WHERE IS THE CHURCH?: A HOMILY ON THE MEMORIAL OF ST. FRANCIS XAVIER
There is a big contrast between what cities looked like in the past and what they look like today. A good look at the structures in a city will give us a good understanding of what the people consider most important in their lives. In those days, the church building was built at the center of the town, so that most people will not travel far to get to it. In fact, for many people, the church was just around the corner, so much so that the church becomes where all the children in the community gather to play when they are bored at home and when they want to meet children from other homes. This means that the church was at the center of the life of the people. Because the church is usually surrounded by many other buildings, it means that the life of the people revolved around the church. It used to be that when the missionaries came into a village, the village will give them a piece of land to build on. That piece of land is usually far from the village central, but after the building of the church, many people will start building close to the church, to show how much the church is important to them and they should not walk long distances to get to church.
The second element we find in old church buildings is that there was no other building in the town which is taller and bigger and more beautiful than the church. This means that when you enter the town, you will not need to ask ‘where is the church?’. It will be so obvious you dont need to ask. This image comes to mind as we read the First Reading of today. It shall come to pass when the mountain of the Lord will be established as the highest of all mountains. Many people shall come and say ‘Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob’. This is not what we have today. Today, church buildings are not only far from the people, it is hidden and not only that, there are other buildings like parliament buildings, malls, etc which are higher, bigger and more beautiful than the church. What this says is that whatever happens in these other buildings is more important than what happens in a church. In those days, church buildings were never locked, because there was always at least three people in the church, busy with one form of prayer or another.
Today, it is the malls, the casinos, the eateries that are never locked. Even at midnight, you will still find people at the mall and casino. Churches have become town halls, where we gather when there is a function and when the function is over we go home. Today, we cannot wait to lock the church doors. Sometimes, we even chase people out of the church as soon as the mass is over, so that we can lock the church, and the arguement is always that people will come into the church to steal. Thanks to many priests who are trying to keep the church doors as open as possible, through eucharistic adorations, etc. Religion has become less important in our lives.
St. Francis Xavier heard the gospel of today where Jesus sends out his disciples to go out into the whole world and proclaim the good news, and establish the mountain of God as the highest of all mountains. When he went to Japan, he discovered that the people are eager to learn the faith. What they did not have is someone who is eager to bring the good news to them. What they need is someone who will say to them ‘Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord’. We need more Francis Xaviers today. Our world need to think again. What is most important to us? Let us judge for ourselves by taking a look at the new structure of our cities
I am Fr. Ifeanyichukwu Henry Nwokoro, CSsR. I am your fellow child of God and this is my way of sharing my daily reflections with you. Please feel free to leave a comment, suggestion or question. Let everything that lives and that breathes give praise to the Lord.
View all posts by Fr. Ifeanyichukwu Henry Nwokoro CSsR