Homily of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin for Festival of Peoples

20 May 2013


Homily Notes of  Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin

Pro-Cathedral, 18th  May 2013

 “We celebrate the Vigil of the Feast of Pentecost.  We recall that moment when the Holy Spirit first descended on Mary and the Apostles.  With that event the Church had its beginning.  From that moment on, the Holy Spirit shapes the Church as a sign of the unity in Christ of the entire human family.

This is why this evening we celebrate here in the Cathedral Church of the Archdiocese of Dublin a “Festival of Peoples”, a celebration of the diversity of ethnic identity gathered within the one family of Christian believers in the Archdiocese of Dublin.  I greet all of you gathered here:  those who were born in Ireland and those who have come more recently to our shores; I greet those who are visiting our city, especially anyone returning home from abroad.   I greet the priests and pastoral leaders of our immigrant communities; I greet the priests of the Archdiocese and religious who work here.

The Preface of the Mass of Pentecost sums up the deep meaning of the Feast as we celebrate it this evening.   It reminds us how the Spirit:

“as the Church came to birth

opened to all people the knowledge of God

and brought together the many languages of the earth

in profession of the one true faith”

The Church is not just a collection of individuals, but a witness to how faith in Jesus Christ fosters the unity of all peoples. The Apostles who had been shaken in their belief after the events of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension were changed by the Holy Spirit and went out into the streets proclaiming and interpreting the message of Jesus.  The Spirit changed them in such a way that the events which at first seemed to them scandal and disillusionment were now understood in their true sense as a message of the triumph of Jesus over death, a message of hope and a message of unity.

Among those who were present at the Pentecost event, the Acts of the Apostles recall, each heard the Apostles speak in their own language.   This event became a sign of how the Church of Jesus Christ would spread and enter into the lives and the culture and the heritage of peoples in any part of the world and of every generation.

Anywhere the Church exists and celebrates the Eucharist it witnesses to the unity of all humankind, symbolised and nourished by the One Bread, the One Cup around the One Table.  The Eucharist is the great sign of unity.  Those who partake in the Eucharist witness to a faith which generates a new sense of the unity of humankind.

Today’s celebration is a celebration not just of diversity but of welcome and belonging, of interdependence and solidarity, of love and of hope.   Racism, xenophobia, and exclusive nationalism are all alien to a Eucharistic spirituality. This Eucharist and the life of the Church in this diocese must be marked by a spirit of openness and welcome. We are all children of the same God, brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.

I would like to express my thanks to our immigrant communities for the contribution which they themselves bring to renewal and newness in many of our parishes and through the enthusiasm of their young people.  I hope that you have experienced a sense of true Christian welcome into our communities.

Many of you came to Ireland to respond to our economic needs for labour at a time of prosperity.  We needed workers.  What came to our shores, we must all remember, was not just labour; it was and is people, men and women, who contribute by their work and their cultures to an enriched Dublin and not just through an economic input alone.  In times of economic downturn we must never be tempted to think of immigrants as disposable commodities, as we in our consumer culture use and dispose of so many things according to our necessity or whim.

The event of Pentecost is linked in the biblical context with another event:  that of the Tower of Babel.  The story of the Tower of Babel is a story of unbridled human ambition which ends with the division of people into different languages as God confounded their speech and scattered them over the face of the earth. Uncontrolled human ambition led to a situation in which people no longer understood each other and became divided. At Pentecost the Spirit came to heal that wound and that division. The Tower of Babel led to failure in understanding; at Pentecost, on the other hand, the Apostles went out into the streets of Jerusalem and each heard and understood in his or her own language.

The world today needs a new sense of unity and of solidarity and the ability of people to listen and to hear what others are saying.   We see this is so many ways.  Just think of the divisions which our economic crisis has caused.  The story of the Tower of Babel is a perennial warning to humankind of what happens when solidarity fades and uncontrolled growth riddled with unbridled selfishness take over.  The story Tower of Babel  sheds light on what happens when an economic situation or a political system move away from serving the common good and when we mere humans think that they can build towers which would reach to God himself, when we almost feel that we can act as God.

That lesson is not one which is against human progress and the progress of science.  It shows rather what happens when science and progress are deviated through selfish ambition and the feeling that we humans can even reach into the domain of God himself.

The results of any unqualified concept of growth and progress will always be same: the tower remained a ruin and through false ambition the unity of people collapsed.  In our recent past, an economic system became infested with personal greed and uncontrolled ambition and was even trumpeted, only then to collapse like a pack of cards and create new divisions.  We see the divisions of poverty and precariousness, lack of hopeful employment for our young people, of emigration, of our inability to maintain important services of solidarity.  We can see how a past model of growth without equity makes it today more difficult to restart the growth with solidarity which we need.

This Feast of Pentecost must challenge all of us to overcome that strong tendency towards individualism which we so often find in our society.  We must also be aware of just how much that individualism can infect our understanding of the Christian faith.  We reduce our faith to a sort of book Christianity, something which serves to inspire my life and provide a comfortable personal spirituality, making faith a sort of comfort zone which does not require reaching out to others.  Faith, however, is personal but not individualist.  The Church is not a spiritual supermarket where I can serve myself and top-up on means to save my own soul without ever speaking to anyone else.   Gathering and sharing in the faith are essential dimensions of being believing Christians.

The Feast of Pentecost which we celebrate today reminds us that faith in Jesus involves a new understanding of the unity of humankind. The message of Jesus Christ can be understood and acclaimed by the many languages of humankind and by people from every geographical background.  That same message can be understood by each successive generation with its differences in culture, communication, progress and scientific development.  No society is too sophisticated not to be able to understand the message of Jesus within the context of its culture.  No society is too sophisticated not to need the message of Jesus Christ.

The community of believers however is not a community which we create ourselves, but one in which, as our second reading reminded us, “the Spirit comes to help us in our weakness”; it is the “Spirit who puts into words” thoughts and deeds which we ourselves would never be capable of doing.    ENDS

Notes to editors

  • Each year, those from abroad who have come to make their home in Ireland are invited to a celebration of the Eucharist at St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral. This year’s Festival of Peoples takes place on Saturday 18th May at 6pm — the Vigil of Pentecost.
  • A massed choir from many different countries including, Ireland, Spain, Romania, France and China joined with the Dublin Diocesan Music group to lead the music with songs in many languages and traditions.
  • Photographs are available from John Mc Ilroy Photos at 087 2416985
  • Further Information Annette O Donnell 087 8143462