The famous Jesuit poet of the 19th century, Gerard Manley Hopkins, wrote a poem whose opening line states that The World is charged with the Grandeur of God. These beautiful lines are expressing the truth that the beauty of creation itself bears witness to the presence of the love of God in our midst, and invites us to be thankful for the beauty around us. Our religious and spiritual sense also tells us that, through the eyes of faith, our world is made up also of sacred places and sacred times.
Our Churches are sacred places, where we ought to feel ourselves entering into a holy place where we can clearly feel the living presence of God amongst us. We are very blessed here at Holy Redeemer, which is not only a very beautiful Church, but also a sacred place which has been made holy by the prayers of so many people over many generations. When we enter the Church we find ourselves already caught up in the prayer and in the holiness of all those who have worshipped here before us.
It is important that we do not take the sacredness of Holy Redeemer Church for granted. We need to be constantly aware that we are entering into a holy place. We have much to be thankful for in that, in general, there is a spirit of silence and prayer in our Church at all times. It is good that we teach our children, even at a young age, that they are in a holy and reverent place.
There are also one or two concerns which need to be raised. I sometimes see people, of all ages, chewing gum during Mass. This might perhaps be unconscious, but it is an indication that some people are not fully focussed on the beauty and the prayer of the Sacred Liturgy. Sometimes the good people who clean the Church each week are disturbed and upset to find used chewing gums on our Church pews, or the parts of the Church filled with sweet wrappings. I would urge all of us to become more vigilant about this, so that we continue to promote and treasure the fact that our Church itself is filled with the beauty and grandeur of God.
Just as we recognise that our Churches are sacred places, we also recognise that there are sacred times within the liturgical year of the Church. Today, as we celebrate Palm Sunday, we are asked to enter prayerfully into the prayer and the heart of Holy Week. During these coming days we will journey with Jesus Our Redeemer, from His entry into Jerusalem and the celebration of the last Supper with His disciples, where we were given the gift of the Eucharist. We are also asked to stay and watch with Jesus as He endured His own personal anguish before His arrest. We are invited to walk with Mary as Her Son made His own Way of the Cross, through His crucifixion and death. On Holy Saturday we are called to share in the emptiness of a world without God, and then to share in the wondrous joy and glory of the Resurrection of our Redeemer.
It would be a terrible pity if we were to treat this coming week just like any other. This is a week of grace, and a call to deepen our appreciation of the saving life and death of our Blessed Lord. It is an opportunity for all of us in our personal relationship with God. It is a week that should be shared, in so far as possible, as families, deepening our family love of God. And, of course, it is a time for our whole parish community to gather in prayer and thanksgiving for the love of God which overwhelms us. May we all be blessed in this sacred time and during these holy days.
Fr Gerard, CSsR