– Homilies for a Time of Pandemic –


The quality of our lives is a common preoccupation of human beings.  People look for happiness and keep modifying their daily lives in ways they think will help them to find it.


Many look more deeply for a happiness which stays for their whole lives from their youth to their twilight years: a happiness which remains whether they are well or sick; able bodied or disabled.


Such happiness needs to be deeper than the emotions so that it is not lost in times of fear or distress; pressures or reversals.  It is a happiness which grows and remains regardless of whatever challenges life brings.


The happiness the Risen Jesus makes possible

This is the happiness which God alone can give.  We cannot earn it or achieve it by human effort alone.


It is the happiness which grows as the life of God, or ‘eternal life’, grows within us. This is the life Jesus offers all who believe in him.  He taught that it was to share this life that he came [1]


I came that they may have life and have it to the full.


Seeing Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead must have shocked most who were present.  Martha’s words in John’s account hinted a deeper faith in who Jesus is. [2]


If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.


Jesus then spoke of himself, not merely as someone whose prayer can bring about the seemingly impossible, but as the actual source of God’s life for people [3]


I am the resurrection and the life.  If anyone believes in me, even though he dies, will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.


As was common in the culture of the time, Jesus was playing with different meanings of the word ‘life’.  His further teaching on human and eternal life can be summarised as

  • human life finishes in this world when the person’s soul leaves their body
  • the human soul is immortal, and so lives on forever
  • body and soul are reunited at the Resurrection of all the dead when he comes again
  • through Jesus, the human soul becomes united with God’s own life through Baptism
  • God’s life changes a person from within as he or she nurtures it in ways Jesus taught.


Eternal life an inner experience

The deep happiness for which people yearn grows within the baptised as they nurture the life of God – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – within them.  Jesus likened this experience to an ‘inner spring of water’ which ‘wells up’ as it is nurtured. [4]


Jesus always taught Christianity as an empowerment faith – a faith which God within empowers the responsive to live.  The capacity of believers to live Jesus teachings – especially the more difficult ones – depends on their personal relationships with himself, the oOne who strengthens divine life within them.


Outside this context, many of Christ’s teachings about forgiveness, marriage and turning the other cheek would be no more than impossible dreams.


The Eucharist

Jesus emphasised that God’s life needs to be nourished by the Eucharist.  Using the absolutist speaking style of the time for the purpose of emphasis, he taught  [5]


… if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life …


This is one reason why Catholics share in the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day each week. 


‘Knowing’ God

As believers have experiences of God’s life, they come ‘to know’ God.  This is much more then just ‘knowing about’ God.  He prayed to God the Father


And eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.


Experiences of eternal life in daily life

God’s life changes the responsive from within.  They grow to think, think, feel and behave more like Jesus.  Different personalities have different starting points, but the same basic experience applies to all.


Let me give two examples of experiences of divine life which Jesus wishes for us in our daily lives – especially now.


The love of the Son of God for people led him to give his life for all.  This was the context within which he taught Christian love [6]


This is my commandment, that you should love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.


Christian love, therefore, is the self sacrificing love empowered by divine life.  While he also clarified the meaning of love commandments of the Old Testament when teaching the Golden Rule and the two great commandments to love God and one’s neighbour as oneself, these are not the love commandment of Jesus himself.


Jesus gave examples of Christian love when he taught that his followers should, for example,

  • not merely live God’s laws externally, but from the heart. (The Fifth Commandment, for example, not only forbids murder but also anger directed at another person [7]
  • never judge others [8]
  • love those in need of the basics for life [9]
  • remain faithful in marriage until death [10]
  • welcome those others think worthless [11]
  • resist the lure of materialism [12]
  • be servants to all [13]
  • love enemies. [14]


Christian self-sacrificing love is being called for in the current pandemic.  For example

  • grand parents and grand children need to sacrifice treasured time together to avoid becoming sources of infection for each other and for others
  • we are all called not to engage in hoarding
  • we need to look out and help others with shopping
  • people need to be tolerant and patient towards each other as they spend more time than usual inside their homes together
  • we need to forgive when others annoy or hurt us in times of frustration.


Growth in wisdom

In the scriptures, wisdom is the gift which enables us to see life, others and ourselves as God does.  This gift grows with the divine life within us.  It enables us

  • to see through negative thoughts and feelings to recognise reality, especially the good
  • to find solutions to problems
  • to think clearly through times of confusion
  • to recognise the goodness in others, even when they frustrate us
  • to find hope in times of despair
  • to see a path to the future in times of difficulty.


At the present time, many people are in a state of shock as their lives have been turned upside down due to the sudden unemployment, the financial collapse of a business, the closure of schools, the loss of the company of friends because of self isolation.


The wisdom of God can lead us through all such personal crisis.


We nurture the divine life within us, therefore, every time we seek to draw on its power.  Two important ways are to draw its power to love in Christian self-sacrificing ways and to seek wisdom in our present crisis.


And as we allow the influence of God’s life to grow within us, the deeper happiness for which the human heart yearns grows.


Let us pause now for a few moments to share with Christ in conversation in our hearts where we need the power of eternal life

  • to overcome challenges to love as Jesus taught
  • to see the way through our present problems.


Let us open ourselves to the only one who can lead us to true happiness.


Bishop Gerard Holohan

28/29 March 2020



[1] John 10:10

[2] John 11:21

[3] John 11:25

[4] John 4:14

[5] John 6:53-54

[6] John 15:12-13

[7] Matthew 5:22

[8] Matthew 7:1-5

[9] Matthew 25:31-46

[10] Mark 10:9-12

[11] Mark 9:37

[12] Mark 10:21-27

[13] Mark 10:43-45

[14] Luke 6:27-30