Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh
- A living Christian faith emboldens us to promote a culture of life, to defend the unborn, to reach out to the homeless, to welcome the stranger, to visit the sick
- Our country, north and south, truly needs the rekindling of wholesome relationships – socially and politically, nationally and internationally
- When the hearts and consciences of individuals are moved and troubled by the plight of the suffering and the marginalised, that change begins to happen at a societal and global level. The voice of God, speaking in our hearts, stirs faith and moves us to action
- I am looking forward to launching the ‘one in ten’ Rosary campaign – @1in10Rosary – to encourage at least ten per cent of the population to pledge to pray the Rosary, or a decade of the Rosary, every day for their personal conversion and for the transformation of Ireland
Homily and World Day of Peace message
At Masses on New Year’s Day the ancient Blessing of Aaron is read from the Book of Numbers. Although the Blessing is two and a half thousand years old, its message is timeless:
‘May the Lord bless you and keep you
May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you
May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace (Numbers 6:22-27)’.
The beginning of a new year brings all sorts of speculation and predictions about what lies ahead – and all the more so this year which also sees the beginning of a new decade. A century ago the so-called ‘roaring twenties’ heralded for some people a high spirited, optimistic and prosperous age; but for many others, including here in Ireland, the early 1920’s marked a time of recession, austerity and emigration against a backdrop of partition and civil war.
Who knows what the 2020’s will bring? The newspaper columns these days contain a mixture of hope and uncertainty. All the more reason, then, to invoke today the Blessing of Aaron – to prayerfully trust that, even if we are somewhat anxious about what the future might hold, we are not alone. God walks the journey with us. God gives us what we need to make a difference – in our own lives, in the lives of our loved ones and community, and in the world. It is also good at this time of the year to make personal resolutions to change and to do better, believing that our lives can be aligned more closely with God’s will for us and for the world.
Today marks the World Day of Peace. In his message for today, Pope Francis describes peace as “a great and precious value, the object of our hope and the aspiration of the entire human family”. Pope Francis sees the desire for peace as something which lies “deep within the human heart” and he encourages us to keep on striving for peace despite facing sometimes “insurmountable obstacles”.
“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me” – this popular song, heard a lot around Christmas and New Year, reminds us that we can make a difference. Our words and attitudes, our personal choices and behaviour – in public and on social media – can help to build peace and harmony rather than spread aggression and hatred. As the out-workings of Brexit begin to emerge, the early years of this decade will be crucial in sustaining peace and rebuilding relationships on the island of Ireland and between us and our neighbours in Britain and Europe. Archbishop Richard Clarke and I said recently that our country, north and south, truly needs the rekindling of wholesome relationships – socially and politically, nationally and internationally, and this will require men and women of integrity, generosity and courage to take the initiative in making these crucial relationships work.
Just as peace emerges from the depths of the human heart, so also do the answers to the greatest problems facing our country and world in this new decade. It is only when the hearts and consciences of individuals are moved and troubled by the plight of the suffering and the marginalised, that change begins to happen at a societal and global level. The voice of God, speaking in our hearts, stirs faith and moves us to action. In this way a living Christian faith emboldens us to promote a culture of life, to defend the unborn, to reach out to the homeless, to welcome the stranger, to visit the sick. It opens our ears to the “cry of the poor” and the “cry of the earth”, calling us to wise stewardship of God’s gifts of creation and personally to a more “responsible simplicity of life”. A living Christian Faith inspires us to turn towards God in holiness of life, to seek forgiveness for our sins, and to make personal resolutions for change, not only at the beginning of a New Year, but continually on a lifelong journey of conversion.
At the beginning of this new decade it is therefore worth asking ourselves – does my faith in God make a real difference in my life? Does faith challenge me or have I settled for an “easy listening” comfortable way of living which allows me simply to go on the way I am, relaxed in my choices and perhaps even in my prejudices, in my abuse of created things, my sin and my disobedience of God’s laws? If our only New Year’s resolution was to be more authentic as people of faith, and to become courageous witnesses to Christ in the world, then with the help of God’s grace and blessing, we can build together a more just and peaceful world for ourselves and others.
It is fitting that the first day of the New Year is dedicated by the Church to Mary, the Mother of God who, by pondering on the unfolding mystery of the life of Jesus, was able to face the future with hope and serenity and open herself up entirely to God’s will for her. I invite you then to begin afresh this New Year your journey of faith – a journey nourished, like Mary’s, by prayer and contemplation on the Word of God and on the mysteries of the life of Christ.
I am looking forward to launching next month the ‘one in ten’ Rosary campaign for the 2020’s – @1in10Rosary – to encourage at least ten per cent of the population of Ireland to pledge to pray the Rosary, or a decade of the Rosary, every day for their personal conversion and for the transformation of Ireland. In July, I will lead a pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine of Fatima to dedicate this campaign to Mary and to pray that we can be, like her, courageous witnesses of faith. As pilgrims in Fatima we will remember in particular the witness of our Christian brothers and sisters who are persecuted in many parts of the world.
The Rosary has for centuries sustained faith and life in Ireland, and helped countless women and men to discover God’s will in their lives. It can do so again, enabling us to be courageous witnesses, by pondering every day in our hearts, as Mary did, the deepest mysteries of our faith.
May the Lord bless this initiative for the 2020’s here in Ireland, so that His face may shine on the people of Ireland, and be gracious to us, looking upon us with kindness and bringing us His peace. Amen.
Archbishop Eamon Martin is Archbishop of Armagh, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore and Primate of All Ireland
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