DOMINICAN MARTYRS OF IRELAND
The canonisation of Saint Oliver Plunkett in 1975 brought an awareness of the many men and women who were martyred for their Catholic Faith in Ireland during the 16th and 17th centuries. On 22nd September 1992 Pope John Paul II beatified 17 Irish men and women. Among them are two Dominicans whose feast we celebrate today: Bishop Terence O’Brien who was hanged, drawn and quartered in Limerick on this day in 1651 and also Father Peter Higgins who was hanged in Dublin in 1642.
Illness is a common experience that we all can relate to in varying degrees. Illness is a time when we are vulnerable and at the mercy of others who we trust will take care of us. For many people, illness is a time of economic, social and spiritual isolation. It’s an experience that no one likes to go through, to talk about, or even be around. Yet, illness is all around us and is part and parcel of our lives, whether we like it or not.
People in ancient times had an even greater aversion to sickness, believing that it was caused by the work of evil spirits or a punishment from God for sin. In the Gospel today we encounter a man with dropsy, which is an excessive accumulation of fluid under the skin. We see a person out of relationship with himself, others and, because of Jewish law God himself. Because of his physical condition this man is unable work and support his family. As a result he is embarrassed, filled with shame and broken. Due to cultural views regarding purity, contact with friends and relatives is minimal at best. Religious assumptions that illnesses are caused by God due to sin leave him little consolation. Our Lord heals the man who is immediately made whole and able to once again enter into the web of relationships at the centre of life.
In Christ we see a God who heals, a God who makes whole. God doesn’t punish us with illness, rather he seeks to free us from it. As disciples of the God we see in his Son, we too are called to be healers, to make whole all of God’s creation.