure that brings modern risks, modern challenges that were unknown in my time, unknown over ten years ago. There is a huge clamp down on drink driving and rightly so. Alcohol reduces the ability to make proper responses. If you were putting €100, €50 or €20 on a horse you wouldn’t down a few pints first before making up your mind which horse you were going to bet on. And all this in the spotlight of a world-wide audience.

People need to be brave. People need to say no, find there is a greatness in this. You have heard of the “Power of One”. Just as this craze is supposed to have been started by one person, it can be stopped by one person. Let you be that person. If you are faced with this challenge, be strong, be great, and make a worthwhile contribution. You owe it to Jonathan Byrne. He achieved a lot in his short life. Look at the number of friends he had, the skill he had, and his athletic ability. I challenge you today to be as good a person as Jonathan was, to be the best you can be.

Life is a wonderful gift, a fragile gift, we are not made of stone. Life can be taken away from us in the twinkling of an eye. Life is precious. Enjoy it, enjoy it to the full. Make a full contribution. Get involved in helping and giving. Just like the mentors and officials in the sporting clubs. Volunteers see the satisfaction they get from the commitment they give. It is in giving that we receive. Look out for one another. Be good to one another, begin there.

I hope you remember today’s gospel story. I hope it touches a cord with you. Jesus’ suffering. Jesus’ death. The tears, the sadness, the disappointment, the despair. And the women going to the tomb on Sunday wondering who would roll back the stone for them. I bet if they had met Jonathan on the way he would have put his shoulder to the stone and pushed with all his might. But the stone was already rolled away. Jesus was alive again. Risen from the dead. I believe that the God who rolled back that stone on Easter Sunday morning has rolled the stone away for Jonathan and led him out of the darkness of the murky waters into his own wonderful light. There in the presence of his God, Jonathan will enjoy eternal light, peace and rest.

I hope that the same God will roll away the stone of sadness for Joe, Kathleen and Patrick and for all who grieve here today and that you will come to realise that Jonathan is alive now with his God, enjoying the fullness of life and love for all eternity.

Liturgical details

First Reading – Kay Byrne
A reading from the book of Wisdom
The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God,
no torment shall ever touch them,
In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die,
their going looked like a disaster,
their leaving us, like annihilation; but they are in peace,
If they experienced punishment as men see it,
their hope was rich with immortality;
slight was their affliction, great will their blessings be.
Cod has put them to the test and proved them worthy to be with him;
he has tested them like gold in a furnace,
and accepted them as a holocaust.
When the time comes for his visitation they will shine out;
as sparks run through the stubble, so wilt they.
They will judge nations, rule over peoples,
and the Lord will be their King for ever.
They who trust in him will understand the truth,
those who are faithful will live with him in love;
for grace and mercy await those he has chosen.
This is the word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Sung by the Choir

Second Reading – Nuala Kelly
Reading from the book of Revelation
I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth,
the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared
and there was no longer any sea.
I saw the hob city, and the new Jerusalem,
coming down from God out of heaven,
as beautiful as a bride all dressed up for her husband.
Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne.
You see this city? Here God lives among men.
He will make his home among them,
they shall be his people, and he will be their Cod,
his name is God – with – them.
He will wipe away all tears from their eyes;
there will be no more death,
and no mourning or sadness.
The of from the past has gone,
Then, the one sitting on the throne spoke:
Now I am making the whole of creation new, he said.
I will give water from the well of life free to anybody
who is thirsty, it is the rightful inheritance of the one
who proves victorious,
and I will be his God and he a son to me.
This is the Word of the Lord.

Gospel Acclamation Denise Byrne
Alleluia, Alleluia,
I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord,
Whoever believes in me will never die.

Prayer of the Faithful
Petey Shaw
For the family and friends of our brother Jonathan; that they may be consoled in their grief by the Lord who wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.
Lord hear us,

Philly Kehoe
For Jonathan, who in baptism was given the pledge of eternal life; that he may now be admitted to the company of the saints.
Lord hear us.

Jordan Doyle
For our brother Jonathan, who ate the body of Christ, the bread of life; that he may be raised up on the last day.
Lord here us.

Patrick Byrne
Comfort us in our sorrow at the death of Jonathan. Let our faith be our consolation, and eternal life and hope.
Lord here us.

Phil Byrne; Sinead Nevin; Kathleen Hazeltine; Mary Brimble.

Joe Byrne
I would like, on behalf of my family, to express our grateful thanks and appreciation to all those who came to our assistance in our darkest hour: An Garda Síochána; Fire and Rescue Service; Civil Defence; Ambulance Service; Dublin Sub Aqua Team; Shannon Based Helicopter Crew; Dr Foley Physiotherapist; Father Tom Lalor; the choir; neighbours and friends and all who came from near and far. The Guard of Honour from Naomh Bríd; Leighlinbridge GAA Club; Michael Davitt’s football Club; Vale Wanderers Soccer Club; Co Carlow GAA; Knockbeg College.


Father Thomas Lalor is Parish Priest of Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow, in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin

For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444