Homily – St Patrick (Lent Sunday 5)

Fr Cuthbert Brennan OSB

The great prophet Jeremiah walks into our lives this morning and he is one of those people I’d rather read about than live with. He must have been one incredibly tough truth teller, reminding God’s first Chosen People how they had violated the covenant with their Creator, not only because of their worship of other gods but because of the way they had oppressed the poor.

So love of God and neighbour! It sounds familiar doesn’t it? Jeremiah announces a second chance – a fresh covenant, not one with new content but one with a new geography. From now on, the heart not
stone tablets will be the place where God writes his covenant. The late Stacy Simpson, a Baptist minister, in an attempt to understand what a heart inscribed covenant might look like, offers this reflection entitled Branded by God She writes; The image of God writing on the heart of the people is a compelling one, it also has a frightening aspect to it. Think of a tattoo. Pain, indelibility, identity are the central aspects of what it means to be marked. If it didn’t involve pain, it wouldn’t be indelible; marks that don’t hurt are the ones that wash off. If it were not indelible, what it revealed about a person’s identity wouldn’t be so critical.

Maybe you remember your catechism classes as a child where we learned that baptism left an indelible mark on our souls. At baptism a covenant was inscribed on us, our very hearts were tattooed by God. On the very centre of our being, we are fired with love, that same love which called St Patrick back to this land with the gift of the gospel. That gospel which isn’t simply a story showing us a path to life; it’s an education in what things are worth dying for.

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains a single
grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. From Jesus, we learn that divine power is the most subversive force in all of creation. Rather than crush opponents, God’s power undermines evil and the violence it perpetrates. As Mahatma Gandhi explained, “Love is the strongest force the world possesses, yet it is the humblest imaginable.”

Ultimately, the greatest leap of faith Christians are invited to take is to
believe in this entirely counterintuitive and countercultural idea that the
forces of humility, generous love, and tender, nonviolent creativity are the instruments of world change. This is Jesus’ message. He taught that falling into the ground and dying lead to ousting the ruler of this world.

Jesus was planted on Calvary, St Patrick was planted in Ireland, we were
planted deep in a baptismal pool and it is here at our liturgies that we
rehearse transformation, we learn to germinate, we practise dying so that our lives when we leave here, can give seed to justice and care, respect and dignity, love of neighbour equal to a love of God.

Jesus knew what he was living for. And he knew what he was dying for. He was the grain of wheat that died and produced much fruit. That fruit is us. That leaves only one question on this St Patrick’s Day – What are we dying for?

Subscribe To Our Newsletter To Receive Updates