for Sunday, November 9, 2008
Have you ever thought that the Catholic Church should stop
wasting its money on expensive churches? That we should
to sell them all and buy food for the poor? Funny thing.
Jesus, who cared much for the poor, did not have this
attitude. As an adolescent he yearned to spend time in
Herodís sumptuous Temple, and as an adult, he defended its
integrity against the moneychangers. Francis of Assisi, who
gave away all his possessions, begged for money to buy
materials to restore ruined churches that he rebuilt with his
Why this high regard for church buildings? Because, the
liturgical worship going on inside, especially the Eucharist,
is the "source and summit" of our entire Christian life. The
world is a dusty, tiring place that often beats us down. The
Church building is a haven, a quiet refuge, a place to
encounter God. Here we drink deeply of the life-giving
waters of word and sacrament that revive our drooping
spirits (Psalm 23). The grace that flows from the altar bears
us back into the world, changed, and able to change others,
bringing healing and bearing fruit.
The Church building is a mirror that, held up before us,
reminds us of who we are. The world constantly tells us that
we are consumers, employees and voters. The Church
building reminds us of our deepest identity. As we gather
for Sunday worship, we who were scattered by diverse
loyalties, professions, and life-styles, are now united as the
Body of Christ and dwelling place of the Spirit.
So, what about all the expensive treasures of architecture,
painting, sculpture, and stained glass? Sell them all and use
the proceeds to by food for the poor? What then would the
poor have? The loss of oneís home is a loss of one's
dignity. Our churches belong not to the hierarchy, but to the
whole family. They've been given to us by the hard work
and contributions of our forebears to remind us of our
dignity as sons and daughters of the living God.
Constantine donated the Lateran Basilica, whose dedication
we celebrate today, to the Church, soon after he legalized
Christianity in 313AD. Since then, it has been the official
cathedral of the Pope, the mother church of all Christendom,
the cathedral of the world.
It is there that the most powerful pope of the Middle Ages,
Innocent III, had a dream of a magnificent church breaking
apart, but then shored up by a poor man in a beggars robe.
Soon afterwards, beggars from Assisi arrived, led by a man
named Francis, asking for approval for their lifestyle and
work. Prepared by his dream, he recognized the hand of
God, and encouraged a movement that renewed the Church.
As we meditate on this feast, let us allow zeal for his house
to consume us as it did Jesus and Francis, that we may
embrace the task of purification, renewal and rebuilding.
Readings of the day:
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: