Sunday, May 3, 2020
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily at the dedication of a new chapel at Nativity Parish in Hollywood, May 3, 2020. The Mass was livestreamed on the parish’s website and Facebook page. Nativity's pastor, Father David Zirilli, gave parishioners a tour before the dedication. Watch it below.
Today, with the dedication of this chapel, the consecration of this altar and the blessing of this tabernacle, we bring to a happy conclusion a significant project for this parish. You have a new rectory with living space for your priests and more adequate space for parish ministries. This celebration today is a sign of great hope for the entire parish, for it points to the day when we will be able to gather together as a worshipping community once we are on the other side, the better side, of this pandemic.
So, even as the parishioners are following this Mass, which is being livestreamed to you, we accept the sufferings of this present moment with faith, confident that if the Lord has brought us to it, he will bring us through it.
In consecrating this altar, we set aside a work made by human hands for a sacred purpose. The sacrifice of the New Covenant will be offered here. Here God dwells with his people. This altar is like the threshold of a door. As Jesus says in today’s Gospel reading: “I am the gate for the sheep.” As we cross the threshold of this gate, which is Jesus Christ, we “pass over” from the mundane to the sacred, from the worldly to the heavenly. Here, in the Eucharistic sacrifice, we meet God who opens to us the gates of heaven.
As we dedicate this altar and set it apart for God’s service, let us also rededicate ourselves – as individuals and as a Catholic parish community – to work together for God’s kingdom – as hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd, we follow him along the Way of his Cross to the glory of Eternal Life. When Christ was sacrificed on Calvary, sin was defeated. On this altar, that same sacrifice will be made present to us each day, so that his victory over sin, death and the evil one, will also be ours.
Worship pleasing to God can be offered in any place – if the heart is renovated. Cardinal Van Thuan, when, as Archbishop of Saigon, he was arrested after the fall of South Viet Nam and put in solitary confinement for 13 years in a damp and dirty cell. Friends smuggled to him some bread and some wine – and he would offer the holy Mass using the palm of his hand as an altar. And that hand was a worthy altar because he brought his offering to the Lord with no resentment, with no rancor or hatred towards those who imprisoned him, toward those who persecuted him. Like St. Paul, he ended up converting a few of his jailers.
At this altar, we come to the font of grace that gave those martyrs strength to shed their blood. As we come to the altar today, Christ asks us not to shed our blood. (Please God we would if he did.) But today Christ asks us – at this altar – to shed our resentments, our bad feelings, any anger we might still harbor in our hearts. For here we stand on holy ground and this holy ground is the common ground where we Catholics stand as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Here, we do holy things – we read the Scriptures, we worship and adore Christ present in his Most Blessed Sacrament, we celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass and the other sacraments. We do these holy things – so that we can become holy ourselves.
As Catholics we believe that God made all things –visible and invisible. He made all things good. And therefore, all creation, all the material things God has given us, can serve as means to help us encounter him. The Son of God became incarnate so that he might more easily bring us to his Father. Because of the incarnation, material things can be used to communicate grace. We believe that the sacraments communicate God’s grace, God’s life to us. What grace is doing is made more comprehensible through the sacramental forms: Water, oil, bread and wine, all help communicate the mysteries they symbolize and make present to us. In this way, all the accessories, all the appointments in this chapel – the ambo, the altar, the candles – they all help communicate to us the great mystery we celebrate here.
So, listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd who calls each of us by name – he is not a stranger but the shepherd and guardian of our souls.