Beautiful Churches, Beautiful People…Not An Either/Or…A Both/And

I know there are often two schools of thought within our parishes.  There are those among us who feel we shouldn’t spend our money on the “beautiful things” which remain inside our parish churches; the liturgical fineries, vestments, artwork, the building itself beyond the very basic elements.  Instead we should spend the money we offer in tithing on the poor, the marginalized and on social justice concerns.  I also know that there are among us those who feel we spend too much on people who won’t help themselves, and we as a faith community are taken advantage of so we should make the parish church appealing and attractive for those who’ve given much to the Lord to have a beautiful place to worship.

In fact, after years of being privy to these kinds of conversations and growing in my own faith and awareness of it, in light of today’s Gospel, I offer this: it’s not an either/or but rather a both/and.  That is, it’s of the greatest importance that our churches are made beautiful both for God and for the people who worship and pray to Him.  But it’s also of the greatest importance that we, God’s people don’t just remain enclosed in our sacred space but that we reach out with every resource we have and bring others to Him, to His sacred space where we profoundly encounter Him not only (but importantly) in each other but also in the mystery which is present divinely, sacramentally and really within our parish churches.

Jesus teaches us that our sacred places matter, but we they are not a place like any other.  Churches and chapels are not meant to be ordinary, because what takes place and what remains within them is extraordinary!  I am certainly speaking of the Blessed Sacrament, the very presence of our Lord and God but we receive Him fully and completely as a part of the living out of our faith, and in doing so, we too are extraordinary as the Lord wills it to be.  We bring that with us as we head out into the mission fields beyond these four walls, just as Jesus would.  And we bring them back.

This is a message which we share with the men discerning to be Shepherds of the Mystery, Mission and Message in the Archdiocese of Toronto.  This is the kind of men we want to be priests.  We want the women and men who give their lives to this mission in the religious life to appreciate and welcome both as well.  It was the beauty and Presence inside God’s House that was an important factor in our vocational discernment, but the actions of living out our vocations ought to reach out far beyond these walls, just as Jesus did.  Today, may we think about our beautiful churches and the beautiful people and give ourselves generously to both.  May God bless you.

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