Margaretta D'Arcy (pictured left) was released yesterday (Mar 22) from Mountjoy Prison after serving nine and a half weeks of a three month term for refusing to sign a bond to uphold the law and keep away from unauthorised zones in Shannon Airport. She described the airport as 'a place of murder, assassination and complicity.' Margaretta is a remarkable woman and there is something very unusual in the way she has acted which is worth highlighting before the story slips from view.

The horror that is the Western invasion of Iraq has been well documented at this stage. Over a million innocent civilians killed, a country transformed from stability, albeit under a brutal dictatorship, to civil war. Where, in Fallujah, babies are born with birth defects at a level 14 times higher than after the atomic bombs in Hirohima and Nagasaki due to a 2005 attack by Allied Forces which rained down depleted uranium on the population. The rape and pillage of oil resources to prop up a failing western economy. Etc. etc. All this we know.

What is significant about what Margaretta D'Arcy has done is she has refused to walk by on the other side of the road like the Priest and the Levite. The Greek word which is used to describe the Samaritan's response - Splagchnizomai - is a word I believe can be used to describe Margaretta's action. It is usually translated 'compassion' but it is a special kind of compassion. It means being viscerally moved in the bowels by the plight of those around us. It appears 12 times in the New Testament and 8 of those times describes the actions of Jesus. It is a word, more than any other, which characterises Jesus' response to those in need around him. That such an elderly lady suffering from cancer and using a Zimmer frame would be willing to endure a prison sentence suggests she too has been viscerally moved with compassion for the plight of those around her.

When the question of faith and religious practise arises it is often gauged by the question "How many people are attending mass on Sundays?" or "How many people ticked RC in the census?" but these measures tell us very little about what is going on in the hearts of people. A far better measure is Splagchnizomai. How many of us are viscerally moved with compassion by the plight of those who suffer around us? To see what this means we have the example of Jesus ... and a little old lady with a Zimmer frame. Thank you Margaretta!


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