- “Why did it have to happen to this person or that person? Why did they have to be there at that awful moment? The bereaved and the injured have to carry the awful insecurity of these questions … Jesus is present to us in our need … Do not be afraid to call on Jesus to help you through the next hour, the coming days. ” – Bishop McGuckian
At this time the people of Creeslough are living through a nightmare of shock and horror since the very heart of the community was deeply wounded on Friday afternoon. It is an experience that we are living through together, but we recognise that the trauma is different for each single individual. We hold in our hearts most especially those for whom the shock is most acute: we think firstly of the ten who have lost their lives and gone to God and those nearest to them who are most bitterly bereaved; those who are injured and struggling to recover in body and spirit; everyone, both the community and the first responders in the public services who have carried the burden of being close to the tragedy as it has unfolded; we remember everyone, here in Creeslough and throughout the country who feels helpless and shaken by the shock of what has happened.
At our Sunday Mass we are invited to let the Word of God speak to us exactly where we are at, in this moment. I encourage you to stop for a moment and consider the Gospel scene presented to us this morning. Let us look at the ten people with leprosy with new eyes. They were broken and bruised by life, their fate in life was to carry a shocking burden, to feel themselves excluded, profoundly alone and abandoned. Leprosy was much more than a skin disease; the greatest burden was psychological and social. We are invited to stand with them, among them, in our situation today.
As people have gathered together in groups to talk about what has happened here these past few days the one word that stands out for me in relation to the explosion is ‘Random’. We have a sense it could have been anybody who was caught up in it. There is something deeply shocking and upsetting about what life can throw up. We ask: why did it have to happen to this person or that person? Why did they have to be there at that awful moment? The bereaved and the injured have to carry the awful insecurity of these question. Others could equally be shaken by a sense of guilt; why was it them and not me who was hit by the ‘randomness’ of this tragedy?
It is fundamentally a terrible realisation that we are not masters of our own destiny; we are very fragile and vulnerable. In that sense we all can identify with Gospel’s account of the ten people with leprosy, especially in their experience of loneliness and abandonment. Just as we seek out the company of others to help us through this experience, it is not surprising that they needed to band together, in a group of ten.
If we can for a moment see ourselves as standing with them, accepting our fragility, our lack of control in any ultimate sense, then we are invited to join them in looking beyond ourselves for the support we need. First of all, let us hear their cry of need: Jesus, Master, take pity on us!
They had no control anymore; they were profoundly aware of their helplessness, and they saw before them someone they could turn to and put their trust in: Jesus, Master, take pity on us!
Here at Mass on this Sunday morning the Lord Jesus wants us to realise that He is really present with us, in his Word, the Gospel story that we have just read, and in the Eucharist that we will shortly celebrate. He is present to us in our need as He was to those who suffered from leprosy in today’s Gospel.
We can make the prayer ‘Jesus, Master, take pity on us!’ for ourselves. We are a community in need, like the group of ten, and so we make the prayer for each other and especially for the ones most cruelly affected, the ones most traumatised by loss and grief.
At this moment when life can seem to be ‘Random’ and unreliable and threatening we are invited to trust in the presence of Jesus coming towards us as He came to the lonely group of ten. We meet Him in faith and we cry out in faith: Jesus, Master, take pity on us!
It initially says of the ten people with leprosy in the Gospel: ‘They stood some way off and called to him.’ Jesus invites every single one of us in the days ahead not to be afraid to call out to Him. If you feel that you are ‘some way off’ still, call out: Jesus, Master, take pity on us! Then, come close to Christ like the person with leprosy who threw himself at Jesus’ feet. Allow Him to touch your own wounds, your brokenness, your despair, your grief. Do not be afraid to call on Jesus to help you through the next hour, the coming days.
Here in Creeslough – and in all churches across Donegal, in the hospital and university chaplaincy, in the schools – all know that you can call upon the clergy, teachers, fellow parishioners and Jesus truly present in Eucharist. Jesus wants us to come close to Him in our brokenness.
As we do that we can, let us turn to Saint Paul and let the words he wrote to Timothy all those years ago speak to us:
If we have died with him, then we shall live with him.
If we hold firm, then we shall reign with him.
If we disown him, then he will disown us.
We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful,
for he cannot disown his own self.
Notes for Editors
- Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ is Bishop of Raphoe. This homily was delivered at Mass on Sunday 9 October 2022
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long +353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Lisa Sheridan +353 (0) 86 084 3175.
Click here to subscribe to our weekly Sharing the Good News eZine