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Dear friends. In this homily, I feel the need to acknowledge the death this week of seventeen year old Keane Mulready-Woods, the child from Drogheda who was brutally killed and whose body was mutilated. Every week in Ireland, it seems there is someone murdered, so this week was no different. Yet what is different in this case is the age of the victim and the level of inhumanity we saw. You could not help but think that our country has sunk to a new low in its disrespect for human life.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying everyone is evil or that our culture is all bad. I believe there is more good than bad, that there are so many good people around and that hope will triumph over despair and good over evil. Yet, it is impossible to ignore the human depravity that we saw this week and ask ourselves how could this occur and how could such cruelty be inflicted by some on others in a society that claims to be civilized. Sometimes we have to call it as it is and say that there is unfolding a moral and spiritual crisis that is only getting worse. It is dawning on us that something is wrong, dysfunctional and sinful in our world today. Something is coming apart.

We rarely hear about sin anymore. It is not politically correct. Increasing numbers of Christians stay away from the sacrament that deals with sin every Christmas and Easter. We delude ourselves in thinking we have no sin, no need of forgiveness, no need to change. Yet, at the very beginning of the Gospel today, John the Baptist sees Jesus, points to him and identifies the reason he came -‘to take away the sin of the world’. This was his mission. Jesus Christ came to take away the sin that is the dysfunction, darkness, cruelty and selfishness that infects the human condition and the culture in which we live.

Jesus carried out his mission as a warrior who engaged directly with all that he wanted to put right. He brought his light into the heart of the darkness in order to overcome it. On the cross, he allowed all the filth, cruelty and violence to wash over him and to become victim to it all, so that he could break its power. Jesus’ victory over sin was a spiritual victory that goes to the heart of everything. That is why, I believe, the spiritual and moral crisis today is leading to a breakdown of society – the likes of which we saw this week with the murder of that child.

But we might ask ourselves what does this mean? How does Jesus take away the sin of the world? How does he unite us and make us one? Here are a few thoughts. Jesus taught us to love each other, respect each other’s human rights, to be just, fair and non-violent. He taught us the power of kindness, of mercy and gave us the grace to forgive as he did. He taught us that unless we put God in first place in our lives then we are prone to addictions to things like drugs that lead to gangland violence and the destruction of lives. He taught us the art of how to love properly, where to find the truth to believe in and to live in hope. He taught us that every precious life matters, born and unborn, young and old, healthy and sick. And all this he does again here at this Eucharist that makes his saving work present again.

Friends, as we come to terms with what happened to Keane Mulready-Woods and think of his family, the words of John the Baptist take on a new urgency and relevance. Our world needs Jesus Christ as a Saviour to take away the sin of the world – the sin that causes so much suffering and pain. His Gospel offers hope to a world mired in a spiritual and moral crisis that is breaking society apart. May we welcome him into our hearts and in him offer hope.

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