Vigil of Prayer for Nascent Life
DIOCESAN ADVENT SERVICE 2010
Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland
Pro-Cathedral, 27th November 2010
We have come to celebrate the beginning of advent. Advent is a season of hope as we reflect on the meaning of the coming of Jesus Christ into human history. During Advent our minds should be inspired by attitude of the Old Testament prophets 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 whose coming will bring the newness of peace and justice and righteousness.
During Advent, as did the Old Testament Prophets, we think of the injustice, the evil, the violence, the self-centeredness that exists in our time and we pray that Jesus’ coming will be a moment of deliverance. We look forward to Jesus’ coming as a moment when he will break once again into human history to change it, to save it, to unite it with him. We remember those who live under the burdens of poverty, suffering and anxiety and we pray that also for them Jesus’ coming will also be a moment of deliverance.
It was hope which permitted the Prophet Isaiah to dream the dream that we heard of in the first reading, with those beautiful words of peace: “One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks”.
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. In our days nations sadly still raise weaponry against others. In our own city how often do we read sadly about knives being raised in violence and guns in vengeance and lives being ruined?
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 their way of life.
This afternoon we join in a special prayer of the Church around the world to reflect on human life at its beginnings. We join with Pope Benedict XVI who will be celebrating this event at this evening’s Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent. He invites all of us to thank the Lord Jesus for his total self-giving to the world and for his Incarnation which gave every human life its real worth and dignity and to invoke the Lord’s protection over every human being called into existence.
New life is about hope. We turn to Mary as we reflect on how she, despite her natural perplexity, awaited in hope the birth of her firstborn, who was to bring salvation and new life into the world.
The Christian message is a message of life. It is about how all human life is a reflection on of the very life of God. We are created in the image of God. The Christian teaching reminds of us the great mystery of how Christian spouses share in the work of the creation of new life and take on the challenge and the responsibility for ensuring that that life can flourish as God wants it to.
Not everyone finds that challenge easy. Some are tempted to think that there is no other way open to them, in their anxiety, but to destroy life in the womb. Many find themselves in agonising despair. They need the support of a caring and concerned Christian community to be there for them and to support them as the make the choice for life. I commend the quiet work of Cura which extends a hand of counselling, encouragement and practical support to women and to protect the life of the nascent child.
The support of the Christian community must also continue as the child grows. Every child has the same right to be able to fully develop its talents and creativity and not to suffer disadvantage. Those single parents who face the challenge of bringing up their children on their own need our special support.
In this service we remember also those whose hope has been devastated through miscarriage or neo-natal death of their child. No one except them can know the depth of their sorrow. But as believers we know that the value of life is not measured just by the length of its days. Each child is a unique representation of the image of God.
Pope Benedict at his inauguration as Pope reminded us that: “[Humans] are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary”.
Each new human life, right from the moment of conception, is the fruit of a thought of God. It is an extraordinary thing to remember that each human life is “willed, loved and necessary”. We remember all those who may be tempted to forget that somehow the new life which they are called to bring into the world is “necessary”. In God’s plan there is never an unwanted child. Each child is willed by God and is loved by God.
We believers are called to establish a culture in our society in which each child can experience that love and that sense of being wanted. The Gospel for this, the First Sunday of Advent, tells us to stay awake and to stand ready. We need to stay awake and be on our guard not to allow a seductive culture emerge which plays down the significance of new life and the value of each life or which introduces into our culture criteria which would determine that one life has less value than another.
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. We cry out not as a voice of protest and condemnation. We cry out to God who created the world and all its beauty, who created each of us in his own image, who created humankind as one family. We cry out with the Psalmist trusting that the Lord will pour down his saving justice so that our earth and all that belongs to it can blossom with salvation and allow justice spring up within it.
We cry out in difficult times. Yet we cry out with confidence as we know that the earth and all that is in it is the creation of the Lord, who never ceases to care for his creation until he finally comes again to bring it to its fulfilment.