First Sunday of Advent 2019
TWO HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CHURCH OF THE ASSUMPTION AND SAINTS COLUMBANUS AND GALL, MILLTOWN
Homily Notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin
Church of the Assumption and Saints Columbauns and Gall, 1st December 2019
“This morning, at our Jubilee Mass, we look back at and we celebrate two hundred years of life and ministry in this parish in changing times and circumstances. Probably there are only a few of the bricks of the original Church building that may still remain somewhere in place. That reflects the mission of a parish. Without diminishing its past, a parish must find new ways in an ever-changing religious culture to bring the message of Jesus Christ into individual hearts and build faith communities that concretely reflect the message of God’s love through the way they live. Parish life never stands still.
Our anniversary celebration should remind us how, while the mission of the parish has not changed, that mission has been adapted and must continue to adapt to changing times and changes in the religious culture of this area of Dublin and of Ireland.
At any anniversary celebration, we look back over history and I congratulate David Costello on his fascinating overview of the social history of Milltown and this parish.
The fact that our Jubilee celebration this morning comes at the beginning of Advent, challenges us however to focus our reflections more on the future. During Advent, we reflect on the Christ who is to come into our world. The Christian message is always a forward-looking one, a realistic one but a realistic one marked by a message of joyful hope as we await the coming of Jesus.
Advent encourages us to look to the future as a future of hope. There is no doubt that we need hope today, as individuals, as families, as communities and indeed as a nation.
We know that creation will only come to its fullness when Christ comes again in glory. Our mission as Christians in the world is to anticipate that fullness through the way we live as individuals and as society. We are called to discern what are the fundamental choices we should be making as Christians to ensure that our world does not drift away from or deviate from God’s design for his creation.
Advent is a period of waiting. Modern people do not like having to wait. The waiting of Advent is of a different kind. It is an attitude of longing, of anticipation and preparation and of rejoicing that “the Lord is coming”, that “the Lord is near”.
During Advent, our minds should be inspired by the same attitude as that of the Old Testament prophets – as we heard in our first reading – as they awaited in hope the coming of the Redeemer. The Prophets were sensitive to the experience of injustice and sin under which they lived and looked towards the coming of “the anointed one”, as one who would bring them the newness of peace and justice and righteousness.
During Advent, we too think then of the injustice, the evil, the violence, the hatred that exists in our time and we pray that Jesus’ coming will be a moment of deliverance, mediated through the way we believing Christians live. The Christian of every generation is called to be awake and attentive to where society is slipping into wrong ways and to cry out like the prophet to return to the ways of God.
I think of those who today are burdened by homelessness and poverty, intolerance and discrimination, suffering and anxiety. I think of the renewed violence on our streets and the callousness of those who feel they can intimidate our society into weakening our opposition to that business of death that is the drug trade.
I think of the emergence of a new language of racism, at times understated in its expression but just as nasty in its effects on men and women who need our help, our care and our respect. I am horrified to find traces of such racism among believers. The terms “refugee” and “asylum seeker” should only arouse heartfelt concern in the Christian heart.
Advent is a moment in which we should interrupt our daily life and think about what is essential. We too often live like those mentioned in the Gospel who we carried on with their daily activities, important as they were, without reflecting on the wider consequences of what was happening in life.
David Costello’s booklet stresses the challenge that each generation must face in establishing true community. Today there is a longing for community but there are many factors that tend to lure us towards a new individualism. Modern communication and social media can open us to extraordinary new horizons and at the same time can entrap us into a virtual that can quickly become unreal.
Today’s parish is called to establish and strengthen vital faith communities, communities open to all, communities that attract young people to the person of Jesus Christ and to bring their special contribution to understanding the signs of our modern times.
This is a parish of which today the parishioners, young and old, are proud, proud of the renovated Church and proud of what the parish achieves. We remember how this parish touched the lives of so many individuals at vital moments of their lives. We look on this Church as a house of prayer, where people came on their own with their aspirations and hopes and in moments of desolation or despair.
A real challenge today for parishes in urban areas, marked as they are by greater mobility, is how to reach out and welcome those who move into a new area and invite them to be part of the faith community. That is my challenge to you for the future.
Advent is not strictly a time of penance and fasting as is Lent. It is marked more rather by a growing sense of joyfulness for the fact that Jesus is coming and that his coming is near and that we must be ready to answer to the Lord when he comes, today and in the troubled future of our world.
The advent wreath reminds us that the darkness of the world can slowly be enlightened as week by week we anticipate the coming of Jesus. The darkness of our own lives too can be exposed to the light of Christ as we journey forward awaiting his coming.” ENDS