Homily of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at Mass in Church of Saint Dominick, Dublin, celebrating gift of Human Life, Saturday 6 July 2013
“We gather here this afternoon to reflect and to pray. We gather to reflect on the gift and on the meaning of human life. We pray for the fostering in our society and in our nation of a new culture of life. We gather as disciples of Jesus Christ convinced of the power of prayer. We reflect on the power of prayer to change hearts and to form new hearts.
The Christian vision of life is a joyful one which rejoices in the value and the meaning of life and in the unique dignity of each and every human life. The Gospel reading reminds us first of all that our faith is a joyful faith. It is not a faith of negatives. The teaching of the Church is first and foremost a teaching which inspires and leads us to joy, rather than being a faith – as is often said – of just negatives, of negative rules and regulations.
We gather to remember that every human life is unique and must be fostered and protected and cherished. The Christian life must be marked by our awareness of the presence of Jesus Christ in our midst. As we heard in the Gospel reading, when Jesus is present with us then our attitude cannot be like that of those who want Jesus’ disciples just to be rules bound, to follow a check list of practices, to think that they witness to their faith by externals which are not rooted in the heart. “When the bridegroom is with us”, the Gospel reminds us, then we cannot but celebrate. When Jesus is with us in our hearts, then we must radiate joy and hope and share that joy and hope.
The Christian message is a message which respects life and respects every human life, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death and at every moment in-between. It respects the life of the unborn; it cherishes and wishes to protect the lives of mothers and mothers to be. It searches out for those who are the weakest; it must stand by all those who suffer anguish and anxiety and hopelessness, all those who are suffering poverty and hunger and precariousness, all those who for any reason are unable to celebrate the joy of life which is their birth right as children of God.
Being Pro-Life is not about a slogan or a mantra. It is about being someone who searches for the foundations of the deepest meaning of life and the roots of hope. I often repeat the beautiful and simple words of Pope Benedict at the Mass of his inauguration as Bishop of Rome: “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary”. Willed! Loved! Necessary! Being Pro-Life means working for a culture in which every human person is recognised as willed, loved and necessary and where every human person feels assured that they are willed, loved and necessary.
This is a radical call. Every Christian must live that call radically, without compromise. That is the sense of the later comments of Jesus in our Gospel reading. There is no way in which we can look on our faith somehow as an additional patch that we can stick on to the torn cloth of our day-to-day lives of weakness and compromise. Jesus reminds us that a mentality which thinks that being a Christian can be patched on to a life of compromise and blankness will end up just destroying the garment of hope and leaving our faith a situation worse than where we started from. Christianity is a new message which supersedes and must take precedence in the choices of our life and cannot co-habit with values which have no abiding strength. The new wine of the Gospel can only be put into new wineskins, into a renewed culture, because otherwise it will simply spill into waste land.
Our commitment to the Christian understanding of of life must be one which is new and fresh, spirited and inspiring, joyful and meaningful.
What are the characteristics of this new life of faith which we celebrate in the Year of Faith? Only yesterday Pope Francis published his first encyclical –Lumen Fidei – which as he said himself is primarily the work of Pope Benedict who had been working on it for some time.
Pope Francis spoke about the truth of faith. But he immediately asks a question that is posed today in different ways by believers and non-believers each attempting to arrive at a different answer. He asks “How can the Christian faith provide a service to the common good with regard to the right way of understanding truth?” The answer to this question will only be found when we understand that the truth of our faith is a truth about love. The Pope says: “If love is not tied to truth, it falls prey to fickle emotions and cannot stand the test of time”. But he quickly adds: “If love needs truth, truth also needs love. Love and truth are inseparable. Without love, truth becomes cold, impersonal and oppressive for people’s day-to-day lives. The truth we seek, the truth that gives meaning to our journey through life, enlightens us whenever we are touched by love. One who loves realizes that love is an experience of truth, that it opens our eyes to see reality in a new way”
As Christians we are called to live the truth in charity. We are called to witness to love in the way we respect the life of every brother and sister. The Christian faith is never an inward self centred faith; it always breaks out into a genuine care of the other, into forming a community of love and care.
All our activities in defending the truth of our faith have to be an expression of the love and care which Jesus revealed as the very truth of God. All our activities in the defence of human life must be seen and understood and be recognised not as narrow politics or ideology or spin-doctoring, but as authentic loving concern, Our response to anyone who challenges us with narrow politics or ideology or spin-doctoring must never be a response on those same terms, but be one which witnesses to the nobility of a truth witnessed in love.
There is tendency for many in our times to say that religion is just a matter for the private life of each individual and therefore it has no place within the public square. Faith, they say, is the private affair of individual. It has no place within the building of the common good. Certainly we must say that faith can never and never should be forced or imposed on others. But that does not mean that the values which spring from faith and the values which inspire believing citizens have no legitimacy in a pluralistic society and should be simply pushed aside into the dustbins of irrelevance,
Certainly individual believers and indeed the institutions of the Church have often failed our society and its members and indeed failed the very integrity of their own convictions. But it would be unhistorical to the point of dishonesty to say that the Judeo-Christian tradition and the witness and commitment of believers have not shaped the fundamental good principles which inspire our Irish society.
As believers we must renew our conviction that the message of love which is the fundamental truth of our faith has a essential contribution to bring to our society and to the search for meaning and hope which are the crucial questions for which so many seek answers today.
No matter what legislation is in place in any nation and no matter how such legislation will change, the Church will continue to teach about the dignity of each human life and how the direct and wilful destruction of human life is never acceptable. Our challenge is to witness to that truth not through slogans but through the witness of life that we give. If we do not focus on the quality and the integrity of our witness to the convictions of our conscience and our belief, then what we say will appear, to quote Pope Francis, as being “cold, impersonal and oppressive for people’s day-to-day lives”.
In prayer and in silence now let us open our hearts to the saving love of Jesus Christ, who came that we might have life and who is himself life, because he revealed to us who our God is, a God of love, a God who is faithful, a God who is with us, a God who liberates.”
Further information: Annette O Donnell 087 8143462