Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin
Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, 13th January 2015
“Abraham Skorka is a Jewish Rabbi in Buenos Aires who has been a friend of Pope Francis for many years. Yesterday he wrote a striking article as a broad reflection on the significance of the events of the past week in France and on the challenge it brings to all of us, whatever our faith or belief or culture, wherever in this world we live.
The article began with the words of God to Cain in the fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis, a text which is honoured by all three Abrahamic faiths:
“Cain was very angry and downcast. God asked Cain, ‘Why are you angry and downcast? If you are doing right, surely you ought to hold your head high! But if you are not doing right, Sin is crouching at the door hungry to get you. You can still master him”
But Cain decided to ignore God’s invitation, rather:
If we fix our hearts on doing what is right, we can still today master the effects of evil. That is our sentiment this afternoon as we gather in solidarity with the people of France and those anywhere in our world who suffer the effects of violence and evil.
Rabbi Skorka reflects on how in the twentieth century the confused passions of European societies came to shape dramatic conflicts which left behind a trail of death and destruction never seen before. In two World Wars and in numerous conflicts and persecutions, “those elements which within a civilized culture can curb the potential for destruction which always lies within human hearts were shattered”. We must never allow that to happen again. If we fix our hearts on doing what is right, we can do that. If not, we open the path to violence, destruction and death.
Rabbi Skorka stressed that every act of violence and barbarity represents the bankruptcy of the culture which inspires it and he added “when religion becomes a constitutive component of such barbarity it reflects the complete failure of the purpose of religion”.
He called on religious leaders to have the courage to develop a religious dialogue which knows how to unite hearts. He called on religious leaders of every creed, alongside those whose lives are inspired by science, by the arts and by all other forms of human creativity to commit themselves together, explicitly and unequivocally, “to take up the challenge which God posed to Cain and overcome every instinct towards destruction with the strength of our spiritual forces”.
That is the challenge which, as believers and non-believers alike, we face as a human family. The events of Paris last week have shocked and stunned us. It was an attack on a city, on a nation, on a culture, and on democracy. But our reflections on the attack on ideas should never take away from our sensitivity that it was an attack on ordinary people, men and women, who woke up that morning to go about their daily tasks and never returned to their families.
We pray for all those who were the victims: those killed and wounded and traumatized and their families. We pray for the perpetrators: those who fell victim to destructive instincts exploited by false and disparaging visions of faith and life.
We need to build up a culture of dialogue and respect. We must do it honestly and with the courage to tackle what is wrong in our own hearts, in our own cultures, in our own religious traditions. We must condemn violence wherever it takes place. We must condemn with equal strength every form of violence. We must condemn violence not just because it strikes us with shock and horror on one particular day. Every single act of violence has within in the seeds of spreading and destroying. Violence is not less serious or of lesser concern to us when it happens in places and contexts which are distant from us, as in the violence in the Middle East or the horrendous violence in Northern Nigeria. Where we allow violence to flourish anywhere, we are breaking down those factors which curb the capacity for destruction which is always lurks deep in human hearts.
As Christian believers, we know that the power of the love of God enjoys no limits when we embrace it, as our first reading reminded us: “Nothing can come between us and the love of God”. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are constantly called to reflect on what it means to feel abandoned, as Jesus did as he cried out on his Cross. But Jesus’ cry of personal abandonment was the precursor of all those who place their own fulfilment and ambition and pride in second place in the lonely and fearful task of building up a different society, where decency replaces depravity, where vision can numb the blindness of hate, where tolerance flourishes into understanding, respect and love.
If you are doing right, surely you ought to hold your head high! But if you are not doing right, Sin is crouching at the door hungry to get you. You can still master him”
If we fix our hearts on doing what is right, we can still today master the effects of evil today and in the future. The challenge of belief in a God of life and love is to challenge the destructive passions of human kind wherever to raise their ugly head. May the God of love, of mercy and compassion guide us and enlighten the hearts of all of us who with courage dream dreams of peace.”