African Chaplaincy 10th Anniversary

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Twenty Second Sunday of the Year 2017



Homily notes of  Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin,  Archbishop of Dublin

Saint Pater’s Church, Phibsborough, 3rd September 2017


“This is an important occasion.  Congratulations are due to so many who have worked over the past ten years to consolidate the position of the African Catholic Chaplaincy in this Archdiocese of Dublin.  For that, we give thanks to God.  Amen.

I am very happy to be here with you and to see how my original concern for African Catholics has truly taken root within the Archdiocese and how the Archdiocese has continued its pastoral concern for the African community but above all how African Catholics have genuinely enriched the faith life of this diocese.  You enrich the Archdiocese through the belief and the commitment of your community, your priests, religious, families, and your children.  For that, we give thanks to God. Amen.

Your life is not always easy here in Ireland in a country, living far from your original home.  However, you have built up a new life for yourselves and your children, while keeping alive the good things of your traditions. In particular, you have done so much for your children.  I do not know whether I should call your children African-Irish or Irish-Africans.  They are Irish, but they bring to our country and to our church the best of both worlds.  For that, we give thanks to God, Amen.

Your life here in Ireland has not been easy.  The ten years since the Chaplaincy was established have seen a deep economic crisis and a housing crisis that has affected so many.   The African community has had to face these crises from a situation of precariousness.  Your hard work and strong sense of family values has helped you come though these crises.  For that, we give thanks to God Amen.

It is not easy to be an authentic Christian in today’s world.  However, we have to remember that it has never been easy to be an authentic Christian believer.  We see that even among the very first disciples of Jesus, as we heard in today’s Gospel.

In last week’s Gospel reading, Saint Peter was clear in his recognition that this Jesus was really the Messiah about whom the prophets had spoken.  Jesus, however, tells his disciples not to speak of this, because he knew that those around him would have misunderstood its meaning.

Being a Christian is not just about words and formulae; it is not just about externally professing Jesus as Lord,   It is first of all about a passion deep within our hearts to know who Jesus really is and what he calls us to be and to do.

We cannot achieve this just on our terms alone.  We must understand how God himself reveals himself to us.  We do not create a God who appeals to us; we must open ourselves to God’s way of thinking which changes us.

Jesus, the just man, lived in a world marked by injustice and he realised that his obedience to his Father will inevitable lead him to his death.  This is something that his disciples do not want to understand.  They have their own idea of what the Messiah should be like.   They are not willing even to try to understand what Jesus is saying, to the point that Jesus has to tell Peter that he is becoming an obstacle because he thinks in terms which are more those of Satan than those of God.  These are strong words indeed.

What then is the way of Jesus?  It is the way of obedience to his Father.   Obedience is a difficult concept for us to accept.   For us the idea of living in obedience to someone else appears as something that denies our individuality and our humanity.  We seek a self-fulfilment that is often defined principally in terms of me as an individual.   We are all tempted to place our needs as the crucial measure of what is important to us.

We can only understand what obedience to God means when we understand who God is.  Our God is a God of love. Obedience to God means living a life in which we respond in love to those around us and to the world around us. Obedience to God means realising that we find fulfilment in love not through being self-centred, but through giving ourselves in love, as Jesus showed his love even to the point of accepting an unjust death.  Jesus gave himself in love to save us.  For that, we give thanks to God.  Amen

Love is not easy. All of us know, for example, the extraordinary love of parents in today’s world and in our communities who give themselves totally, so that their children can do better than they did themselves.  We know the love of parents that continues even in the face of apparent opposition and failure.  Such parents give us all a lesson in what love is about.  The Church does not just teach married couples; the love of married couples helps us to understand the Church teaching.

This is something that we will celebrate at the World Meeting of Families, which we will celebrate here in Dublin – hopefully with the presence of Pope Francis – in one year’s time. I was happy that some African Families were part of the official delegation of the Archdiocese at the ceremonies in Knock two weeks ago. It is my intention to ensure that the African Families of Ireland can play a special role in the World Meeting.

On the other hand, today as we look around us and at our world, we see the opposite of love; we see what hatred can create and do to the lives of those who are its victims.  We see how a culture of hatred and fanaticism challenges world peace.  We see it sadly in many parts of Africa and we see it nearer home in Ireland.   There are sadly many examples of hatred and blatant disregard to the lives of others in our own country.    Think of the numbers of murders and shootings that now take place in Ireland.  Think of the sense of revenge that that hatred generates.  Think of those who are trafficked and exploited.

A Church called to live in obedience to the God revealed in Jesus Christ has to be a community where God’s love is ever more vividly reflected.  It has to become a community within which the law of love dominates.  It has to become the place where young people learn the fact that you never really flourish as a person when you only think of yourself.

One of the many images that Pope Francis uses is that of the doors of the Church.  He reminds us that the doors of our Churches must remain open so that people can enter and encounter the healing power of Jesus.  They must be doors that do not have invisible security screens that try to keep out those whom we may not like or may be different.  They must be doors that are not one-way, which tempt the like-minded and us to remain enclosed within the Church building as a Church just of the comfortable.  Finally, the doors of the Church must be open so that those who encounter the message and the love of Jesus in word and sacrament can go back out into the harsh world bringing a witness to the care and the love of Jesus.

For the past ten years the members of the African Community in the Archdiocese of Dublin have worked together to become more and more a community where faith is deepened through listening to the word of God and within which that same word of God makes us all ever more sensitive to the needs of others, their physical need but also their need for hope and meaning and purpose within a complex world, a need which will only be fulfilled through knowing and following and being sustained by Jesus Christ.