Saturday, April 1, 2017

People respond to goodness

The 'Thinking Anew' column in 'The Irish Times' today.

Michael  Commane
It's probably true to say that newspapers, radio and television pick up the mood of the day. They reflect much of what's happening and how people are thinking, even in an era of social media and fake news. Fake news too, and social media also have a story to tell. Bad news sells newspapers but so too does good news and sometimes good news can catch our hearts and imagination in an extraordinary way.

Last week in Ireland we saw three funerals of public people, Maureen Haughey, Ryan McBride and Martin McGuinness. Many people spoke highly of all three. 

During the Ireland-Wales football game last week, commentators observed that Ireland's James McClean, being from Derry, would be affected in his performance on the pitch by the deaths of Ryan McBride and Martin McGuinness.  And political and social commentators looked back with kind words and thoughts on the life of Maureen Haughey, as did those who knew her family, the Lemass family, as good neighbours in south Dublin. 

It lifts our hearts to hear kind and good words about people, even more so on the occasion of their deaths.

The word 'legend' is used far too often about people but in this case is it possible to say all three people were in their own particular ways 'legends'? They certainly were well-known people on the Irish landscape.

On Tuesday morning when Martin McGuinness' death was announced, RTE's 'Morning Ireland' devoted most of the programme to his life. It was great radio and certainly made me listen.

For the rest of the week people spoke about the journey McGuinness had made, a journey from gunman to politician to peace-maker. Tony Blair's chief of staff Jonathan Powell brilliantly summed up the life and times of Martin McGuinness when he explained how he refused to shake McGuinness' hand the first time he met him and then later invited him to his wedding.

"By the time I left government 10 years later I regarded him as a friend," Powell said on BBC 2's 'Newsnight'.

No matter how cynical or hardened we become, when we hear good about people it does us good. It is generally accepted that McGuinness was genuine in his move from gun to peacemaker.
McGuinness was no saint. Indeed, it makes no sense to attempt to “airbrush” his history of violence. But it is always heartening and uplifting to witness kind and good acts.

It might well be possible to say that all good acts and kind behaviour are hints of the kindness and goodness of God. Tomorrow's Gospel (John 11: 1- 45) where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead is a great story about the kindness and compassion of the Son of God. In spite of his busy programme he still has time to show his love and consideration to Mary and Martha by bringing Lazarus back to life and pointing towards the resurrection.

In the first reading at Mass tomorrow from the Prophet Ezekiel  (37: 12 - 14) we are told how the spirit of the Lord gives us life and how we will be conscious of that life.

Christianity would make no sense without resurrection, one might say, it's the thread on which it all hangs. And it's difficult using just words to get anywhere near conveying or comprehending the mystery of resurrection. But it's fair to say that every good deed we do is in some small but significant way a sign, a hint and an anticipation of what resurrection is about.

When we are drawn to goodness, when we spot and appreciate good and kind deeds we are being nudged in the direction of God. And when we ourselves do good and are inclined to goodness we are helping to make God's presence recognisable in the world.

People respond to goodness, and maybe especially so when people have a change of heart and come to realise the importance of doing good and being good.

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