Friday, 3 December 2010

Triduum Day 2 Year A

I was happy that yesterday someone told me that she could not understand what I had preached. Thank you. So, here is a little recap and I hope it helps. Yesterday, I thought that the celebration of a Jesuit martyr, St Edmund Campion was appropriate to mark the entry into our jubilee Triduum. In general, we have forgotten that Christianity was born of rejection and persecution. Instead, we have cosy up to the world and have come to expect a version of Christianity that makes no demands on and exacts no cost from us. The examples of the English and Welsh martyrs are compelling reminders that flowing through veins of the Church is, has been and will always be the blood of martyrs; her foundation is steeped in their blood.

Incidentally, this recap leads us to the theme that links both readings today which is building on firm foundation. The first reading speaks of a strong city. But, this city is no Jerusalem, and certainly no description of who we are. The invincibility symbolised by an exaggerated or hyperbolic description of this superstructure is really pointing to God. So God is our fortress and the foundation of our lives. The God who is invincible actually ties in with a characteristic of the jubilee which I spoke about yesterday. Again, it is about “fallowing”.

When we over-tax the land, we kill it. Fallowing allows the earth to rest. From an agrarian or an agricultural perspective, such resting is necessary for the earth to replenish its resources. It is not the absence of activity. With regard to the Hebrew idea of Jubilee, that is, with regard to a Sabbath year, Man’s apparent resting is not a sign of inactivity but rather it is to give space to God to work. Imagine that. We often think of Sabbath as a day dedicated to God, a day we give glory to God. This is no thanks to the fear instilled into us of breaking the Sabbath rest. But, the Sabbath “rest” is not only dedicated to the worship of God. It is also a day that God serves Man. Thus, our “inaction” externalises the internal disposition that allows God to continue working. God continues to work during the Sabbath and Man’s rest is an acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty. At the heart of Sabbath is a belief that God can be trusted.

Thus, the Gospel invites us to look deeper into the foundation of our faith. Do we dare to trust God? As mentioned earlier, the foundation does not refer any to man-made structure but to God Himself. Therefore, a jubilee year presents an opportune moment to take a step back and look not just at our accomplishment but rather to take a look at ourselves. Have we built ourselves upon firm foundation? How is God present in our lives?

The question of how God is present may allow us to take a glimpse further into areas of our lives hitherto unexamined. For the Jubilee, very easily we can be caught up with the external activities organised; losing ourselves in the many events we have lined up. How is God present leads us into the desert of honest and sometimes painful self-appraisal. Let me give a few examples. First, in the area of marriage. For some people wedding and marriage are synonymous. Once settled into a marriage, they seldom think that a marriage requires looking into. I might be grossly mistaken but a parish where a majority of the couples collectively cannot find time for the many marriage encounter programmes organised? The programme itself certainly can be improved but given what we have, it is a good one to allow married couples to take a look at how their marriage can be enriched and deepened. Even a car needs an oil change regularly. We recognise that for cars but seldom for marriage. Second, what about couples preparing for marriage? The often heard complaint is why it takes so long. Why the need for the CMPC? Is there no short-cut? This reflects the failure to appreciate that time and effort are needed to build solid foundation. Ironically, there is greater attention paid to the frills, the so-called interior decorations. There is a mismatch in priorities and a question nobody asks is what happens to the photos so beautifully taken when a divorce has taken place. I rather that more photographs are taken when all is sagging and wrinkled—a testimony of fidelity through time and space. Third, what about couples in irregular unions? Those who are cohabitating, those who are civilly registered but have not solemnised the marriage in the Church. And what about those living in second union who have not resolved the issues surrounding their previous marriage? Fourthly, let me turn to another area of our faith life—catechesis. We frequently gripe and complain about the inadequacies and flaws of the catechesis of our young by pointing to the end product, our youths who seem to be leaving the Church in droves. We often think that the solution lies merely with the catechesis built up over the years in Sunday School without realising that such catechesis may not stand the assaults of post-modernity. Many parents have failed to appreciate that a firm foundation can only be established in a faith environment built on God as present within families. Thus, the Jubilee presents a year of grace to take an honest appraisal and to make the necessary repair and strengthen the foundation of marriage and family life.

Yesterday, I mentioned about the mass Christian exodus into the desert as soon as Constantine Christianised his empire. The image of the early Christians celebrating the Eucharist in the catacombs provide a glimpse of how real the faith of the martyrs was. The catacombs were the tombs of martyrs. There was an immediacy to a lived faith tested by sword, fire and the cross. But, eventually, with the institutionalisation of the Church, Christianity took over pagan temples. I was in Split, Croatia and I visited this intact Roman city where the temple is now changed into a cathedral. Yes, we may crow about how we have Christianised the temples but really, once removed from the tombs of the martyrs we began to lose the raw sharpness of our faith. A kind of rot began to set in. If we want our faith to be built on solid foundation, then we must begin to look at where we our rot is and where we have stagnated. To counter the paganising process of Christian culture, one needs to begin an important process of Christianising our home culture. We breathe not only pagan air outside the home but sometimes also in our homes.

Today, tourists and architectural aficionados admire the soaring spires and arches of our cathedrals, basilicas and our churches. Sometimes our vision too may be caught up with the crowd in this myopic and misplaced ceiling gazing. I hope that the parish getting reading to celebrate its jubilee may take this sacred time allotted to us to humbly look down at our feet, to the foundations on which our parish and the faith of her parishioners have been built so that the soil of our hearts may be restored to a renewed vitality and vigour in anticipation of the planting which the Lord will continue to undertake in our lives. The Jubilee year is really a graced moment to do that.