Third Sunday of the Year 2019
PANAMA IN DUBLIN
Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin
Emmaus Conference Centre, 27 January 2019
“World Youth Day is not just an event in a faraway country to which only a few young people can travel. It is a moment that challenges all young Catholics about what their faith means.
Yes, World Youth Day is a time of celebration. Young people from around the world and in different parts of the world come together in these days and realise that they are not on their own in professing belief in Jesus Christ and in belonging actively to the Catholic Church.
It is also a moment of looking forward. It is an opportunity to reflect more deeply on and to discern about what path you wish your life to take and what sort of a person you wish to be.
Looking back now at how I came to make my choices in life many years ago, the first thing that I have to note is that the world was different. The job decision you took as a teenager was almost definitive. You made a choice for life. You became a doctor, a postman, a mechanic, a nurse, a carpenter, a builder’s labourer, an accountant for life. The chances of changing were limited. You tried to get a job for life, a permanent job that would give you and your future family security. Options were limited and very often you took what you could get, rather than chose what you really wanted.
As an aside, I noticed that times have changed in other ways. When I was writing my notes for this homily, my computer refused the term “postman”, and said I should write “mail carrier” or “postal worker”.
As I said, you took the job you could get. The same was very much true about faith. In Ireland you were not just born, in 95% of cases you were born a Catholic. Atheists were either exotic intellectuals or dangerous communists. Faith was inherited rather than chosen.
Today that is very different. Your generation chooses. Young people choose to believe or not to believe, to belong to a Church or to go their own way. Many have some kind of generic faith or spirituality but little to do with the Church. In that sense, your presence here today is a sign that you wish to be different. You wish to move away from an inherited faith and come to a better understanding of what faith in Jesus Christ can mean in your life and in discerning who you really want to be.
Let us look at the Gospel reading we have just heard and see where it can help us to discern what direction our faith might take.
The first thing to note is that the reading is taken from two separate chapters of the Gospel of Saint Luke. The first part is a sort of foreword to the Gospel. Saint Luke explains why he is writing.
Luke, we are told, was a medical doctor and not a journalist. He is not writing a novel or a biography as we understand it. He is gathering what he heard from others. Tradition has it that Luke was especially close to Our Lady. The Gospel is eyewitness account. It is “non-fiction”, but nonfiction with a difference.
The Gospel is about fact; it is a written account of what Jesus said and did. But it is more. It is a narrative of how Jesus with his words, deeds and life shows us who God is. Saint Luke gathers together not just the witness, which he has received from others. Luke transmits an account of the God revealed in Jesus Christ, challenging the false God’s that we create for ourselves.
Many young people lose faith in God because they have inherited the wrong God. The basis of our faith must be the God communicated to us in Jesus Christ.
Knowing the true Jesus is what gives substance to our faith and helps us to renew the life of the Church. When we talk about reform and renewal in the Church, we are tempted to think in terms of reform of structures and personnel. That indeed is needed. But on its own, that would simply be a sort of business strategy rather than real conversion.
The second section of the Gospel takes us then into the mission of Jesus, and how Jesus is the one who reveals who God is and what God is like.
This second section is in a certain sense a second Foreword. It is the foreword that helps us at the very beginning of the Gospel to understand the words and deeds that follow. It sets out the mission of Jesus, and about how the Good News is realised. Jesus is the one who liberates and raises up those who are weak and abandoned. The Italian poet Dante Alighieri called Saint Luke scriba mansuetudinis Christi, the chronicler of the mildness or the kindness of Christ. Our God is full of mercy.
Jesus makes his announcement about who he is and what his own mission is to be in his own hometown. He chooses his hometown not as a comfortable setting among those who knew him well. We know from elsewhere in the Gospel that Jesus’ own would not accept him.
Jesus chooses to reveal himself not among the like-minded, in a media press conference, or in a place of prestige. He chooses to reveal his identity at the beginning of his mission in the Synagogue of a remote and unimportant town of little worldly significance. Jesus reveals who God is firstly to the poor in a poor village.
That is the context within which we as Christian community are called to open and understand the Gospel. Reform and renewal of the Church can only come from our knowing the Jesus of the Gospels. The Church is reformed and renewed in the proportion in which we as individuals, as community and as institution allow that Gospel message of divine love that became incarnate in Jesus Christ to direct our lives and decisions.
The Christian message is a message that preaches and practices goodness and love. The Church does many things in society, but its primary purpose is to teach the message of Jesus Christ. It is a message of a love that is gratuitous, of a love that cares for each one individually, especially those who are sick, or weak, or vulnerable, that reaches out to the sinner, to those who are drifting in their lives, to those who cannot find their way.
This is a challenge for each of us, you as young people, for me as Bishop. It is a challenge that goes on for life. If the message becomes stale in our lives, then we have lost the way. If we begin to think that we have all the answers about faith, then we have become trapped in our own ways of thinking.
Faith is something that should challenge us. It should never leave is just comfortable. Faith does not produces conformism. It challenges us to be different and to be truly authentic in our life and in our choices. Faith is about a transcendent God and must always lead us to go beyond ourselves. Faith is about a God who is love and who liberates, it must help us to overcome selfishness and arrogance and be truly loving and caring people.
Evil can only be confronted by goodness. Difference can be overcome by dialogue. I am concerned by a growing polarisation within the Catholic Church and by certain groups who seem to think that they have a right self-righteously to proclaim threats in the name of how they understand the truth. We have seen examples in our own days. The truth will only be attained in love. Error will only be refuted in love. Nastiness and hatred betray the message of love.
The Jesus who reveals to us who God truly is the one who is present among us every time we celebrate the Eucharist. The Mystery of Faith is the Mystery of the God who loves us and who gives us reason to hope, in the midst of the evils present in the world and in our own personal struggles in life.
I have been almost fifty years a priest and recently twenty years a bishop. I have seen many changes and been called to challenges that I could not have imagined. My prayer is that your generation will now take on the challenge of renewing the Church for it to be the place where young people like yourselves will learn the beauty of faith and the joy of living the Gospel.” ENDS