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Bishop Denis’ Homily on Day for Life 2024

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B:                                      16.06.24


The Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, also this year is ‘Day for Life’, a day we share with the Churches across all these islands.

The Ordinary of Church Time is a time of quiet uninterrupted growth: “night and day …  the seed is sprouting and growing[1]. Our parables in Mark’s gospel speak to the theme of life.

The pastoral care of life is larger than the beginning or ending of life. Being pro-life is about living life to the fullest and respecting every form of life, particularly human life at its most tender and delicate stage.

The presence of God is today that seed that shows huge potential in all our lives. For moments when we disrespected life or disregarded the value of life, let us pray for God’s love and mercy …

First Reading: Book of Ezekiel: tells us something about the Creator God who “stunts tall trees and makes the low one grows[2] … with Ezekiel’s God there is a definiteness of purpose and intention … our first reading …

Second Reading: St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: offers us a reading we more familiarly hear at funeral Masses … living in the body or exiled from it is the tension that exists today between the sacred and the secular … our second reading …


Mark tells two parables in the short few verses in this mornings gospel. One is about the need for patience when growth is slow. The second is on that tiny yellow dust we call a mustard seed. I love mustard or at least I used to, more about that later!

First to that virtue of patience. It doesn’t come easily to any of us. Technology has changed our lives in many ways. We have light, heat, music, all at the flick of a switch. I heard someone recently say as we entered a room, “Siri, turn on the lights!”, even the switch is becoming redundant!

In moments when it’s a struggle to find the right answer, we need to learn how to adapt to being patient. The mustard seed becomes the greatest tree, reflecting abundant life and health. Most of us have experiences of life in its abundance, we are at our best. But that’s never the entire story.

We have all journied with people at tender moments of life, maybe even ourselves. This years ‘Day for Life’ message focuses on having compassion and hope at the end of life. Sometimes the media speaks of “assisted suicide” or the “right to die”, there is no right to die. With proper palliative care, all pain can be relieved. Being dependent on one another is nothing to be ashamed of, but allows us to come to a deeper encounter with one another – “ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine” (it’s in the shelter of each others’s lives we live).

The ‘Day for Life’ message reminds us there is no such thing as a useless life, life always has dignity. “We support people with the companionship of a listening ear, appropriate treatment, and the best of care, so that their last days can be times of grace, intimacy and love”[3]. We see the hospice people do this beautifully in the local community. I attend many wakes, and often hear great praise of the hospice nurse, or maybe the carer, who held our loved ones hand when it wasn’t possible for us to be there.

The message speaks of Matt’s story and I encourage you to read the message online. But of course it’s all our stories. I think of my dad, four years waiting for God to call him. We journied with him for those four years and it wasn’t always easy on him or on us. But there is a grace to being present. And that’s the greatest gift we can offer. It’s not so much what we do that makes the difference, but simply the fact that we are present, and that we are ready to listen.

A little like the farmer who sows the seed but must let nature take its course. So much of life is outside our control, and when we try to control it, we need to resign ourselves that God is the great giver of life, indeed the elixer of life. I saw a tree last Friday that the tour guide reminded me it was most likely there in Cromwells time, that makes it nearly 400 years old. It was once a seed and a small seed and now it’s a huge sweet chestnut!

Returning to the mustard seed, although we are more familiar in these parts with mustard powder; forty days without something can do strange things to your taste buds. My lenten sacrifice some years back and today I am no longer as dependant as I was on that tiny little seed. May we all value life in its many forms in its fullness this day.

[1] Mk.4:27

[2] Ez.17:24

[3] ‘Day for Life’ Message 2024

Matt’s story is available at