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Homily of Bishop Denis from Mass in Portlaoise, Sunday 20 February 2022

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C: 20.02.2022, 10am – St. Peter & Paul’s Church, Portlaoise


Last Sunday we were told how blessed we were and how awful things could be … “happy are you” … “alas for you”. This morning we continue with a most powerful piece of writing from Luke that has inspired and continues to inspire great leaders of the modern world.

In Luke’s lines we find Saint John Paul II; Mahatma Ghandi; Mother Teresa … people who spoke a language of non-confrontation; people who walk the road of no turning back; people who give and expect nothing in return. We might even include Pope Francis in that list, as he invites us to walk the universal synod journey with him.

I’m afraid we’re not on that list ourselves, we have a lot to do living up to Luke’s vision, let’s begin by leaving ourselves open to receive the forgiveness, the mercy of God …

  • Lord Jesus, you ask us to love our enemies, forgive us for not even loving our friends … Lord have mercy
  • Christ Jesus, you ask us to take no revenge, forgive us for never letting the opportunity pass … Christ have mercy
  • Lord Jesus, you ask us to give generously, forgive us for amassing our small fortunes … Lord have mercy


This is a Sunday that strangely often doesn’t feature in the Church Cycle, depending on when Ash Wednesday falls. Easter is as they say, “late this year”! And if Easter is late, April 17th, then by subtraction, Ash Wednesday is also late – March 2nd.

And it isn’t easy stuff this morning. Let’s be honest some parts of that gospel sit uneasy with us! If the Beatitudes of last Sunday were seen as the application form for Christians, todays text that immediately follows those Beatitudes is the short-listing. Every verse in the eleven verses of Luke challenged me, and I very much imagine most of you. Let’s apply a few of those verses to ourselves …

Loving our enemies … we find it very hard to be upfront and really love and respect our friends, our enemies haven’t a chance! Bless those who curse us … that neighbor constantly bad mouthing us! Turning the other cheek … already our face is changing colour, our hair is bristling, our blood is boiling. Do not judge … and we know the whole story, we know where she is coming from, we know what he’s been up to! Give … in an age when the volunteer, the recruit, the helpers on the ground are that little less comfortable as we emerge out of lockdown! Treat us badly … well that has many connotations, sadly as a Church we have much to say sorry for in a past where we failed to properly mind those placed in our care for whom family in many cases wished to forget.

I receive many letters and often the post in the morning brings it the most unexpected. One such letter arrived on Thursday last. It was handwritten, very articulate and ran for twenty-five pages. The story of a young man, whom I happen to know well, now in an institution and will be for some time. The twenty-five pages told me how and where he was forgotten by state, by church, by society. He mentioned counties, towns and parishes that in different ways turned their back on him. He wants me to pass on his letter to Pope Francis to tell him and all of us in simple terms that no one should be homeless, no one should be sleeping in doorways, no one should be cowering in adoration chapels, no one should be sheltering in porches. The nights he was arrested, the evenings he was admitted into A&E were gold dust for him, he didn’t sleep outdoors that night. And sadly in A&E when he could offer no permanent address, and told them he was homeless, he was sent back out into the cold again. This young man has been failed by all of us, his family included. And there are many like him.   

Too much energy is wasted in society over begrudgery, point scoring. If it’s not the neighbouring parish, it’s the next town; if it’s not the neighbor, its someone in the family. Use that energy more productively, run for the spare coat, thank the beggar who calls to your door, disturbing your Sunday peace, give generously to those who live by that gift alone. You might be seen as “a soft touch”, then again God’s Kingdom will be overcrowded with similar soft touches. You’ll meet David there, who saw an opportunity to kill Saul but walked away from it. And of course, you’ll meet the softest of them all, Jesus himself, who rubbed the spittle, wrote on the ground and sweated tears of blood in Gethsemane.

So am I on that short list? Only each of us can answer for themselves.