I was invited to give a short reflection on what my faith means to me as a lay person in the Cathedral of Christ the King in Mullingar, Co Westmeath on Holy Thursday evening. This is the text of what I said;
“The faith was one of the great gifts afforded to my generation, who were born in Ireland in the years after the Second World War. It is a gift we have an obligation now, to pass on.
Our faith tells us that there is a God, that we are not alone in the universe. We should not be arrogant. We should respect His creation. We should leave the earth in a better condition than we found it. There is something out there much bigger than us, so we must keep our troubles in proportion.
Our faith tells us that God created each one of us as individuals, that we are not mere accidents of genetics, and that He cares for each of us, as individuals. Our life comes from Him, and it is not ours to manipulate, or take away.
Our faith tells us that there a life after our death, we do not simply pass away into nothingness. We have to give an account of ourselves.
But our faith also tells us that God sent His only Son to die on earth, so that our sins would be forgiven, and that we might live.
These beliefs are, I contend, as important to the living of a good life now, in the twenty first century in Ireland, as they ever were at any time in our country’s long history.
As Pope Benedict said “Deeds without knowledge are blind, and knowledge without love is sterile”. Science, and material progress are only means to an end, no more. They are not why we are here on earth.
Our faith helps us answer the really difficult questions, questions which, if left unanswered can lead to despair, nihilism and sometimes even to suicide
“Why are we here? “
“What is the meaning of my life?”
Inability to answer those questions, leaves people with a great emptiness at the heart of their lives, and that is why faith is such a gift. It enables us to answer the truly important questions.
Our faith, as Catholics, reminds us that our obligations are universal, to all humanity, not just to our own family or nation. As Pope Pius the eleventh reminded the world in 1922, even patriotism must be “kept within the laws of Christ”
And we must never think we know it all. Our reason is a gift from God, and we must use it to examine our own lives, our faith and our failings, to examine our conscience, to use a very old fashioned phrase. Perhaps if we did that more often, we would not need so many regulations and regulators.
The whole concept of Human Rights has a Christian root. If we believe God created each one of us, that provides us with a solid basis for respecting the human rights of all other people, who , as Christians, we believe were also created by God. We thus have a solid, and rational basis, for , for example, respecting their right to Life from conception to natural death, and also for helping to eliminate easily curable diseases, like malaria, that cause children to die prematurely.
Above all our faith tells us that we should follow the example of Christ, and forgive others who have wronged us. Forgiveness is not something that comes naturally. In fact it almost goes against nature. But we do it because we believe that Christ died, so that we in our turn may be forgiven, and because He told us to forgive.
We must deplore the sin, but we should not shun the sinner.
Vengeance does not cure the injury to victims. Sometimes it makes it worse.
Retribution is not Christ’s way. No, that hard and unnatural thing, forgiveness , is Christ’s way.
It would help Modern Ireland, with its record prison population, and its media in relentless search for someone to blame , it would help it a great deal, if it could remind itself, this Easter, of the true meaning of Christ’s life, and of the meaning of His death-forgiveness, letting go, and rising again.