Archbishop Martin on Ecumenism and Christian Ministry Today

(This is Neil.) I would like to excerpt part of a homily delivered by the Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, at the Church of Ireland Theological College. The Church of Ireland Theological College is an Anglican institution. Archbishop Martin reminded his audience – and us – that divisions among Christians “constitute a wound to the Jesus Christ whom we represent.” He went on to say, “We should rather wake up each day feeling the wound of division and inspired to work today and each day for unity.”

Of course, he is not calling for a political sort of consensus. Christians must be honest about our unity and the continuing “wound” of our division. If we are honest, we can “open our hearts better to the Lord, since it is he who is the one who heals division, the one who ‘who casts out demons and performs cures, today, tomorrow and the next day’ until his work is completed.”

Some of you might also be interested in what Archbishop Martin said about Christian ministry in a time and place of increased secularization. He warned his listeners, “We should not be dreaming of a golden age of the past, of a religious culture which is no longer there.” Instead, Christian ministry, especially to the younger generation, must be about “encounter with a person,” concerned with manifesting the reality of One “who casts out demons and performs cures, today, tomorrow and the next day.”

Here, then, is the Archbishop:

How do we present the message today in such a way that it will be embraced by the younger generation with enthusiasm and interiority? How do we address the message of Jesus to those aspects of our culture which are hostile to religion? It would be foolish to deny that such realities exist, and exist with force.

Perhaps the answer to that question is the answer of Jesus to those who present to him the threat of Herod who wishes to kill him. Jesus does not enter into polemics, but simply affirms a verifiable reality. Jesus is the one “who casts out demons and performs cures, today, tomorrow and the next day”, until his work is completed. The message of Jesus is not primarily a collection of dogmas and moral norms, of rules and practices or plans for a better world. It is above all an encounter with a person, with Jesus Christ, who addresses us and addresses us in our history, in our lives. We can learn off as many catechetical definitions and formulae as we wish, but if we do not have that liberating personal encounter with Jesus, then we have not understood what Christianity is about. We can propose plans to revolutionise the world’s economy and international political life, but if our plan does not lead to an encounter with the God whose love is revealed in Jesus Christ, then our plan will be just one plan among many.

Jesus addresses us in a special language. In our work of evangelization we have to use the same language as Jesus did. But just like any other language we have to be able to speak it fluently and to make it our own. Knowing a language is not about grammar and spelling and pronunciation. You can say you really speak a language only when you can say that you think in it, that you dream in it. What is then the language of Jesus? Jesus identifies himself as he “who casts out demons and performs cures, today, tomorrow and the next day” until his work is completed. His is the language of healing and the restoration of people to their fullness in freedom.

Knowing Jesus is an encounter with Jesus in which his desire to heal our infirmities and lead to the path to freedom, becomes our desire, even in the context of our limitedness and our brokenness. We live in a culture which prizes success and celebrity, which has difficulty in coping with brokenness. The loving tenderness and compassion of God reaches out in the first place to the weak, the poor and the marginalised, not to develop an ideology of weakness and poverty, but with the desire to restore their wholeness.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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