Homily on the First Anniversary of the Dedication of the Parochial Church
The hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth (Jn 4:23)
“O God, who year by year renews for us the day when this your holy temple was consecrated, hear the prayers of your people and grant that in this place for you may always be pure worship and for us, fullness of redemption. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. R. Amen.”
That is the Collect of the Mass on the anniversary of the dedication of a parochial church. The prayer sums it all up: our church is built and dedicated as a heart of our community of faith where pure worship is due to God and the fullness of the Lord’s redemption is ours. On this occasion, let us reflect on the meaning of “pure worship” due to the Lord, and from this worship the Lord will call us to be His people. Let us start with the Gospel passage:
This Gospel passage is part of the famous Discourse of Jesus with the Samaritan Woman at the Well (Jn. 4:5-42). We often hear this entire discourse on the 3rd Sunday of Lent in the Year A cycle of the reading or when the parish celebrates the first scrutiny for the elect who are awaiting the water of baptism. The entire long discourse can be divided into three parts: the Living Water, the proper place of worship, and the acceptance of Jesus. No surprise that the Holy Mother Church presents to us the middle part of this long discourse for our meditation on the anniversary of the dedication of this parochial church (Jn 4: 19-24).
There was a long history of animosity between Jews and Samaritans which adds to their disagreement on the place of worship. Although the Biblical law prescribed a single place without naming it (Dt. 15:5-6), the Jews believed that Jerusalem was this favored place, and they pointed to the prophetic tradition to substantiate their claim (cf Is 2:3; 24:23) while the Samaritans worshiped on Mount Gerizim, a magnificent elevation from which one could see both the Jordan River on the East and the Mediterranean Sea. In the Gospel proclamation today, Jesus shifts the discourse from the place to the manner of worship: “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.” These words are applicable to all of us here at St. John Paul II Parish. How they are so?
A year ago, our Bishop did to this building as King Solomon consecrated the temple to the Lord (1Kgs 8:22-23; 27-30). On this anniversary as a parish we must make a shift. We are no longer discussing how to physically construct God’s house, we are now called to be church. As St. Paul reminds us in the second reading today: “You are God’s building . . . Do you know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you . . . the temple of God, which you are, is holy” (1Cor 3:16-17). Our church was built and dedicated so that many receive the grace of Sacraments from this holy temple. The grace of the Sacraments is the way that we can say God the Father breaths the Spirit of Christ, His Son, into us. So that sanctified by the Spirit, we are to be church and have the right manner of worshiping the Almighty God: “the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth.” That hour is now for us the people of St. John Paul II Parish!
Just like Jesus invited the Samaritan woman to shift the discussion, our parish is called to shift the approach in our mission as well. Little more than seven years ago, we opened the parish, so the focus of the past has been a calling by the Christ to congregate. This entire process culminated in the construction of this God’s house. Now more than ever, our focus is to be the hands and feet of Christ to our city, neighborhood, and the world which all are needed to be enlighten by the love of the Lord. This shifting of approach in our mission helps us to remain center on Christ, the Capstone of our faith (cf. Eph. 2:20).
At this unprecedented time, we must make a shift. Regardless of your opinion on COVID-19, one thing we agree: this has disrupted our lives. As the world emerges out of this situation, healing is needed. At this anniversary of our church’s dedication, each of us must ask this question: how can I be church to my neighborhood? How can I bring the healing rays that flowed from the pierced side of Jesus as he hung upon the Cross? May this anniversary renew our “worship of the Father in Spirit and truth!” Amen.
Scriptural Readings: Reading 11 Kgs 8:; Resp22-23, 27-30; Responsorial Psalm PS 84:3, 4, 5 and 10, 11; Reading 2 1 Cor 3:9c-11,16-17; Alleluia Is 66:1; Gospel Jn 4:19-24