6 November 2010
Homily of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at the Irish Kidney Association 25th Anniversary Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving
The reaction we encounter daily in the media and in conversations is that of puzzlement as to what has happened, as well as anger and resentment that things could have gone so far without the depth of the crisis being noticed. People are fearful and concerned for their jobs and mortgages, about health care and education; and they are rightly concerned.
In the midst of all this discussion, in the midst of pessimism and anger, we gather here for a unique event which I have had the privilege to attend for the past few years and which today celebrates its 25th anniversary. It is the story of tragedy and of generosity. It is the story of tragic events; the story of people, often young people, who have encountered tragic and unexpected death. At the same time it is the story of generosity which has transformed the life of others.
This is not a gathering of the famous; it is a gathering of the good. It is not a gathering of the glamorous, but it is a gathering of the generous. What we witness here is the sort of experience which not only touches our hearts, but it is a story which gives us hope when we see how much goodness exists in the hearts of so many families and individuals in our country.
The generosity of those who become organ donors dramatically changes the lives of others. The desolation of tragic death becomes an occasion to give new hope and a new beginning to someone else. The donors themselves never see the fruits of their generosity. They do not themselves experience an accolade of thanks and recognition. But is that not what goodness is really about: doing good not for a reward, but because doing good is the right thing to do. At least in terms of this life, organ donors never see the fruit of their goodness: but that goodness still changes not just someone else’s life, but the life of society.
Generosity and solidarity are the backbone of society. They are the opposite of greed and self-centredness. Those who are greedy and self centred like the limelight. Those who show solidarity are happy just to do the right thing even though they may never know exactly who the beneficiary is, and even though they may never themselves experience being thanked.
Where would be without the hidden solidarity that exists in our communities? We know where greed leads, today perhaps better than in the past. Solidarity does not make the headlines in the same way, but it is solidarity that transforms and brings together those who perhaps never even meet.
We have listened to God’s word. The God of Jesus Christ is a God of mercy who tells us that if we are compassionate and generous that we will receive a special reward. That special reward tells us something about who God is. Many of us grew up with a vision of a harsh, judgemental God. The God of Jesus Christ is quite different. A word that is often used about God’s love is that it is superabundant. This means that God’s goodness goes way beyond anything that we might deserve or even way beyond what we might be able to imagine. The Gospel reading we have heard speaks of a generosity “pressed down, shaken together and running over, poured into our lap”.
Being a Christian is about living and reflecting that type of love and generosity in our lives. Again the experience that we share here today is about how an act of generosity emerging from a tragic occasion can have an extraordinary effect on someone else; what happens is not a mere transaction by which something is achieved; it is about how an act of generosity can change someone else’s life in an unimaginable way, superabundantly, restoring them and healing them to something they may have given up hope of ever achieving.
This is a unique event. We have people here of various generations but I would like to speak especially to the younger people here. Many of you are here having lost a parent, a sibling, or a friend. You eyes are still heavy with sadness. Today you see what was done through the generosity of organ donation. You see how renewing life for someone else may not yet wipe away your tears, but it enables you to lift your head high with pride. You can remember your dear one in a different way. You realise how truly loving they were.
I would say to you young people: work for the future of our country in such a way that this sense of solidarity we experience here will become the driving force of our future together, of the way we interact with each other as a society. Do not allow the gloom of the moment to dampen your belief that good people can really do something to change the world. We can see here today that it can happen and that it does happen.
We thank God for that; we thank God for those who have gone ahead of us, but have left us a remarkable example. We remember them with sadness but also with pride.