The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day: Modern Ireland in search of identity. Will it be humanism or Christianity?
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus warned his followers to beware of some prominent teachers of that day – the scribes. They were a danger to the coming of God’s kingdom. His warning tells believers of all times to be alert to the dangers of their own age.
One can hardly fail to notice that in recent months, in fact in recent years, there have been calls to Irish people, in particular to the younger generation, to discuss and articulate their vision for Ireland of the future. The call comes from sections of the media, from politicians and public figures, some of high standing. There are calls for a national, a public ethic. Sometimes such calls are of a neutral nature. On a number of occasions they represent a call for a secular, even humanistic, Ireland and national ethic.
It seems clear from this there is, and will be, reflection on what kind of Ireland the people of Ireland want, what the prevailing vision will be. In the past the vision came from a predominantly practising Catholic population. The situation has now changed dramatically. While some 84% of the population of the Irish Republic may have entered themselves in the recent census form as Roman Catholic, it is beyond doubt that many are ill-informed of the Christian vision of society as put before us in the New Testament, a vision that became a reality by the practice of the faith and access to the sacraments.
We have now reached a position that calls for reflection on how best respond to the present situation and move forward from there. The words addressed the author of the First Letter of Peter to the Christians under pressure in the mid-first century merit reflection: “Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15-16). This requires that believers are fairly well informed on the truths of their faith. The present situation is a matter of concern for bishops, parishes, parish councils, lay groups and organizations and others to take stock of the situation and to see how best a knowledge of the doctrines of our faith and of Christian morality can be conveyed to all concerned.
This will be no easy task. The political, secular and even humanist call for a new vision of Ireland is being addressed to the young. How get the younger generation in Ireland enthused about Christ and this Christian vision of life is no simple matter. It is a point that merits deep consideration. All of us can pray that this awakening to the dangers involved will be a success. We can pray that God will raise up men and women of literary ability who can become possessed of this vision and put their message across in a language suitable to our time and culture.