Sunday, August 20, 2017

This church is a living sign of God -- and so are you (Sunday homily)

Today we recall the dedication of this church. 
This church was dedicated in 1891; it is the third church on this site. 
The first church was dedicated in 1852; 
so between three buildings, that’s 165 years.

Why is it so important to remember this – so much so, 
that this is a solemnity for our parish, 
and the readings and prayers are different 
from what they are in all other Catholic churches this Sunday?

Well, we might ask, why is it important to have sacraments? 
Even a lot of Catholics, don’t know the answer to that question. 
They are baptized, they made their first communion, 
and maybe they go to confession now and then, 
but they don’t really know what makes the sacraments important…

And to take a step back, why might as well ask, 
why does it matter, that God became human? 
What we call the Incarnation?

That’s what this is about, you see: 
God coming to be with us, as one of us.

A Catholic writer Mark Shea told this story
He was working with a woman who was prompted by the song, 
“If God Was One of Us” to ask, 
“Wouldn’t that be cool? Suppose God became a human being. 
Wouldn’t that be a great idea for a story?”

Mr. Shea laughed, and had the pleasure of being the first one 
to explain to her that, yes indeed, God did become, and remains, 
one of us. God became human. 

This is why the sacraments matter: 
because instead of vague ideas about God, 
or about what God wishing us well, 
God acts in time, in our lives, to save us.

And so, there’s why this church matters. 
Because St. Remy Church means 
that these miracles of God’s love and mercy and transformation 
aren’t things that happen somewhere – they happen here.

While I’m on the subject: the people of this parish 
have always demonstrated a great love for, and dedication to, 
this church and this parish. 

Last year, I reported to you that we were facing a serious deficit. 
Our very dedicated staff accepted no increase in pay 
and they helped hold down spending in many ways.
Meanwhile, so many of the people of this parish were very generous. 

In a few weeks, the finance committee and I 
will present a financial report on the past year, 
and a budget for the coming year. We are finalizing that right now. 
But I can tell you, we almost entirely closed that gap. 
I am confident that as we go forward with the same spirit, 
we’ll get into the black in another year. 

Meanwhile, this is a good time to recall 
the “One Faith, One Hope” fund drive 
the Archbishop launched two years ago. 

As you may recall, a portion of what you have given to that fund 
is coming back to the parish. 
Since then, about $70,000 has come back here, 
and we have been using it, as promised, 
on various repairs and improvements. Let me highlight a few:

- We repaired and resurfaced sections of our parking lots; 
- Pavement in the cemetery and around the rectory garage was replaced;
- The interior of St. Remy Hall was repainted;
- We’ve made improvements in the landscaping;
- Repairs were made to the exterior of St. Remy Hall;
- The rooms in the church basement were improved;
- The church organ was given much needed maintenance;
- We added safety features to the Parish Center, 
including emergency lighting;
- And just last week, we modernized our office phones 
after a lightning strike.

There were many other smaller projects, but they all add up. 
And there are many more coming, as the funds are rebated,
including a safety rail on the balcony, 
improvements to the interior of the Parish Center, 
and improvements to the equipment in the hall.

Now, all this is great to celebrate, 
but it also gives us something to ponder. 
This puts a great responsibility on us; on each of us. 
After all, this house of God, this place of grace, 
is only as impressive as the people who call it home. 
The mercy and the miracles don’t just happen in a building; 
they happen, above all, in people. That would be us.

When I talk about miracles, what do I mean? 
Well, let me mention several:

- At every Mass Jesus makes his death and resurrection present, 
and he gives us his very Body and Blood for food!
- In every confession, the unbearable weight of sin and alienation from God 
is destroyed and vanishes forever!
- In every baptism, a child is born again as a child of God and 
a temple of the Holy Spirit, destined for heaven.
- In the sacrament of marriage, even in our cynical times, 
people continue to come to place their faith in each other 
as they invite Christ to make them a living image of God.
- In the anointing of the sick, 
both physical and spiritual healing happens. 

As wonderful as all this is, remember family, that it isn’t all just for us. 

The wonders we experience are about making us wonders; 
the signs God gives us are to make us signs to the larger community. 
The grace we receive, you and I are sent to share. 

In two weeks, a lot of the local community 
will stream to our parish grounds for our annual Homecoming. 
I’d like to suggest something. Starting today, will you – 
will each one of us – begin praying 
that our Homecoming Picnic will be a time of God’s grace?

If you invite someone, or meet someone, 
who has never been inside our church, 
why not give that person a tour for a few minutes?

If you are working a booth – and thank you for that! – 
ask God to help you be a blessing to all you meet. 
If you are a chairperson, pray for your volunteers, 
and let them know you’re praying for them.

If you talk to folks who are feeling discouraged or having trouble, 
offer to pray for them, and even with them. 

God has given us tremendous blessings in our parish. 
What will you do to be a blessing to our community? 
To be a living sign of the living God, who dwells in this house?

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