Today is the Fourth Sunday in Lent, known as “Laetare Sunday” or “Rejoice Sunday” because the holy season of Lent is coming to an end. We get the name from the opening antiphon of the Mass, “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful all who were mourning, exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast.”
This phrase really stuck out to me in my journey with God this week. My whole life I have always wanted someone to call perfection out of me. A coach who believed in my greatness. Someone who saw something and said, “This is the one who is called to greatness,” and knew and believed that I was something special and committed to that reality. Great was my disappointment when no one really thought I was worth investing the time it would take to draw out my greatness. I am not saying that my parents didn’t love me and sacrifice for me, but there was no great expectation except the usual “keep your room clean” and “don’t kill anyone.” But there was no expectation that I would become great.
There was one, however, who did see and believe my greatness and that was the Church. She was the first to encourage me and strengthen me to be great. She was willing to give me all I needed – time, treasure, love, correction and affection. This Sunday is extra special because it is also the anniversary of the dedication of the |Cathedral. The day this building switched from being a building into the temple of God, from earth into heaven. As this Church was selected for a holy and great purpose, the Church did this for me as well when she first accepted me into her membership, even though I was a whining and snivelling baby at the time and adopted me into Her family. In the First Reading, we hear how David alone was selected for a great purpose from his family. But the Church has selected us all for a great purpose. She then, Sunday after Sunday, fed me with the Word. I remember on many different occasions how that Church, through the priest, would answer my question in the Sunday homily that I had asked God the week before. Next, she trained me how to confess my sins and how they were bad but that God wanted me to be free of them. Eventually she allowed me to share in the greatest gift in the world - the Holy Eucharist. How could I doubt the Church’s belief in me if She has allowed me to feed on the very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, the food par excellence of greatness, of sainthood? She gave me the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit and said, “You have a mission.” Can you imagine at age fourteen the Church believed in me enough to give me a mission and entrust other souls to me? Finally, the Church made a radical act of faith and ordained me a priest, with all my faults and failings, because She saw me as more than faults and failings. She saw me as a beloved son who God could work powerfully through.
I never understood my greatness or believed I could be great, yet, Sunday after Sunday, the Church did and encouraged me to achieve more. I grew up feeling that no one had many expectations of me until I met the Church who believed I could be a saint. Before I met the Church, I had no one to lay my life down for. I was so inspired by the scene in the movie about St Ignatius when he offered the queen his life in her service and protection. For me, this queen is now the Church. My lady, my mother, she has nursed me and consoled me at her breast. She has revealed my potential. She believes in me.
What can I give this generous Lady in return for her faith in me? I want to give her my life. I feel honoured to be the Rector of such a beautiful Cathedral where many people have shown their love for this Lady and given their all for her so that we now worship in this beautiful edifice, built almost one hundred years ago. These people believed that the Church was their life and allowed them to be great people. My question to you is, do you love Her, do you see Her value, what She can do for you, how She believes in you? Have you encountered Her Bridegroom here? Have you lavished your love on Her as she has lavished Her love on you?
The Church has a saying “Lex Orandi Lex Crededi” which means we pray how we believe or we could also say that we worship how we believe. In the early century of the Church, the Czar of Russia sent embassaries to all religions in the world to see what would be the best religion in the world for his country. When they arrived in Constantinople at Hagia Sophia and witnessed the worship, they thought they were in Heaven. The people’s Great Amen seemed to raise the roof. The love the people had for God was tangible. Sadly that it didn’t continue, Hagia Sophia is now a mosque because they lost their love and the significance of the Church in their lives. What does the way each and every one of us worship tell about your own love for this dear Lady? Could people walk in these doors and see that this is the source and summit of our lives? Is this the source and summit of your life or have you given yourself to another? I fear our love for the Church has waned so that if this Cathedral was destroyed we would not build another as magnificent as this one that was crafted with such love and sacrifice. What is your love for this dear Lady, are you allowing Her to draw greatness out of you? I ask you to think and ask - do you love Her?