7th Sunday Ordinary Time
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: Feb. 19, 2023
Today we are going to build!
As you know, we are in the final stages of building our new church which we will be entering some time this summer.
It is amazing to watch the progress, from a field of weeds to foundations, steel structure, walls, etc.
Each week another building block to the final completed structure.
I was looking closely these past few weeks at the limestone walls that are being bricked both outside and inside the church, thinking about the similar beautiful stone churches of Europe and our own Cathedral here in Hamilton.
So, I went to my basement, and I looked for a book that I knew would help me understand the building structure and set the theme for this homily – something truly appropriate – and I found it – “Design and construction of Stone buildings”.
So, let’s begin building…
If we start from the ground up, we are told in our design book that the church must be built on bedrock and with a solid foundation. If the foundation is wrong – then the structure will always be inherently weak and susceptible to failure.
In our new church we have a solid concrete foundation and over 100 piers sitting on the bedrock underneath, to ensure that no matter what forces act upon it, the floor will always be solid, the walls will always be steady, and it will not crack.
In life, we also need these strong piers and walls of faith, so that no matter what trials and struggles and challenges come in our lives, the most important thing we can do is to look to God. We are called to connect with the foundation, to put our faith and trust in the bedrock and seek God’s favour and protection.
We are to praise God for His faithfulness in the past and ask Him to be with us in the future, to be recipients of God’s love and mercy.
This is the phrase in the psalm we have sung today – “Bless the Lord, O my soul…bless his holy name”. The psalmist thanks God for his kindness and mercy and forgiveness. The psalmist reminds us to see God acting in our lives and thank him in our prayers for the things he continues to do for us each and every day.
The next most important thing in building a church of stone are the stones themselves!
We are told in our engineering construction guide – that we are to build with “good durable stones” – these are key properties that will enable a long durability of a structure.
In our new church, we had a choice between concrete brick, clay brick, simulated limestone or natural limestone from the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario near Tobermory. We had a vision of a church that would last over 100 years, so we wanted good durable stones and chose the natural stone option. If you drive by and see the walls that are being built, I think you will agree that it is not only solid, but also beautiful.
It is great to watch the brick masons lifting the bricks into place and it reminds us of lifting spiritual bricks onto our walls of faith. I want you to picture the walls of the new church and yourselves lifting the stones onto them. Then, use this to lift up spiritual rocks in your life like we hear in the readings today.
Lift up the rock of patience when someone verbally or emotionally “strikes you on the cheek” and put it onto the wall.
Add on a stone of humility as St. Paul tells us counting on God’s wisdom and not our own.
Raise up another stone of kindness when you are asked for help even when you are tired and walk two miles with joy with their request.
You will continue to go higher with rocks of trust and truth, kindness, and joy.
Each stone we lift is a step upwards in holiness! Be holy as I am holy, be perfect as I am perfect. The meaning of this is actually to be complete and whole, to be who God meant you to be, with the gifts that He gave to us. As St. Catherine of Siena has taught us “be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!”
St. Peter tells us that we are living stones in the faith and to be an active part of the building process – and that is the challenge we have each day.
Finally, as we build our church, we are told that we have to ensure the mortar is right – too much water, too much sand or cement and it will break down over time and as the mortar falls out, the rocks will begin to loosen and the walls may crumble.
Good mortar and good rock are a great combination as the mortar will cement itself into the pores of the rock and form a bond that cannot be broken.
The mortar in our spiritual building is of course love!
St. Paul is so insistent that no matter what you do, how much you do – if you do not do it with love – it means nothing! If the mortar is poor, no amount of it or fancy trowelling will improve it.
Without love what you do is selfish and individual – love can never begin with “what’s in it for me?
Love looks outwards – “what is best for you?” “What would help you?”
Love starts with the needs of the other and we see this so clearly in the gospel stories especially when Jesus tells his disciples during the last supper “love one another as I have loved you!”
Jesus challenges the people and us to stretch this not only to those friends and family, but also to love our enemies!
The greatest example of this his washing of the disciples’ feet – the job of a slave or servant – but one that he did to teach his disciples – sacrifice your own needs no matter how great you might be, no matter how much money or power you may have – and put others first.
Agape love is talked about here, self giving love like Christ. Pray for others, help them as much as you can, show Christ’s love for others in your life…and we can only do this with God’s help.
Yes, our new church is shaping up well as we make the final push to completion, step by step.
With Lent starting this Wednesday, you may want to ask yourself about your personal building:
- How solid is my foundation of faith and my gratefulness for what God has done for me?
- How durable are my stones? How many more stones of kindness, patience, gentleness can I lift up on my walls?
- And how crumbly is my mortar? Do I have more love to give to those around me?
Yes, the challenges that God gives are big, but just think, it’s okay because today we are going to build!