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Homily of Bishop William Crean – 6th September 2020

23rd Sunday A

6th September 2020

St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh


“Your word is truth, O Lord”




My friends,


How tolerant are you? Would you see yourself as having an open mind? Or are you very fixed in your view of somethings but open in other ways.


Political correctness is pervasive in our time. There are certain views you dare not hold or express – and if you do you will, if you are a public figure, be branded as either a radical looney or a fundamentalist. There is a kind of thought police who are patrolling the public conversation and at their whim and fancy you can be cancelled. In the process of social media especially the lives and reputations of people are being destroyed. What makes this development truly frightening is that national governments are powerless to confront and control it on one level but depending on their motivation use it for their own end and purpose.


These thoughts come to mind when thinking of Jesus’ words in the Gospel “if your brother/sister does something wrong go and have it out with him/her alone, between your two selves”. If that works out – well and good – if not bring it to the community. Then he adds “whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven” “whatever you loose on earth will be considered loose in heaven”.


By which he means we are called to speak truthfully as an expression of our respect for one another.


And there is the kernel of the crisis of contemporary social discourse.


Because so much of life is now played out through spin and counter spin it is impossible almost to know where the truth lies.


The prophet Ezekiel is very stark in emphasising our responsibility to warn the sinner and wrong doer of the wickedness of his ways. We cannot stand idly by and wash our hands of others wrongdoing in the name of live and let live. That is a false and hollow tolerance.


There are many examples in Scripture and countless ones in life where the wicked plan the downfall or death of those who are courageous enough to speak the truth.


There are myriad strategies employed by way of ridicule and satire to silence those who dare to upset the consensus. Regrettably our political parties are satisfying themselves with very shallow thinking on the future shape of our society. With rare exceptions our discourse from the top down is characterized by a nebulous and fuzzy secularism whereby we are sleepwalking into a societal wasteland.


Ironically the pandemic that afflicts the world may well be an unwished and unplanned opportunity for nations to realign their priorities. Our expectations have suddenly been shattered. New realities have to be managed. A new vision of what makes for a wholesome society – of what facilitates the flourishing of families where individuals find security and support to live with dignity and contentment is necessary and urgent.


Tolerance of difference, respect for diversity are precious and important/noble values. But they are not absolute or without limits. Tolerance that ignores wrongdoing is a sham and façade. Tolerance that turns a blind eye to deceit and fraud is an abdication of responsibility to one another.


When answering the opening question as to “How tolerant are you”? It is good to distinguish between the core and essentials in life from the peripheral and superficial which can be the subject of personal taste and opinion.


Society needs moral benchmarks by which to organise ourselves. Our personal freedom needs to be balanced by concern for the common good. A society without shared sense of the common good becomes a jungle. In the jungle only the strongest survive.

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