Given at the Church of St Luke, Pinner, on Saturday 1 February 2014.
The celebration of a centenary is a marvellous moment. I am so glad to be part of it! A telegram from Her Majesty the Queen is not, of course, expected for this centenary, but I am sure there have been many other messages of good wishes and congratulations. I hope this short homily can find a place among them.
What are we congratulating each other about today? The longevity of a parish? Certainly! The fidelity of so many people who make up the parish? Most surely! The memory of the priests who have served in this parish, including our present parish priest Canon Robert? Naturally! All those religious, especially the Dominican sisters, who have offered their lives in service of this parish? Of course! The richness of the groups and activities of the parish over these years, not forgetting The Grail, present in this parish for sixty years? Definitely! The growing strength of commitment within the Pinner Association of Churches? Indeed! The beauty of this building, the House of God, and its predecessor next door? Yes!
There is much to celebrate; and I hope that as the year progresses there will be many opportunities to explore this rich history and thank God for all the graces and blessings received here since Mass was first celebrated by Fr John Caulfield on this day in 1914. There have been marriages and baptisms, first confessions, Holy Communions and confirmations and, of course the sad memories of funerals, together with the strong promise of the resurrection of the dead to new life in the Lord.
Today's readings point to the very heart of our celebration: All is founded on Christ and all is expressed in practical love.
St. Paul tells us that Christ alone is the foundation on which we are to build. Elsewhere he is more explicit calling Jesus our cornerstone, the keystone. High up at the apex of the arch is the keystone, the one stone that holds all the weight and tension of the entire arch, the entire structure. Whether we think of Jesus as the hidden foundation or the keystone of the soaring aspirations of our lives, we remember that he is the key to our living well, to our fulfilment. There is no complete fullness of life without Christ. There is no lasting life of the Church unless he is the one to whom all tension and discord is referred. His presence alone gives life and vitality to all that we celebrate today.
Now the first reading describes the shape and dynamic of that vitality. It's a wonderfully penetrating picture of the early Church, the first groups of disciples. What is said of those first disciples is true of us, too. Or it should be.
We read that they came together to explore the teaching of the apostles, for fellowship, for the breaking of the bread and for prayer. That's what we do, day by day, Sunday by Sunday. Those same focal points still shape the life of disciples here and now: prayer, searching together into the Truth of Christ as handed on to us by the apostles, the Eucharist, and mutual support and companionship. That these actions have taken place here for one hundred years is the true focus of our celebration.
The Gospel adds another dimension to our understanding of who we are. It tells us that all who follow Christ must behave accordingly. Hearing the Word, celebrating the Eucharist, offering prayers are not enough unless we act on what we proclaim. To say the words and to neglect the action is to build on sand. And the action, we learn, is first of all our care for the poor, for the little ones, for the forgotten.
How eloquently the actions of Pope Francis speak of this priority! How convincingly he urges us to look out, to turn outward and show the credibility of the Gospel by how we behave, especially towards the poor.
It is a great cause of joy for me to see, in parish after parish, this work of outreach taking place, this emphasis on 'caritas' always present. In the history of this parish, too, there is a tradition of great generosity to so many good causes, so many charities that ask for your help. For this I thank you and I encourage you in this work of outreach.
Permit me to end with two words which sum up so much of our celebratory spirit. They are the words 'joy' and 'mercy'. Today we rejoice in the Lord, who calls us together, who holds us together, who unfolds for us the immense gift of love that God has for each one of us, a gift fulfilled in our final destiny of heaven. Today we share that joy, our sense of purpose and meaning, letting it overflow into our celebrations of this centenary.
Today we also recognise that the deepest source of our joy is not simply knowledge of God's love for us, but the realisation that this love knows no limits in its mercy and forgiveness. It is God's mercy that makes our joy endure and overcomes all our disappointments, failures and sin. God's merciful love is the source of our joy.
When taken together and to heart, that joy and mercy are the ultimate reasons why we reach out to those in need: to share with them some measure of what we ourselves have received. Mercy shown in practical action, characterised by the simple joy of giving, is the hallmark of the true disciple, of the true parish, just as we celebrate this one today.
May God bless this parish of St Luke with an abundance of merciful love and profound joy. May this parish be a beacon of light for all around it, speaking of the joy and hope that only Jesus our Saviour can give. May this parish have its doors wide open in invitation and may the warmth of the presence of the Lord always be evident to all who come in.