Anniversary of the Rededication of Sacred Heart Cathedral
(Ezekiel 43: 1-2, 3c-7a, John 4;19-24)
“Lord Jesus Christ, make this a temple of your presence and a house of prayer. Be always near us when we seek you in this place. Draw us to you, when we come alone and when we come with others, to find comfort and wisdom, to be supported and strengthened, to rejoice and give thanks. May it be here, Lord Christ, that we are made one with you and with one another, so that our lives are sustained and sanctified for your service.” Today, the diocese of Rochester recalls the 2005 rededication of Sacred Heart Cathedral. The rite of dedication speaks not only of the brick-and-mortar building. It also speaks of the building made of living stones. The church building houses the worshiping church, the People of God.
The beauty of the architecture affords us a glimpse of the grandeur of God. The sanctity of the assembly affords a glimpse of God’s glory. The church building is the gathering place where we discover the mysteries of redeeming love, have the Scriptures broken open for us and the Bread of Life is offered to us. Gathered in the House of the Lord we come to know ourselves as the beloved sons and daughters of God. The prophet Ezekiel shared with us a vision of the temple that was filled with the glory of God. As we celebrate the anniversary of the rededication of the cathedral, we are given a vision of the church filled with the fire of divine love. As the heart of the Father is the resting place of the Beloved Son, so the heart of Christ becomes the resting place of all his beloved disciples.
The commemoration of the dedication of the cathedral is presented as a celebration of hope. We should not forget that the prophet who shared with us the vision of the glory of the Lord filling the temple was the same person who stood in the valley filled with dry bones. Remember these heart-rending words: “Our bones are dried up and our hope is lost, we are completely cut off” (Ezek. 37:11). This passage reminded me of a line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. “O, shut the door! and when thou hast done so, Come weep with me–past hope, past cure, past help!” We see a decrease in vocations to priesthood and religious life. We see an increase in the number of divorces and dispensations from vowed life. We see the empty pews every Sunday. With each revelation, we get more discouraged.
Now would be a good time for us to recall God’s word to the people who wandered in the valley of death. “O my people, I am going to open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves and bring you back home to the land of promise” (Ezek. 37:12). I was touched by something Joseph Ratzinger wrote in 1969. “The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning… It will be hard-going for the church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy… But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”
Today’s celebration reminds us that God is faithful to his word. The seer in Revelation tells us: “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5). He seems to be reiterating the words of Isaiah: “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Is. 43:19). We need to look at the church from the perspective of Christ’s victory over sin and death and cling fast to his faithfulness. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning” (Lam. 3:22-23). The rededication of the cathedral reminds us to look to God’s Word and absorb the newness of life he promises us. Gathered close to the heart of Christ we will find the path to true peace. As we walk in the newness of life in Christ, we will no longer be overburdened by guilt and discouragement.
As we recall the rededication of Sacred Heart Cathedral, let us remember that “we are living stones that God is building into his spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5). In this spiritual house, the Father and the Son promise to make their dwelling with us. God comes to dwell within this community of faith that we might dwell in the communion of love of the Trinity. Whenever the church gathers in the church, may the glory of the Lord fill our hearts. As we enter into communion with the Living Word, may we reflect the glorious light shining on the face of Christ (CF. 2 Cor. 4:6). Then, having beheld the glory of the Lord, may we witness to the Love of Christ who has looked upon us and called us to communion with himself.
O God, who from living and chosen stones prepare an eternal dwelling for your majesty, increase in your Church the grace you have bestowed, so that by unceasing growth your faithful people may build up the heavenly Jerusalem.