Beauty in Our Church

We should be so proud of our parish! For the first time in a long time, our parish budget is in the black. Our parishioners have supported their parish community with financial gifts, giving us the ability to put more back into our many events and ministries.

But regardless of the state of our finances, this thought struck me: Jesus is always here. He is always waiting for us, to love us and welcome us, to hold us in our joy and our suffering. Whether we are able to give thousands of dollars to the church or absolutely nothing, we are welcome in His home and His family.

In today’s second reading, St. Paul talks of how he “offer[s] the gospel free of charge” (1 Cor 9:18). While it shouldn’t be all that shocking, if we look at the world around us, it really is amazing. God is here with us, 24/7, in the Eucharist. What else can we get for free that is worth so much? Our faith has no requirement of a monetary commitment. Don’t get me wrong, it’s highly encouraged that we give what we’re able and what we’re called to give, but beyond that there is no requirement.

As the staff connection for new parishioners, I have been asked if there is a fee to join our parish. I have also been asked if there is ever a monthly giving requirement. I know that there are churches around that require a certain level of monthly giving to receive a funeral; there is nothing like that within the Catholic Church. In fact, you can ask to have a funeral in a Catholic Church even if you have not attended for years, let alone donated money. And there never will be a set financial obligation.

One of the comments that gets to me most often when people speak harshly against the Church is the claim that we have a lot of money and it should all be given to the poor. While giving to those in need, all over the world, is certainly one of the highest priorities of our Church, the beauty in some of the inspired works of art and architecture in this world are priceless. Would you like to see the Pietà, one of the best-known sculptures in the world, be in a museum run by a government or another organization? Or would you rather keep it in St. Peter’s Basilica, where anyone and everyone can see it for free? The poorest of the poor, the homeless, the destitute, are all welcome there, as well as in our many awe-inspiring cathedrals, basilicas, and other churches around the world. That yearning we feel as we look up at the ceiling of St. Paul’s Cathedral or look at a beautiful sunset is just the beginning of beauty—a small glimpse at the beauty of  Heaven, the beauty of God. And there’s no charge to experience it. How wonderful is that?

The true blessing of all of this beauty is that it can be inspiring; it can bring us closer to God Himself. It draws us in so we can be overwhelmed by His greatness. So for someone who is suffering, has fallen away from his or her faith, or is out on the streets, God’s beauty can conquer their hearts and help them be open to His mercy and love. And again—it’s free.

Jesus also didn’t require payment while He spent His time on earth. He doesn’t pay attention to whether we are rich or poor; He accepts us, loves us, and heals us where we are.

“Rising very early before dawn, he left
and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’
He told them, ‘Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.’”

Mark 1:35-38

If we want to show others the beauty of love and the beauty of our Church, we should enter into prayer as Jesus does in the Gospel above. Prayer will give us the strength to evangelize to others, whether it’s through friendship, through financial support, or through beauty. There are so many ways we can bring, for free, the love of Christ to others. I challenge you to find one today.

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