Archbishop: people struggle with idea of God in a harsh world
Ireland's relationship with God is "increasingly ambiguous" and some people want a society in which there is no place for God in the public sphere, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has warned.
At Christmas Mass in St Mary's Pro Cathedral, in Dublin, the Archbishop said alongside men and women of deep faith and commitment were those who struggled with the very idea of God because of the harshness of the world and the mystery of evil. He added there were also those who were angry with God and with the Church, or angry with God because of the Church.
"How many times do I hear the phrase: 'I am just hanging in there by the tips of my fingers'."
Highlighting that some people wanted to banish God, Dr Martin asked why people were afraid of or unsettled by a God who appeared as a defenceless child? He also expressed concern that some believers would feel happier with "a warrior God who builds ramparts of defence".
Addressing the Christmas story, Dr Martin said a God who appeared as a defenceless child was not "a useless fairy tale" or the angry, arrogant and judgmental God we might have been taught about in school.
Cold human rationality would not lead us to the God who appears in the birth of Jesus Christ, he said, and added that the message of the birth of Jesus in simplicity and defencelessness helped us to understand that dreams and idealism were possible.
Separately, the Catholic Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, in his Christmas homily for Midnight Mass in St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh, invited the faithful to make this a "Mercy" Christmas by turning to Jesus in prayer.
As individuals and as a society, Archbishop Martin explained, a "Mercy" Christmas challenged us to ask whether we had done enough to make peace, to help relieve poverty, hunger, homelessness and the plight of refugees.
It also challenged us all on whether or not we had reached out to those around us who were experiencing isolation, persecution and loneliness, despair or hopelessness. Lastly, he said it challenged us on whether or not we were playing our part in defending the life and human dignity of every person.
The Catholic Primate urged the faithful to respond to God's mercy in the coming Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Church by going to confession and helping others through "works of mercy".
In Dublin's Christ Church Cathedral the Most Rev Dr Michael Jackson focused on the big questions of incarnation.
The Church of Ireland's Archbishop of Dublin said Christmas offered the opportunity to reflect on questions surrounding good and evil, of life and death, of suffering and flourishing. Delivering his Christmas Day sermon, he said: "These big questions hit us at a time when we are now rather frightened and confused by the world itself as we live in it."
Rev Jackson said incarnation was about justice, and warned the timing could hardly be better for us to connect incarnation, creation and justice.
"The world beyond, the world outside the churches, has issued a challenge and an invitation to all of us to connect creation, justice and ecology in Paris a few weeks back; and the challenge is inescapable for churches and for religions who connect all of these aspirations with faith principles and with the revelation and disclosure of God in the created order," he added.
He said those of us living in relative comfort must make the connection that incarnation gives to those who witness things in ways that were extraordinary.