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The Importance Of Being A Church

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

My dear encountered couples:

Three boys are in the school yard bragging about their fathers. The first boy says, “My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a poem, they give him $50.” The second boy says, “That's nothing. My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a song, they give him $100.” The third boy says, “I got you both beat. My Dad scribbles the few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a sermon, and it takes eight people to collect all the money!”

This Sunday, I would like to talk about the importance of being a Church. In today’s gospel, Jesus tells Peter: “you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”

This passage is crucial for a proper understanding of what the church is, and our role in the church. For this is the clearest statement that Jesus makes in the Gospels about the church.

Firstly, it tells us that Jesus is the owner of the church. Neither Peter nor the disciples owns the church. Pastors and church leaders who think and act as if they own the church are like farm workers who go about posing as if the farm belongs to them. All God’s people have been called together as co-workers in Christ's vineyard, though some work as foremen overseeing others. But we do not own the church. We belong to the church. The owner of the church is Christ.

Secondly, the passage tells us that Jesus is the one who builds his church. He is the master builder who has the building plan in his hands. Human co-operators are like masons and carpenters employed by the master builder to help him with the building. Our role is simply to listen and follow his instructions, doing our own small part in the grand design of the master.

Workers who stick to their own ideas of what the building should be rather than follow the directives given by the master may find themselves working at cross purposes with the master. Now, if Jesus is the owner and builder of the church, where then do we come in? Well, we come in precisely where Peter comes in. Together with Peter we are the building blocks of the church.

Peter is the foundation rock and we are the pieces of stones with which the church is built: St. Peter says, “Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

That statement of Peter, “let yourselves be built” indicates that God himself is the builder and not us. Our role is to allow God to use us. The question we could ask ourselves today is: “How is God using me to build up his church? Am I letting God use me?

We must not forget that no matter how small a piece of stone may be, the master builder could still use it to do something beautiful.

There is a story about a famous stained-glass artist who was commissioned to make a huge portrait for the window of the cathedral in Chartres, France. First, he laid all of the pieces he was going to use out on the floor of the cathedral. Among these awesome pieces of glass was a small, clear piece about as big as a fingernail. As the stained-glass portrait was assembled, that little piece remained on the floor. Only the big colorful pieces were used.

On the day of the window’s completion the entire city gathered to witness the unveiling of the portrait. The artist pulled away the cover cloth and the crowd gasped at the beauty of the colorful window glowing in the sunlight. After a few seconds, however, the crowd grew silent. They sensed that something was missing, that the portrait was unfinished. The great artist then walked over to where the little clear piece of glass lay, picked it up, and placed it in the portrait, right in the center of Jesus’ eye. As the sun hit that little piece, it gave off a dazzling sparkle. The work of art is now complete. Without the small piece, the work was incomplete.

You and I are being called to build a house of worship for the Lord in the future. What a privilege we have been given! It is up to us to respond to Jesus asking us, “Will you follow me?” Let us show a sign of our commitment to be disciples of Jesus by pledging our lives for the future of the Christian Catholic faith in our own respective parishes - remembering that in the grand design of building the church of God, each one of us could consider ourselves to be that small piece of glass – so small and yet so indispensable.

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