26th Anniversary of the ICCEC Diocese in Europe, 25 September 2022
Genesis 28:10-17, Psalm 84:1-7, Matthew 21:12-16
Part of this message was repeated from the previous Sunday, and is not included here. It is recommended to read the previous Sunday’s message before this one. – Editor
Today we mark and celebrate the gift of apostolic succession, given to our diocese twenty-six years ago. It is part of our identity as a Church, for which we are ever thankful. Apostolic succession is the belief that there is an episcopal succession of events and persons going back to the Twelve Apostles. Properly ordained bishops convey God’s grace through the succession by the laying-on-of –hands. As a sacramental Church, we believe in apostolic succession, and we have a valid apostolic succession. It is considered crucial for ministry by Roman Catholic, Eastern, and Anglican Churches.
God makes Himself known
Jacob went on a journey, stopped to sleep in an unspecified place, and had a dream. Many people have dreams for various reasons, and many of them do not come to pass, but God can also speak through dreams. The Lord reminded Jacob of his promise to Abraham and Isaac and to him. It would not be for Jacob but for God to make it happen, because wherever Jacob went, He would be with him and ensure his success.
God can speak to us in many different ways, but not all dreams come from God. Perhaps you saw a beautiful woman and told her, “I had a dream, and God told me you will be my wife”, but she responded differently, and your dream was not from God. But Jacob’s dream was authentic.
God makes Himself known in many different ways. One of our members just missed a car accident when he crossed the road; if he hadn’t moved from a particular place when he did, within five seconds he would have been between two cars that hit each other. God doesn’t intervene in our lives unless we desire Him to do so. He never forces anyone or uses coercion. When Jesus was on the cross, He did not evangelise the two thieves, but one of them opened the conversation. But from the moment we wake up in the morning until we lay our head to rest, we are dependent upon God’s grace and mercy and His protection.
God’s presence is everywhere, but not everyone will benefit, and many do not notice. Some people go to Mass and notice the priest, but leave without knowing that God was present, and miss the opportunity to meet Jesus.
The house of God
God designates a place on earth to embody His presence. Fr. Patrick Reardon[i] says Psalm 84 expresses the psalmist’s preoccupation with the temple:
“One day in Your presence is better than thousands outside.”[ii]
If we believe him, Sunday is the most important day of your week. The psalmist loves to go to the tabernacle of God. Do we look forward to Sunday Mass because we will hear God’s voice and meet Him? The psalmist understood that the tabernacle is where God’s presence is more pronounced.
Today’s Gospel is read during Holy Week. After entering Jerusalem, the first thing Jesus did was to cleanse the temple. Some people wonder why Jesus became angry: He saw that the temple had become a place of merchandise, and was determined to straighten it out. Three times a year, the Jews went to Jerusalem to celebrate feasts, and they were required to offer animals to the Lord, which they bought there. There was a market on the Mount of Olives, the religious leaders saw an opportunity to profit; and because they decided not to accept Roman coins, people had to change their money. They transformed the temple into something it was never intended to be. Jesus said,
“My house shall be called a house of prayer; why are you making it a den of thieves?”[iii]
Judgment starts in the house of God.[iv]
Why do we go to church?
God’s tabernacle is a place where God dwells, a foretaste of heavenly presence on earth. If God is everywhere, why do I have to come to church? I can worship Him watching YouTube. I stopped live-streaming because Christian tradition says we should gather together; there will never be any technology that can administer Holy Communion to you. You have to travel, put on your clothes, wake up in the morning, and say, “I’m going to meet God and receive Him in my heart”. Can you imagine receiving the body and blood of Christ through a vending machine or having it sent by DHL? The Blessed Sacrament is sacred. If you want to do it the right way, there is no other way than to go to church, because life is a pilgrimage. God is everywhere, but He has designated a special place to meet with His people:
“This is the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
Going to church, worshipping Him, listening to His Word, and being enveloped in His presence, is a foretaste of worship in heaven. You may like a livestream because you can remain in your pyjamas and you don’t have to brush your teeth, but there is dignity and something powerful and sacramental when we wake up early and gather together in the house of the Lord to meet God.
