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Bishop Denis’ Homily on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God & 57th World Day of Peace

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God – World Day of Peace 01.01.24

I am delighted to welcome you to our Mass, honouring New Year’s Day, the 57th World Day of Peace, the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Often the blessing from the Book of Numbers frames our thoughts and wishes this day: “May the Lord bless you, and keep you. May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace” .


The first message this New Years Day on my phone was: “your screen time was down 25% last week for an average of 2 hours, 45 minutes a day”. The detail was frightening. It shows how much Artificial Intelligence is impinging on our personal freedoms.

The message was also a bit disappointing, my screen time should have been down allot more, it was after all the days after Christmas! And thirdly spending, wasting, losing, 2 hours 45 minutes a day, is in itself a tad troubling. Might there be a New Years Resolution tucked in there somewhere!

I don’t understand algorithms, but they certainly make every effort to understand us. More and more they encroach on our space. Pope Francis in his message on this the 57th World Day of Peace focuses on ‘Artificial Intelligence and Peace’, concluding that “an obsessive desire to control everything, we risk losing control over ourselves; in the quest for an absolute freedom, we risk falling into the spiral of a ‘technological dictatorship’. Recognising and accepting our limits as creatures is an indispensable condition for reaching, or better, welcoming fulfilment as a gift” . Algorithms determine so many aspects of our lives, but not without cost. We can’t allow such a philosophy to determine how we understand human rights, how we dispense mercy or forgiveness and how we calculate the level of compassion in a given situation.

I’m very conscious that a lot of work has gone into the preparation of this Mass for Peace and Justice. I thank the many agencies, particularly An Garda Síochána for their involvement in the preliminary preparations for this New Years Day celebration with the Parish Team.

The world needs this message of peace and justice very forcibly this year, there are too many ongoing conflicts that disturb our world order. Social media, newsprint only focus on what’s current and where the greatest traction or trending rests. The horrendous events of October 7th unleashed a devastating upsurge of violence in the Middle East over the last three months of the past year. International agencies seemed unable to respond with one voice. Far too many lives, particularly innocent women and children were lost, because they couldn’t find the unanimous rhetoric or agreed script. We pray that 2024 will change that. It is only by sitting around a table can peace take hold; it’s as easy to do that in the early part of the year as it is to wait until too many more innocent lives are blasted into eternity.

The prophet Isaiah spells out the effect of justice in one word ‘peace’. The wilderness becomes fertile again . St. James reminds us where you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony , the opposite of peace. Our gospel from St. Matthew opens up for us the only response to wickedness is no resistance, is turning the other way. This isn’t easy. This isn’t easy when one lives in a home where there is domestic abuse. Domestic violence is the silent pandemic that sweeps our island. No one should be silent in the face of abuse. The prophet Isaiah speaks of “my people will live in a peaceful home, in safe houses, in quiet dwellings” , while new domestic violence refuges were recently announced for Dublin and Cork, we need our own in Carlow.

In a world sadly riven by the heartache of war, we are reminded of the brokenness and fragility of humanity. The war in Ukraine is starving those in Afghanistan and in the Horn of Africa of much needed grain. The war in the Middle East is spreading into the gulf and will soon impact on world trade. Every conflict, in a kitchen or on a border crossing has ramifications elsewhere. As we gather this day, let us put our trust in the Prince of Peace and in Mary his mother.

I conclude with a slightly adapted Prayer for Peace from a Diocesan Reach Out initiative some years ago:
“Lord our God, Father of all humanity:
change the hearts of all peoples and their rulers,
so that peace may be established among the nations
on the foundations of justice, love and righteousness.
May the Spirit of Peace descend
upon the people of Gaza, Palestinian Territory, Israel, Ukraine, Myanmar, Nicaragua and upon all troubled areas of our world until all conflicts cease
and peace reigns on earth. Amen” .