Source: Irish Catholic Media Office
There are many tragedies at this time in our world and there are many awful things that we have to accept as normal. One of the greatest tragedies and most awful reality is that we have to be physically distant from people. It is not the way we are called to be - keeping people at a distance. I know that it is necessary at the moment and that makes it so much more painful.
It wasn't the attitude of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel today either. The first two people - they kept their distance. They didn't get involved. They walked passed. But the Good Samaritan - that person did something different. He stopped. He had compassion. He got involved. He touched the wounded person and he lifted him on to his mount. He gave him a dignity. He gave him life. Even though he didn't come from his group he saw him as his neighbour - his brother - his friend. This, Jesus, tells us is what we must do if we are to inherit eternal life. We live our faith by how we treat one another - by how we give life to one another. This is the road we need to be on if our desired destination is heaven. This is the road that God wants us to be on because he wants each one of us to be with him in heaven for ever. This is the deepest desire of God that we are with him and Jesus tells us it is only possible if we show compassion - if we give dignity - if we give life to others.
John Hume, whose funeral Mass we have gathered to celebrate this morning, never passed by on the other side. John never kept a distance. He stopped. He showed compassion. He got involved. He gave dignity and he gave life to so many people. In a time in our world when often small mindedness and self-focus seems to be the driver John never put anybody or any specific group first. He put everybody first. He didn't focus on difference and division. He focused on unity and peace and giving that dignity to every person. We should never underestimate how difficult it was for John to cross the road and do what was intensely unpopular for the greater good. It was compassion - a compassion that bubbled over in the cemetery in Greysteel that drove John on the final and often lonely and always difficult road to peace. Even in the darkest moments, when people would have been forgiven for having no hope, John made peace visible for others. His vision revealed what could be and with time and determination and single-mindedness and stubbornness he convinced others that peace could be a reality. He never lost faith in peace and he never lost faith in his ability to convince others that peace was the only way. If ever you want to see a man who gave his life for his country, and his health, that man is John Hume. The world knows it. He is the only person in the world to have received the Noble Peace Prize, The Gandhi Peace Prize and the Martin Luther King Peace Prize. Pope Benedict XVI made him a Knight Commander of the Papal Order of Saint Gregory the Great.
In the midst of all of this John was a proud Derry man first and foremost. His commitment to Derry was second to none. His aim was to bring life and prosperity to this city - to lift people out of poverty and he did everything possible to make that a reality. He always said his proudest achievement was the establishment of the Credit Union.
But my fondest memories of John weren't directly around his incredible achievements there were here in this Cathedral. In his retirement and as his health declined every day possible John came to Mass and every evening, and this is my fondest memory, he came over here and sat at the back and prayed quietly. In all the houses he was in White houses and houses of parliaments and many others it was in this house, the house of God, that he found greatest peace. It was in this house that John recognised the presence of God and his need for God - for his mercy - for his love. Here before his God the humility of John was plain to be seen.
Today we truly give thanks to God for the gift of John Hume and for all the gifts that so many people have received because of the remarkable life that he has lived and the courage and determination that he has shown. We give thanks to God for the gift of life itself that so many people have today simply because of John's vision of peace, commitment to peace and to making peace a reality. Because make no mistake about it - there are people alive today who would not be alive had it not been for John's vision and his work.
As we thank God for John we pray for you John's family who also made massive sacrifices for peace. Your father and your grandfather couldn't be at home too much because there were too many people along the way home that needed help. He couldn't pass anybody. He brought many of them home. When you came down for breakfast any morning you never knew who might be at the table from the most famous politician to a lady needing to be rehoused. You never knew who would be knocking at your door or tragically sometimes trying to burn your door down. Today as we pray for you we thank you for the gift of your father.
We pray especially for you Pat. There is an old comment that says behind every good man there is a good woman. In Pat's case this is one quarter of the truth. Pat stood behind John to defend him and support him. She stood beside him to love him and accompany him even in the most difficult times and when his health failed and his mind got weaker she walked in front of him to lead him. Pat encircled John with love, compassion and support and it was your presence that made his work possible. When the history of Ireland is written if Pat Hume's name is not beside John's it will be an incomplete history.
John and Pat, have secured their place in the history of Ireland, John being Ireland's Greatest. Today we pray that John has secured his place not in Ireland, not in Europe but in paradise. Jesus tells us - Blessed are the peacemakers they shall be called children of God. Today we can be confident that a son of God has gone home. John lived his faith in the most practical way. His favourite gospel was the Good Samaritan. It was the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Catholic Social teaching that shaped his work for peace.
Our prayer today is that the peace John got here in this Cathedral and the peace he worked to give the people of this country was just a foretaste of the peace he is now experiencing where all suffering is gone and his mind has recovered its youthful vigour. There in paradise, where there is no social distancing, may John be resting in the heart of Jesus seeing the face of God for ever and ever. Amen.
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