St Andrew’s Parish, Westland Row, First Sunday of Advent 2022
Homily of Archbishop Dermot Farrell
“You know ‘the time’ has come: you must wake up now”—says Paul to the Romans in the reading we have just heard—“our salvation is even nearer than when we came to know Christ” (Rom 13:11). Advent arrives again, and again we are asked to awaken from our slumber, as it were. Again, we asked to stand ready (see Matt: 24: 44). Rooted in the past, Advent is not about the distant past. Looking at the Lord who comes, waiting for him, Advent is not primarily about waiting for the Lord who will save his people. No, Advent, is about what we do today. Yes, in Advent we “remember” as well a world yet to come, but Advent is about how we encounter today. “You know ‘the time’ has come: you must wake up now.”
Over the past year and more, our parishes have been asked for their thoughts on the future direction of the Church in the Archdiocese. We have much to learn, supporting people to deepen their faith and relationship with God, creating the structures that support vibrant communities of faith, and advocating for those who are on the margins (see Statement of Mission, Feb 2022).
The synodal discussions that took place last Spring have taught us something new from the heart of the Church. We have rediscovered the value of prayerful reflection, listening to the variety of voices available to us, and discerning together the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
The first phase of Building Hope implementation was an invitation to dialogue in parishes against the backdrop of the ‘Framework for Renewal’ recommended by the Building Hope Task Force. Parishes responded generously with the fruits of that initial conversation, including their proposals for partnership with neighbouring parishes. In September, I published my initial response to that parish material in a document entitled Feedback on Easter 2022 Strategic Planning Process which I ask parishes to reflect on deeply.
I am now making a further response to parishes, having reflected carefully on their proposals for partnerships. Following careful analysis and further dialogue, I am writing to each parish to confirm the partnership arrangements through which I am asking them to realign their efforts and energies to suit the times in which we live.
This historic parish of St Andrew will, I know, play its part in the renewal that is necessary to find new ways to witness to the presence of Christ in our lives. Your doors are open, physically and metaphorically, to welcome not just parishioners, but all those who pass by, many burdened with worries about family, work and the future. Here they find a place of sanctuary. That welcome has been extended to many who have come from far away to make their home in this community. The parish has embraced the communities of faith from Lithuania and China, who have brought their own traditions and their spirit of hope to contribute to the life of the parish, as we see so clearly this morning.
The life of faith isn’t only about what happens in church. We are sent out at the end of every Eucharist with a fresh commission to reflect in our lives what we have received. The history of this community demonstrates the power of that witness. I think of the many community organisations, and especially of St. Andrew’s Resource Centre, which accompanies so many people in times of difficulty, in developing their full potential, and in celebrating the strength of community life.
This is an area undergoing great change. As a Church and as a parish we are called to play our part in these times of change, “holding fast to what is good” and welcoming what is fresh and life-giving. The face of this area has changed so rapidly over recent years that there is a risk that the new city will ignore the families and community living in its shadow. It is part of our mission to stand in solidarity with those who feel the pressures of change. We must help and encourage those who are driving change to ensure that it serves the common good.
I am confident that in the years ahead the parish of St Andrew, with its sister parishes, will continue to live out the mission of its patron saint, to bring others to know the Good News: we have found the Messiah.
The name of the Germany martyr Alfred Delp may not be familiar to you. Executed by the Nazis in early 1945, he spent his last weeks in prison. There in Advent 1944, he wrote a letter to his friends. Confronted with the harsh realities on life, and the brutality and blindness of the regime, he called to them with all the urgency and radicalness of the Christ we meet in today’s Gospel:
- “If we want Advent to
- us…” he wrote, “If we want Advent to
- us — our homes and hearts, and even nations — then the great question for us is whether we will come out of the convulsions of our time with this determination: Yes, arise! It is time to awaken from sleep. A waking up must begin somewhere. (Alfred Delp SJ “The Shaking Reality of Advent”)
As we strive to live the life of faith, as we prepare to celebrate Christmas this year let us open our hearts again to Christ, his newness, his hope, the closeness of the one who is God-with-us, come into our lives—the light for all the world to see. Even in the darkest and loneliest of places he brings salvation. His gospel of justice, peace and love sets us out again on a journey, this year and every year, focused on love of God and love of neighbour: “Let is walk in the light of the Lord” (Is 2: 5), “that he may teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths” (Is 2: 3). Let us turn our hearts towards Christ, who is the light that will show us the way forward, a light for our footsteps into the future God is unfolding for us and within us this very day.
Archbishop of Dublin