Second Sunday of Easter 2019
MASS WITH THE SRI LANKAN COMMUNITY
Homily Notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin
St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, 28 April 2019
In the Catholic tradition, we celebrate today as the Second Sunday of Easter, one week after the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus.
The greeting we have just heard “Peace be with you” is the greeting that Jesus used when he appeared on various occasions to his disciples.
Peace is a theme that permeates the culture of all faiths. The word peace appears in all the traditions, not as an empty phrase but as a desire and a fundamental aspiration about the kind of world and the kind humanity we all want. We all desire peace. We all desire true peace. Believers of all faiths are called to be men and women of peace, because God is a God of peace.
At our Mass this morning, we have representatives of the Sri Lankan community, of all faiths. I thank you for accepting my invitation. I welcome each and everyone one of you, whatever your faith or belief. We come filled with a deep sense of sympathy and solidarity for your people and your nation. We express our closeness especially to those of you who have lost family members or friends.
We were all shocked at the terrible violence that hit the Sri Lankan nation. Naturally, as Catholic Christians we remember in a special way our own Christian brothers and sisters who were among the prime targets and victims of the violence. May God grant them eternal rest and peace.
We all know however that an attack on a minority in a population, an attack on any single group within a population, is an attack on the entire population. The attack on Sri Lankan Catholics, the attack on innocent visitors to your country, an attack on so many children is an attack on the most noble and peace-loving tradition of every Sri Lankan and on the Sri Lankan nation.
I am therefore very grateful to all the members of the Sri Lankan community in Ireland who have joined us as we celebrate our Mass, saddened of course that in your country on this Sunday, Mass will not be publicly celebrated.
I greet the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins who personally very much wished to be with us today. In his person and in his office he represents the solidarity of the entire people of Ireland with you all. We are all grateful to our President who is president to us all. The Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka is on her way from Cork to join us.
Let us pray now, each of us in the traditions of our own faith, for peace in Ireland and for peace in a country, distant geographically, but with which in our hearts and in our history we have so much in common.
In today’s Gospel reading, we encountered the strong personality of the apostle Thomas. The other disciples are overjoyed as Jesus appears to them. Thomas was not there and he was not taken by the same immediate enthusiasm as the others.
Thomas is the type of person who must make up his own mind. His lack of faith is due to his obstinacy. There is a sense in which he falls into the perennial temptation of thinking that it is he, and he alone, who can determine who Jesus is and when he should be accepted, rather than opening himself without preconditions to the power of life that flows from Jesus.
The tragedies that we have witnessed in these days both here in Ireland and in Sri Lanka result from groups who take it upon themselves to decide the narrow type of society they feel is the right one and to impose it on all. It is their vision or nothing and they feel they can turn to blind violence to enforce their view. Such an attitude is an affront to the desire of people of goodwill, though of different religion or political background, who want a peace in which all can grow and work together in harmony and respect.
People want peace for themselves. People want their children to know peace and hope. Both Sri Lanka and Ireland have known the horror of violence and have experienced the joy of an emerging peace. Men and women of violence betray the deep desire of humanity the world over for a future of peace.
For us Christians, faith in Jesus Christ is not just a matter of feeling or of the formulae of doctrine, but of an encounter with Jesus Christ as a real person, a real person who reveals to us in his life and mission that God is love. This this changes the way we should live as individuals and as a community.
The first reading of today’s Mass spoke about the change that was brought about in the community of the early Christian Church. The Apostles understood the joy of Jesus Resurrection as a vision of new life. That vision of life was influential in shaping the great sense of community that marked the early Christians.
However, faith comes through encountering those “signs” of which John speaks that Jesus Christ worked and which are still valid today. Faith in God is about opening out to the possibility of attaining life in its fullness and of enabling all our brothers and sisters to realise fullness in their lives.
Thomas is normally known as the one who doubted, but there is also the sense in which he is the one who overcame his doubts and came to belief. In addition, his expression of belief is one of the most profound to be found in the scriptures. He recognised truly who Jesus was as he proclaimed “My Lord and My God”.
What changes Thomas? Thomas changes when he sees Jesus. It would perhaps be more accurate to say that he believes when he sees the real Jesus and no longer a Jesus of his own making. It is in seeing the wounds of Jesus that Thomas fully understands how much Jesus loved him and how much Jesus loves us.
Jesus had taken upon himself the wounds of humankind, and in rising he had healed those wounds and enabled humanity to cope with its own doubts and uncertainties, with its own troubled history.
Christians celebrating Easter are called to remember that the Church is the community of believers called to carry on that work of healing in our time. The Church must always be a healing and a reconciling community. The Church itself must become more visibly a community that within its own boundaries witnesses to the fundamental unity of the human family.
That Christian vision belongs very much within our Irish tradition. Today our Ireland is more pluralist. This means that our nation must be one that welcomes the people, young and old, from different cultures and faiths, who make Ireland their home and enrich our culture and our future. I hope that this has been the experience of the Sri Lankan Irish and I thank you for your thoughtfulness in accepting to take part in this simple gesture of solidarity with you and with your nation at this moment of tragedy.
May the God of peace touch all our hearts and bring us closer to each other in the knowledge that peace and not violence constitutes the only sustainable future for our world and especially for our younger generation. Peace constitutes the only sustainable path to the future, not as a pragmatic judgement, but because peace expresses something fundamental about what being a true human family means. ENDS