Monday 26 September 2016

The common ground of the Easter Proclamation and the 1916 Rising

The Easter message and the spirit of the centenary of the 1916 Rising both celebrate fraternity and compassion for one's fellow man, says Bishop Brendan Leahy

Bishop Brendan Leahy

Published 05/04/2015 | 02:30

1913 GALWAY OIREACHTAS: A photograph taken in 1913 outide the Town Hall in Galway, that includes half the signatories of the 1916 proclamation as well three future Presidents of Ireland; Padraig Pearse, Seán Mac Diarmada, Eamonn Ceannt, Douglas Hyde, Seán T. O’Kelly, Eamon de Valera and Padraic O Conaire
1913 GALWAY OIREACHTAS: A photograph taken in 1913 outide the Town Hall in Galway, that includes half the signatories of the 1916 proclamation as well three future Presidents of Ireland; Padraig Pearse, Seán Mac Diarmada, Eamonn Ceannt, Douglas Hyde, Seán T. O’Kelly, Eamon de Valera and Padraic O Conaire

This time next year we will be celebrating the 1916 Rising. We call it the "Easter" rising. It's worth exploring what it means to find the Easter motif at the very heart of our State's story.

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One thing is clear in the Bible about Easter and it's that Jesus Christ, the God-man, died and rose again for all people. Every human being is lovingly created by God. So the first ray that shines out from Easter morning's dawn is that God loves others, regardless of their beliefs, as much as me. Jesus has risen for everyone in Ireland too! - believers, non-believers, half believers, people of completely different political and other views.

One of the greatest joys of Christians should be their confidence that Jesus is walking alongside all people, even if they can't yet recognise Him. Cardinal Dolan of New York, on pilgrimage in the Holy Land, asked if he could visit Emmaus, the place where, on Easter Sunday, the two disciples encountered the Risen Christ. The Cardinal was told no one knew where it actually was. His Franciscan guide said "maybe that's part of God's plan, because we can make every journey a walk down the road to Emmaus". Cardinal Dolan was happy because that meant every street in New York could be where we could meet the Risen Jesus on our way. He is to be met too in the highways and byways in Ireland.

We can also take the Easter motif a step further. Because of the Risen Jesus' universal impact, touching everyone with His love, Easter encourages us to live universal fraternity. The deep truths of Christian faith - Christ's death for all and His Resurrection for all - lead us to recognise everyone as a sister and brother. The Christian Easter narrative has shaped us and the whole of Western culture deeply.

Pope Francis has written that Jesus Christ's Resurrection everywhere calls forth seeds of a new world of fraternity. Thankfully in Ireland we can discover countless such seeds in the many examples of care being shown to others in all kinds of situations of disadvantage. And even if the seeds of hope and fraternity are cut back at times of adversity, Pope Francis says, they grow again, "for the Resurrection is already secretly woven into the fabric of history". Jesus did not rise in vain.

In prophetic tone, the Pope expresses the wish, "may we never remain on the side-lines of the march of living hope!"

The 1916 Proclamation of Independence was imbued with a vision of hope in a genuine fraternity. So often fraternity risks becoming a 'forgotten principle' in politics. Indeed, of the three great principles of modern politics, liberty, equality and fraternity - fraternity has often been ignored in European history. And at a price.

Let's not forget that in the various efforts at achieving equality, that struggle has often cost the lives of millions when fraternity was forgotten. That is how it is in all one-sided promotions of unlimited freedom.

The Easter proclamation of faith reminds us that the fraternity written into human ecology always respects God's work of creation with its in-built requirements of protection of the earth, protection of family life, protection of the fabric of society, protection of the vulnerable.

In contemporary Ireland, fraternity will include respect for differing lifestyles and efforts to guarantee them legal protection. The 1916 Easter proclamation, however, would hardly have meant that in respecting differing lifestyles we prioritise adults over children.

Jesus is risen! Yes, He's truly Risen! The Easter proclamation is more than words. It is a statement of vision about universal fraternity and human ecology, reconciliation and care for the vulnerable.

As we head towards the celebrations next year of the 1916 Easter Rising, we have a year to rediscover key values of our society. It is also an opportunity for all of us to prepare personally for this centenary, not just in terms of the outward displays of commemoration but also in terms of our personal relationships with others.

With the "Easter" Rising commemoration on the horizon, the year ahead is a chance to offer an Easter amnesty to anyone who may have offended us. To forgive those who have hurt us is to plant a seed of hope that will grow to the benefit of society. If we find ourselves in this way on the march of living hope, we'll be offering a contribution to building a society that is "all risen" with a wisdom that helps us live out a founding vision of hope in genuine fraternity, cherishing all the children of the nation equally.

Brendan Leahy is Bishop of the Diocese of Limerick

Sunday Independent

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