Homily by Father Mike Kuse
Reading I: Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12
Psalm: 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17
Gospel: John 2:13-22
If you can imagine the Friday after Thanksgiving and you go out to the Mall and it is shoulder-to-shoulder with people and you want to make the Stations of the Cross. There is a group of you, you are not alone, there may be 20 to 30 people in your group.
You start walking through the crowd and you arrive at the first station and start to pray, but you can’t think because everybody is running all over the place — that would give you a glimpse of what happened 2,000 years ago when Jesus went into the Temple to pray. And if you go over to Jerusalem today you will see the same confusion and hoopla within the Temple area.
It is not easy when there is a lot of confusion. If you ask someone why he or she comes to church, usually the answer is — “I’ve come here to pray” or “I’m going to Mass.” What we are really saying is, “I just want to get away from everything. I want to be with people who are searching for the same thing I’m searching for. And I want the spirit that is inside of me — I want it to be refueled. I want my spirit to be refueled so I can come alive and look forward to this week.”
Let’s think about this for a moment. It’s not about the building, it’s just that we need a place to pray. And when we build churches we design them in such a way that they enhance the worship that takes place.
If all of you were going to build a new house or put in a new kitchen, a contractor would show you all the options ranging from $3,000 to $30,000 depending on the kind of kitchen you want. Why are you doing all this? Why don’t you just take an empty room and say, “This is the kitchen.” Well, you don’t do that — you fix it all up so it looks and functions as a kitchen. So, when people come into a church it looks like a church, it looks like a place where people might pray.
I remember several years ago when I was driving Bishop O’Connor and he asked me to drive him to this small town. I had never been there before, and typical of a little town, there was a square with three churches around it. I said to the Bishop, “Do you know which one is the Catholic Church?”
He said, “Father, look at the top of the steeple and if it has a cross on it — that’s the Catholic Church.”
And I answered, “Bishop, the people are all over at that church, and no one is at the church where the cross is on top of the steeple.”
“I told you,” the Bishop said, “We’re going to the church with the cross on top.”
So I got out of the car and went over to the church with the cross on top and tried to open the doors and the place was all locked. So I got back in the car and said to the Bishop, “Would you like to go over there and see who those people are?”
“I guess so.”
So we drove over, and sure enough they were waiting for us for Confirmation, and life went on. You can’t always make the assumption that the cross determines everything — it’s where the people are.
So when we come into a church, and there is a common atmosphere, we all believe the same things, we are very comfortable and think, “This is where I belong and I know that in a few minutes the body and blood of Christ will be present, and like in the first reading, the spring of water will gush down from the Temple and it will go into the salt water and transform the water until it is fresh water.”
You and I do that. You and I need that. That is really why we come to church, not because we think we are better than someone — it’s just that we need to be refreshed. In a week’s time we can use up a lot of the spirit. But Jesus says, “I never run out. I keep giving it to you.” It’s like having a bank account that will never be overdrawn. You can just keep writing checks and the bank will automatically feed in money. Wouldn’t that be wonderful.
But Jesus says, “It is wonderful in my kingdom because that is how it works.”
So this morning as we celebrate, let us remember that all of us were refreshed at some church and at some baptismal font by some priest or deacon and that’s when we picked up that spring of water. And that spring of water keeps changing because we change as we grow and it keeps giving us everything that we need — and that is what makes us the people of God.
Your dues is to give your life away. Jesus says, “The more you give away, the more I put into your life. You will never thirst because I am the cornerstone of your life, and I will be everything that you need to be.”
So today as we look around and offer the sign of peace, and come up for communion, and ministers take on different responsibilities in the Mass — this is what it is all about and there is no distraction. When you leave the doors of this building, the distractions will once again overwhelm you. But Jesus says, “Never fear, because that water goes wherever you go.”
There may be a cross on the top. There may not be a cross on the top. But when you get inside — you will know by the people there.
May we share that gift with each other.
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Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.