We experience problems, and often people say, “I’m being tested by God”. Many problems – perhaps ninety percent – are because of our own doing, not God; don’t call it the testing of God. Thanks be to God, He comes to our rescue.
God designates a meeting place. We make appointments to meet people, but Sunday Mass is our appointment to meet God, because we acknowledge that He is the very centre of the universe, His creation, and our lives. That’s why we go to church.
Put God at the centre
God’s house is a house of power. Many of you have come to church because of a need: some have cancer (one of our members has been undergoing chemotherapy for five years, and attends every Sunday), some are blind or lame, some are struggling. There are times when you say, “Lord, show Your power; heal these people.” Where is the power of God? The Church is supposed to be a place of power, so that people will be healed and know that there is a God. I want to see God’s power again in His Church.
But what have we made the Church to be? Sometimes people go to church to be entertained, but it should be to worship God. I appreciate it when people thank me for the message, but it’s God’s message, not mine. We don’t go to church to be entertained, but to meet God because we need Him, and because we want to put Him at the very centre of our lives.
We conducted a survey of Filipinos in Madrid, and learned that for the majority the most important things in their lives were work, a house, a car, and social security. God was number five. Where is God in our life? We need to put Him at the very centre, because without Him, everything is nothing. What number is God in your life? If it is number four, at least make Him number three tomorrow, then number two next week… until He becomes number one.
God wants to meet us where we are, but He designates a place of worship; beyond that, He wants to meet us in our heart, so that we can leave after the Mass having met God and having hope in our lives. The temple is now the Church. I am thankful for the Church – I don’t mean the building; without it I wouldn’t have any hope, purpose, or meaning in life.
Prayer for healing and the restoration of the Church
Father. You have spoken to us today by Your Son and Your Holy Spirit. There may be people with cancer, blind, contemplating suicide or divorce, who have lost their sense of direction and purpose in life. We ask that You would manifest Your glory in our midst; we ask for Your presence again, that this would not only be a pace of worship, but that You would restore it to be a place of power where the lame, the deaf, and the blind will be healed. Restore Your Church, o God. We are sorry for making it something more for ourselves; forgive us for our sins, cleanse our hearts as You cleansed the temple. Let Your power and glory be revealed again in this Church, and touch people’s lives, in Jesus’ name.
Lift your hands and say, “Lord, I acknowledge Your presence. I give You the praise and honour that is due to You.”
Lord, we long to meet You in Your tabernacle; we long for Your presence once again. With everything that is happening in the world, we long for Your assurance that You are with us – especially in the uncertainty of life; we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Let those who are sick physically or psychologically, or struggling emotionally, be healed, in Jesus’ name. Let Your power be in this place. Those who are doubting or losing their faith, revive them again; those who are tired and weary, give them the strength they need.
Let heaven and earth know that we acknowledge His presence among us. You will taste the goodness and greatness of God, and look forward to coming the next Sunday. Let your voice rise towards heaven in praise, and acknowledge the glory of His temple. God wants to do something in your life; open your heart to Him.
As God visits you with His presence, don’t leave His presence in the church after the Mass, but bring His presence to the world.
1) Do you expect God to speak to you through dreams? How do you know whether or not a dream is from God?
2) What are some different ways in which God makes Himself known? How has He acted in your life?
3) Compare YouTube or live-streaming with gathering to worship God in the Mass. Which is more beneficial, and why? Is going to church on Sundays worth the effort?
4) What have you, your family, and your ministry group, made the Church to be? What do you need to change for it to be what God intended?
5) What number is God on your list of priorities? What will you do to make Him a higher priority and eventually number one?6) Do you experience God’s presence and power in the Church (whether the Sunday Mass or other aspects of church life)? Are people being healed and transformed? If not, why not? What can you do so that this will happen more?
[i] Fr. Patrick Reardon, Christ in the Psalms
[ii] Psalm 84:10
[iii] Matthew 21:13, paraphrased
[iv] I Peter 4:17