17/09/06 Inauguration of the Polish Chaplaincy in High Street

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Homily given by Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of all Ireland
at the Inauguration of the Polish chaplaincy in St. Audeon’s Church, High Street.
St. Audeon’s, High St. 17th Sept ’06.
Who is Jesus Christ?  In today’s Gospel it is Jesus himself who challenges his disciples to answer this question.   They have been with him for many years on his missionary journeys.  They have observed him, listen to his words, prayed with him.  But he has rarely spoken openly to his disciples about his identity.  He has done so even less to the crowd.   Jesus does not force his identity on any one.
Indeed we see in Saint Mark’s Gospel, which is being read on the Sunday’s of this year, that even when Jesus shows his power through working miracles or when his glory was seen, if even for a moment, at the Transfiguration or today as the disciples appear to come closer to really understanding his identity as “the Christ”, Jesus curiously “gives them strict orders not to tell anyone about him” or his powerful deeds. 
In today’s Gospel, as soon as the disciples seem to come close to understanding his identity as “the Christ”, Jesus completely overwhelms them by utterly changing the direction of their reflections by telling them that the “Christ” will have to suffer.
Jesus does not offer us his identity in a ready made package, as a modern advertising firm would try to do. There is no spin, no attempt to brainwash.  The act of faith must be a free act.   We move towards understanding the identity of Jesus only through a series of encounters and challenges, through a path of allowing the Word of God to take grip of our hearts and to lead us slowly but ever more deeply into the mystery which Jesus reveals, the mystery of God’s own identity.
Jesus never imposes belief.  With us in our time, just as we think we know Jesus, he surprises us and challenges us to open our hearts wider and to enter more deeply into communion with his mystery.  Following Jesus is a life-long challenge, a life-long call to conversion.  
Let us look once again at today’s Gospel.  The disciples see that that the people are beginning to look on Jesus as a prophet, perhaps John the Baptist or one of the prophets of old returned to announce the Messianic times. The disciples however have come to realise that Jesus is more than a prophet who comes to indicate the Christ, but that he is the Messiah himself.   It is Peter who professes on their behalf their belief that Jesus is the Christ.  But within moments we see that Jesus is saying to Peter that he does not understand, indeed that his vision is that of human beings rather than of God.
When Jesus reminded the disciples that as Christ he would also suffer and be rejected, Peter not only could not accept, he even rebuked Jesus. Peter wanted a Christ of his own construction.  He could not fathom the idea of a Christ who would reveal God through suffering and rejection.  Jesus then rebukes the same Peter who had just recognized him at the Christ: “‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but of humans”.

The question about faith and about the identity of Jesus remains a crucial and living question in our day.  It has by no means gone away or become irrelevant.   Many are seeking to know Jesus more deeply.  Many reject his teaching.  Many are indifferent. Many are interested in a Jesus of their own construction. 
There are those who think that the quest for Jesus and for belief is a thing of the past.  I like to remind young people at confirmation about the many websites that deal with the name “Jesus”.  My Google search of last night, as I prepared these reflections, showed up 270 million such sites! 
Jesus’ message is just as alive as it was at the time in which the Gospels were written.  The challenge of believing is just as much a challenge as at any time in history. Some would tend to exclude religion from the everyday life of society and reduce it to a totally private sphere, almost to stress that somehow faith is not “real” in the same sense as the natural sciences are.   
Faith belongs to the real world because faith changes people’s real lives. The name and the message of Jesus challenge people today to reflect on the meaning of their lives just as at any stage in history.  The message of the truth and the love of Jesus still today change lives towards the goodness, and meaning and hope, as together we ponder the word of God and celebrate his mysteries in the communion of the Church.

Today is a very special day in the life of the Polish community in Dublin as we inaugurate their presence in this beautiful Church of Saint Audeon.  This is a Church which was for many years a parish with a rich tradition, which is still much loved by the people of the locality.   As Archbishop of Dublin I am happy to see that this Church will be at the service, alongside those devoted to the traditional Latin Mass, to the many Poles who have come to Ireland in these last years.
My prayer is that it will be a centre of faith and a centre of Christian care which will take to heart the second reading, a place where faith will be witnessed to through good deeds, where the faith community will a community which cares and which shows solidarity. 
This happy day is the fruit of initial contacts established by the two Cardinals we are honoured to have here with us today: His Eminence, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, Archbishop of Warsaw and Primate of Poland and Cardinal Desmond Connell, Emeritus Archbishop of Dublin.  We are honoured also by the presence of His Excellency, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto.  With him I greet the Ambassador of Poland and representatives of the Polish government.
Today is a day in which the Archdiocese of Dublin reaffirms the welcome that the Christian community in Dublin extends to those who have come to our shores and who enrich our economy, our culture and our Church.  I wish publicly to pay tribute to our Polish Catholic community which has witnessed among us a genuine sense of faith in Jesus Christ.  Poland can be proud of its emigrant community in Ireland and we are happy that in this centre Polish Catholics will receive pastoral care, formation and support in their difficult moments and in happier times.  The presence among us of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alderman Vincent Jackson, is an indication of the appreciation our city has of the contribution of the Polish community
The Church will set out to strengthen a community of faith.  The task of this faith community will be to make the message of Jesus known through word and in action, and through making Christ present among us through celebrating the mysteries of salvation.   This contribution based on faith is a real contribution, not one totally isolated from the realities of life. Proclaiming the message of Jesus is the greatest contribution that the community of believers brings to the wider community around them.
Some would say that the greatest contribution of the Church is its work for justice and for solidarity.  These are important, but to understand why the work of the Church for caring and for justice is so successful, we have to realise that it is inspired by an understanding of God himself.  God revealed himself in Jesus Christ as the one who gave himself totally for us, so that sin and evil could be overcome and humanity freed. 
The Christian is the one who becomes Christ like, the one who sees that self-giving is of the essence of being a human person, and that in giving and sharing we are becoming like Jesus, who came to give himself for us.
We ask God’s blessing on this new home of the Polish Chaplaincy in Dublin and on all those who will be associated with it. Make it grow in faith and love in the years to come.