Westgate Shopping Mall Victims – Requiem Mass Homily

 

Westgate Shopping Mall Victims 21.09.2013 – Requiem Mass Homily (30.11.2013)

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Requiem Mass

for

Mr. Mbugua Mwangi and Ms Rosemary Wahito

and all those who lost their lives during the terrorist attack at the Westgate Shopping Mall, Kenya

on

21st. September 2013,

Presided by

His Excellency The Most Rev Charles John Brown,

Papal Nuncio

Principal Celebrant

Fr Patrick Claffey SVD

 

Neema ya Bwana Yesu Kristo na upendo wa Mungu na umoja wa Roho Mtakatifu, viwe nanyi nyote.

 

Your Excellency Archbishop Browne, Your Grace Our Bishop Diarmuid, Your Excellency the Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya, members of the diplomatic corps, public representatives, representatives of the missionary movement in Ireland, representatives of the Irish aid and development agencies involved in Kenya, dear friends of former Ambassador Catherine Muigai Mwangi and members of the community of St Mary’s, Karibu – Welcome!I would like to welcome you to this requiem mass where we pray for Catherine Mwangi’s son Mbugua Mwangi and his fiancée Rosemary Wahito and all those who lost their lives during the terrorist attack at the Westgate Shopping Mall, Kenya on 21st September, 2013.

We gather this morning representing several different sectors but essentially as members of the human family, bound together in solidarity and our desire fr peace and harmony amongst all peoples. Maurice Manning, who played a central part in organising this mass, asked me if we could have it here at St Mary’s told me that when he phoned his friend Catherine after these dreadful events he asked her if there was anything we could do here to help, she simply said “Pray, pray, pray….” It was a tremendously faith-filled and very African response from a mother so tragically deprived of her son and the girl he loved. She was asking for our prayers for herself and her family, and for Rosemary’s family, but also for during which at least 65 people were killed in the attack. She was also asking for our prayers for Kenya and its people, who have already suffered so much from the scourge of terrorism. And this, of course, is why we are here this morning. We are here in a spirit of faith and solidarity to pray for those who have been so violently robbed of life, to pray for their families and to pray for their country….

 

Homily Notes

 

Every life is unique as it can only be lived once, by each one of us, in our own way, as we give it meaning and shape and as we touch others in a way that can never be repeated.

Equally each passing is unique, as it is that moment when each of us in our way encounters our final destiny as we understand it and as we try to live that moment in our own unique way.

When we come together to mourn those have died, it is in some way an attempt to make sense of their lives and indeed also of their death. And nowhere is this more so than in Africa, where life and death are charged with significance, where every life and every death has a meaning and a sense. In the case of older people it is most often seen as part of moving on, dying a good and timely death “full of years” is indeed a kind of blessing as one moves on to join the ancestors, while at the same time remaining in communion with these who are left behind.

A violent death, however, is another matter. It is indeed something to be dreaded and something that is not easily understood. How does one make sense of the deaths of 67 completely innocent people ‘doing their shopping’ as happened last September in Nairobi? What God allows this to happen? We cannot feel anything but revulsion, not so much in the face of death perhaps, but in the face of it apparent meaninglessness.

There is an expression that is often used by public representatives and others to describe such a death when they describe it as “senseless”. It is well-meant perhaps, expressing anger, hurt and frustration, but, of course, this is not really accurate because to ordinary people they do have a sense and a purpose and both the sense and the purpose are evil. They are designed to create destruction and pain and to do so, on a vast scale, affecting ordinary, innocent people going about their daily business in a shopping mall. This particular massacre was designed to affect not just Kenya but the whole of the international community by affecting families like Catherine’s and the hundreds of other families affected, both Kenyan and others. It is an enormous challenge to our humanity and as Christians it is an enormous challenge to our faith. How do we make sense of it? Can we?

This no doubt was what was behind Catherine’s request that we should “pray, pray, pray….” Pray to understand, pray to find meaning, pray for some peace and serenity, and, if at all possible, pray to find some kind of forgiveness in our heart or at least to be spared an overwhelming desire for the vengeance that would destroy us.

When I went to look for appropriate readings for this mass and think of Catherine’s faith and her desire, two stood out: the first that very powerful reading from the letter to the Romans which concludes in that powerful declaration of faith: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is the basis of our Christian lives, evening the most dreadful circumstances, when everything appears to be suffering and desolation. Having lived in Africa for many years, I also know that it is a faith shared by African Christians “Prat, pray, pray in the firm belief that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

But there is more. We have been victims of the most dreadful violence but in faith we refuse to be just passive victims, as even in our pain we pledge ourselves to peace, to striving to build a just and equal world not through the violence but through peace. And here we come to heart of the Christian gospel in Matthew 5:

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

In our prayer this morning we pray for Mbugua Mwangi and his fiancée Rosemary Wahito and all those who lost their lives, their lives were full of meaning because they loved and were loved by their families and friends and by God. While we struggle to understand the meaning of their death, we do so in faith and in hope as we pledge ourselves to peace. We pray for their families in their terrible loss that they may find comfort in the prayers and solidarity of their friends. We pray for Kenya and for all nations threatened by violence, we pray for our world, so often wounded and suffering, that we may come to a deeper understanding of our common humanity.

To use an African blessing, we pray that they earth may rest lightly upon them and may their souls and the souls of all the faith departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.