16 January 2019

‘A light for revelation
to the Gentiles and
for glory to your people’

Sunset this week seen from the scaffolding at the west end of Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019; click on image for full-screen view)

Patrick Comerford

The spell of dry weather, with bright blue skies and wonderful winter sunrises and sunsets seems to be coming to an end this week.

As I strolled from the Rectory in Askeaton to buy the daily newspapers this morning [16 January 2019, I was caught in a sudden, intense rainstorm. I calculated I would get as wet if I turned back as I would if I continued on to see the work being carried on at Saint Mary’s Church.

The scaffolding is now in placed and secured at the west end of the church as builders and engineers try to assess the work that needs to be done on the façade to secure the church for future generations in the parish and in the community.

On Tuesday afternoon, I climbed the scaffolding to see the work at first hand. It was almost sunset, and a caught a beautiful view of the landscape to the west beyond Askeaton, stretching across West Limerick and probably into North Kerry.

Behind me I could see the Rectory, and to the north there were views across the Shannon Estuary and into Co Clare. But those views were not as spectacular as the view to the west looking into the setting sun.

This evening I was part of a discussion on Newstalk with Ivan Yates and David Quinn on religious freedom and toleration. I cited recent examples I have seen on the streets of Limerick of Buddhist monks walking in a line along O’Connell Street in their saffron robes and Muslim women in traditional scarves as indicators of pluralism and diversity in Ireland today.

We have moved a long way in Ireland from the ‘pogroms’ in Limerick in the early 20th century that deprived the city of the presence of a vibrant Jewish community, or the intolerance in the south-east in the 1950s that was expressed in the Fethard-on-Sea boycott.

In reflecting on the mistakes and the extremism of the past, we can learn to value some of the freedoms we have today.

But during the day, I have been preparing in advance resources for preaching and liturgy for the Feast of the Presentation (2 February) and the Fourth Sunday of Epiphany (4 February).

In the story of the Presentation, old Simeon speaks words that are familiar to many of us in the canticle Nunc Dimittis:

‘for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel’ (Luke 2: 31-32)

They are words not only about the beauty of light but a reminder of the need to celebrate the diversity and pluralism we enjoy in Ireland today.

Scaffolding at the west end of Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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