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Christians must be agents of hope: Archbishop

By Sarah Mac Donald - 27 July, 2014

archbishop-Michael+NearyIn his homily for Reek Sunday, Archbishop Michael Neary has said the Church ought to be a counter-movement in a society that can be violent, unforgiving and anxiety-driven.

Speaking on Saturday evening in Westport and again this morning on the summit of Croagh Patrick, the Archbishop of Tuam warned that faith cannot be about maintenance; it is about “welcoming home all sorts and conditions of people.”

He noted that in our society where everything is reduced to a commodity, if something or someone does not have a usefulness, “that thing can be safely rejected or forgotten and treated” as disposable.”

“In a variety of ways attempts are being made to reshape our values in ways that are fundamentally opposed to the Gospel,” the Archbishop warned.

Speaking about the Catholic faith, Dr Neary said it is not about pinning down certainty but rather it is about openness to wonder and awe.

The West of Ireland Archbishop said it is difficult to describe the society in which we live. “In many respects we are in a season of transition as we watch the collapse of the world as we have known it.”

“The political forms and the economic modes of the past are increasingly ineffective. The value systems we espoused are now in jeopardy,” Dr Neary commented.

Old institutions scarcely perform their tasks anymore he suggested and added that this loss generates anxiety among people.

“The failure of old values and old institutions causes many people to experience themselves as displaced peoples – anxious, ill at ease and so in pursuit of safety and stability that is not on the horizons of contemporary society.”

The pervasive loss or distortion of hope is a spur to the Christian mission he suggested but warned that we live at a time when the urge for order and political correctness seems nearly to squeeze out the voice of hope.

Archbishop Neary also suggested that Christians “have become accustomed to Christianity being marginalised in the public domain, instanced by the banning of Christian symbols in certain quarters.”

Croagh PatrickHe urged Christians to be agents of hope.

This means having the courage to live with uncertainty, he said. “It does not mean having the answers, it means having the courage to ask the questions and not let go of God, as he does not let go of us.”

Speaking about the major changes going on in society, the Archbishop said in times past it was difficult to imagine the world without God.

“Today it is becoming a challenge to imagine the world with God. Our culture endeavours to make sense of the world without reference to God.”

“Living in a society of technological control and precision we are reduced to thinking that we know all of the codes,” but he underlined that change, even change for the better, can be disorientating, threatening and traumatic.

“Fundamental to all culture is respect for that which another group holds sacred. When this respect is violated something crucial is lost,” Dr Neary said.

Referring to the objections towards anyone who insults the Koran and the convictions of Islam, the Archbishop noted that when it comes to Jesus Christ and that which is sacred to Christians “there seems to be a different standard; freedom of expression knows no limits.”

He asked if in our “commendable endeavour to become more understanding of the values of others have we lost our capacity to uphold and respect our own values?”

“If all we can see in our own religious tradition is the negative and destructive then we are no longer capable of recognising what is good, wholesome, life-giving and positive in any religion or culture.”

“The reality is that we can only value the sacred traditions of others with respect if we have an appreciation of our own sacred traditions. In this way we can enable others to reclaim what is best in their heritage,” he concluded.

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