It is we who are the Church
Sunday Homily for November 9, 2008
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (32A)
By Father Alex McAllister
Today we are commemorating two different occasions.
Firstly, today is kept as Remembrance Sunday in Britain and many Commonwealth countries. And so we call to mind those who lost their lives in the two world wars and in the many conflicts since.
It is appropriate that we keep alive the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we might live our lives free from tyranny. We should not forget that, while war is something to be avoided whenever possible, it is also important that certain God-given values should be defended at all costs.
So it is fitting that we pay tribute to those who gave their lives in these conflicts. But it is also our earnest prayer that future generations may live their lives in an atmosphere of peace and trust between nations.
If the Gospel means anything at all, it means the avoidance of war and the promotion of peace and mutual understanding. With the unforgettable words of Christ “Blessed are the peacemakers” in mind, we also pay tribute to those who work for the promotion of peace in the world of today.
The second occasion we are commemorating is the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. You might think that this is a rather strange thing to be celebrating but in every church throughout the world the day of its dedication is kept as a feast.
We ourselves make a big fuss on the Feast of Christ the King and remember the date of the foundation of the parish and the dedication of this Church. The respective years are 1941 and 1981, in case you are interested.
Just as with every other church, so it is with the Mother Church in Rome. But in this case it is rightly commemorated not just within the Diocese of Rome but also throughout the world.
Many people think that the Pope’s Cathedral is St Peter’s, but in fact it is the Basilica of St John Lateran where the Popes resided for over a thousand years.
This was interrupted when the Popes moved to Avignon in 1309. When the Papacy returned to Rome eighty years later St John Lateran was in disrepair and so after moving between several different locations the Popes eventually took up residence in the palazzo next to St Peter’s at the Vatican.
One could say that when you get down to essentials any Church building is just bricks and mortar and this would be technically correct. After all, the real Church, the one that counts, is the body of Christ’s faithful.
It is we who are the Church. It is a Church not made from bricks and mortar but from you and me and the countless other Christians spread throughout the world.
That said; the building still plays a key role. For the building is the place where we gather for the liturgy and most importantly for the Eucharist. It is a place that we do not use for merely secular activities it is dedicated exclusively to the sacred actions of God’s people.
The Church building is therefore a real visible symbol of the greater Church which is the Body of Christ. It is a living sign of the unity of the Church. It is the sacred place where God’s people gather to hear his word and worship his holy name.
I have to turn to another important topic; namely our finances.
It might seem ironic but the Gospel today, which we have just heard, is about Christ chasing the moneychangers out of the Temple. You could say that it is for this reason that over the years I have tried to avoid addressing the subject of money from the place where the Gospel is proclaimed.
However, in the present difficult financial climate I must state our situation very clearly. And it is quite simple: our costs are going up and our income is going down.
Without giving you a lot of facts and figures let me say that we need an offertory income of £1,400 per week to run this Church, but our actual income is about £1,000 per week.
Actually our offertory collection has stayed static at about £1,000 for the last seven years. And yet, as you know, there have been substantial increases in gas and electricity costs as well as rising prices in many other areas. These extra costs have affected us badly.
A lot has been done to get some very substantial grants to complete the recent refurbishment of Porch House but we still have some outstanding bills related to those urgent repairs.
Look at the Church around you. It is forty-five years old. It urgently needs rewiring and improved lighting, the floor is a safety hazard and the roof is constantly leaking. These things will have to be dealt with in the near future.
I understand that each of you have your own bills to pay and that you are also facing difficult times. But unless we can increase our offertory income by at least a third we will be in serious difficulties.
The Finance Committee members will be at the back of the Church and have letters for each parishioner inviting you to consider increasing your offertory contribution. Also they will encourage you to make Gift Aid declarations if you haven’t already done so.
Please do what you can within your own particular circumstances to support the parish and to enable it to continue to be the fine place of worship it is, as well as a tremendous hive of community activities.
Christ chased the moneychangers out of the temple and rightly so; but Paul reminds us that we are God’s building. That means that each one of us must contribute to the well-being of the Church. We must do this by our prayers and our good works but also by means of our regular financial contributions.
Let me conclude by saying a big thank-you for all you are already doing for the support of the parish, it is much appreciated. I am sure that together with a bit of effort we can get through these difficult times.