Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, Nov 14, 2010, The Whole Universe is Constantly Dying and Rising, Ken Hughes S.J

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Saint Mary of the Angels

  11/14/10

Ken Hughes, SJ

As you are very well aware, within the past decade, the Archdiocese of Boston has closed some 60 churches. The Boston Globe has documented persistently the pain of these church closings. We have to acknowledge that each church closed was not just the closing of a building; it was the ending of a story. Some stories went back a hundred years or more: stories of births and deaths, stories of first communions, confirmations, and weddings, stories of pastors and people, stories of joy, stories of sorrow. Most importantly, each church had been a home for God and a home for a community, a special place where God and community together celebrated those joys and embraced those sorrows.

We know that some church communities have persevered in vigils for many years to prevent that final locking of the door. Other communities, like St. Mary of the Angels, fought valiantly against all odds to stay open. Oh, we know that people are more important than places. We know that communities are more important than churches, but we need some structure for gathering and for sending forth. St. Mary of the Angels does both well. Here, at St. Mary’s, is the place where you gather as community. (And if you have been following the emails among the "Boyz of St. Mary’s," you realize that it takes between six months and a year for them to arrange a gathering at Doyle’s Pub, but the "Boyz of St. Mary’s" are right here every Sunday!) And here, at St. Mary’s, is the place where people are sent forth to witness to Christ by serving the wider troubled neighborhood. St. Mary’s remains open because it is a safe haven in this stormy area of Boston. And, if there were no gathering, there would be no sending.

At the same time, we know that we belong to a larger Church community, to the universal Church. We belong to a mystery greater than ourselves, greater than St. Mary of the Angels. And, perhaps, a day could come when, St. Mary of the Angels would have to die so as to enter some greater unfathomable mystery.

History ask us to remember: The First Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed 586 years before Christ by the Babylonians (current day Iraq.) It took some seventy-five years to build The Second Temple of today’s Gospel. And, as Jesus predicted, the Romans destroyed this Temple in 70 AD. And there is no Third Temple. Instead of a central temple of worship in Jerusalem, the Jewish people built smaller temples and synagogues all over the world in order to learn and practice their faith. The destruction of the Jerusalem Temple was not just an ending; it was also a new beginning.

In like manner, Jesus referred to his own body as a temple, a temple that also would be destroyed but this temple would be transformed, resurrected, and sent forth throughout the world as the life-giving Spirit. We know that Jesus’ death was not just an ending, but the beginning of new life bursting forth at Pentecost.

And we, too, are temples. St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians, asks: "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" Because Jesus died and rose, we now are the temple of God’s Spirit. Wherever Christians dwell, there dwells the Spirit of God. We bring and breathe God’s Spirit wherever we are, wherever we go.

But, someday our bodies, too, will die and then we will be drawn into the greater mystery of God. We tend to think of God as Spirit, somehow separate from the world, totally transcendent, but actually, the whole universe is the body of God. God indwells all of creation, forever breathing, transforming, re-fashioning. The whole universe is constantly dying and rising. Through our death, we become one with God and absorbed into the incomprehensible wonder of all creation.

That is why Jesus, in the face of betrayals and persecutions, in the presence of natural, even cosmic disasters, in the midst of unleashed violence, could, nevertheless, say: "Do not be afraid. Do not be terrified." "Give your testimony." "I myself shall give you a wisdom." In other words, trust, -- trust God, trust that what looks like disaster will lead to glory, trust that what looks like an end, is really a beginning. Trust that what looks like death is actually the threshold to the fullness of life.

That is why we Christians are a people of hope. We believe that God is leading us into the greater wonder of his Kingdom. The refrain from a hymn by Marty Haugen (based on Isaiah 64) expresses our hope and prayer well. He writes:

"Eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has ready for those who love Him;

Spirit of God, come give us the mind of Jesus, teach us the wisdom of God."

 

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