“Governments and great political movements have tried to take away the sins of the world and have often ended up becoming more corrupt and destructive themselves”, writes Fr Martin Delaney
A recent Sunday gospel proclaimed the familiar words: “Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” With those words, Jesus Christ was introduced on to the world stage by his cousin, John the Baptist. As familiar as I am with that phrase, it was the second part of it that shouted out at me. What an outrageous claim by John that Jesus could take away the sins of the world.
While thinking about this, my mind wandered back to a visit I made to a most fascinating museum in Washington DC. Washington is full of interesting museums but none more so than the Newseum. The Newseum is a museum dedicated to everything that has been newsworthy in history.
So much of what has been newsworthy has been violent, evil and destructive. There is a section which contains the largest piece of the Berlin wall outside Berlin, including a watch tower from the East German side. Next door is an area dedicated to 9/11 and the centre piece are the twisted remains of the antenna on top of one of the World Trade Centre towers.
From the assassination of leading world figures to the discovery of the link between smoking and cancer, this place is in many ways a museum of the sins of the world.
Throughout history, many groups and individuals have sought to tackle the sins of the world. Governments and great political movements have tried to take away the sins of the world and have often ended up becoming more corrupt and destructive themselves.
Communism is probably the perfect example because it supposedly sought to rid the world of two of its greatest sins; poverty and inequality. However, as Fr Bill Bausch says, “communism was a powerful, massive bureaucratic, atheistic movement with an elaborate spy system, secret police and censorship that ultimately failed to feed the people either physically or spiritually and so it collapsed”. The irony is that in history it has been the lambs and not the lions that have most effectively tackled the sins of the world.
One of the other exhibits in the Newseum is the original lunch counter from a restaurant in Greensboro North Carolina where, on February 1, 1960, four black students sat and asked to be served. Because it was a ‘whites only’ section they were refused. They in turn refused to move and their act of defiance ignited a civil rights movement which went a long way towards taking away one of the greatest sins of the world.
And there are countless examples of little lambs- lambs of God; little people of honesty and integrity who will conquer sin and take it away. In our own country I think of inspirational young people like Anthony Foley’s 11-year-old son Tony who launched a Facebook appeal to encourage people to go to Mass and pray for deceased loved ones; Donal Walsh the young Kerry teenager and cancer sufferer who encouraged people to live life to the full; and Joanne O’Riordan, who challenges our attitudes to those with disability.
For many of them, their inspiration is the Lamb of God spoken of by John the Baptist whose message and ministry involved turning the other cheek, praying for one’s enemies refusing to condemn the woman caught in adultery and running out to welcome home the prodigal son.
This is the Lamb who laid down his life for his friends but through that apparent act of weakness he has strengthened and inspired all of us who choose to follow him.
THE PRIEST APPEARS on Sunday for Mass and his face is covered with small plasters. He explains that as he was shaving that morning he was looking at the text of his sermon and while distracted he cut his face several times. A written message comes up in the collection plate which read: “Next Sunday Father, please look at your face and cut the sermon!!”
I’M A GREAT FAN of Billy Keane’s weekly column in the Irish Independent. He can be quite irreverent which is part of the appeal for me. On more than one occasion Billy has written about his childhood friend Fr Pat Moore. I knew of Pat many years ago when I started working in Catechetics. Pat is a genius, a man steeped in poetry and literature, a man of deep spirituality particularly in the Celtic tradition.
Sometime ago in Billy’s column, he quoted extensively from a homily Fr Pat gave at a wedding of two of their mutual friends. One passage I found particularly moving: “To love somebody is an art. It doesn’t come simply or cheaply, it is a lifetime’s work. It is a risk. There will be storms, but there will be times when the beauty of your lives together brings unexpected joy. Deeply buried hurts will resolve and release themselves…healing light flows from unknown regions of the heart…love does change everything. Where there is fear, courage begins to dawn, confusion gives way to clarity. In old walls unexpected doors open. Hearts awaken…Here in St Mary’s church, in this house of wise and intuitive shelter, God’s house, you are surrounded by family, friends people who wish you well”.