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Irish Church must become passionate again

By Sarah Mac Donald - 25 March, 2016

Pic shows Archbishop Diarmuid Martin blessing the oil of Chrism at the Mass of Chrism in St Mary's Pro Cathedral on Holy Thursday morning 2016. Pic John Mc Elroy.

Pic shows Archbishop Diarmuid Martin blessing the oil of Chrism at the Mass of Chrism in St Mary’s Pro Cathedral on Holy Thursday morning 2016. Pic John Mc Elroy.

We live in a world which is often harsh and violent Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin told a packed Pro Cathedral on Thursday.

In his homily for the Chrism Mass, attended by two auxiliary bishops, 200 priests from the diocese of Dublin, deacons, parish workers and parish representatives, the Archbishop referred to the gangland killing of Noel Duggan on Wednesday evening.

“We have witnessed horrific, hate-filled violence and retaliation on our streets again last night; when will these people learn that violence and revenge only lead to further violence and revenge? They feel that violence is their strength; yet violence will be their downfall. Will they ever learn?,” the Archbishop queried.

Elsewhere, he highlighted that Jesus rejected violence and submitted himself to violence and injustice.

“He came to bring good news not hatred, he came not destroy hearts but to bind-up hearts that were wounded,” he said.

Explaining the significance of the blessing and consecrating of the Holy Oils, the Archbishop said they were committing themselves, their parishes, and families to recognise their sinfulness and to allow the powerful mercy of our God to transform them, to heal them and to work through them to “bring a new heart to our lives, to our society and to our Church.”

The Primate of Ireland said the Irish Church must become more restless in bringing the message of Jesus into society.

“We priests became priests because in our youth we were fascinated by the person and the message of Jesus. That joyful and challenging experience changed our hearts. We have to become passionate again every new day, and restless in finding ways in which we can lead young people today to experience in their lives what the fascination with the message of Jesus meant to us in our youth,” he suggested.

He acknowledged that with the passage of the years it is easy to lose that restlessness and for many reasons.

“We live in a Church and a society which has changed. It is not always a friendly society. We can feel isolated.”

Being a Christian, Archbishop Martin said, means believing in a God whose name and whose very identity is mercy.

“Being a Christian means trying to fathom, even if through our own limited abilities, what believing in a God of mercy means for us as individuals and as a Christian community and indeed for the complex and at times harsh and violent world in which we live.”

Pic John Mc Elroy.

Pic John Mc Elroy.

He said the Chrism Mass celebrates in a special way the calling of the ordained priesthood, remembering always however that priests are called from among the people that God has made his own.

He added, “We never leave that people. We are called to act in the name of Christ to serve God’s people. But we are also nourished within and by God’s people and through the faith of God’s people.”

He admitted that we all like what Pope Francis says and we like him even more when he says things we like.

“But Pope Francis also says things which challenge us and which challenge us to change our hearts. I was very struck by one thing he said at the conclusion of the Synod last October. He spoke of: ‘Closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings in order to judge others, sometimes with superiority and superficiality’.”

He said priests can only bring the message of Jesus with hearts that are truly loving.

“As priests we must preach the message Jesus Christ in its integrity, but never our own judgementalism,” he warned.

Meanwhile, in Armagh, Archbishop Eamon Martin said that priests are called to be, like Christ, the Face of mercy to the world.

Describing it was a “wonderful calling!” the Primate of All Ireland said it was a challenge, particularly in a world which at times seems everything but merciful.

“Popular culture tells our young people they must be strong, powerful, popular, wealthy, self-reliant, healthy, fit, trendy and attractive; it persuades them to focus so much on themselves and their personal interest.”

But he said life often deals them a very different hand.

“They have to find their way in a world filled with terrorism, aggression, war and torture, abuse, domestic violence, addiction, poverty, homelessness and austerity; they will have to cope as often with failure and disappointment as with success and achievement.”

Paying tribute to priests who have “reached out lovingly to many families who experienced tragic, sudden or violent death in their homes”, he referred to his visit on Wednesday night to the McGrotty family home in Derry.

“I could see first-hand the merciful outreach of the local priest and community at a time of unspeakable pain and loss. No doubt in Brussels today priests and pastoral workers are holding the hands of the injured, whispering comfort to the bereaved, lifting up the sorrowful.”

Dr Martin added, “This is the work of mercy that is at the heart of our calling as priests.”

In Derry, Bishop Donal McKeown said ministry puts enormous pressure on the individuals who have to respond to tragedies.

“They have to handle unspeakable grief and anger – and know how to celebrate the joys of being human. They have to know when to speak words into the pain and when to recognise that helpless silence speaks louder than words. They have much in common with other emergency services who work with such heart and generosity.”

Pic John Mc Elroy.

Pic John Mc Elroy.

But he underlined that they are not just offering medical or rescue services in terrible situations.

“They also have to craft words when words seem inadequate – and to bear people’s burdens with them. This is a vocation to stand in the breach between the solid ground of common sense and hope of the Promised Land on the other side of the desert. And, in this, they are nourished, challenged and supported by the faith communities from which they sprang and of which they are a part.”

Vocation to priesthood or consecrated life today is not sensible for many people. But God still calls individuals to leave behind their own plans and put themselves at the service of generous ministry, fruitful consecrated life and dedicated ministry in Jesus’ name.

Vocation is a call to serve God’s dream not mine. It is a call to feed God’s flock and not merely to nourish our own egos.

It means ensuring that people see Jesus, the face of the Father’s mercy and not just my face.

But it comes with the reassurance that I will be most myself when I try to follow the often strange ways of the Creator.

He noted efforts to rename Holy Saturday as Easter Saturday.

“For many of our fellow citizens, Friday is good merely because it marks the beginning of the Spring Bank Holiday weekend. But we are invited to sit with the Lord this evening at the table of the last Supper, to stand speechless before the brutality and senselessness of the cross and to taste the bitter herbs of Saturday’s emptiness before we celebrate the light that bursts out in the darkness at the Easter Vigil.”

“Only then can we all, made into a line of kings and priests to serve our God and Father, celebrate the Rising that makes all things new – and that will make sense, even of the tragic funerals that we will celebrate this afternoon,” referring to the Buncrana pier tragedy.

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