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Homily of Bishop William Crean – 5th Sunday of Easter A – 7th May 2023

5th Sunday of Easter A

St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh

7th May 2023

“Darkness into Light”

My friends,

“Darkness into Light” is now a national movement. It was founded in 2006. It emerged from the personal turmoil that Joan Freeman, its founder, went through as she endured a personal darkness from which she had a ‘light-bulb’ moment which became a great light personally and for others. Her breakthrough moment came from her reflection on the Pieta by Michelangelo. The Pieta depicts Our Lady supporting the broken body of Jesus. Joan was overwhelmed by this magnificent sculpture hewn from a single piece of white Carrara marble. What struck her most forcefully was the light and compassion of Mary’s face as she held so tenderly the broken body of her son Jesus.

Her inspiration was to desire that as many as need it should have a Pieta experience – a house, a place, a home of support for those who were made fragile by life. No wonder then that so many participate in the Darkness into Light journey.

The great grace that Pieta House brings is the opportunity to talk about the trauma that a death by suicide visits on families. So many join in the walk because they have been touched by the reality of death by suicide.

When a suicide takes place in the community it is very difficult to talk about it – its too close and too painful. There is often a great burden of guilt because of the unanswered and unanswerable questions. We are left wondering as to why?

Joan Freeman was inspired to create spaces where those struggling with meaning, purpose, sadness, joylessness and emptiness can find the support and encouragement in life. For some it is a spiritual crisis – in the words of the psalm “a valley of darkness”. For others it is a series of negative experiences which drag them down where they become vulnerable to substance abuse as a way of coping.

Looking at society as a whole – suicide does not discriminate either by age, sex, or status. However, we know that some groups are more vulnerable than others – young men more than young women; young travellers over the settled community. For all of us it raises serious questions about the changes taking place among us and its effects on people. Questions by way of employment for many people – left to work for low pay and limited contracts. The lack of housing which is playing havoc with families. The emergence of a two-tier society where one half are relatively well off and the rest are left to struggle on the edge of poverty.

Add the growing absence of a spiritual core to people’s outlook on life and we have the ingredients of a very turbulent future because a sense of unfairness generates frustration and anger.

The opening lines of to-day’s Gospel

“Do not let your hearts be troubled Jesus says

Trust in God still, and trust in me

There are many rooms in my Father’s house

If there were not, I would have told you” Later on he adds

“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”

Our prayer doesn’t save from life’s pain and loss – it does enable and empower us not to be broken by its strain.

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