World Day of Peace

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Homily notes of

Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin

Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Dublin

Pro-Cathedral 1 January 2021


We begin our New Year in a climate of concern and insecurity about our future.  Many live in fear and apprehension and rightly so. Many are tempted to see the future only in terms of gloom and distress and hopelessness.  Many find the situation so stressful that it becomes a burden to their mental health. As believers, we must ask: “Where do we find a source of hope and meaning as we look forward with concern to a new year”.

We can receive a first jolt of hope when we reflect on the words of our first reading.  The God of hope will bless us and open a path of light and hope.  “May the Lord bless you and keep you, and make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.  May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace”.

In the Catholic Church, we celebrate today as the World Day of Peace.  Pope Paul VI initiated the World Day of Peace to foster dialogue between the message of the Gospel of Jesus and the common aspirations of all the people of the world as each New Year begins.    It was not an attempt to impose a religious point of view but to show how the content of the message of Jesus is one that can be understood by men and women of any nation or worldview and be made real for the good of all.

Reflecting on the word of God and its portrayal of the God who always remains faithful to his people, can open a flash of hope in hearts and lives and help us to cope with the burdens of these days.

The theme of this year’s World Day of Peace chosen by Pope Francis is “A culture of care as a path to peace”.  It is a reminder to all of us that the peace that we desire for our own hearts, for our own communities and indeed for our world will only come when a logic of personal interest and positioning and the logic of power in relationships is replaced by a logic of giving and caring.

We are grateful to all those who in our society have played a vital role in looking after the victims of the virus and provide community support.    We are grateful for the scientific research that underpins a deeper understanding of the virus and how it works.  We are grateful to all who work for the production of safe vaccine.  We are grateful to those who spontaneously and selflessly provide help and comfort to their neighbours.

The message of Pope Francis stresses another dimension.    The Pope stresses that we are called not simply to protect, but to care.   We have to develop a real culture of care.  The call to a culture of care is a call to all and not just to those whose profession or calling in life is to care.

The defeat of the virus depends on all of us. Every man, woman and child is called to respond with responsibility. It is important that we all follow the instructions of the public health authorities.  No one should feel themselves exempt from these indications.  No one should take risks or take short cuts thinking that I have a right to do whatever I wish regardless of our common concerns.

However you can follow all the restrictions and miss the point.  The spirit in which some might follow restrictions could be one of self-centred isolationism. It could be that attitude described in the parable of the Good Samaritan, of these who in the face of human need decide to feel safe and simply pass by. The Samaritan on the other hand allowed himself to be overcome by compassion and care for the wounded man.  A culture of care is the law of the Samaritan.

As Christian believers, we are called to understand how caring is an essential dimension of being truly human.  God created the universe as an expression of his love and he cares for his creation in love.  We are called to be bearers of that love through the way we live.

Sinfulness destroys a culture of care.  Sinfulness is not simply breaking rules; it is a failure to love and to see what true love requires of us. In the first book of the Bible, we see how jealousy brought division and hatred.  When Cain is accused of murdering his brother his only reply is: “Am I my brother’s keeper”. He is not even going to become involved. When we overlook our obligation to care and protect our brothers, then a road of evil opens out before us.

Today we realise perhaps more than ever how much we are all interconnected.  An interconnected world needs to be humanized through solidarity.  Our world requires a culture of care. In this context, we keep in our prayers those who will guide the responsibilities of Ireland’s membership of the UN Security Council to foster international peace and care for the marginalized.

For the Christian, a culture of care is one in which we care for each other not just in doing things but in being bearers of the mission of our God of light and peace, even in situations of uncertainty and anxiety.

In our Gospel reading, we encounter Mary who hears the words of the Shepherds and is astonished by them.  She ponders a future she could not have imagined.  She ponders all this in her heart and trusts in the God who has always been faithful.

Mary is the model for all Christians whose faith and trust in the God of love and light opens a future of hope.  We believers a culture of care can touch the hearts of the troubled enabling them to experience the shining and gracious face of the Lord and attain his peace.   ENDS