John the Baptizer and Jonathan Corrie
John the baptizer was a son of a respectable family – his father was a priest in the Jerusalem temple; and he was an unusual addition to the family, due to the age of his parents.
Jonathan Corrie was a son of a good Kilkenny family and was an unusual addition to his family, through adoption.
John went into the desert and slept rough, surviving on what food he could scavenge.
Jonathan’s life fell apart and he went into a different desert of addiction in a different climate, sleeping rough and surviving on what he could scavenge.
John stayed away from the Temple but spoke in the wilderness, where people came out to hear him.
Jonathan said little, and was, like others on the margin, almost invisible to the vast majority of Irish society.
John could have stayed away from the court of King Herod, and perhaps his mission and message might have had a different result; but he did not, and the story of his death is well known.
Jonathan could have stayed away from the corridors of government; if he had died in Finglas or Skibbereen, his death might have got a brief mention. But he died in Molesworth Street near the entrance to Leinster House, and the story of his death is well known.
John died in prison, and his friends came to take his body away privately. Yet he had made an impression on the rich and powerful King Herod.
Jonathan died on a doorstep and his friends and family arranged a small private funeral. Yet his death made an impression on Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who went out to meet people sleeping rough in Dublin, and called it a revelation.
John lived on the margins of society, and yet prepared the way for new life and hope for his people. His message went beyond his own immediate circumstances, and still echoes after 2000 years.
Jonathan also lived on the margins of society. Will his life and death last beyond his own immediate circumstances? Will his impact last beyond just this winter and Christmas?
People asked John, “What must we do?” (Luke 3:10), and he replied, “Anyone who had two tunics must share with the one who has none, and anyone with something to eat must do the same.”
What would we ask Jonathan today? Will Jonathan’s life and death on the margins of society be a true revelation today where many are rich and powerful while others have not even the bare essentials to live with dignity? Will we, like Helder Camara, see that it is not enough to provide food for those with none, but be ready to ask why in the first place they are poor?
Thanks Padraig for such a wonderfully reflective and thought provoking ‘homily’ on the comparisons and differences between the lives of John the Baptist and Jonathan Corry – the homeless man who recently died in a doorway in Dublin near Leinster House. That ‘homily’ could have been preached in any Church in Ireland today as it is so timely, current and realistic in both content and context. No one can deny that it gives us all a reality check as we go about our Christmas shopping without giving any thought to those who cannot get mentally, physically or emotionally beyond the hopelessness of their situation.
Fr. Peter Mc Verry and Sr Stanislaus Kennedy are two admirable people who are doing their best to help the homeless. Social Justice for all the poor, needy and homeless should be on the New Years Resolution list for all Irish people so that real progress can be made in the coming year of 2015 so that by this time next year we will not be either hanging our heads in shame or embarrassment or shaking our heads in frustration at lack of progress. Kathleen Faley
An interesting piece of work.
Perhaps a similar piece could be done in the light of the Gospel reading for next Sunday