LENT III (A)
The hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. – John 4: 21
I think what our Lord is getting at is that place will no longer define where we worship. This doesn’t mean some kind of disembodied worship, for we are, after all, bodily creatures so long as we are in this world. It means quite simply that wherever Jesus is made present in the sacraments will be holy ground. It is God who makes a place or a person holy, not us.
Worship nowadays in this country is all too often confused with feel-good experiences or entertainment. Some churches resemble a theater with a stage for a band more than a church. I know of one so-called “church” that does not even refer to its Sunday program as services much less worship, but advertises “experience” times. We seem to have forgotten that worship is about God, not us.
The whole point of worship is to facilitate our becoming more God-like, not self-satisfied or well-adjusted. Currently, we have been engaged in a discussion about building a new church. Today I can inform you that the debate is ended, & that we WILL be building a new church. However, a building, as we all know, does not make a Christian community. People do. But this does not detract from the fact that our worship environment does make a difference in how we view & approach God. Our current building was meant to be temporary 34 years ago. It has served us well, but the time has come to move on.
I hasten to emphasize that any building is never an end in itself, but a means to an end. One such end would be a more spiritually enriching environment in which to worship. But in this case, I believe there is another end that is even more important: the transformation of our parish life & outlook.
Over the years, I know not how or why, our parish atmosphere has become characterized by negativism & defeatism. I think people have been disappointed so many times that something good would happen that they have given up hope. That certainly described our youth group. Yet in the past two years that has been turned around by the energy & motivation supplied by Josh, our new Youth Minister. I know of at least one person who transferred to our parish just so his daughter could be in the youth group. It has given me hope that we can do the same for our parish as a whole.
Without some kind of motivating factor, that is unlikely to happen. I happen to believe that working together to build a new church might just do the trick. It will be a challenge on many levels, but normally people do not appreciate something handed to them on a silver platter. I for one firmly believe that our folks are up to the challenge. It will mean hard work, but I believe it can give us hope that our parish is moving forward in a fruitful way. No longer will we be mired in the mud of hopelessness, but we will be enthusiastic about what is happening.
Our Lord insists that we must be born anew to appreciate the things of God. He offers us His Holy Spirit to effect such a transformation of attitudes. If we will pray & work together, that Spirit can bring us salvation, new life, & the gifts necessary to unite & strengthen the body of Christ in this community. The North American College in Rome has a motto: “Ad multos annos,” meaning “To many years.” I would just add one word to make it ours: “Ad multos beatos annos,” meaning “To many blessed years.” AMEN!