FESTIVAL OF PEOPLES
Homily Notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin
15th May 2016
“The Preface of the Mass of Pentecost sums up the meaning of our celebration today as a “Festival of Peoples”, the celebration of the diversity of ethnic identity gathered within the one family of the Archdiocese of Dublin. The Preface sums up the deep meaning of the Feast of Pentecost which we celebrate:
“Today we celebrate the great beginning of the Church,
when the Holy Spirit made known to all peoples the one true God,
and created form the many languages of humankind,
one voice to profess one faith”.
The event of Pentecost constitutes the establishment of the Church. The characteristic of that Church was its call to be a witness to the unity of all humankind in Jesus Christ.
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 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.
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.
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 a sign of unity. Those who partake in the Eucharist witness to a faith which must constantly generate a new sense of the unity of humankind. Racism and xenophobia, ethnic intolerance and exclusive nationalism are all alien to a Eucharistic spirituality.
Today’s celebration is a celebration not just of diversity but of welcome, of belonging and openness to all. The demographics of Ireland have changed remarkably in a very short period of time. One has only to walk through the streets around this Pro-Cathedral to see how deep-rooted and embedded ethnic diversity in Ireland has become.
The roots of this demographic change had their origin to a great extent in an economic necessity for labour at a time of prosperity. We needed workers. What we welcomed was not just labour; it was and is people, men and women, who contribute by their work and their cultures to a richer Dublin in many ways and not just though an economic input alone.
In times of economic transition there is danger that we would think of immigrants as disposable, as so many commodities and factors in our consumer culture are used or disposed of according to necessity or whim. Those who in Irish society contribute to our common good have rights to security by the fact of their human dignity.
I wish to pay a special tribute to our schools which have done extraordinary work in welcoming the children of immigrants and helping them to develop truly as “Irish of dual culture” and thus contributing to changing demographics into a new definition of Irishness and of welcome.
But today our “Irishness” does not stop at our national boundaries. We live in a world where the unity of all people is under threat. It is under threat if we, as Irish or as Europeans, close our eyes to the needs of brothers and sisters in dire need in our continent of Europe and further afield. Today the numbers of those who are fleeing from war and persecution are on the increase and the level of solidarity is often inadequate. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is almost the “national anthem” of this Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, we see two figures of officialdom turning their eyes away and passing-by in the presence of a fellow human being in distress. Interestingly in that parable we are told absolutely nothing about who the man was that was wounded on the roadside. Why is this? Because there is no need for us to know any particulars; it is sufficient that he was a fellow human being in distress.
The Christian faith can never be a passing-by culture when faced with distress. Our Europe should never be a culture or a politics of passing-by or dong just what is politically easy to stomach. Apart from the noble commitment of our Naval Service in the Mediterranean, I have a feeling that here in Ireland the process of taking refugees seems to have been allowed to slip to the back-burner of politics, while citizens and communities have shown clearly their desire and willingness and anxiousness to commit to a culture of welcome.
The Feast of Pentecost which we celebrate today reminds us that faith in Jesus involves a new understanding of the unity of humankind in Jesus Christ.
One of the distinctive words used in the Acts of the Apostles about the early Church was that of “gathering”. The community of the first believers gathered for the prayers to reflect on the word of God and to break the bread together; they shared everything that they had, so that no one remained in need.
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. With Pentecost the Spirit left to the Church the challenge to translate that sense of local gathering into something more global and to be in the forefront of spreading Jesus’ notion of “my neighbour” into a world that is ever more interdependent. May our celebration this evening be an encouragement to make that vision a reality.