Archive for May, 2020

Reception of the Remains of Liam Magee Tuesday the 14th May 2019 Homily

I recently downloaded John Prine’s latest album. I’ve been listening to it in my car and on my headphones for the last few weeks. Words of some of the songs came to mind as the reality of Liam’s death cast its shadow into every moment and every second of Friday night. The album is called Tree of Forgiveness and the track I found going around in my head is one entitled; When I get to Heaven. John, like most American folk singers, has become more faith filled as he moves over the 70 mark. Rolling Stone wrote an article on him entitled Inside hisWild past and Grounded Present

Liam could have written the song When I get to Heaven.

When I  get to Heaven, I’m goin to shake God’s hand…Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand…Then I’m going to get a guitar and set up a rock and roll band…Check into a swell hotel…ain’t the afterlife grand. 

It’s the chorus though that I felt Liam coming through…And then I’m going to get a cocktail, vodka and ginger ale and smoke a cigar that’s nine miles long. 

No matter where Liam would be he’d have to be the best with the best of everything…even if it is in the heavens. That’s what we loved about him I suppose. His ability to be the best and to do the best in all things. He wrote his own spirituality for life and its one that is worth contemplating. We could all learn a bit from it. 

The bible is full of quotes whereby God takes delight in his people’s delight; Liam contributed greatly to God’s delight; he really, really showed us how to be happy. He was God’s gentle and lovable rogue, the Robin Hood of his trade and just fun to be around. What better image would we want of Liam in eternity than sipping a cocktail and smoking a long cigar.

In the second verse of the song Prine says he’d open a nightclub called the Tree of Forgiveness where he’d invite along his critics, feed them with pints of Smithwicks and again, a Liam moment, smother them with his charm. But he also says he’d forgive everyone that ever did me harm. The liturgy today is about forgiveness or mercy, placing those we love, especially Liam before the mercy of God. We all need God’s mercy and the kind forgiveness of one another. The one trait of one who is forgiven is the wish to forgive others. Thankfully we don’t need to charm God for his forgiveness, we only need to ask him and this is why we gather this evening – to ask God to forgive Liam for his failings and to receive him warmly into God’s eternal embrace. We hope to assist him on that journey with our prayers this evening. I suppose that this is a good thing; if Liam was depending on one of his horses to carry him into the arms of God he’d be in right trouble. Our prayers have better odds!

The reason we gather this evening is also to offer tangible support to Ann his wife. To his children Nicole, Ciara, Sarah and Craig and his brother Noel. The suddenness of this passing leaves us in shock not just at his passing but the fact that we are asked to absorb the fact that life can be so fragile, so tender, so unpredictable, and so unforgiving. 

My own mother used to say ‘death is very final son’ I didn’t realise the full tenor of that saying until she herself died last Christmas. You can negotiate with sickness, with recovery, with infirmity, but not with death; it is so final and what we’d give to dissolve that finality for a moment. 

The only one in history who helped us sees beyond the curtain of death into the possibility of life beyond is the person of Jesus at this time of Easter. The accounts tell us that there is more. Sometimes we have to dare ourselves to think beyond this life; to think outside the box and even live outside the box as Liam did. Others want to put us in a box to limit and control us; Liam couldn’t be limited or controlled, even by Anne,  neither could Jesus – he wasn’t limited even by sickness, suffering, or death. Dare to think and live differently as Liam did and as the person of Jesus encourages us to do; even in the face of death. After all the Spurs motto is To Dare is to Do.

John Prine also says when he gets to heaven he’s going to take his wristwatch off. The concept of eternity is a timeless place with no more anxiety; where the futility of this world no longer torments us. His song also tells us that he’ll look for his mother and father and his mother’s sisters coz, he says, that’s where all the love starts. This is the ultimate quest I suppose, not just to sip cocktails or smoke cigars but to find the source of all love and be a part of it forever. 

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Mass of the Resurrection for Liam Magee 15th May 2019

Early on Saturday morning I was in the college I work in preparing to welcome many people who were taking part in the annual event known as Darkness into Light. As people arrived, walked, talked, and then eventually went on their way I couldn’t but be aware of the events of the evening before when in a little corner of Kilcock we walked from light into darkness. It was a typical evening with Liam, skitty, fun-filled and busy. He was uplifted by the fact that he had been told he was at the tail end of pneumonia; having said to me only on the day before –‘I don’t have pneumonia; I know better than those doctors what pneumonia is!’ As the world walked from darkness into light we walked from light into a terrifying darkness. As I drove from Dublin I received updates I knew that this situation was worsening. I prayed for Liam; I actually said to God ‘we’ve had two miracles this week…please give us a third…the first – Liverpool, the second – Super Spurs and now please give us Liam’. I had a sense that the odds were high but even Liam didn’t think Spurs would pull it off…so why not him, ‘please, please God, give us a miracle’ I said.  But we were left with only the two; the third one eluded us.

