You are Catholics, and it is the God of St Peter, the God of St Dyfrig and St David, the God of the Six Welsh Martyrs, who has given us the gift of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who dwells in this Church in the Blessed Sacrament.
It is you who have the power to insult Jesus or to pay him honour. It is you who can ignore his Holy Presence, or bow down in reverence. It is you who can hold held idle conversations in this church and disturb others who are sincerely trying to pray, or treat this House of God as a place of quiet reverence. It is you who are responsible for teaching your children to come into this church, to kneel down and to pray.
In recent weeks, you will have noticed an invitation in the bulletin, just before the opening hymn, to keep prayerful silence in the main body of the Church, and again at the end of Mass. This morning I wish to thank you for honouring this, but I ask you not to let this good practice slip. In our wider Catholic community, many lack confidence that the God of the Universe truly dwells in this tabernacle. Many of us have been seduced by the idea that respect for God is not an important value in twenty-first century living. Some of us have been deceived by the lie that as long as we act with love towards our neighbour, we are already doing all that is needed to express love for God.
I am preaching this message to you, my children, for the same reason that St John the Beloved wrote to his children: to stop you sinning. Anyone who says “I know Jesus”, but who does not bow the knee on entering this church, is a liar. But if anyone remembers this day that we are truly in God’s House, and decides from now on to treat the Blessed Sacrament with the prayerful silence which His presence deserves, God’s love will come to perfection in you.
If anyone should sin – said St John – we have an advocate with the Father: Jesus Christ, who takes our sins away.
The friends of Jesus – the same friends who abandoned him when he was dying on a Cross – were gathered in a room when Jesus appeared to them. How many of them could have held their heads up high, knowing they had treated their Lord and Master with love and respect? None, save Our Blessed Mother and St John: the great crucifix which hangs in this church reminds us that they alone stayed faithful at the foot of the Cross.
So the faithless friends of Jesus hang their heads in fear and shame when he appears to them as risen flesh. But what is the first word on his lips? “Peace be with you!” He has not come to condemn them, but to offer them hope and life! His message? Although you have been faithless, you will now be my witnesses to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem.
As the Lord explained his situation to his disciples, so it is my duty to explain our situation to you. There are many Christian congregations in Pontypridd, and I have a great love for our brothers and sisters in Castle Square, in Bethel, in the Anglican parishes and in the other chapels. You know very well that I have worked long and hard in co-operation with these other Christian communities.
But there is only one tabernacle in Pontypridd where the very Body of Jesus can be found, and it is here, at the heart of St Dyfrig’s Church. Here, uniquely in the whole of our town, a person can kneel before the Real Presence of Jesus Our Saviour. Our calling, as Catholics, is to be witnesses of this – but before we can declare this to the world, we must declare it to one another. We do this by choosing to worship Jesus by a bow of the knee, by keeping the time before Mass begins as a time of prayer, and by helping one another to keep an atmosphere of prayer before, during and following our gatherings for worship.
I recognise that we also need to build the bonds of affection which make us a church community. This can be done in the body of the church by a simple smile or affectionate glance. If a conversation is necessary, then by a gesture or the briefest word invite the other person to join you in the narthex, sacristy, or side chapel. And I understand that children will be noisy and are not easily trained to prayer. So I say to parents: Persevere! Never tire of kneeling with your child and whispering to them: Who will we pray for today? What should we give thanks for in this Mass? Look, there is the house where Jesus lives! Let us tell him how much we love him!
You may also wonder why I should be speaking of sin and conversion in this joyful Easter season. It is simple! Lent is given to us to call us away from sin. Easter is given to us that we may be challenged to become the saints which God longs for us to be. Suppose you had a choice of two doctors. If one says “I can relieve some of your sickness”, and the other says “I can make you totally well”, which will you choose? But you will guess that the total cure needs more intensive treatment and a fitness regime. In the same way, as the doctor of your souls, I cannot rest at dissuading you from careless wrongdoing; I am duty-bound to call you to be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect!
So I invite each one of you to ask yourself how frequently, how faithfully, and how firmly you have remembered to keep the body of this church as a Holy Place, and to the extent that you have failed to do so, recognise – that as people called to honour Jesus as your Lord and Master – you are sinners. Admit it. But you are no worse sinners than the apostles and disciples of Jesus who became the founding saints of the Church. You too can become saints!
To have failed to show love and worship for Jesus in this way is not a mortal sin, unless it were motivated by a thought-through hatred for the Lord. But it is a sin which strikes at the heart of our friendship with Jesus, and for that reason alone, you may wish to bring it to confession, so that you may hear the voice of Jesus saying “Peace be with you!” And although you have been faithless, you will now be His witnesses – able to tell of his presence in this Church and of his tender forgiveness to those who once failed to love him – witnesses to all the nations, beginning in Pontypridd.