Empty mausolea?

The man who thinks he is safe must be careful he does not fall

My wife and I have just come back from a trip to Germany, where we had a truly wonderful time without any children, drinking beer and eating bratwurst.Germany  has a lot more to offer than fast roads, funny sausages and legs-slappingly-good beer.It has a long history and some wonderful architecture, especially in its churches. After climbing the tower of the cathedral in Frankfurt we counted at least ten other churches, a truly wonderful site. Many of the churches we went into had been partially destroyed in the Second World War, though you would be hard pressed to know it unless you read the history. Although these churches are many of hundreds of years old, they were in almost perfect condition. This is largely due to the German tax system, which helps pay for the upkeep of the buildings. 

Whilst standing in a magnificent Church in Bon next to Beethoven house I was reminded of a quote I heard in a programme on Radio Four, in which a lady said that she did not want to see her faith become that of just beautiful buildings. She did not want her places of worship to be devoid of prayer. Standing in this beautiful building I could understand what she was saying.

It is all too easy for our places of worship to become mausolea to a dead religion, a museum to a once strong faith, just to be viewed for its wonderful architecture and strange decoration.

Throughout this time of Lent we are called to fast, to reflect upon our lives, to make good the wrongs we may have done in preparation for the resurrection of our Lord, so that when he rises on that glorious morn we may be transfigured into his own wonderful likeness. How many of us, when pressed will proudly say that we have given up cakes and that going into Greg’s, seeing those Belgium buns is a complete nightmare! Or would mourn over a Yorkie bar exclaiming to it ‘you just wait until Easter, then your time is up’. I recall the words of Robbie William’s song Millennium, ‘overdose for Christmas and give it up for Lent’.

Has this time of reflection become just another fad for us to take on during the year, to make us feel better about ourselves.

Our readings today tell us how Moses received the word of God through the burning bush, commissioning him to rescue his people from the land of Egypt.

The letter of St Paul continues by saying how most of the Israelites met their demise in the desert even though they had many spiritual gifts, with the stark warning at the end, ‘the man who thinks he is safe must be careful he does not fall’.

In the Gospel Jesus reminds the people gathered around him that they are just as inclined to be sinful as anyone else, saying that the people who died suddenly had been no worse than themselves.

This is a message about complacency, like Moses we have received the word of God and been commissioned to rescue his people, like those in the desert we have been given many spiritual gift. But how easy is it for us to become complacent, to become empty vessels devoid of prayer and thanks giving, and to turn into that beautiful building, a model of Christianity on the outside, but having no faith on the inside, no more than a mausoleum to a once strong faith.

We are now standing almost at the mid-point of Lent now is a good time to start digging around our spiritual roots and feed them.

Do not let our fasting be an empty gesture more for the show of others, the only thing that it may help is our cholesterol count.

Take up the opportunity to start something new, read a Lent book, take five minutes to contemplate our day and to offer it up to God, think of others before ourselves.

Do not let this Lent be an empty gesture looking good on the outside with no substance on the inside this will lead us to the devastation of the desert.

Take the time so than when Christ rise on that Easter morn, we may rise with him.

The churches in Germany are far from devoid of prayer, yes they were beautiful almost museum like, but each had a chapel set aside from prayer and some had perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and the shrine of Our Lady in Kevelaer was out of this world.