Fourth of July Mass to Commemorate the Pallottine Belgrano 5: Homily by Fr. Johnny Sweeney SAC

Belgrano 5

It feels a little strange to be here with you all this morning, as we celebrate the lives and the witness of the five Pallottines who died on this day, forty-one years ago. They were Argentinians, I am Irish; they experienced a violent death at a time when I was in the peaceful safety of my mothers womb. I am sure that many others could speak more eloquently and knowledgeably than I. 

I am continually amazed at how the scriptures speak to us. Throughout the world, this gospel is proclaimed at every mass. St. Paul describes the word of God as “cutting more finely than a double-edged sword”. That means that the word of God reaches out to us and gets to the heart of the matter. For me, today’s Gospel invites us to reflect on our faith in Jesus and our response, and it challenges us to recognize the faith and response of others. 

In the Gospel, Jesus and his closest friends are together in a boat. I’m sure that their journey began in a peaceful manner but then, suddenly, in the middle of a dark night, a violent storm erupts and scares them. They fear for their lives and cry out to Jesus, “Save us Lord, we are going down!”. The story of Alfie Kelly, Alfie Leaden, Pedro, Emilio and Salvador mirrors this story. They had committed their lives to Jesus and suddenly, in the middle of a dark, winters night, violence erupts. I’m sure they must have been scared. They feared for their lives and probably knew that the end of their earthly lives was near. I believe that their last prayer would have been an echo of the prayer of the apostles, “Save us Lord, we are going down!”. 

 In our gospel, Jesus brings peace and calm and the apostles are amazed. It is our hope and desire that Jesus has brought Pedro, Alfie Kelly, Alfie Leaden, Emilio and Salvador to a place of peace and rest, and that these five men are experiencing the awe and amazement of heaven. Jesus saved the apostles, and it is our belief that Jesus saves all those who commit their lives to him and who bear witness to his love and life. 

The apostles called on Jesus in their need because they had faith in him. The five men we remember today shared their lives and offered their lives to God as his servants. They lived a time of great division and pain, and met the challenge of this time with the Gospel of Jesus. We remember them primarily for the witness they gave to Christ in their lives, not for the violent manner of their death. They lived for Christ, this is what is important. The violent manner of their death was and is a disgrace, but we are called to focus on the grace present in their lives. 

I am a foreigner living here in Argentina. I do not pretend to understand the history of this country or of that time, but I do come from a country that has experienced violence and division. In Ireland we experienced a civil war, when Irish men fought Irish men. In the Gaelic language it was known as the “cogadh Na gcarad”, which translates as, the war between friends. This description of that conflict also expresses a desire for unity and healing, to reunite once more as friends. This nation also experienced violent division. I pray today for healing and peace for johnny3this nation, for peace in my own land, and for peace in the world. Emilio, Salvador, Pedro, Alfie Dufrau and Alfie Kelly committed themselves to the Gospel of Jesus. This Gospel desires healing and reconciliation, peace and community, forgiveness and love. We pray for the grace today to forgive those responsible for this terrible act of violence, we ask that we would live out the Gospel message in our hearts, our communities and our homes, we ask that we would bring light and love to our world. We ask for the peace which only Jesus can bring. + Amen.