Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Repent and Believe," Irish Edition

In his first appearance since early week's unprecedented Vatican summit on sex-abuse in the Irish church, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin led the Ash Wednesday rites not from his chair at the capital's Pro-Cathedral, but among its young at University College chapel.

It's a standing commitment for the onetime papal diplomat -- and, at least publicly, getting home in time for the UCD Mass was the reason behind Martin's conspicuous absence from Tuesday's press conference of top Irish prelates following the Rome meeting's close.

Even on Lent's first day, however, the scene remained overshadowed by the fallout of November's Murphy Report on the handling of allegations in the Dublin church and the unimpressed reaction of leading survivors to the Vatican sit-down.

Having been both praised and savaged for his uniquely attuned response to the abuse scandals which've rocked the global church, Martin's message for the Lenten kickoff returned to the crisis' wake, repeating his oft-stated call that the moment required a new push for genuine, wholesale ecclesial renewal....

Here, a snip:
Ash Wednesday is a unique day in which within the Catholic tradition we are called to reflect on where we stand in our own lives and on what our value system is. Lenten penance is not a punitive activity; it is not a form of religious masochism in the sense that we fell good through punishing some aspect of our lives.

That is not the Christian way of life. There is, however, a sense in which we can only attain authenticity through an inevitably painful path of renunciation of what is non-essential. It means renouncing any tendency to live if the purpose of life was just our own fulfillment and our own rights and our own image....

“Repent and believe the Gospel” is one of the formulas used on the occasion of imposing Ashes. It is an appeal to each of you, to identify where you have drifted away from authenticity in faith – very often almost without knowing it - into being above all self-seeking.

“Repent and believe the Gospel” is a call to the members, the structures and the leaders of the Church who have also in many ways been unfaithful to their calling and have allowed personal and institutional reputation to influence their decisions.

We all have to repent; we are all called to turn back to what is authentic in the faith so that we can be more authentic in our lives. The touchstone for measuring our repentance will be our belief in the Gospel. There is no way in which we can think that we know God without knowing the Jesus that is revealed in the Gospel.... That means taking up the Gospel and getting to know Jesus as he presents himself to us through his life, words and action, gathered in a systematic way in the Gospels. I challenge each of you to take up the Gospel of Saint Luke, in the privacy of your heart, and come to know the liberating message of Jesus.

Getting to know that Jesus can change your life and lead you on a path to that real authenticity that each you and also myself must seek. Getting to know the Jesus of the Gospels is also the challenge needed for renewal of the Church. The Church today perhaps more than at other times has itself to respond to the same call: “Repent and believe the Gospel.”
As one analyst pointedly observed in today's papers, "If Archbishop Diarmuid Martin had said in Rome on Tuesday what he finally said in Dublin yesterday, the summit talks between Pope Benedict XVI and the Irish bishops would not have been dismissed so forthrightly as a charade and an insult to clerical abuse victims."

Over at PoliticsDaily, meanwhile David Gibson's sent up a fine study of the Dublin prelate, likening Martin to another St Patrick.

The two go back a ways -- Martin received Gibson into the church during the PD scribe's time at Vatican Radio in the late 1980s.