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60 years is certainly something to celebrate

Homily by Archbishop Wenski at Mass for the 60th anniversary of Blessed Trinity Church

Homily by Archbishop Thomas Wenski at Mass for the 60th anniversary of Blessed Trinity Church. September 6, 2013.

I am very happy to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Blessed Trinity Parish with you and with your parish priests, Fr. Jose Alfaro and Fr. Isidro Perez.  60 years might not seem like a long time for a Church than is almost 2,000 years old; but, here in this still young Archdiocese, an archdiocese that is only 55 years old, 60 years is certainly something to celebrate.  And it is only fitting that as we celebrate these sixty years, we honor the man who shepherded this parish for more than half of that time, Fr. Joseph Carney.  And it is most fitting that we name the latest addition for him – for it was his leadership that made this most recent construction project possible.

The word, parish, is derived from the ancient Greek – pa-roi-ki-a -; the Spanish, parroquia, is much closer to the original Greek than its English equivalent.  It meant a sojourn in a foreign land, or a community of sojourners.  And, so when the Hebrew Scriptures were first translated into Greek, pa-roi-ki-a was used to describe the Israelites as they journeyed through the desert on their way to the Promised Land.  

As Pope Francis wrote in Lumen Fidei, the Light of Faith, “In God’s gift of faith… we realize that a great love has been offered us, a good word has been spoken to us, and that when we welcome that word, Jesus Christ the Word made flesh, the Holy Spirit transforms us, lights up our way to the future and enables us joyfully to advance along that way on wings of hope.”

Thus, as Catholic Christians, to say that we are parishioners of this or that parish is to identify us as members of a pilgrim people called forth by God.  To say that we are parishioners is to acknowledge that we sojourn in the way that his Son Jesus opens before us. We, Catholics, as members of the new People of God, the New Israel, established by Christ on the foundation of the twelve apostles, we know that here on this earth we have no lasting dwelling place, for our citizenship is in heaven, our true Promised Land

Our parishes, where the community of sojourners meet, are then like way stations along our pilgrim way.  Blessed Trinity, of course, is much more than just a simple way station or rest stop hidden away in Miami Springs:  it is truly an oasis.  You have here a beautiful parish– with many vital ministries, not the least of which is your wonderful school. We sang in the Psalm:  Come with joy into the presence of the Lord. Here, in this parish community, you are fed, you are refreshed, and you are strengthened for your pilgrim journey by the Lord.  He is present in the Word that is preached; he is present in the Sacrament that is received; he is present in each one of you gathered together in his name.  Here, as a community of faith, hope and love, you “come with joy” to worship the Most Blessed Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

Our parish life is not therefore something merely incidental to us as we make our life’s journeys.  Our parishes –ideally should be schools of prayer and schools of communion – they are the places where our love of God and neighbor come together and thus parishes –as way stations along our sojourn – keep us from becoming “of the world” and they enable us, as we sojourn in the world, to be always “for the world”.  

Pope Francis in the short time that he has worn the shoes of the Fisherman has encouraged us “to be for the world” in many different ways. He has reminded us that the Church is not to be “self-referential” but outward looking and thus always ready to seek out the lost, the least and the last.  Tomorrow from St. Peter’s Square in Rome, he will model for all of us an important way of being “for the world” through the simple gestures of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria.  Let us join him in praying that the suffering people of Syria and the entire Middle East find peace – a true peace that can never be imposed by further violence.   Let us pray that his appeals to President Obama, to President Putin and other world leaders – that they seek a political solution and not a military one – let us pray that these appeals not be met with deaf ears.  

The Pope-emeritus, Benedict, once observed that today while globalization has made us all neighbors it hasn’t made us brothers and sisters. Events that occur on the other side of the world are made available to us in “real time”. Certainly, globalization has made the world smaller –but perhaps not wiser.

What can make us brothers and sisters is our encounter with Jesus Christ who teaches us what fraternal charity is and reveals to us the truth of our transcendent vocation to communion through him with the Father. This encounter is never primarily or only “between Jesus and me”.  Catholicism is a communal religion – we are saved as members of a family, a community, a body – the Body of Christ.

For 60 years, Blessed Trinity Parish has welcome God’s pilgrim people. Over the years, thousands of people have met Christ in Word and Sacrament.  For 60 years, here at Blessed Trinity the Lord has fed you and has met your needs.  However, the history of this parish – like any history forged by fallen human beings – is full of lights and shadows.  We should not be surprised that the Church which Christ founded to save sinners is – well – full of sinners.  Yet, the Church is holy – and, she is holy; though not because of us, but because of the Spirit that is given to her.  Despite the shortcomings and foibles of her human members, the Church of God has continued to grow here in South Florida – and here in Miami Springs.  Thanks to the presence of the Holy Spirit, who could say that these past 60 years have not been years of grace?  

 Many have come and gone – among them were some saints, and to be sure many sinners – and today we lift up in prayer those pioneers – priests and people -who were here at the beginning and have gone home to the Lord. Today, you enjoy what they built for you. And, in future years, to be sure, others will no doubt enjoy what you leave for them.

 But during these 60 years– with the help of God’s grace which is always more than enough against our own inadequacies – you, parishioners, have built more than buildings – you have built community, a community of faith, hope and love, a community where Christ is known, adored and encountered each day in his Word and Sacrament.  

At the present time, the Archdiocese of Miami is bringing to conclusion its second Synod in our 55 year history:  the Synod is about setting forth a plan, a strategic plan, a pastoral plan that will guide us in coming years.  The theme of the synod is “Disciples in Faith, Missionaries of hope”. To make us into “disciples in faith” and into “missionaries of hope” is the reason why any parish exists.  And forming the Catholics of Miami 
Springs into “missionary disciples” is what Blessed Trinity has been about for 60 years. And, that is your mission, Blessed Trinity’s mission, for the next 60 years. 

To be a Christian is not a burden but a gift – a gift to be celebrated and to be shared. So as well celebrate this very significant anniversary today, we thank God for his many, many graces. Dear parishioners, may you remember the past with gratitude, live the present with enthusiasm, and look forward to the future with confidence.

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