26/11/2010 Mater Dei Graduation Homily

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Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland
Holy Cross College, Clonliffe, 26th November 2010


The readings we have just heard tell us something about how we as followers of Jesus Christ should live as individuals and as a community.  The readings talk about our faith and about the gift of the spirit which changes our fundamental attitudes towards life and the way we live.

Faith is not just private devotion.  Our faith should influence our life.  The first reading reminds us that God’s gift “was not a spirit of timidity”.  As dominant elements in Irish culture become more secularised, there is the temptation for even convinced Christian believers today easily to become intimidated into thinking that they should not manifest their faith in the public arena. There are even those who would suggest that it would not be politically correct to do so.

Bringing our faith with us into the public arena is not a question of imposing our faith on others, but of being ready to and capable of witnessing to that faith and to show the relevance of that faith to the realities of the world.   This is all the more necessary when there is often a cultural context critical of faith.  There is a tendency to be banal about faith or focus on bizarre superficialities around faith.  Openly stressing the significance of one’s faith has indeed also become difficult for many due to the scandals of abuse within the Church.  Today is the first anniversary of the publication of the Murphy Report, an anniversary which will reawaken the pain and the anger of many survivors of abuse.

It is not easy to be a believing Catholic in such a situation. The Gospel figure of the blind beggar is an example of what it means to have no timidity in his desire to encounter Jesus.  He shows absolute determination in not losing this perhaps unique opportunity in his lifetime to encounter the one person he believes will return his sight to him. Nothing and no one can impede the blind man.   He disregards all forms of conventional correctness. When he is told to shut up and be polite, he simply shouts all the louder.

The Christian who wishes to witness to his or her faith in Jesus Christ in our society may have to be a voice which goes against conventional correctness.  The Christian may have to stand up and speak with a clarity where truth is not popular and is often replaced by spin management.  The problem about standing up for principle and truth is that in a relativistic culture, everything seems compromise-able because there is nothing that is absolutely fixed.

The culture of political correctness can and often does result in a situation in which being uncompromising about faith can leave the believer standing out like a sore thumb in a sea of conformity.  When the conformity of political correctness becomes the uncompromising norm of society, then individual conscience and its rights can quickly be ignored or outlawed in political decision making.

We can sometimes see emerging a society which regards itself as pluralist in the name of the rights of conscience, leaving no room for the conscientious objection of believers regarding serious matters in the public square.

To come back to the Gospel reading, the final result of the blind beggar’s search for faith is that he comes to see again.  Seeing is not just about gazing around.  Seeing is also about insight.  Our faith should be something which gives us a deeper insight into our lives, when our lives mirror the mind that was in Christ Jesus himself.

There is no doubt that today our society needs insight.  It needs insight not just into the mysteries of a complex global economy, where the hidden hand of legitimate market mechanisms seems replaced by many hidden and unscrupulous hands whose power is uncontrollable and unaccountable.

We also need insight into what is required in political leadership.  Politics is not just about winning elections; it is not just about beating an opponent or an opposing party.  Ireland in its current crisis requires obviously to keep its feet firmly on the ground in addressing the unprecedented challenge we have inherited.  We must be lucid about the mistakes of the past and the uncertainties of the path forward.   A political climate of anger about the past and anxiety of the future could also lead to a negative politics which is only “against”.  If we want to move towards a different future we also and perhaps above all need a politics “for”.  We need not just negativity, but also a renewed sense of national purpose.

The basis of that national purpose must be solidarity.  It will be solidarity among us all in the face of the challenge.  Solidarity, however, cannot be dished out across the board in equal-sized portions, as a common percentage of cuts or additional revenue.  Solidarity is the art of measuring in proportion to specific needs; it involves that special insight which comes by looking at reality through the lens of focus on the vulnerable.

There is also solidarity in purpose.  This is the opposite of a situation in which everyone seems pitched against the other.  The opponent is deemed to have nothing good to say. People are left angry and alone in the shifting sands of uncertainty when certainty and purpose are what are called for.

Solidarity, finally, is not just about national policy.  It is about how we personally interact with each other.  The Christian community should be a model of solidarity, a model in which we share not just financial resources but also our own talents and abilities and our basic humanity and love.  The Christian community should not just be in the forefront in looking after those in need; it should be like the father of the prodigal son out there in advance to recognise need and to welcome with loving embrace.

The graduates of Mater Dei will have the challenging task of working with young people to lead them into that special insight which comes from faith in Jesus Christ who came to reveal to us that God is love.  Your Christian faith will enable you not just to encounter pupils, but persons who you will enhance in their sense of personal esteem and enable them even in difficult situations to face life without timidity, but with personal courage, purpose and integrity and a true sense of solidarity and responsibility.  May God bless your work in the years to come.