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Homilies - Bishop Brendan Leahy

Year C: First Sunday of Lent. St. John's Cathedral

Year C: First Sunday of Lent. St. John’s Cathedral

“Live, Love, Lent”

Homily Notes


The First Sunday of Lent provides us with the episode of Jesus facing the temptations in the desert. It’s a story that the Church presents us with each year as we begin the season that is about beginning again to turn away from sin and believe in God. Jesus faced three temptations but the number three is a perfect number. It’s a way of saying he faced many temptations and if you notice the end of the Gospel we are told the Devil exhausted “all these ways of tempting him”.


In ancient times they used to have “catalogues of vices” and St. Paul in his letter to the Romans (1:29-31) takes one of them and lists the vices that can tempt any of us at different moments of our lives: covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, gossip, slander, haughtiness, boastfulness, foolishness, faithlessness, heartlessness, ruthlessness.


Throughout the year, we can find ourselves slipping into these temptations, into idols and false notions about life and ourselves. We need this annual call to get back in touch with reality about ourselves, our neighbour and about God. To live our lives with the compass set on God and his word is what really frees and fulfils us. The great news of today’s Gospel is that Jesus himself has experienced temptations. He knows them from the inside and so can help us in any situation of temptation in which we find ourselves.


The year, Lent is beginning as a war is raging in Europe.


When a dream is shattered, there is grief. Europe’s dream has been shattered with the war in the Ukraine. 75 years after the Second World War we had hoped the great dream of a Europe at peace had really taken hold. But that dream has been shattered. It’s a moment for all of us to take stock. Yes, we must dream and hope and believe in peace, but we also need to recognise peace is the fruit of our unity with one another. And we have to work at that. No relationship can ever be taken for granted.


While watching the war on our social media and TVs, we’re seeing again how the powerful wage war but the poor lose out. So many ordinary folk are facing questions of life and death. We can’t but feel our stomach churning at the sight of innocent young people on both sides whose lives are tragically cut short. And so many fleeing their native land. The ray of consolation at this time is, of course, the incredible outpouring of small and big gestures of solidarity and generous donations from around the world.


All of this is happening just as we are entering the season of Lent. This year Lent has certainly a focus in terms of prayer for the Ukraine and contributing whatever way we can to help.


Lent is very much associated with giving and giving is good for us in every way. After all, we are created to give. It reflects what’s truly in our soul. Thankfully, in the face of horror, giving is still flourishing now. Limerick is a giving city and county and that’s very much reflected in the response to Ukraine. The wonderful response that has seen individuals such as Anna Mazeika, a young Polish woman, step forward courageously to commit to gathering a truck load of medical supplies from generous Limerick people for hospitals in Ukraine. There are many other examples and it keeps that light shining, a light of hope which will ultimately overcome darkness. Just as the Lenten experience.


But there’s also a spiritual contribution we can make – we can check out our own personal commitment to building relationships that are genuine and true and just. Perhaps there is some relationship that has been damaged in recent times or one that needs a new effort on our part because things have grown stale. Lent is about beginning again. We don’t have to wait for others to be the first to reach out to us. We can take the initiative. The Ukraine crisis is about a breakdown in relationships. Let’s do our part to build good relationships.


The Diocese of Limerick is offering you the possibility to go on a journey entitled “Live, Love, Lent”. Our pastoral outreach team have put together a wonderful programme to support people throughout Lent. It includes daily thoughts, images, reflections and prayers with a different theme each week. These are posted daily on the Diocesan Facebook page. You don’t have to have a Facebook account to access these resources. The Diocesan Facebook page is set up so that it is accessible to people who are not on Facebook. It’s enough to go onto the link: https://www.facebook.com/dioceseoflimerick.  There’ll be an introductory video at the start of each week explaining the theme, each day at 7am an image will be posted with prayers, food for thought and/or ideas for action.  Fr Chris O’Donnell will then host a review of the week each Sunday evening at 8:30pm live on Facebook where you can chat and share experiences and learning.