Our Lady of Lourdes Church
The Gospel Message.
The Gospel1 we have just heard is actually the Gospel of the day that is being read in all Masses around the world. It was not chosen in particular for this sad occasion, but it does speak to the reality we are facing. It comes as a sign that God is with Neddy’s family and with this community.
This Gospel speaks to us in a powerful way: ‘You shall not kill‟. We are all aware of the circumstances of Neddy’s death, circumstances that have spiralled out of control, circumstances that have left families grieving in shock and pain, circumstances that have shocked the whole nation. All vengeful violence is to be condemned in the strongest terms possible, wherever it comes from. It only degrades the humanity of those who carry it out. Nobody deserves to die in the way that Neddy died.
The Dividing Line
The Gospel goes further. In condemning these acts of violence there is the danger that we ourselves commit another sin which is fairly common but rarely seen, and that is the sin of self-righteousness. When we condemn violence, we think that the dividing line between good and evil is somewhere out there and that we are standing on the right side of the line. If we forget that this dividing line between good and evil actually passes right through our very own hearts, then our condemnation becomes self-righteousness.
The Gospel says: ‘whoever is angry with his brother or sister will be liable to judgment‟. If we want to take a stand against evil, we have to start by rooting out from our very own hearts the seeds that do breed violence; we have to start by acknowledging that we ourselves are sinners. When last year Pope Francis met with prisoners in Bolivia he said, „Standing before you is a man who has been forgiven for his many sins…‟ He gives us an example of how to be humble in the face of evil, acknowledging that we too are guilty in some way.
How are we to respond in the face evil? St Paul tells us, Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good. (Rm 12:21) Evil can never be overcome by evil; for if we do resort to evil ways to achieve our aim, does that not mean that we have been actually overcome by evil? But if we do respond by goodness, then evil has already been overcome. Many people – family members, neighbours, friends, public figures – have shown a lot of goodness in the face of the present evil.
Goodness & Solidarity
In the last few days, Archbishop Martin reminded us that Every victim is some mother’s son. The Archbishop holds mothers and grandmothers in great regard, seeing them as ‘persons of wisdom’ who can appeal to the conscience of those involved to change their ways. When he had visited our Parish he said:
“There are great women in this parish, mothers and grandmothers, who when
things went wrong kept families together and worked without blowing any trumpets to generate a sense of solidarity and help for the less fortunate. Inner city Dublin has a great history of people looking after one another, especially when times are hard. That goodness springs up natural; it would be a tragedy if we were to lose that sense of good Dublin values.”
A Goodness nourished by Faith
The Goodness of the inner city is nourished by faith; we see it in Matt Talbot who shared in the life and goodness of his own people. We see it in Neddy, who was basically a good man, who would as a Taxi driver, waited on elderly ladies as they did their errands, he would share a good joke and was the life of a party, and he was good company in the pub. He did not deserve to die in this manner.
His tragic death happened just before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, forty days of prayer and fasting in preparation to commemorate Christ’s own passion and death. Jesus himself was the victim of violence; he himself was a victim of injustice. We see Jesus sharing in our humanity, sharing in our human condition, sharing in our suffering. He comes to us not in glory but in weakness and brokenness. When he was lifted on the cross, the first thing he did was to pray for his executioners. Forgiveness is at the very heart of the Christian message. This is
the year of mercy: Jesus is offering us forgiveness, inviting us to repentance, to change our ways.
But what does forgiveness mean? Forgiveness is not a sentimental feeling, but very often it involves a decision. In deciding to forgive his enemies, Jesus still felt the pain of the nails in his hands and feet! It means that one does not want the evil that one has experienced on others, not even on one’s enemies! In other words, it means that one does not want to seek revenge or to have retaliation. This is what the family had asked for, right from the very beginning, that there will be no retaliation. This is indeed ‘goodness’ in the face of evil. It was a request that unfortunately has not been respected; with the result that now more families are in bereavement. They now call on everybody for this cycle of violence to stop, and to stop now!
Mother of Goodness
The Pope has just completed a visit to Mexico, a land that has suffered many violent deaths. He visited the shrine of our Lady in Guadalupe which he described as a place that generates HOPE for the people who have suffered so much suffering.
We too have a Shrine, a National Shrine of Our Lady of Knock that has been a source of strength for the Irish Nation over the years. One of the visionaries, Dominick Beirne was quoted as saying on the evening of the vision “Well, I never knew how good I was ‟till now‟”. Mary is the Mother of goodness, we turn to her in this hour of our need and ask for her protection, and that we may recognise the goodness that God created in each of us.
May Neddy Hutch rest in Peace; may God have mercy on his soul, and reward him for his goodness, real Dublin goodness!
Praised be Jesus Christ; now and forever.
Richard Ebejer S.D.B.