The Bishop of St Asaph has used his sermon at this morning’s Chrism Mass at St Asaph Cathedral to challenge society on what it chooses to afford.
Speaking about the €1 billion pledged within three days for the re-building of Notre Dame, following this week’s fire, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron said: “One of the most staggering things is the money that has been forthcoming.”
He went on: “Just two people, whose net worth alone is more than a small European Country, have given €300 million” but he was clear not to judge the two individuals saying, “we don’t know what they give to other projects.”
More than 300 people gathered at St Asaph Cathedral this morning (Thursday 18 April) for the annual Chrism Eucharist and Blessing of the Holy Oils. Clergy and congregations from across north-east and mid-Wales come to renew their commitment to their vows and mission to the church.
Bishop Gregory’s sermon is always much anticipated. This year, with the Notre Dame fire only days earlier, he asked the congregation to consider questions of what society can afford. He said: “… we’re asked to say whether we wish to give money to nurses pay, or to support the homeless, of whether we can afford hospitals or schools, but not both. The money is there, it’s just a matter of choice and of willpower to carry the project forward.”
He quoted Jesus: “For where your treasure is, there your heart shall be also” and went on to say, “The question that Notre Dame raises for me is, where do we choose to put our treasure and therefore our hearts?”
Bishop Gregory turned to the example of Jesus and used the story from today’s Gospel of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. He said: “Jesus, whose mind must have been full of the forthcoming passion, dedicates himself to the most menial of tasks, telling and showing by the washing of their feet, that he values each of them. Where your heart is, there shall be your treasure also.”
Earlier this week, the Bishop of St Asaph issued a statement about the fire. He said: “The Cathedral of Our Lady (Notre Dame) in Paris has been for centuries the focus of Christian life in France, and is much loved by visitors across the world. Many of us are therefore aghast by its near destruction by fire in the last few days. Nevertheless, our God is a God of Resurrection and hope, and we must believe that it is possible to rebuild and rededicate this building. Already it is clear that the guardians of Notre Dame will have the help of the French Government and the help of the world in that aspiration. The fire perhaps challenges us all to ask whether we take for granted some of the ancient and significant places of prayer among which we live, almost without noticing, in Wales, and which bear witness to the same God of new life.”
In previous years, Bishop Gregory has drawn on a recent film to illustrate his Chrism Eucharist sermon. This year, he looked ahead to the forthcoming Avengers: Endgame the last of the 22 Marvel Cinematic Universe films.
“Each film has got bigger and brassier with ever more powerful villains,” he told the Chrism congregation, “Until at last we get to Thanos, who can alter the universe with a click of his fingers.
“It is surely of significance for us that our God did not choose to win salvation by the click of his fingers. Instead, he came among us, was born, and suffered alongside us, and died for our sakes.”
Quoting a passage from the Gospel of John, “God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that those who believe in him should not perish but inherit eternal life” he told the congregation that the church’s first and foremost job is to be a channel of that love.”
Services take place in churches across the Diocese of St Asaph this weekend. Easter is the most important festival for Christians, marking the death and celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.
The Chrism Eucharist includes the blessing of the holy oils used by clergy in churches across the diocese. The service is always followed by a group photo of all the clergy and lay ministers in the diocese: