06/01/08 Festival of Peoples Homily

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Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland
Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, 6th January 2008
          For the third year in succession, we come together in this Cathedral Church to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany as a Festival of Peoples.  I greet representative groups, together with their Chaplains and community leaders, from the Polish, Filipino, Lithuanian, Nigerian, Romanian, Indian, Croatian, Czech, Slovak and Palestinian communities and many others.   I am very pleased to greet the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Clr. Paddy Bourke, whose presence here stresses for us that he is the Lord Mayor of all in Dublin and that he considers his administration as one that is there at the service of all.

We celebrate our Festival of Peoples on the day on which the new-born Christ was revealed in a mysterious way, already in the first days of his life, as the Lord of all peoples, as the one who would bring salvation and hope to all peoples.   The new-born Jesus receives initial homage from simple shepherds; now from mysterious travellers from another part of the world. The religious and political establishment are represented in this story only under the guise of Herod’s fear for his throne and his power.

        The whole story of the birth of Jesus as we find it in different form in the different Gospels is about revelation: it is about the revelation of the Word of God becoming a human being, one like us in all things but sin, in order to reveal to us what God is like and in order to show us the path to life and salvation.
What sort of a God does Jesus reveal to us?  God appears in human history in poverty, in the helplessness of a tiny new born baby.  In the story of his birth Jesus reveals to us the love of God, a love that has no arrogance, no pretext of being alongside power and possession, owing no debt to fashion or favour of the day, totally outside of the conventional box and totally outside of the box of all conventions.

        Being a Christian, being a follower of the God revealed in Jesus Christ, involves turning our view on life and on human relations 180 degrees around.  Our Christian faith reminds us that the basis of all truth is to be found in love.  It reminds us that no one can witnesses to the truth about God if they do not overcome egoism and self-centredness.  It reminds us that the truth about life and its meaning can only be found when we transcend our own individual experience and aspirations and allow the love of God to transform us.

        In today’s celebration we come to recognise another dimension of the revelation of God at the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus is revealed to the peoples.  It is revealed to us that in Christ all are children of God. No one is excluded from the family God; we are all brothers and sisters. Humankind is founded as a family.

Pope Benedict put it very clearly in his Message for this year’s World Day of Peace: “We do not live alongside one another purely by chance; all of us are progressing along a common path as men and women, and thus as brothers and sisters”.

And the Pope draws an important conclusion’s “Without [a] transcendent foundation, society is a mere aggregation of neighbours, not a community of brothers and sisters called to form one great family”.

        Humankind was created as a family. This is not just a pipedream. This is something inscribed in our very nature.  But for this to become a reality in our daily existence we all have to say our individual “yes” to it.

We must say our “yes” to this reality, through the way we live.  The Pope’s words on the danger of modern society becoming just an “aggregation of neighbours” ring true, also in Dublin.    I am struck at the change in Dublin society where we find areas which once affronted the difficulties of life with a true spirit of caring, community and solidarity, now turning into walled citadels where consumerist anonymity prevails.  How much loneliness exists in our cities?   How much fear?  But fear – in Dublin or in any other part of the world – will be overcome not by building walls, but by building relationships.

        Relationships too can also become caught up in walls:  in the walls of intolerance, of feelings of superiority, in latent or even express racism.  Our Festival of Peoples this evening wishes to witness to a Church which welcomes, to a Church of brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, ready to work with all to build bridges and to shape community. The social, economic and political future of Ireland, with the particular challenges that the coming years will bring, will require that we all work together to build a society not just of anonymous next-door neighbours but of people of varied backgrounds committed to building new community.

In the story of the birth of Jesus, the figure of Herod lurks in the background as an indication and a warning of what happens to human community when cynical self interest and fearful protection of power and influence become the dominant factors in human relationships. Our Festival of Peoples is a challenge to anyone in our society who opts for the false hope of isolation and anonymity rather than that of community and solidarity.  Paradoxically, only a future of community and solidarity can guarantee a future where each one’s individuality and personal identity are not just protected but also prized and celebrated.

        This evening’s gathering is a gathering which expresses what Church is.  It is an expression of the unique community which is celebrated in the Eucharist, where all experience a sense of belonging to Christ and to each other.  This evening that sense of belonging is almost tangible here at our Mass.

        In am pleased that the Church in Dublin has been in the forefront in welcoming and integrating those who have come more recently to our shores.   I commend the openness of our parishes. I commend all those who work to ensure new hope for refugees and victims of violence.

To you who have come to Ireland in search of a better life for you and your families may I say that I rejoice at your presence and the newness that you bring to our faith community?  I rejoice at the creativity you have brought to our civil and local communities and indeed to our economy.  Be proud to be in Ireland.  Be proud to be Irish, but do not loose the richness of the traditions you bring here to us.   Ireland is big enough to embrace you.  Respect the country that welcomes you and that Irish society welcomes you.

        I am pleased that the Catholic school system in the Archdiocese of Dublin and across the country has such a strong record of welcoming your children and making them feel an integral and cherished part of Irish society and I am talking here of thousands and thousands of such children.   It is my commitment to see that this policy of welcome will continue and deepen.  It is my commitment to work in that sense with others.  I sometimes feel that some of the pundits who comment on the role of Catholic schools in the process of integration have not seen for themselves the success story of integration that I see in so many parts of this diocese.   We need open debate on the future of our educational system, but we need honest debate.

        There are problems. We can all do better.  Many, for example, quietly opt out of integration by sending their children to schools with low levels of diversity.  A mixture of speculative rent policies and inadequate planning and services can transform the normal wish of immigrants to gather, where their peers and friends have found a home, into an unhealthy environment which even the best school will never be able to redress. Integration is a task and a challenge for all.  All of us in Irish society need to address the challenges. We need open debate, and not just point scoring. 

        Let us be hopeful.   There are indeed many signs of hope to be seen.  If we work together, then the Ireland of the years to come will be an Ireland that many of us could not have imagined but it will be a better Ireland and all of us here this evening, inspired by the spirit of this feast, will have been proud to be a part of.   May the light of Christ bring hope and promise to us all and bring us all closer as God’s family, called humankind.

Homily Notes ofArchbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland—————-Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, 6 January 2008

Homily Notes ofArchbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland—————-Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, 6 January 2008

Homily Notes ofArchbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland—————-Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, 6 January 2008