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Fr Paddy: Direct provision centres have no place God’s Kingdom

On this, the last Sunday of the Church’s liturgical year, the Feast of Christ the King, The Gospel reading was about the Last Judgement.

It is an extraordinary text which is not just about a future moment in history, but about the very essence of being a follower of Jesus Christ today.

It is a challenge to each of us and to our Christian community to remember that being a Christian is never just something inward looking.  The Christian life is never self-centred.

God is love and the Christian life can only be a life which reflects that love. The Christian cannot be unconcerned about or uninterested in those around us, especially those who are marginalized.

There are many examples in art and literature which would tend to depict the last judgment as a terrible and frightening moment in which God appears as a cold judge, separating people into different categories and separating them from him and from each other for all eternity.

The first thing that we have to remember is that the judgement is not about how we respond to a collection of abstract or arbitrary rules and norms; it is primarily about how we respond in love to the God who is love.

The judgment is about love, rather than just being about rules and norms.

We will be judged by how we have loved and especially about how we have loved not just those near and dear to us but by how we have loved the most marginal, the people with whom we would often not normally have any contact.

Jesus lists those who in his own time were the most marginal: those who suffered hunger or thirst, the naked, the stranger, the sick and those in prison.

That original list is certainly not off the mark regarding our own times:  we can think of those who hunger and are without nurture, physical our spiritual or those who thirst for meaning and hope in the confusion of our world.

We can think of those who those who are exposed with little cover and protection to the rough elements of our times, not just climatically but also economically, or emotionally; we can think of those who are treated as strangers, when they do not fit into how we define the categories of respectability and being like ourselves.

We can think of those who are physically in our prisons but also of those who are trapped in the many prisons of human suffering or oppression or anguish or distress.

These are the ones with whom Christ identifies himself.  If we do something for the most marginalised then we do so because we encounter Christ in them.

The Gospel is however telling us something deeper: if we wish to look for symbols of God, if we want to know who God is, then we should not turn to the powerful, but to those who have no outward earthly support.  The poor and the marginalized reveal to us who God is; they are symbols and sacraments of God.

The marginalized are also, one can say, sacraments of sin, not in the sense that finding oneself on the margins is the fruit of personal sinfulness, but rather that the plight of the marginalised and our lack of concern for them reveals to us many of the fruits of sin and evil that still exist in our world and about which we as followers of Jesus Christ must be concerned.

The Gospel of the Last Judgement is not just about our own life but about the care of the Christian believer about the roots of marginalisation.

The believer cannot but be concerned about models of society which alienate men and women from attaining the fullness of their dignity.

In this context I cannot but express my own concern about the plight asylum seekers imprisoned in an utterly shameful system called Direct Provision.

In recent times national media are highlighting the vulnerable reality particularly for children, who know no other human experience than living for many years in centres that are akin to Mother and Baby homes of the past.

Places that lack hope, imprison opportunity and marginalises for years vulnerable people seeking new beginning. I have no doubt that Direct provision centres has no place in the reign of Gods Kingdom.

Put in another way, the judgment about how we lead our lives is not something which takes place in the distant future and which leaves time for us to put off decisions.

The encounter with the Lord today and in our everyday circumstances shows up in the light the many notes of darkness in our lives, the darkness which springs when we fail in love.

Today, we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.  On the final Sunday of the Liturgical Year we remember that the history of salvation, the story of our God who accompanies us on our journey here on earth and throughout history, will only come to its conclusion when the salvation won for us by Jesus on the Cross is fully realised all over the world and within the entire creation.

Christ’s kingdom will only be fully realised when our world fully witnesses to God’s kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice love and peace. The injustice and inequalities of our world tells us that we have truly much more to achieve.

Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, but it is not outside this world entirely either.  Jesus’ kingdom is already present in seed within our world, through the redeeming power of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

It is a kingdom which can be anticipated, even in our time, through grace and holiness, when we as believers attempt to shape our lives in terms of that truth and life, that justice, love and peace which are the signs of the kingdom and of God’s presence.

The Feast of Christ the King is a celebration of community, of community living in harmony and rejecting all forms of division and violence.  For many generations this Church has been a place where the values of God’s kingdom have been taught and lived out.

As we dedicate this refurbished Church we thank God for the good things we have inherited from those who went before us.   We commit ourselves to keep the values we inherited from them alive into the future. We commit ourselves to pass on to the coming generations the same vital Christian values.

The judgment narrative reminds us that the sinfulness in our lives is what causes division and thus separates us from God and from each other for all eternity.

The Eucharist is what unites us. The theme of the Eucharistic Congress shows us how the unity which is built up in the Eucharist is the opposite of such separation with God and such division among ourselves. It is communion with Christ and with one another.

Reflect, today, upon the mysterious ways that God establishes His Kingdom.  He is in charge of it first and foremost.  But you must do your part.  You must make your heart and world around you fertile ground.

You must plant the seed, water it as needed but then let God do His part.  God wants to bring forth His Kingdom in your life and in the world far more than any of us.  But if you do your part, you also will be amazed as you watch grow His glorious handiwork of grace.

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Fr Paddy is a curate in the hugely vibrant Portlaoise Parish. From Carlow town, he was educated in Carlow CBS and studied Business and Politics in Trinity College Dublin before training to be a priest in Carlow College. He is the youngest priest in the Kildare & Leighlin diocese and writes for a number of media outlets. He has almost 14,000 followers on Twitter.