BEING A MOTHER CHURCH
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EZEKIEL 47:1-2.8-9.12; 1 PETER 2:4-9; JOHN 2:13-22 ]
The Cathedral is the “Mother Church” of the archdiocese. It is the seat of the archbishop. The Cathedral is mother in many ways. She was the first church to be built in Singapore. From the Cathedral, the other churches in the parish gradually evolved. But this is not the most important reason for the Cathedral to be called “mother.” She is called to be a model for all other parishes in the way she fulfills her pastoral and missionary role of the Church. The Cathedral must be an exemplary model of what every church should be. What does it take to play her role as mother?
As mother church, the Cathedral is called to be life-giving as all mothers do. This is what the first reading says with respect to the Temple in Jerusalem. “This water flows east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome. Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.” The Cathedral, if it were to be truly the mother Church, must therefore seek to be a blessing for all who come to her, giving life, growth, nurturing and healing to all.
This means that the Cathedral must balance carefully, the mission ad intra and ad extra. On one hand, she is responsible for serving the Catholics in the archdiocese and all who come to visit the Cathedral from all over the world. However, she must always be missionary-minded in seeking out Catholics who have lapsed and lost their faith; and those who do not know Christ and His gospel. The Cathedral cannot be contented simply with being a mother, taking care of her own children. This would be too-inward looking and narrow-minded. Rather, the Church must be missionary in going out to the field, the market square and society at large to announce the Good News to all.
With respect to the mission ad intra, the Church as mother brings forth new children for the church through the Sacraments of Initiation. Through the waters of baptism, the catechumens are given the new life of the Spirit and the power of witnessing. This is why the Cathedral needs to provide instruction for non-Catholics who are interested to know Christ. This is why RCIA is provided at the Cathedral to reach out to non-Catholics who are working in the city or come to the Cathedral to seek God. Last year, the Cathedral received more than 120 new members into the Church during the Easter Vigil, restoring the position of the Cathedral as a mother church. It is truly encouraging, especially in the first year after the restoration of the physical Cathedral in 2017 to its glory and magnificence following years of neglect.
As mother, she does not just give birth to new children of faith but continues to nurture them in their faith so that “all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” (Eph 4:13) This is done by having regular spiritual talks and meditation given in the Cathedral, especially during the seasons of Lent and Advent to prepare the faithful for the great celebration of Christmas and Easter. Other formation talks are regularly given as well, such as talks for Young Adults. Besides spiritual input, the Cathedral screens religious movies that could edify the faithful and Sacred Concerts to inspire the faithful. These are some of the means of nurturing the people in faith.
However, the Cathedral is not just a place of instruction, but primarily it is a place of worship and prayer. This is what the Lord said in the gospel. “My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.” (Mt 21:13) It is therefore of great importance that the liturgy celebrated at the Cathedral be celebrated with dignity and solemnity. This means appropriate hymns are sung, people are participating actively, the ministers assisting in the liturgy are well instructed and performing their roles in a fitting manner. Of course, the celebrant must celebrate the mass prayerfully and preach the Word of God in an edifying manner.
Besides the liturgical celebrations, to promote the Cathedral as a house of prayer, the Cathedral provides a 24-hour adoration chapel for those who need to seek the Lord for consolation and strength. This chapel is open to all who come to seek refuge in the Lord. Even the main Cathedral is open to those who wish to linger around after mass to pray. There are also other devotions promoted by the Cathedral to enrich the liturgy and the life of the people, such as Devotion to the Sacred Heart, Divine Mercy devotions, etc. These devotions help to strengthen the spiritual life of our faithful and give them an affective dimension of their faith in Christ through the saints and our Blessed Mother. This is what St Peter exhorts us, “The Lord is the living stone, rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him; set yourselves close to him so that you too, the holy priesthood that offers the spiritual sacrifices which Jesus Christ has made acceptable to God, may be living stones making a spiritual house.” We need to cultivate a deeper intimacy with our Lord in prayer, meditation and in devotions.
However, the Church cannot be simply ad–intra and inward–looking. This is what St Peter said to the early Christians. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” We are called to announce and sing the praises of God to all of humanity. When Jesus said, “‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market’. Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me.”
Zeal for the house of the Lord should make us think of outreach, first to our lapsed Catholics, homebound Catholics, and then those who do not know the Lord. There are many Catholics who do not go to Church. Many have left the Church after baptism or confirmation, especially the young people. For various reasons, they have left. Some are disillusioned with the Church and her teachings, or the scandals that happened, or been hurt by church leaders through their words and actions. Others have left because of negligence and loss of faith through listening to the world without recourse to the Church for guidance. To this effect, the Cathedral has been promoting “Landings” to help lapsed Catholics to return to the Church. Through such programs, many have found back their faith. Thanks to the caring, non-judgmental and understanding facilitators!
As a service to people at large, the Cathedral has opened her doors to non-Catholics in her outreach. She participates in the annual Night Festival with us promoting Peace and Harmony through the lighting of the candles. She has a heritage center to welcome non-Catholics to have a view of the treasuries of the Church and her history. She holds sacred concerts every year at Easter and Christmas to welcome all, including people of other faiths and nationalities.
The crown of it all, of course, is the social mission of the Cathedral. She expresses her faith in action through charity. She provides free food to the needy every Sunday for lunch. She has a social mission fund to take care of all the poor that knocks at her doors. She is there to show the love and mercy of Christ to such people. Indeed, with the psalmist, we can rejoice and say that indeed, the Cathedral is “give joy to God’s city, the holy place where the Most High dwells. It is here that we experience God our “refuge and strength, a helper close at hand, in time of distress.”
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online, nor will they be available via email request.