On 22 March during Mass for Laetare Sunday, the Forth Sunday of Lent, Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry spoke about the spiritual and cultural implications of the COVID-19 crisis.

During his homily, Bishop McKeown said, “One of the great traditions in plays on stage has been the role given to the fool. The clown asks the silly questions and is often the one who has a wisdom that the wise don’t have. The blind beggar in today’s Gospel plays that role. He is someone who has been born blind. And he is able to recognise who Jesus is, while the learned are blind to what is staring them in the face. There are none so blind as those who do not want to see the truth.

He continued, “In an allegedly scientific world, faith is often portrayed as childish and escapist. You have to choose between doing things in a scientific way and clinging to an irrational faith story. But the development of an adult faith is actually an uncomfortable journey into facing the truth – about who we are, what we fear, what gives us life, hope and a reason for living.

“Much of our modern culture claims to espouse two strange bedfellows at the same time. On the one hand an allegedly scientific approach to everything is promoted as if that were the only sensible adult way of seeing the world. And on the other hand, the individual’s feelings are put forward as the author of all truth and morality. To want and to need are seen as being the same thing. Being scientific and at the same time declaring feelings to be infallible strikes me as a very odd combination. It is difficult to propose scientific truth and at the same time say that all truth is what my feelings and hungers tell me is truth for me here and now.

“Jesus invites us to believe that only the whole often-comfortable truth will set us free.”

Addressing the COVID-19 crisis, the Bishop said, “These are difficult days when individuals, families and communities are stripped of the things that give shape to our day. The public message has suddenly changed from “I’m worth it” to “think about others.” The focus on ‘us’ seems to be able to generate great creativity and goodwill. The rights of the individual and the common good are suddenly no longer seen as enemies but as intimately linked. People are not just looking for scientific information on the virus. They also hunger for solidarity and meaning in the face of this murderous tiny organism. The generous self-sacrificing work of medical, nursing and essential support staff has become what we value. We turn to big hearts and shun big egos. There is little to offer coming from those who are famous just for being famous.

“The challenge for secular society is not just to find medical solutions to a medical problem. A crisis like the current one challenges the great and the good to ask whether they are just giving people the means by which to live but failing to offer a meaning for living. Are we proposing a solid way of looking at life that can cope with the pain of being human? Or are we just feeding a self-serving system that is looking after itself and failing to seek the truth by telling us that there is no truth.”

In conclusion, Bishop McKeown said, “These difficult days are a time to be honest about our discomfort and not to be afraid of living with the truth. It is a chance to be in touch with the one who can heal the apparently unchangeable in your life. We can choose to see these weeks as a problem – or as an opportunity to break with the suffocating blindness that is killing too many of our young people. Let the Lord open your eyes to unseen and unimagined graces. Let the foolish blind man help you to live with truth and discover the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

“Our Lenten journey may last much longer than 40 days this year. But for those who believe in Jesus, Resurrection is part of the deal.”

To read the full homily click here.

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