Fr Maurice Henry, SMA Provincial Councillor, preached at the 3rd evening of the SMA Novena in honour of Our Lady at St Joseph’s SMA Church, Blackrock Road, Cork.
From childhood, many of us grew up with a sense of great tragedy and injustice as we heard every Christmas time, of the death of the “Holy Innocents”, when the wicked King Herod killed all the babies of Bethlehem under two years to ensure that he could not be challenged as King. That was in the year of the birth of Our Lord Jesus. The lingering memory of a terrible injustice lives on in the minds of most believers.
Alan Kurdi was only three years old when he alone shocked the world on 15 September, 2015. Images of Alan’s limp and lifeless body washed ashore on a Turkish beach were beamed around the world on our TV sets and made headlines on the world press. His body picked up by a policeman was a powerful symbol of the suffering of the Syrian refugees who are driven from pillar to post around the countries of Europe whose peoples believe that they are threatened by the stranger arriving in their midst.
When I see that child in my mind’s eye, carried in the policeman’s arms, my mind turns to the image of the infant Jesus in Mary’s arms as Joseph led his family into Egypt as refugees, fleeing from the wrath of Herod. One child was limp and lifeless because of rejection by humankind; the other was safe and secure under the protection of the nurturing love of a mother and a caring father, although all were refugees. WE can make either response to the refugee: reject or befriend; drive them out or support them.
During my years in Africa, I’ve met hundreds on the roads fleeing from the destruction of farmlands due to famine after the Sahelian drought north of Nigeria; and in Nigeria itself, I’ve encountered thousands in camps and on the roads after communal riots and violence, all seeking refuge and acceptance from those of secure circumstance and well-being. A similar plight attends the thousands of refugees on the move today whether along the roads of Syria, or Afghanistan, along the routes of southern Europe or on the high seas of the Mediterranean.
There was an outpouring of sympathy and of promises of support after the pictures of the three year old Alan flashed through the world media. Germany promised to take in one million and other countries also made generous offers. With the on-going surge of migrants, public sympathy waned and some countries began to erect fences and barbed wire to keep them out – all reminiscent of the first Palm Sunday when the Lord was welcomed into Jerusalem with waving palm branches but by the end of the week, the fickle crowd screamed: “crucify him, crucify him”
Such moments as these force us to examine our common humanity, of the journey through life that beckons all of us forward along our pilgrim way – many enjoy health and supportive living conditions while others experience great illness, pain, hunger, rejection and inhuman living conditions. The sixty million refugees uprooted in our fractious world today are an affront to all of us because we have the same God as Father and share the same brotherhood and sisterhood, on our life journey. Young three-year-old Alan on the beach of Turkey could be any of our children.
Pope Francis has called on all of us to show compassion and mercy to our neighbour, to the stranger in this “Year-of-Mercy”. We have the example of Our Lady, Mirror of Justice, reflecting the justice, virtue and compassion of her Son. Our Christian models are ever before us but we have to choose to be Christian, to be just, to be compassionate in response to our baptism and Christian calling. It is not the government that chooses for us; it’s our hearts, our attitudes and our actions that inspire our choices. This evening and during this Novena we are in a prayerful space to set our values aright. Our Novena to Our Lady is a medium and opportunity of prayer for us to shape our aspirations and choices.
Our Lady Mirror of Justice pray for us that we may make the correct choices and responsible decisions.
Maurice Henry SMA – 22 May 2016