HOMILY FOR FIRST MASS IN THE CATHEDRAL AFTER RENOVATIONS
The Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, 5 August 2021
Welcome on an appropriate feast day
Welcome back, welcome home. Today we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. It is the oldest church in the West dedicated to Our Lady. So it is an appropriate day on which to return to our beautifully refurbished Cathedral which is also dedicated to Our Lady – the Cathedral of the Assumption.
There will be other opportunities to thank all who have made this possible – yourselves for your extraordinary generosity. In this you have expressed in a very significant way your faith in God and your faith in Jesus Christ which have inspired you to donate so willingly. To Fr. Pat, the Administrator, for the careful way in which he has monitored and overseen the whole project, and to Fr. Seán. To the Finance Committee and the Pastoral Council and all who supported and worked here on this beautiful refurbishment.
The Church: always a people before it is a building
In today’s gospel Jesus asks His disciples a very searching question: “Who do you say I am?” That very same question is also addressed to each one of us today. Peter responding on behalf of the others says, “You are the Christ the Son of the living God.” Jesus reminds us that His Church is built on the rock of Peter’s faith – “on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. While we rejoice today in this most impressive Cathedral with its sense of the sacred and its long and impressive tradition, we know that the Church is always a people before it is a building. As a people dedicated to God and as followers of Jesus Christ we have been through tough times from opposition both from within and outside the Church, yet our faith is rooted in the promise of Jesus to be with us and support us as Church, and we celebrate that here in the various parochial and diocesan liturgies.
Rock and pebble
You will notice in today’s gospel when Jesus tells His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and must suffer and die, Peter tries to prevent Him. Jesus reminds Peter that he is becoming a ‘stumbling block’ – “Get behind me, Satan. You are an obstacle – stumbling block – to me”. In the original Greek, the word is a Skandalon – which means a little pebble which could trip you up as you walk along. You see the irony in this. Peter the ‘Rock’ now becomes a little stone or pebble that could trip others up. In our situation, each of us can be a rock of support to others as they struggle to follow Christ or we can be an obstacle, a stumbling block to others in their lives and in their faith journey.
Our Cathedral: drawing us to Christ
We pray that our beautiful Cathedral, in the words of the 2012 Eucharistic Congress, will be a powerful influence in drawing us into “communion with Christ and one another“.