FESTIVAL OF PEOPLES 2012
Homily Notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin
Pro-Cathedral, 26th May 2012
On this Vigil of the Feast of Pentecost we come together to celebrate the gifts of the Spirit and especially that special gift through which the Spirit guided the early Church, as we will hear in the Preface of this Mass, to open “to all peoples the knowledge of God and [to bring] together the many languages of the earth in the profession of the one faith”. We celebrate the presence in our Church in Dublin of peoples of many different nations and backgrounds. We celebrate how the gift of faith unites us.
I greet you all this afternoon. I greet the representatives of the various national chaplaincies. I greet those newly baptized at Easter. I greet the diplomatic representatives of many nations. I greet all of you as part of our gathering for the Eucharist in which we are brought together by the Holy Spirit.
We celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. We celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit, the giver of life. We pray that we and our Church will be filled by that special gift of life and renewal which the Spirit alone can bring.
We heard that remarkable first reading from the book of Ezekiel. It speaks of the prophet being led to a valley full of bones, dry bones. The prophet realises that he has been taken there by the Spirit, as he is called by God to breathe life into those bones and to bring life into that valley.
The Spirit began to act through the prophet by breathing the word of God into the bones and they begin to change their features. No longer dry they put on flesh, with sinews and skin and they begin to live. The wind of the Spirit comes then from the four corners and brings breath and life to these bones now covered in flesh and they begin to stand on their feet and show the life that is in them.
On this Feast of Pentecost we celebrate the mysterious ways in which the Spirit is with us to bring us new life. In our reading we were reminded that the Spirit had come to the house of Israel when people were saying that their bones had dried up and that they had lost all hope. It is at such a moment of hopelessness that the Lord came to breathe new life into them and to resettle them from a valley of bones into in a land of hope and promise.
There is a great temptation today to become resigned to think that our Church has somehow lost its way. We can easily come to loose hope and feel a sense of dryness and aridity. There are many statistics and reports which can lead people to become sceptical and loose a dynamic of hope about the Church. There are indeed many who are only too happy to point their fingers at the difficulties of the Church. People then look to various ways to renew the church and yet very often the fruit of their efforts is just to fall back into the same sense of dryness.
How should we respond? The first need is to create the space in our hearts and in our lives and in the life of the Church for the spirit to breathe the life of God. It is the Spirit alone who can defy our sense of despair and lack of purpose. The Spirit alone can breathe the life-giving power of the word of God which is at the heart of any type of renewal.
Renewal must take place within the realities of the world and the culture in which we live, but it must also take us out of and above that culture. The Spirit enables us to discern; without that discernment of the Spirit our efforts at renewal may well, unawares to ourselves, leave us still fossilized within a valley of bones. Open to the Spirit we will be transformed and transferred by the same Spirit to resettle us in what is our true home. New evangelization requires that we rise up above those aspects of daily life and of our current culture which entrap us within a vision only of our own self sufficiency.
The second reading reminds us again that we must seek our hope in the Spirit, but it also reminds us that the Spirit seeks us out and comes to us indeed in a special way in our weakness. Our salvation will never be our own work; it is the fruit of the Spirit who comes to us in our weakness, often when we least expect the Spirit to comfort and transform us.
The Spirit, we hear, is in a special way a Spirit of prayer. There will be no renewal of the Church without a true sense of prayer. If our hearts are not open in prayer then the Spirit will be prevented from entering into the space of our efforts of renewal. In today’s world of hectic and noise, the Spirit can easily be set to the margins of the way we think and reflect.
Certainly none of us can or should judge the authenticity of the humble prayer of any other person. Prayer is not about elegant or evocative words. The prayer of the Christian is most often a prayer in a hope which we cannot easily see; it is about hope which we only truly understand when our minds become aligned with the mind of God. Rather than a process of us unceasingly chattering to God, prayer is always the prayer of listening and taking things in the pace of God’s time.
When we celebrate the feast of Pentecost as the feast of the Spirit, we celebrate also the Church. We live in the age of human history as the age in which God works his mysterious action through the Spirit within the Church. It is interesting to note that in all the Creeds of the Christian faith the references to the Church are not in the sections about our faith in Jesus Christ, but in our profession of faith in the Holy Spirit.
We have come here this evening to celebrate the diversity of the gifts and traditions which exist today in the Church of Jesus Christ here in Dublin. It is the Spirit who enables the message of Jesus to be captured by people of different nationalities and language. There is no one human language or culture which can on its own encapsulate how the Spirit speaks. The Spirit can enter and cleanse and renew any culture and can bring together men and women of different cultures in a way that they discover themselves brothers and sister in Jesus Christ.
Irish society has changed in recent years in many ways. One of these ways is the diversity of people who have come to Ireland in the search of hope for themselves and their families and who have not just found hope for themselves but have enriched all of us in so many ways with their faith, their culture and their sense of hard work, integrity and honesty. We thank God for that diversity; that diversity is in its own way a sign of what is means to be truly God’s family.
The Church is called to be a sign or a sacrament of the unity of all people in Jesus Christ. The Church which is constructed by the Eucharist establishes a unique communion among believers. Those who are nourished by the one bread, become one. Our communion with Christ, if it is authentic, generates a new model of communion with one another, to recall the theme of the upcoming Eucharistic Congress.
If the Church can live that communion in its daily interaction, then it brings a unique contribution to our vision of society and the sense of sharing and unity which a splintered and divided society needs. Let us pray that the Spirit will bring new life to our dry bones and renew our Church and our society into a valley of genuine hope and promise and unity in Jesus Christ.