22/06/06 Mass for Peace in the Middle East Homily

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Mass for Peace in the Middle East, Homily Notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland.
Pro-Cathedral, 22nd July 2006
We come to answer to the appeal of Pope Benedict XVI for the entire Church to raise its voice in prayer for peace in the Holy Land.  We remember in particular the innocent victims of the current conflict, from whatever side or nationality.   We remember those who have today to face once again the horrors of war and violence, of having to abandon their homes and watch their loved ones suffer.  They know what is involved since they have seen it all before and have watched other days of hope fade back into violence.

The Pope has asked that negotiations should begin urgently to remedy the situations of injustice that exist in the region.  He stressed that the people of Lebanon have the right to see the sovereignty and integrity of their nation respected, the people of Israel have the right to be able to live in peace in their own State and the Palestinian people have the right to a country of their own which is free and sovereign.

The Gospel of today’s Mass shows how Jesus was moved by people who had gathered to hear his words because they were “like sheep without a Shepherd”.   Jesus was referring to how the people had constantly been failed throughout biblical history by their religious and political leaders.  Only God remained true to his people in the face of the many disintegrating pressures.How true those words must ring to the people in the Holy Land today who are victims of the conflict and who once again must feel betrayed and abandoned by the inability of the consort of nations to guarantee for them their basic rights and securities in the face of hidden interests and fostered hatreds.  To these innocent people the international community must appear “shepherd-less”, once again unable to find its own unity of purpose in the face of a seemingly never-ending conflict.

I would hope at this stage that the Irish government would do all in its power within international frameworks to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those most in need and to stress unrelentingly that in any conflict international humanitarian law – which protects civilians and civilian infrastructures – is binding on all States and also on all non-State actors without exception.

Each day we see on our television screens the extraordinary display of the weaponry of death.  As Christian believers we can only revert to those weapons of prayer and of penance which have traditionally been those which evoke a peace which is beyond that peace we humans on our own can achieve.  Peace is fundamentally a gift of God.

Can prayer help?   Some may think that is just idealistic and of no effect in the “real world”.  The believer, however, knows that God is the only one who has constantly remained faithful to his people.  At every stage in human history, despite the infidelity of his people, God has remained faithful and has come to the aid of those who follow his path with fidelity.

Prayer is above all a humble placing of ourselves in the presence of God who is totally other.  He is truth, and goodness and love.  By placing ourselves simply in his presence and recognising his total otherness we also change ourselves.

When we see that God is totally other, we recognise that everything we have is gift.  We cannot thus allow ourselves or others use the things of the world for any purpose that would betray God’s design.  When we are men and women of prayer we can only be people of peace, who wish to see all humankind live in harmony together and live in harmony with the all of God’s creation.  Placing ourselves in an attitude of prayer we witness to how humans should behave towards each other and towards all of creation.  Prayer is not just a private conversation between you or me and God.  Prayer is a placing myself into a new kind of relationship with God and with others.

We place ourselves in the presence of Jesus Christ who came to reveal what God is like and to bring his peace, as we heard in the reading, to all whether they are far way or near at hand, since he is the one who has broken down all barriers.  We pray that in that land which is holy to Christian, Jew and Muslim alike, religious leaders will become more effective witnesses to the unity of all humankind.

God is a God of peace.  He is with all those who work for peace.  But his message is strong and clear to those who chose the path of violence and disunity. The first reading is clear “Doom” he says, “to those who allowed the flock of my pasture to be destroyed or scattered”.   May the Lord also touch and change the heart of those whose projects are not of peace.