I know many people find it hard to believe in God to day or even easy not to believe in him so I  ask you to hear this story that I’ve just read from the Gospel. Even if you don’t believe in God it is of gargantuan proportion as a piece of literature. It tells of two people, it tells us one was a man but  doesn’t say if the other is a  man or a woman walking along a road. They are devastated, crest-fallen and lost; does this sound familiar to anyone here today? They are traveling to a village called Emmaus. Many of the villages and towns known to us from scripture are familiar to us today; Jerusalem, Bethlem, Capernaum, Nazareth, and the list can go on but no one, despite all the archaeological digs, no one has ever found Emmaus. The authors were saying that those two on the road didn’t know where they were even going so upset were they. They were directionless and lost. Again, does this sound familiar to anyone here today? 

These two wanderers met with someone who lifted their spirits. He helped them to see their world differently and to view it in a more hope-filled way. He wasn’t afraid of their despair, he could step into it with them and walk them out of it. We can do one of two things with despair, we can stay in it and wallow in it or we can decide that when we taste it there is only one way to go and that is out of it, never looking back. I think you’d know the answer to the question as to what approach would Liam Magee take? Liam was positivity and hope on legs, or even at times in a wheel chair, or even a hospital bed. I remember when I was at the darkness into light event that despite all the physical ailments that Liam had known – I’ve never known him to have any traces of what we might call mental illness.  

He was always fascinated by some of my adventures one of which was a visit to Rwanda to work with survivors of the genocide. I’d like to quote something from one of the sisters I worked with as it captures something of Liam’s attitude. ‘I was pained to see things reach the bottom, one could not go lower…I did not stop asking myself what the future held. When you reach the bottom, you can stay there and die, or chose to go back up. I prayed that we do the latter’. 

Liam liked stories of this kind because he knew they were real. Real people struggling with real challenges and making real progress. They were stories that overlapped with his life. He knew what it was to be pushed to the limits in a human sense.  Maybe today we listen to the Gospel of Luke and we listen to the Gospel of Liam. Luke tells us that hope can join our despair and help us see a future. Liam’s Gospel says much the same but probably with a  lot more colloquialisms! The second reading was chosen for many reasons but one line stood out, ‘Glory be to Him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine’.

So what would he say to us now; you know better than me. Liam was very honest; if he felt that power was of human making alone he would have been asked to be buried in place other than here. However, he chose a Church and he wanted the full works. He liked to back an outsider as they was a better reward on your investment if they won but today he put his money on the favourite.

He’d tell us he’s ok…in actual fact he’d probably tell us that he’d got the best deal ever with God…he’d tell us to be happy and enjoy the gifts of creation…seek the best deals…work to live, don’t live to work…he ‘d say don’t get bogged down in the negatives-there is much to be positive about. He wouldn’t dismiss our sadness or patronise it, but he’d find a way of walking along side us until we could see a better horizon. 

In short we are very lucky and fortunate to know Liam Magee. You Anne know that in a particular way as you really loved and supported one another – you made one another be more and more the person God intended you to be; something neither of you couldn’t have done on your own. It was beautiful to watch. And Nicole, Ciara, Sarah and Craig. He was a father to you maybe you can think about him ‘whose power at work in you can do infinitely more than you could ask or imagine’. He has left you each something very special; seek it out. Like the good Lord on the road, he has walked with you and he can help you find your way.

Many of us will remember him in different ways. When Spurs beat Liverpool on the 1st of June, we’ll go to dial his number. Others will think of him in Punchestown especially when your horse comes in last thinking it must be one of Liam’s. Many of us when we need something printed will realise he’s not there to transform our simple idea into something amazing. And if it was a load of rubbish he’s tell us too but also would give us the reassuring ‘Leave it with me’.

However I think we should all remember him if ever we lose hope! Remember him when like the two disciples on the road we do not know where we are going. He never lost hope. His example will help us always to walk from any amount of darkness into the light.

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