Wednesday, October 26, 2005

What's so special about this church? (Feast Day homily)

Today is the anniversary of the dedication of this church: 140 years ago today, this church was first consecrated as a holy place of worship.

According to Church custom and law, this is a very solemn, special feast day!

In the first reading, Solomon prays, when his Temple is dedicated: “Can it be that God dwells on earth? If the heavens and highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple”?

The second reading describes even older events: when God appeared to his People at Mt. Sinai, they saw fire, and heard trumpet blasts,
and they were terrified. And really, God is so beyond us, and so holy, that we really should be awed, and overwhelmed.

But then, the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews sets that all aside.

He says: you have not approached God that way! “No, you have approached Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.”

How do we do that?

You and I do that right here—at the celebration of the Eucharist.

Think of this way. We honor Mary so highly, among other reasons, because she became a true tabernacle: the God whom heaven could not contain, in Mary’s womb came to dwell! She is the God-bearer and Christ-giver, the all-holy Mother of God.

That’s why, in our Creed, we bow at these words: "by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

But the other great hinge of our faith is why he came: again, the Creed says, “For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, suffered, died and was buried. He rose from the dead…ascended into heaven. He will come again in glory… and his kingdom will have no end.”

Then he final part of the Creed talks about the Holy Spirit, the Church, baptism, and our hope to come.

So, while the Incarnation happened in Mary— and that’s a lot to celebrate—the whole mystery of our salvation—including the Incarnation, but also the Cross, the Resurrection, the outpouring of the Spirit, Christ’s reign in heaven and his coming again—all that is present and real to us in the Church.

We may not see it, but that’s the reality of our being members of his Church; that’s the reality of what happens at Mass.

What the second reading described really happens: “countless angels in festal gathering… the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven”—
that means, the saints, and it means us.

We’re limited by what we see with our eyes; but the angels and saints—all of them—are present with us around this altar! This altar—the Sacrifice offered here—is truly united to Christ in heaven!

Christ is God—and he is right here! And that began, for this church, 140 years ago today. That is what makes this such a special feast day for us.
Solomon said: the heavens cannot contain God; yet God has come to dwell in our midst!

(Posted 10/28/05)

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