11 April 2009
Homily Notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, for the 2009 Easter Vigil Mass in the Pro-Cathedral, Dublin
Christianity is a religion of freedom, a religion that frees. With the resurrection of Jesus, humankind and all creation experience an explosion of freedom. The entire history of God’s dealings with humankind, as we heard in the readings, was one of bringing life and liberation to his people. Now that liberation reaches a climax; all creation rejoices since sin and death, which entrap and imprison us, are overcome in a definitive way through the self-giving sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When Jesus freely gives himself up to death out of love for us, new life is proclaimed, a life which could never have been attained by human effort alone.
We receive this new life of the Resurrection in Baptism and I am pleased that this evening seven adult men and women will receive baptism and confirmation during this ceremony which commemorates and makes present the grace of the Paschal Mystery.
Baptism is not simply a ceremony of welcome and enrolment into the Church; it is not just a rite of purification. Baptism is truly death and resurrection; it is rebirth and transformation to a new life. In baptism the new life of Jesus enters into our lives and transforms us into witnesses of his love, that love which created us and which now opens a new path for us to follow and a new future of hope.
Through baptism our life takes on a new dimension. Already, within the realities of our day-to-day life, we can live that new life. Day by day we are called to enter into its reality and allow it to become a sort of driving force for the way we live our life day by day into the future.
Jesus entered into his resurrection though the path of love. Out of love, he gave himself even unto death; by doing so he broke the power of death, because in him the power of life and love was present in a way stronger than death.
The grace we receive in Baptism is a resurrection grace. It is a grace which by its very nature enhances and enriches life itself, places our life on a new dimension, opens out new possibilities for the way in which we live. The criterion of this new form of life is love; our human love is transformed by its identification with the God of love. The love of God which was revealed by and lived out in the person of Jesus takes hold of our lives and with that love we are challenged to go out and to bring that love to our world and to transform our world.
God’s way of transforming the world is different from that of any ideology or political platform of any economic programme. It is not a question of signing up to someone else’s plan. It is not a scientific project. Pope Benedict reminds is that it is not science that redeems us, it is love. The new life comes at our Baptism to flourish in our hearts, our minds, our activities; then it spreads out from us towards the persons and the world around us. The Easter Message is a message of joy for all humankind, for all of creation.
Transformation of the world in that sense is not some dispassionate way of outwardly steering the things of the world. It is about the resurrection becoming the power to transform the world through the way we live and through the community of the baptised.
The resurrection frees us. It frees is from being closed in on ourselves, within the framework of our limitations, and opens up for us a new way of finding ourselves in the immensity of the love of God. This new life is different to all ideologies of violence. It is a style of life which rejects corruption and the desire for power and possession. Announcing the good news of the resurrection entails therefore a concrete reaffirmation of humankind and creation and a call to re-establish relationships of harmony, truthfulness and integrity among people and between humankind and creation. This is true resurrection spirituality.
Being believers in the gift of life means we must welcome and sustain life in all its forms. A life marked by love will never be self-centred, but will be characterised by relationship. It entails constructing a community of welcome for and solidarity with all those who are on the margins of society, those who suffer any form of handicap, and those who are troubled or anxious. In the face of the current economic difficulties and the effects that these have on individuals and families and on caring institutions, believers are called to renew our culture and our society with a spirit of solidarity and responsibility and care for others. It is only if we die to ourselves, if we reject in our lives all the superficialities and false hopes of our times, then we shall save our life and open a path towards true hope to our world.
Individual power-seeking so often ends up only in emptiness and leaves those who are weakest at the behest of the powerful, either directly or through the effect of selfish and corrupt behaviours on the fabric of society.
Resurrection spirituality will be on the side of life. It will defend life at all its stages, but especially at the moments in which life is most fragile and weak. Resurrection spirituality will encourage progress in science and medicine at the service of the human family. There is however the temptation to thank that since modern science has offered so many ways to overcome and relieve suffering that we might come to think that science on its own can resolve all problems. Science will never eliminate the need for love.
As science becomes more successful in fighting suffering and disease, for example, there is the danger that we might try to banish suffering to the margins of society, to hide it from our sight. Where suffering is banished out of sight, then the sense of compassion is also weakened. The sick person needs medical care but also needs the sense of having someone with them and beside them. A utilitarian vision of science can lead to a situation which considers it easier and more “merciful” to quench life, than to be merciful through being alongside others in their moments of solitude and trial. The new life of baptism will mirror the life of Lord, who was merciful and compassionate with all.
The resurrection is the feast of life and freedom. It is a feast in which we see how love triumphs over violence and corruption. In contrast to the love of Jesus, the violence of those who plot his death leads nowhere except towards further hatred and death. Jesus’ merciful self-giving love alone leads to life. Evil will only be overcome by goodness. Once again I wish to condemn in the strongest terms the examples of deliberate gangland violence and callous revenge which we witnessed in this city and in other parts of Ireland in recent weeks. This violence leads its perpetrators nowhere except to fill their own lives and hearts with the darkness of death.
We are here to celebrate the light and the joy of the Easter Vigil. The Resurrection is not a distant historical event, it is something which can grasp our lives today and change them and the world around us for the good. This is the Good News. We are called to share and participate in that Good News and to spread it, to make it known and to share it with others especially our young people so that the new life of the resurrection will enable them to realise their talents and bring them to fulfilment.
We rejoice this night in that our Christian community will be enriched with the faith of seven men and women who will through baptism and confirmation be led into the Paschal Mystery of Jesus living giving death and resurrection. May the Lord continue to bless and protect these new Christian, and to bless and protect the People of God in this Church of Dublin.
Further information Annette O’Donnell, Archdiocese Communications Office
Tel: 01 8360723