St Eugene’s Cathedral
Francis Street, Derry
BT48 9AP | Tel: 028 7126 2302
Thus, when we gather each week, we are not just individuals praying in way that we could do equally well at home. We gather as the Body of Christ to encounter together Jesus who the Word of God – and to be fed with the Eucharistic food. Christ is not just one more spiritual consumer product that we turn to when it suits us. We do not belong to ourselves but to Christ (1 Cor 3:23). We don't come here because we fancy doing so – but we gather because he gathers us to join the choirs of angels and saints in their unending hymn of praise to God. The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that we gather for the festival with the whole Church where everyone is a first-born child and a citizen of heaven (Heb 12:22-23). We are not here to impress God or others. We are not here to show what wonderful things we can do for God but to celebrate and steep ourselves in what God has done for us. We are here to be moulded into the Body of Christ, through word and sacrament. I hope that we will soon be able to gather again in good numbers. Worshipping from home may be the best that many can do at present. But it is a poor substitute for the sacramental intimacy that Jesus wants us to share with him and with each other each Lord's Day.
The Gospel challenge is not to get people accustomed to a parish that offers less because there are fewer clergy. The real call is to work with passion to train parishes for an energetic confident proclamation of Jesus in a new situation.by Author
Secondly, the New Testament imagery for the Church also reflects the intimacy between us within the Church. We are part of the people of God, we are God's family (Eph 2:19), we are living stones (1 Pet 2:5), we are living cells in the one Body of Christ. Jesus tells us love of God cannot be separated from love of neighbour as ourselves. We must be reconciled with one another before we come to offer our gifts to God (Mt 5:23-24). Traditionally, we offer one another a sign of peace before we approach the altar to receive Communion. St Paul and St James wrote very strongly against those, who wanted to introduce class distinctions or other loyalties into the People of God.
But that call to unity does not mean we should be happy to be a small, pure Church, cutting ourselves off from the world. The challenge is to see where God is leading us, not where we want to lead God. And God's ways may be uncomfortable for us. We don't have to feel we are in charge because this is God's work, not ours. We do everything to maintain unity rather than dismiss those whose opinions we don't like. The Lord can be working through others and not just through me and my preoccupations. As Jesus tells us, the world will not believe in Jesus unless it sees unity among Christ's followers. (Jn 17:21-23) The Church has to be driven by Christ's crazy call for humility and unity. We are a field hospital, not a super sterile clinic. Jesus wants to see the poor and the lame, the leper, the stranger and the sinner around his table. It is the sick who need the doctor, not the apparently healthy. Love of God and of neighbour are inseparable.
Thirdly, the Church exists for one purpose only – so that the world can give glory to God the Father (Mt 5:16. 1Pt 2:9). We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20), like mirrors reflecting the brightness of God (2 Cor 3:18). The Church exists only to be missionary. It is through the divine gift of our intimate union with Christ and with one another that we can be used to bear a divine treasure, even in the earthenware vessels that we are (2 Cor 4:7). The Irish Church has always reached out – on this island and to the whole world. There is thus no excuse for talking a fallen human language which says all we can do is prepare to wind down the Irish Church. The Gospel challenge is not to get people accustomed to a parish that offers less because there are fewer clergy. The real call is to work with passion to train parishes for an energetic confident proclamation of Jesus in a new situation. We can proclaim Christ's missionary grace, which is at work in every generation, only when we stop our timid joyless narrative getting in the way. This is Christ's Church, not ours.
St Paul, in our second reading, talks about how deep God's wisdom is. He knew something of the mystery that is the Church. He knew that Christ founded one Church, not multiple contrasting and competing variants. This Gospel today is an invitation to be intimate with Christ and united in love with one another. Only by following that wisdom, can we be much needed salt to the earth and light to the world. God's foolishness is much wiser than human wisdom. (1 Cor 1:25)
+ Donal McKeown