150th Anniversary of the Saint Basil Church
Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Dushore
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 17 September 2022
My friends, it is good to be with all of you – to celebrate our faith in Jesus Christ within this wonderful parish community of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and to give thanks for the blessing of Saint Basil Church, this beautiful house of worship where you’ve encountered God for 150 years. I thank Father Major for his kind invitation to join you today – and I especially thank him for the care that he has so generously provided to you in this corner of God’s kingdom.
For all that is associated with this wonderful liturgy, whether you’ve worshipped in this sacred space for your entire life or have only come to know it well since the formation of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish about 13 years ago, one of the more significant elements of this day has to do with “remembering” – remembering your life in relationship to this Church and this parish community. … That’s a good thing to do!
As you reflect upon this beautiful church, no doubt there are countless memories flooding your thoughts and hearts. Perhaps this is the church in which you or your children were baptized. … Maybe this is where you received your First Holy Communion or Confirmation. … Not a few of you were likely married in this sacred place. … And some of you are probably thinking of loved ones who were brought into this church for Christian burial.
Yet, for all of the memories that we hold this day, for as meaningful as this sacred space is, when we recall events that have taken place in our lives in relationship to Saint Basil Church, we are more likely to recall certain people than merely a place – perhaps a priest, a sister, a relative or a friend. And at the heart of such memories are found the deepest mysteries of our faith and the Eucharist itself.
Saint John Paul II, said this about parish life: “The parish is not principally a structure, a territory or a building, but rather, a people, ‘the family of God,’ ‘a familial and welcoming home,’ the ‘community of the faithful.’” The Holy Father went on to say further that “the parish the place where the very ‘mystery’ of the Church is present and at work.”
Suddenly when we hear such words, this anniversary should remind us of much, much more than merely a building, no matter how special a space it may be.
First, this celebration reminds us of who we are as Catholic Christians. My presence here today is a reminder of our relationship to all of the People of God who are a part of the Diocese of Scranton, not just in Sullivan County but throughout our eleven counties that make up our local Church. It is also a reminder of our relationship to the broader, worldwide Church – and to Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome and successor of Saint Peter.
This reality also reminds us that we belong to a vast community, linking us to the past and the present. Through the mystery and power of God, we are not merely members of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish but a part of the communion of saints, the saints of this world and the next. Through our faith in the risen Jesus, we are bound to our mothers and fathers, to grandparents and great-grandparents, and to every soul that has ever worshipped in this wonderful Church for its 150 years. We are bound together because of the Eucharist that we celebrate on this altar and because of the words of faith that we proclaim in its presence: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”
But there is another reason why we celebrate this day. For as much as it has been faced with its share of struggles over the years, the Catholic Church has been responsible for more good and decency and help than most would ever realize or believe. And right here in Sullivan County, look at what you have done for so many years. You’ve celebrated life and called one another to a profound respect for that sublime gift. You’ve taught people – young and old – about Jesus and their faith. You’ve rebuilt lives following devastating floods particularly in recent years. You’ve fed families and clothed the poor. You’ve healed bodies and spirits, consoled, buried and converted hearts to the Lord. You have done Christ’s work!
Yet, our gathering today also reminds us that like this church building that has been repaired, remodeled and changed over the years – we ourselves are unfinished temples of the Holy Spirit. We can become worn and broken. And we constantly have need for conversion in our lives.
Despite the crosses that come our way – the sad reality of abuse in the Church – the challenge of merging parishes that you know very well in this community – the struggles that each of us face in our personal journeys of life – our faith always gives us a reason to hope. We are given the promise of salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection. And we are nourished by the Eucharist and by the presence of God in the lives of our sisters and brothers in faith.
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells the unusual parable of a corrupt business manager who is about to lose his job. Essentially, the manager – the steward – is caught stealing from his employer. When caught, he comes up with a plan to turn the tide of his situation. His hope is that his shrewdness and cleverness will win back his employer’s favor. If not, the steward will at least have made some grateful friends along the way.
At first reading, it appears that Jesus is condoning the steward’s corrupt behavior. What Jesus admires, however, is not the steward’s lack of scruples, but his ingenuity in responding to a challenge and in taking control of his situation.
In short, Jesus challenges us in the gospel to use our gifts, talents and skills for good – to act decisively and compassionately when confronted with issues of faith, human care and concern. Jesus calls us to creatively respond with gospel values when it comes to the need for us to forgive, to accept and respect the lives of those who are different than ourselves, to work for justice and peace, to serve and to love selflessly as he gives us example.
And this, brothers and sisters, is what you’ve done through your embrace of the message of the gospel that has been proclaimed in this blessed house of worship for 150 years. Perfectly? No – but with a sincere recognition of who you are and of what you – and all of us – are called to do as Jesus’ followers.
Finally, brothers and sisters, today’s gospel reminds us that for all that we remember and for which we give thanks, this celebration will be incomplete if it ends at the conclusion of Mass. You see, this anniversary Mass – and every Mass – should remind us that we gather for worship for a reason: to be strengthened by God for mission! Those who built this church 150 years ago understood innately what is proclaimed at the end of every Mass. Recall the words with which we’re dismissed: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” Go and do the work of God. … And you have!
The light of Jesus has indeed shone brightly in Saint Basil Church for 150 years and the love of Jesus continues to be proclaimed by each of you – the community of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish. … As we gather to celebrate the Eucharist – the power and presence of God that is the heart of our faith – may our prayer be one of gratitude and hope: gratitude for all that has been and hope for what will be through the grace and goodness of God.