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Irish society needs to undergo a lot of truth-telling – Bishop McKeown

By Sarah Mac Donald - 18 April, 2017

Irish society needs to undergo a lot of truth-telling and a lot of alternative facts need to be debunked, the Bishop of Derry has said.

In his Easter homily, Bishop Donal McKeown warned that individual and communal resurrection won’t come about merely by changing political leaders or borders.

“There will be no resurrection for Ireland if we do not get beyond the self-serving narratives and abandon alternative facts. Only by the truth can we be freed,” he said.

He told the congregation gathered in St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry on Sunday that those who tell an uncomfortable story about residential care or murder, social neglect or bad laws will often be unwelcome to the strong.

“But heavy stones need to be moved away by little people and by grace,” he stated.

Dr McKeown added that “The gilded narratives of 100 per cent saintly church or 100 per cent self-sacrificing heroes need to be debunked if we are to cease being prisoners of the past. Only in this way can many people experience the possibility of resurrection.”

Referring to the headlines over the last few days – ‘Bomb kills dozens of Syrian evacuees’, ‘North Korea ready for nuclear attack’ – he said they might prompt us to think that Jesus had wasted his time on Good Friday and that Resurrection is at best wishful thinking and at worst culpable self-delusion.

The Bishop said it might seem a safer bet to distract ourselves from the Cross and Resurrection by focusing on football or fantasy films.

“They mightn’t change the world – but they might numb the sense of helplessness when faced with the apparent madness that marks our society and the struggles between the sometimes bizarre figures that believe they rule the earth.”

But it is precisely into the midst of despair and shattered dreams that the Resurrection stories speak, he stressed.

“In our own time, we often think that we will be safer if we bury the truth. Everyone does it, from ourselves to governments. Cover the truth with the cold rock of silence and people might forget about the ugly truth that scars the face of society.”

He continued, “We have buried many people and many facts – and often hope that time will erase their memory. But Resurrection tells me that you cannot kill the truth and bury it. The truth will be free and it alone will set us free.”

The Bishop suggested that that is why many people queued ahead of Easter Sunday to unburden themselves in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

He said the events of Holy Week are an invitation to reflect on how we respond to death.

“There was nothing flowery or superficial about how Jesus’ friends took his battered body and laid it in a tomb.

“Our culture seems tempted to use softer words – he passed away, she passed. But death is harsh and often tragic. That is why the Church asks all of us to come before the Lord with our pain and loss, identified by and lying beneath nothing but the Cross.”

He acknowledged that these are challenging times for those who choose to be in church for Easter.

“For many of our contemporaries, the message that we carry has been damaged by the sin that has always marked the Church. But Jesus invites us not be afraid to roll back the heavy stone for fear of what we might find there and to speak the truth into our reality.”

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