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Homily of Bishop William Crean – 5th Sunday B – 4th February 2024

5th Sunday B

St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh

4th February 2024

“Those who suffer from diseases of one kind or another – came to Jesus”

My friends,

It is 45 years ago since St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta received the Nobel Peace Prize. She accepted it on behalf of her Congregation who have served the poor with extraordinary love – and do so all over the world. On that occasion she took the opportunity to speak of the poverty of spirit and life in so many parts of the Western World – a poverty of soul that cries out to us – to come out of our shell-like cocoons and engage with one another with care.

In doing so is pointing to a reality that prevails even more widely to-day.

We are deeply aware, of late, of the widespread violence and war in the world – the images are sometimes too horrific to watch. Aside from that “man-made” war situation we have in our midst a great deal of personal suffering. Every person has experienced loss and pain to some degree. In its extreme level it seems to defy the best doctors – as some are afflicted by chronic pain, relentless discomfort along with depression also. This part of human journey defies answers as to why? Job in the Old Testament speaks of the drudgery of life for many, be it boredom of routine or the restlessness that comes from not finding peace.

We’re told of Jesus visiting Peter’s (Mother-in-law) that there were huge crowds with all kinds of diseases and afflictions who came to him for healing and we’re told he healed many and cast out many demons. Then we’re told he went away by himself to pray – while Simon and the others set out in search of him – because so many were looking for him. Yet Jesus chose to move on to other towns.

St. Mother Teresa made the poor her special care while also addressing the spiritual poverty of so many who like those in the Gospel “suffer from diseases of one kind or another”. These profound levels of illness of body and spirit means that every health service in the world is overwhelmed with demand. One doubts if it can ever be met and satisfied. We live in a culture where some out there can and will fix our ills or problems. The reality is that healthcare both of body and spirit can only do so much for any of us. Some suffering, like bereavement and loss, or chronic pain and terminal illness cannot be cured. The best that’s possible is some alleviation and support.

There is in that respect no one who can take the place of our own efforts to understand and cope with our affliction. Each one has a unique and personal journey – sometimes happy, exhilarating and joyful but we know also marked by loss, illness and frailty. Whether young or getting on in years this inner journey is before us. It invites us to keep an even path – avoid the traps of envy and bitterness, cherish the good things especially the small, seemingly unimportant nuggets of blessings. The key to this balance is self-reflection and prayer.

A simple question is worth thinking on as we close each day – What was going on for me to-day? Through its various events. As your thoughts unfold bring them to God in prayer. This pattern of personal practice gradually deepens a sense of humility and authenticity of life – it is grace in action for us.

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