Something Bigger

Homily at St Philip Evans on the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, 2014 – also Remembrance Sunday.

The Seven Word Sermon: Support the Outsider – their needs come first!

Today, we remember and celebrate that we are part of something bigger.The facade of the Basilica of St John Lateran

November 9 is the fixed date when the Catholic Church throughout the world celebrates the dedication of the pope’s Cathedral – the Basilica of St John Lateran. What we celebrate today is not about one Pope in particular. We celebrate that we are part of an institution which endures, that the Catholic Church crosses the centuries and spans the globe, and the world’s cathedral, the Lateran Basilica, is a solid sign of our unity. This feast comes in a season which is all about connectedness – All Saints, All Souls, the recent feasts of the Six Welsh Martyrs and of All Saints of Wales. We are the heirs of the Celtic Saints and Reformation Martyrs. We carry the heritage of missionaries to Ireland, India, and the Pacific Islands. And the seeds that we sow in our generation will in turn bear fruit in due season. We are part of something bigger.

Just two weeks ago we celebrated the dedication of our own church of St Philip Evans – and on that date I asked us to reflect on our own parish community, and how we make it stronger. We even had the same first reading, about the river of life flowing out from the temple. We’ve already reflected on how we build up the Temple which is our parish – today, I invite you to reflect on the river of life, which flows out of this place and becomes part of something bigger.

The further it goes, the wider the river gets! Love does this! The more generous we are, the more we inspire others around us to be generous, too. This is a choice, a choice we must take daily, because we have an enemy. That enemy speaks in the form of the voice within us which says: “Look after number one! Put your own needs first! Protect yourself!” But whenever we choose to be part of something smaller, we place more people on the outside, as rivals rather than friends.

In our national politics, the voice of self-protection is becoming louder and louder. It asks whether we can risk letting so many immigrants into Fortress Britain. It asks whether, as a nation in debt, we can afford to give so much of our national income for foreign aid. It asks whether we should be part of a Europe which requires regular compromises which benefit those beyond Britain’s shores.

Now, it’s not the place of the Catholic Church to single out any particular political party; and certainly, our national leaders have a duty to protect well-being of our own nation. But as followers of Jesus, we are called to vote out of love, not out of fear.

Today, we remember and celebrate that we are part of something bigger.

One hundred years ago, a war began in Europe. It was called the war to end all wars; but sadly, this name proved untrue. This weekend we remember those who gave their lives so that we could live in Britain without fear of invasion. After their sacrifice, we learned that it was not only loving, but even in our own self-interest, to look out for the well-being of the nations whose borders are close to our own. The news in recent years has repeatedly told of Germany paying eye-watering sums to support our weaker European neighbours and protect them from economic collapse. We are also a relatively prosperous nation, even in hard times – it’s only fair that we should ask what our contribution ought to be. I have no easy answers, but I know that the right answer for Christians is never to look after ourselves without doing as much as we reasonably can for others. Ultimately, the peace of our continent depends on this.

Today, we remember and celebrate that we are part of something bigger.

Big systems risk becoming faceless. Politicians are right to ask questions about corruption in E.U. institutions. Pope Francis has made it a priority to root out financial mismanagement at the Vatican. Today’s Gospel recalled the dramatic act that our Lord himself performed to call attention to something corrupt in the Jewish Temple of his day. Some of us work in large corporations where we might be aware of underhand practices. If your conscience is bothered by something you have experienced at work, talk to someone – a union representative, an independent hotline or even one of the clergy! There may be a way to express your concern without putting your job on the line. You are called to be Christ in your workplace; what does Jesus wish to do, through you?

Today, we remember and celebrate that we are part of something bigger.

On sale after Mass today, we have olivewood craft products from the Holy Land. Christians in Palestine are living in very difficult conditions. Together with other Palestinians they live with the constant uncertainty of whether their home might be bulldozed by Israeli security forces, or the water supply cut off for days or even weeks. This means that the ordinary costs of everyday living are inflated by the need to rebuild property, or bring in bottled water. The Christmas story begins with a mother and a carpenter in the Holy Land. You could make a carpenter in the Holy Land part of the story of your Christmas this year. Jesus opposed trading in a holy place because the inflated prices oppressed the poor; we celebrate this trading because the proceeds go to those whose need is great. It’s another way we can choose to be part of something bigger.

Today, I’ve covered some big themes which point us in many different directions. Through the decisions we make in the workplace, at the ballot box, and with our spending money, we are constantly engaging with issues much bigger than ourselves. But we’re not powerless. Jesus stood up one day and said “This isn’t right” and we are still telling the story 2000 years later.

Today, we remember and celebrate that we are part of something bigger. What does that mean for you?