Fifth Sunday of Lent – Year A: 26.03.2023
Seventeen hours have passed since the beginning of summertime. We like this time of the year, as we notice that greater stretch in the evening. Time is wonderful, particularly the time that determines the amount of daylight hours.
It’s exactly one year, 26th March 2022, since Bishop Jim Moriarty passed from time with family and friends into eternity with a loving and merciful God. Those close to him were conscious even then that Jim was gradually slipping from us, as illness had taken a greater grip on his life.
The Church in her understanding of time, encourages us to mark particular anniversaries, and that’s what we are doing this evening here in the Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow. The place where Jim presided for eight years and in the grounds outside where his mortal remains rest in the company of those who preceded him.
I welcome warmly Jim’s brothers Michael and Denis and his sister Ann; his sisters-in-law Mary, Anne and Fiona and their families who gather with us this evening. It’s great that we are joined by Bishop Paul Dempsey who worked alongside Jim on several projects but particularly around World Youth Days and Vocations. I welcome the concelebrating priests, who collaborated closely with Jim in life. I welcome very much the religious, the Faith Development Services team and others who have travelled from around the diocese and further afield to be here this evening, the Fifth Sunday on our Lenten journey.
This Sunday we meet an inconsolable Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus. In a powerful gospel that strongly affirms belief in the resurrection, Jesus ministers to His close friends. And while He is reproached for turning up late; He lets the scene unfold that allows the glory of God to win through. As we offer a prayer for Jim this evening, we do so also in the confident hope that once again God’s glory will prevail in the knowledge that we will meet all those we have loved in life and lose to death, in eternity. And so for our moments of doubt, darkness and disbelief in life, we ask for forgiveness …
- Lord Jesus, you raise the dead to life in the Spirit. Lord, have mercy
- Christ Jesus, you bring pardon and peace to the sinner. Christ, have mercy
- Lord Jesus, you bring light to those in darkness. Lord, have mercy
I’m always intrigued how computers, smartphones, desktops and what are known as atomic clocks automatically synchronize as the time changes – forward for the summer and backwards for winter. As we were sleeping we can only imagine their feverish activity at 1o’clock this morning!
It saves a lot of searching for that Philips screwdriver that we left in a safe place to manually adjust the clock or indeed calling into the garage mechanic to reset the time on the car dashboard! I knew a driver who never altered the time clock in his car, with the logic that it would be right for at least half the year! Of course that’s not living in the real world. As human beings we know we need time to adjust; we’re not made with that inbuilt radio signal or computer chip! My late dad would ask as he checked the time on these days around the clock changing, enquiring: “was that old time or new time?”.
Old time puts off the inevitable. Time and Eternity. It’s not something we reflect on every day. Standing at the end of the grave is a stark reminder that one day it will be us. John’s gospel offers us a powerful message on God’s timing. We might not always be pleased with God’s timing, sometimes we might feel he is procrastinating, tardy in his response, asleep to our prayers and petitions. Martha certainly has no difficulty letting Jesus have a piece of her mind as he arrived somewhat late. That what makes John’s gospel on this fifth Sunday of Lent so beautiful. We have the despondency in Martha’s tone, we have the emotion in the crackling voice of Jesus and we have the complete silence of Lazarus.
When someone we love dies, we too can go through a raft of emotions. Maybe like Martha we struggle to know what to say, and maybe sometimes say the wrong thing. Perhaps like Jesus we too can let the grief take over us. Or are we like Lazarus, a time to be silent and simply present? I notice there is much greater use now of the condolence section on the rip.ie website. Sometimes we say things like “sorry for your loss” or “sorry for your troubles”. It takes ownership of our feelings in the face of someone else’s loss, acknowledging that it’s the other persons loss, not ours, theirs. And those words “loss” or “troubles” are good ones, because when someone dies, there are many losses and much to grieve.
When Bishop Jim slipped into his bed with the angels exactly a year ago the loss was felt by many – you his family, especially Michael, Denis and Ann; his diocesan family, both in Dublin and here in Kildare & Leighlin; his many life-long friends and others whose lives he impacted hugely. I’m very conscious that Kildare & Leighlin was privileged to have just a slice of Jim’s life that lasted eight years, from 2002-2010. It was a time of great renewal in the diocese. Many of the themes associated today with our synodal pathway were very much ad idem then with Jim.
His missionary impulse to hear every voice, particular the voice of young people. His outreach to the margins, to the peripheries in his many ‘Reach Out’ initiatives. His pastoral approach encouraging all women and men to live out the full understanding of their baptismal calling. His walking with people in their joys and sorrows, celebrating Confirmations, meeting people at the ploughing or simply sitting with those in their pain and anger.
Clericalism was wholly alien to him. He would very much have a friend in Pope Francis. When he offered to resign in the wake of the Murphy Report on December 23rd 2009, he described that decision as one of the most difficult decisions of his entire ministry. It was done in response to his own reflection that he himself did not criticise, when he should have, a culture that needed to be challenged. The fact that he is now laid to rest outside this Cathedral allows that profound example of humble leadership to be rightly honoured both in time and in eternity. May he rest in peace on this the first evening of summertime. Amen.