Homily notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin
Church of Saint Theresa, Clarendon Street, 30th November 2014
The Christian message is always a forward-looking one. Advent, which we begin today, is a particular moment in the year when we focus our thoughts on the future, as we begin our reflection on Christ’s coming into our world. The Advent message is a message of hope as we await the coming of Jesus.
Christians live in the expectation that that Christ will come again. That expectation should be the inspiration of our lives. Saint Paul in the second reading reminds us to “keep steady and be without blame” if our witness to Christ is to remain strong.
When Christ comes again in glory, creation will come to its fullness. Our calling as Christians in the world is to anticipate that fullness through the way we live as individuals and as society today. Advent is a moment in which we learn to discern what are the things that endure, and what is just transient. Advent calls us to identify the fundamental choices needed to ensure that our lives and our world do not deviate from – but contribute to building up God’s plan for his creation.
Reflecting on Christ’s coming is not just about a distant future; it is not about opting out of the life of this world today, but about the way we are called to make this concrete world in which we live today even that little bit better every day, as we anticipate already the fullness which Christ will bring with him.
Advent is a period of waiting, of longing, of anticipation and preparation and of rejoicing that “the Lord is coming”, that “the Lord is near”. The coming of the Lord is not something that we should fear. It should fill us with hope, but give us a realistic hope. There is no doubt that we need hope today. As individuals, in our families, in our communities and indeed in our nation so many men and women struggle to make ends meet and move forward in their lives.
Things may be on the mend, but we still feel the effects of hard times economically. Many lost their jobs. Many young people felt that their only future was to emigrate. There are crises regarding housing and about healthcare, about weakening opportunities for our children and precarious care of our older people.
Advent is a special call to Christians to “be alert”, as the Gospel reading told us, to keep our eyes and our hearts open for those who suffer. The Christian of every generation is called to be awake and attentive to where society is slipping into wrong ways and to cry out like the prophet to return to the ways of God.
Advent reminds us to “Stay awake”, to be alert and to be aware also of the things that can distract us from the coming of Jesus and fall into false hopes and empty temptations.
We should be thinking as did the Old Testament prophets did as they looked forward to the coming of the Saviour. They were sensitive to the experience of injustice and sin under which they lived and looked towards the coming of “the anointed one”, as one whose coming will bring the newness of peace and justice and righteousness. But their hope of the coming of the redeemer gave them also the courage to denounce injustice and to build solidarity.
As we look forward to Jesus’ coming we must also have the courage to fight injustice and build a society marked by solidarity and care. People have the right to feel angry at much of what has happened in our society. In response, however, we need not just negativity. We need a renewed sense of national purpose and solidarity. 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.
We cannot leave everything to an anonymous State. We need an active society. That is also an important dimension of education and Catholic education. Education is not just about the individual pupil’s life and talents and achievements which have to be developed. You can develop your talents well and become a thoroughly self-centred person concerned only about personal advancement and wealth, subordinating everything to that. Our talents and achievements are there to build up something which lasts. The Catholic school must give its pupils a sense of caring and being responsible for the world in which they live and of not leaving that responsibility to others. I was pleased to see in the CUS Year Book what is being done to give the pupils that sense of Christian responsibility and solidarity.
Advent is not strictly a time of penance and fasting as is Lent. It is marked more rather by a growing sense of joyfulness for the fact that Jesus is coming and that his coming is near and that we must be ready to answer to the Lord when he comes: but that answer begins today and not in an undefined future.
That is the sense in which we should be preparing for Christmas, not in wasteful spending and revelling, but in trying to rediscover those deeper values of what Christmas means. Even in the midst of all the consumerism, we can still make Christmas what it should be. My best memories of Christmas are memories when we were happy with very simple things.
May we live our Advent in such a way as never to forget the real meaning of Christmas and that also means that we shape our lives and live our lives never forgetting those in need.