All things are possible – Homily by Fr. Yanas

26 Feb 2019 by Mark Trudeau, Comments Off on All things are possible – Homily by Fr. Yanas

In the history of the Irish nation, few events are as significant as the Easter uprising of 1916. At the time, many of the Irish took up arms against the British, who were then unjustly occupying their country .One of the leaders of the revolution was James Connolly, a husband and father of six children. Although he had little formal education he was considered a true scholar by his contemporaries and had adopted Socialist views in politics. Like his comrades he had one objective in mind, namely, to end British rule in Ireland. Quite simply, he wanted the British out. On that memorable Easter day, James Connolly was seriously wounded in a fire fight with British soldiers. He was later captured and later sentenced to death. On the day of his execution, the badly injured Connolly was carried to the prison courtyard, the site of the execution, on a stretcher. Even then, he was close to death. Unable to stand on his own, he was strapped to a chair. An English priest was on hand to administer the last rites of the Catholic Church. Just moments before his death, he made a stunning request of the priest.  “I ask that you say a prayer for the soldier who is about to shoot me”, he whispered. “I will say a prayer for all men who do their duty according to their lights”. While strapped to the chair, James Connolly was executed by a British firing squad. For the cause of a Free Ireland, he gladly and bravely suffered a martyr’s death. According to reputable historians, the British overplayed their hand. Connolly earned the respect of every person who sought freedom and was committed to fighting against all forms of tyranny. Today, James Connolly’s name is inscribed in the Irish Roll of Honor.

How do we account for Connolly’s magnanimous gesture in the face of a grave injustice? How is such a thing possible? James Connolly was a man of faith. A devout Catholic, he embraced the teachings of Jesus and, in particular, his rather difficult teaching of showing mercy to one’s enemies.

All things are possible to the one who believes! (Mk.9:23) Today’s gospel from Luke’s sixth chapter is a continuation of Jesus’ so-called Sermon on the Plain. His standards are nothing less than demanding. The mystery of the cross looms large in his teachings. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who mistreat you” (Lk.6:27-28). As his disciples, they are to show forth the compassion and mercy of his heavenly Father. As the Father is kind toward all creatures, even those who are not themselves kind, even wicked, so are these disciples to be. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk.6:36).

Time and again, we hear stories of Christians who have shown remarkable compassion in the face of evil. Recall the extraordinary kindness of the late Pope John Paul II. After he recovered from nearly fatal gunshot wounds, John Paul went to the prison, where the man who attempted to kill him, Mehemet Ali Agca, was incarcerated. He offered him words of forgiveness. Even the secular media, rarely disposed to praising the Catholic bishops, were impressed. On the cover page of Time magazine shortly thereafter,, a photograph of the two men appeared along with the caption, “Why Forgive: The Pope pardons the gunman”.

The sixteenth century English jurist and chancellor under King Henry VIII, St. Thomas More, died in the infamous Tower of London. For his opposition to the king, he was tortured and later executed. Just before his unjust death, he was asked by his guards if he had anything to say. Thomas spoke of reconciliation in the life hereafter. His sublime words are worth noting:

“I trust, and therefore shall heartily pray, that though your Lordships have now here on earth been judges in my condemnation, we may yet hereafter in heaven merrily all meet together, to our everlasting salvation and thus I desire Almighty God preserve and defend the King’s majesty and to send him good counsel”.

St. Paul exhorted the Christians of Rome to show mercy to their enemies. “Bless your persecutors”, he writes, “bless and do not curse them” (Rom.12:14)

In the past, how have we responded to those who have wounded us? Do we bear grudges?  Do we take to heart the words we recite at every mass: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Do we truly appreciate God’s mercy toward each one of us?

How might I show mercy to others? If we truly put into practice our Lord’s teachings, “our reward will be great and we will be children of the Most High” (Lk.6:35).

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