27 June 2009
Homily Notes of Most Rev Diarmuid Martin at the Opening of the Year of Evangelisation in the Archdiocese of Dublin
The Archdiocese of Dublin is living and experiencing difficult times. Yet the Spirit is with the Archdiocese of Dublin and the Spirit is renewing the Archdiocese of Dublin and we know that the Spirit will sustain and renew the Church in its mission today, tomorrow and for the years to come.
Renewal of the Church is the work of the Spirit. The Spirit is with the Archdiocese but the work of the Spirit requires that we follow the mission for which we have been anointed by the Spirit. We are sent, as we heard in the first reading, to bring good news, to bind up, to proclaim liberty and freedom, to comfort those who mourn and to replace despondency with praise. The Spirit anoints us and inspires us to carry out this essential mission of the Church, that of bringing Good News. We pray that the spirit will help us to discern how best, in the changed situation we face, we can carry out this mission, discerning what is vital and essential in the mission of the Church and what is non-essential, but also what has become burden and obstacle in the Church’s structures to freeing us to proclaim the Word of God.
“Never be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord”. These are words we heard in the second reading. We recall them this morning as we launch a period of renewal in the Archdiocese, a Year of Evangelisation. The difficult times we are living through and experiencing do not excuse us from the task of preaching the Gospel, in season and out. As a diocese, Bishops, clergy, religious and lay persons, we recommit ourselves today unashamedly and wholeheartedly to understand better the message of Jesus Christ, to make it our own and to bring the message of Jesus Christ to the world in which we live.
A Year of Evangelisation and renewal does not going back to business as usual. A Year of Evangelisation is not putting aside the grief and the hurt that many feel for the way they were treated in the Church. Renewal is not a simple process, it is never without pain. Renewal is emptying ourselves of our own imperfections and sinfulness so that the Spirit can work more authentically in us and through us.
A Year of Evangelisation! People ask me what is Evangelisation; why not use some other word. The roots of the word Evangelisation are to be traced to the Gospel, Evangelium, Good News. We renew ourselves by taking up the Gospel. The criterion for evaluating evangelisation is not something sociological or demographic; we evaluate our success in Evangelisation by the how we interiorise the Gospel into our own lives, and by how we spread the word of God.
What do we know about God? The Vatican Council Constitution of Revelation notes “It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will”. The God of Jesus Christ is not a remote, isolated God; the God of Jesus Christ is one who reveals, who communicates, who invites us into his own inner life so that we can share his good news with others.
In today’s world we are tempted to shape a God who fits in to the realities and thought patterns of our times. Saint Paul reminds us never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord and he adds “never be ashamed for me being his prisoner”. The message of Jesus Christ will not always be a popular one, one which is acceptable or attractive to the thought patterns of the time. Saint Paul recognises the hardships which discipleship bring with it. He invites us however to bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News.
In difficult and unpopular times we can be tempted to reject hardship, to bide for time and hope that the situation of the Church will get better by letting things just move along as they come. In times of hardship we can be tempted to put the blame on others; on those we claim are against the Church or even on those within the Church with whom we disagree.
Saint Paul reminds us that in times of hardship we should not lose confidence because “we have no doubt in whom we have placed our trust”. The hardships, the hostility, the shame, the lukewarmness, the uncertainties of the times will only be overcome by turning back to the Lord and by renewal in holiness
One of the great themes of the Second Vatican Council was that of the Universal Call to Holiness. The Constitution Lumen Gentium stresses that “all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love and by this holiness of life a more human way of life is fostered also in earthly society”. Holiness is not withdrawal from the realities of life. The call to holiness and the witness of love are the key to the authenticity of the Christian contribution to society.
There is of course “sham holiness” and we have all witnessed it and its consequences. If we do not identify in our lives with the love of God then our activities will not be those of Jesus, but will always have within them something which hinders the totality of love that Jesus demands. If we do not look at the totally of love that Jesus demands it will not take long for us to weaken and fall back into self-love and end up with a false image of God. If we do not open ourselves to the absolute generosity of God’s love then we will end up with a false God, a God who measures his love and who deprives people of his love, a God who is harsh and judgemental rather than a God who is full of mercy. When we loose the correct concept of a God of love then as individuals and as a Church we can drift into a praxis which is the fruit not of love but of pathology, which reflects our limitations and distortions rather than the freedom and care and joy that belong to our faith.
The Archdiocese of Dublin renews itself today with the commissioning of 13 new Parish Pastoral Workers who will bring their talents and charisms as lay men and women into our parishes and help animate our communities, especially around the Word of God. I congratulate you on having successfully completed your programme of pastoral and theological formation. Your formation and the ministry that will be assigned to you can never be something just never external. Saint Augustine reminds all of us that without being first a hearer of the word in our own hearts, we will only be empty preachers of the word to others. I urge you to witness to the word through the example of your lives and through the personal holiness which your mission calls for.
Today we have the joy of ordaining two new priests for the Archdiocese of Dublin and one Capuchin priest for the Korean Province:
Our Year of Evangelisation will incorporate within it our celebrations of the Year of the Priest, proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of Saint John Marie Vianney.
Saint John Marie Vianney taught his parishioners primarily by the witness of his life. It was from his example that they learned to pray. Simplicity was the keynote of his life and of his prayer life. “One need not say much to pray well”, he told his parishioners. Many today are fearful of prayer because they feel it is too complex and too removed from the realities of life. Many avoid prayer because they are fearful of silence, of being alone with their own heart. Saint John Vianney attempted to transform the hearts and the lives by enabling them to them to experience the Lord’s merciful love.
His Bishop sent the future Saint to what would not have been called in older clerical language a “plum parish”. The Village of Ars had a population of 230 and he was warned by his Bishop that he would find religious practice in a sorry state. The young priest set about from the very first moment to renew his community and lead it to conversion. That was the root of all his pastoral planning. Pastoral planning will never be successful without personal holiness and a commitment to reach out to people’s hearts, to help them overcome their sinfulness and bring them back to a joyful living out of their calling.
The central moment of the ceremony of ordination this morning is the imposition of hands in silence, one of the oldest symbolic gestures in the Church’s liturgy, a sign of the handing on under the Holy Spirit of spiritual authority and mission.
At the ordination of a priest all those priests who are present follow the bishop in the imposition of hands. This symbolises that the ordained ministry has a radical “communitarian form” and can be exercised only in the communion of priests with their Bishop. Pope Benedict has recently reminded priests that: “This communion between priests and their Bishop, grounded in the sacrament of Holy Orders and made manifest in Eucharistic concelebration, needs to be translated into various concrete expressions of an effective and affective priestly fraternity.”
I urge priests as they today welcome into their fellowship three new priests, that they develop more and more that sense of fellowship, that sense of belonging to a presbyterate and to provide the human and spiritual support that each of us needs so that we can live our calling authentically.
Such a sense of priestly community, far from leading to closed clericalism, will open itself to fruitful collaboration lay co-workers and with the entire Church community ensuring that our common witness to the Gospel will be something which is mutually enriching. Colin, Aloysius and Stephen we pray that the Spirit will guide you into a fruitful and happy ministry. And we all pray that the Spirit of renewal and Evangelisation will brings fruits of love to our diocese and its mission in this Year of Evangelisation and beyond.
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