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Homilies - Bishop Brendan Leahy

World Day of Peace


January 1st 2022. World Day of Peace, St. John’s Cathedral, Limerick

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

Homily Notes of Bishop Brendan Leahy

We begin the year celebrating the Solemnity of Our Lady, Mother of God. How do we imagine Our Lady? How do artists depict her? We see her and this is how she is depicted – as a woman who is at peace; she radiates peace; she instils peace. She brings peace, starting from nurturing and caring for the Peace who is Christ within her. So perhaps it’s not by chance that January 1st is also the World Day of Prayer for Peace.

We hear in the First Reading the beautiful blessing directed to each of us: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’

Mary brings peace. She does so with all her heart, soul and mind.

Each year the Pope issues a message to mark the World Day of Peace. This year the message is entitled, “Dialogue Between Generations, Education and Work: Tools for Building Lasting Peace”. You will find the message on line and it is well worth reading and meditating.

Pope Francis makes the point that peace is both a gift from on high and the fruit of our shared commitment. We must do all we can believing it depends us on us but knowing it depends on God. That certainly was Mary’s attitude.

Certainly, we must pray for peace and that’s what we are doing here today. But then each of us is called to live the “art” of peace we find in the Gospel. In living this art, we also contribute to forming what the Pope calls the “architecture” of peace.

An important element of the day to day art of building peace is the relationship between the generations, between young and old. You may have seen that Netflix is running a series of people sharing wisdom from their life story, telling something of what they’ve learned in life. It’s based on a book that Pope Francis inspired a few years ago. We always have something to learn from those who have lived before us. As Pope Francis puts it, without roots, how can trees grow and bear fruit? Older people have the memory and wisdom of years. But that’s not enough. We also need people to look forwards the future, dream dreams and be builders of a new world. Pope Francis’ point is that it is in the dialogue with one another, old and young, that we build peace.

The second aspect that Pope Francis emphasises in his Message for the World Day of Peace is education. He encourages us to work together – not just the schools but the whole of society – families, organization, sports clubs, churches, charities to promote an education that helps people become instruments of peace. It’s not enough to be educated so as to get a job. Education must be directed to bigger goals, such as the care of our common home, the planet, peace among people, the care of relationships at all levels of society. We remember the African proverb – it takes a whole village to educate a child. We are so grateful to the wonderful teachers we have in Ireland but we always need to keep in mind that all of us together are involved in educating one another, educating young people, educating all our life long. And this education is about building a more fraternal world, a world of reconciliation.

The third point the Pope makes in his Message is to underline the importance of work. Work is not just about doing a job. It wouldn’t be a great world if our work was simply taken over by technology. Work, though hard at times, is also good for us. Obviously, work should respect human dignity. Through work we contribute to the lives of our families and of society as a whole. We exercise social responsibility. We participate in the development of our world. We contribute to making our world a better and more beautiful place.

In reading the Pope’s message, I thought of one initiative here in Limerick that the Diocese was involved in. After a homily given in 1999 by my predecessor, Bishop Murray, on the importance of the Gospel not just being a vague message but actually inspiring new initiatives, in the context of the devastating closure of the Krups factory in Roxboro in 1998, with the loss of over 550 jobs, a few business people got together and set up the Limerick Enterprise Development Project. Since then they’ve gone on to promote enterprise and employment education as well as training programmes. The initiative has given rise to job opportunities. The LEDP is also a voice for people, working for social inclusion, helping people to help themselves, supporting initiatives and improving community life. We can say it is an initiative that is born from living the art of peace that has gradually blossomed into an architecture that builds peace in the sense of integral development, what Pope Paul VI called the new name for peace.

So on this World Day of Prayer for Peace, as well as praying, we are invited to check out if there is perhaps something more we can do this coming year to build peace, promote dialogue between generations, contribute to education and value more the dignity of work. And, who knows, perhaps there’s someone who might think of promoting some initiative that will benefit our society here in Limerick. While it’s a city that, thank God, has many new employment initiatives – and we can be grateful to all the political, civic, business leaders and public servants who worked on these – and it’s a city that is in many ways affluent, nevertheless, it is also a city that has eight out of the 10 unemployment blackspots in the Republic of Ireland, with one area of the city with six in 10 adults unemployed.

Let’s pray for the grace on this World Day of Peace to understand if there is some step we can take to contribute to an improvement in this situation. We can entrust this intention to Mary, Mother of God and our mother too.