These last ten days we have all been saddened by the sudden death of a young girl in our Parish, Jenna Moriarty. It is such a tragic time for her parents and all the family and we stand in solidarity with them and with all who have lost family members especially those who have died in tragic ways. We pray that they will find strength in Christ to live through these dark days. As Jenna was just entering third year at St. Joseph’s, her passing affected in a very real way the many friends she had at the Academy and this was shown in many ways: by the way that almost the whole school community turned up for the voluntary Mass we celebrated the day she died; by the hundreds of people who turned up in the Kay Park last Monday to let off Chinese lanterns in her memory and to pray for her; by the school children who attended her Funeral Mass in St. Meddan’s, Troon and those who formed a Guard of Honour as we approached Kilmarnock Cemetery. Each of these moments showed great love and touched Jenna’s family deeply. While accompanying our young people in the last days, I was struck by the fact that for many, if not most, this would have been the first time they had come face-to-face with death and led to many asking “why?” and “what if?” These, of course, are questions that you and I ask all the time in life as we come up close with tragedies and problems large and small. We ask “why“ at death, at war and at violence. We question whether we can forgive those who injure us and wonder whether it wouldn’t be easier to seek revenge. We wonder whether God is actually present as we seek his help with our own health or the health of a loved family member. Does God listen when I ask his help with a nagging friend or neighbour?
Questions, doubts and fears – left to ourselves it can all seem like doom and gloom. Our Mass comes today to tell us there is a different way to approach the fears and anxieties of life – it doesn’t have to end up with doom and gloom. Our readings tell us today that the way Jesus Christ walked shows us a way through the darkness of life to everlasting light. Let’s take a look at Luke’s Gospel again. Up until this point (the 9th chapter), Jesus had been involved in his Galilean Ministry where he had performed many miracles and cures. The crowds had begun to gather in ever-increasing numbers and now, as Jesus begun his long journey to Jerusalem and his eventual death and Resurrection, he wanted to share with them a deep reflection: there might be pain, there might be rejection, there might be despair but there would also be eventual glory, there would always be hope and there is always a way out of the darkness. It is interesting that Jesus prays before he gives his disciples these instructions; each time Jesus is seen praying in Luke’s Gospel (before he chooses his disciples and in the Garden of Gethsemane) it precedes a major teaching from Jesus and here the teaching is one of hope in the face of adversity.
What are we to make of this teaching of Christ today and how does it tie in with daily life? Each one of us, each of you has come to Church with a mixture of anxieties and joys, fears and hopes. Sometimes we allow the negative side of life get on top of us, sometimes our fears take over. Today Christ comes to you with a message of hope. Christ doesn’t tell you he will magic away the negative experiences of life but He does tell you that He will lead you through the fear to a place of hope and through the darkness to a place of light. In the past weeks we have been shown a Jesus who forgives and a Jesus who stands in solidarity with us. Today we see a Jesus Christ who walks towards Jerusalem knowing that rejection and fear await Him but also aware that there will be eventual hope and new life. Jesus invites you to walk that way also: face-to-face perhaps with the doubts and anxieties of life but conscious also that he leads into light, hope and peace.