There is a famous line in the book of the prophet Micah that reads as follows: ‘This is what the Lord asks of you, only this: to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God’ [Micah 6:8]. It sums up the very essence of what we are called to as people of faith.
Those very words haunted me last week as I listened to reports concerning ‘Mother and Baby Homes’ and the shocking revelations of how hundreds of children were buried in Tuam. Listening to those reports and interviews with those directly affected by the revelations, I felt both profound sadness and deep shame: sadness for those who were judged, marginalised, hidden away and made to feel like lesser beings; shame because our Church was instrumental in fostering a culture that regarded these mothers as outcasts and their children as ‘illegitimate.’ How in God’s name can a child ever be regarded as ‘illegitimate’? How could the birth of a baby and the precious gift of life ever be seen as a source of dishonour and shame? Every child born into our world is a blessing to be embraced, a gift to be cherished, a godsend to be nurtured and nourished regardless of the circumstances in which they are conceived or the family situation into which they are born. There simply are no ‘lesser children’ for God. There never has been and there never will be! All children are to be cherished equally; all mothers ought to be cared for and supported equally, all families are to be respected equally. To do anything else is to betray everything Jesus lived and died for.
And so this weekend I ask all of us to pray for all those who have suffered unjustly in the past, those who were shunned and hidden away, those who were denied the joy that should have rightfully been theirs in childbirth and motherhood. We humbly acknowledge the part our Church played in cultivating the culture that judged and looked down on these women and children and we pledge ourselves to rediscovering the path that Micah has marked out for us: to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God. When we act justly, there is no room for discrimination. When we love tenderly, no one is excluded from our care. When we walk humbly with our God no one looks down on anyone else for we are all created equal in the image and likeness of the one and same God. Fr Seán