An Easter Takeaway
from the Notre Dame de Paris Incident
I wish you all a very Blessed Easter and pray that the joy and peace of the Risen Lord be with you and your families wherever they are. As we know, the source and summit of Christianity is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. St. Paul makes it clear in his letter to Corinthians. He says: “… if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (I Cor.15:14) As often been, St. Paul is direct and up to the point. Can we imagine a situation wherein our activities such as attending Mass, various devotions, spending for charities, building beautiful churches and visiting pilgrim centers are all useless? It can happen that we do these things in order to get some favors from God or as part of routine/tradition as a baptized Christian. Or it can happen that we believe in Jesus who is just a social reformer or a wonder worker. It can also happen that we attend church just because it is a place for socialization. Or it can even happen that we admire a monumental Gothic church just for its aesthetic beauty while we ignore the Blessed Sacrament which is enshrined in it. These are few examples for situations where our faith becomes “useless”.
It is a week after the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris survived a devastating fire. It was relieving to hear that the overall structure of this twelve- century gigantic piece of art and symbol of faith is intact. One interesting observation about the whole Notre Dame episode was that most of the media outlets, which are overwhelmingly secular, covered everything about the Cathedral except that it is a place of worship. News reports described its artistic value, aesthetic beauty, historic importance etc. But little mention was made that it was an active Catholic church.
There are already concerns whether it would keep its Catholic identity after the upcoming restoration, especially as people who are contributing for restoration includes non-believers or even atheists. The beauty and grandeur of its spires and stained glass could be restored, but what if the Cathedral has no place for the Blessed Sacrament in it? In my opinion, it would be like faith in Jesus except in His Resurrection. I can believe in Jesus the miracle worker, Jesus the social reformer, etc. But if I do not believe that He died and resurrected for me, then as St. Paul says, my faith is useless. That would be like visiting Notre Dame Cathedral only to enjoy its aesthetic beauty. You will miss the core substance of it, that is, the Blessed Sacrament.
As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus today, let us pray that we may not be trapped in the peripheral things of our Catholic faith or Christian life as such. Needless to say, that the peripherals are unavoidable, but without the core substance they are useless. Let us pray for the wisdom to know that the source and summit of our faith as Christian, is not much about tradition, charity works, beautiful church buildings etc., but the fact that we have been saved by Christ`s death and resurrection.
by Fr. Bony James, SJ.