You have the poor with you always
The Gospel readings for mass, April 15, 2019, were from the book of John, chapter 12. Judas questions the sorrowful, repentant Mary using an expensive ointment to anoint the feet of Jesus. He thinks the ointment should have been sold and the money given to the poor. Scripture tells us that his motives were selfish, and not for love of the poor. Jesus says, "Leave her alone; let her keep it for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always. You will not always have me."
Today, some think that great Cathedrals with their priceless art, adorned and gilded with stained glass, marble and ornate carvings are a frivolous waste. They think that money spent on such things should instead go to the poor or used for societal needs. But Jesus tells us that it is right to offer such things, the best that we have, back to Him. To honor Him with our best work, ingenuity, art, and gifts is fitting.
Great Cathedrals are for God and all of us
The Cathedral of Notre Dame was a noble work of art created to be a worthy house of God. It was built in an age of great faith, by the sweat and muscle of men who knew that the work they did may only come to completion and be appreciated by their great-great-grandchildren.
This exquisite Cathedral was not just for God alone, however. It was made for everyone, but I think especially the poor. It is true that the poor will always be with us. Years ago it was often the poor who would help build "their" Church, and took great pride in it.
A Church or Cathedral should be set apart from the world. Great Cathedrals inspire us to pray, think of heavenly things, feel the presence of God who resides there in the Eucharist, and worship Him. Simply put, a Cathedral like Notre Dame with it's relics, sacred art, and beautiful architecture points us to God.
If you are Catholic you know how it feels to walk into a Catholic Church, especially a beautiful, soul-stirring one and appreciate that "this is my Church". No matter where you go in the world, it feels like coming home, an oasis from the noise and craziness of the world.
God speaks to us through this tragic event
All of us around the world, watching this tragic fire, can only imagine what the loss of this sacred treasure feels like to the people of France. Symbolic of the heart and soul of their country, this beautiful, historic Cathedral which took a couple of hundred years to build is gone...just like that, in a day.
It cannot be coincidence that this has happened during Holy Week. These particular mass readings are not coincidence either. God speaks to us in every big and seemingly insignificant event. We should all reflect on it.
It's not about the building
There are already plans to rebuild the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Wealthy donors have come forward. This is all good, but there is something far more important than a structure that needs to be rebuilt. It is our faith in and our fidelity to Jesus and all He has given us through the Church. I believe this is what Our Lord wants us to see. Where do we stand? Are we afraid or ashamed of Jesus and His teachings?
Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:26
Is the Catholic heart and soul of France, symbolized by this great Cathedral, lost too? Or will it rise up from the ashes, gasping for breath, but lungs filling with the breath of the Holy Spirit? Above all, this is what we need.
Pray, let it be so.
(May the Father, Son and Holy Ghost be glorified in all places through the Immaculate Virgin Mary.)