- This homily was delivered on 7 January at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Parish of Drumbo and Carryduff
As one considers the interplay between contemplation and the ordering of public life and policies, between contemplation and politics, as sketched in Pope Francis’ 2018 World Day of Peace Message, one thinks of our collective civic responsibility for the future here in this corner of the world and of the island of Ireland.
We might well consider, indeed we should ask with some urgency, what foundational lines for a strategy for Northern Ireland might emerge from a “contemplative gaze” in the light of the Good News of the gospel on our present and future existence as a society which is becoming ever more varied in cultural, ethnic and religious provenance. Do we citizens, who are Christians, wish to exercise an enlightened and responsible ordering of our social, economic, political, cultural future as a society? As Christians we have the spiritual capacity to achieve great things in the task of shaping the future, to continue the good work of building a future based on the Christian aspiration and commitment to assuring justice and peace for all.
A “contemplative gaze” on our current situation will highlight stagnation in politics and a lethargic acceptance and tolerance by ourselves as citizens of this state of affairs in the face of a weak economy, of a private sector bereft of the dynamic support it needs from political institutions and of a lack of creative political engagement with determinative issues for the political future of our society.
Our society in Northern Ireland, we as citizens and as a body politic, have urgent need of a renewed narrative for politics.
Our Christian heritage provides us with the spiritual energy and the necessary wisdom of faith to imagine together new paradigms for a politics of tomorrow that gives place to all cultures and traditions, that generates the solid social humus that attracts the inward investment necessary to create and give employment and security to people and families and energises and secures processes of reconciliation and peace building. Our times and world context require imaginative and courageous efforts in leadership to hone a vision, freed from fears and suspicions of the other, that carries us energetically as a community of citizens working for the good of all.
Known for our care for the stranger, for our response to disaster scenarios throughout the world, we urgently need leadership in offering a renewed narrative for a radically new future which is opening before us in a dwindling and every more interdependent world and here at home. We need prophetic, imaginative and courageous leadership which offers a new narrative for a dawning and challenging future in which we – all citizens of whatever ethnic, cultural, confessional, religious or other background – constitute together our primary resource and human wealth base. To build a viable future for us all, we need urgently and creatively to put our hands together to the plough and to abandon the crippling and stagnating forces of fear and suspicion in the name of building a new future for all citizens, and especially for the weakest and the newly arrived in our society.
As Christians of all confessions who contemplate the Word of God and who are imbued by the same gospel, as another New Year gets under way, the perennial call of the gospel summons us to see and treat all who live and breathe here as our neighbour, as our brother and sister in Christ, precisely as and because issues remain to be resolved. Their resolution in our lifetime is the continuing working of God’s kingdom among us.
- Bishop Noel Treanor is Bishop of Down and Connor