Basilica of the Assumption (Grand “Re-Opening”)
I. Introduction: Signs of New Life
There are signs of new life all around us. Even here in downtown Baltimore, Nature is serving notice that a long and cold winter season is giving way to Spring.
After bidding farewell to the beloved Benedict XVI who proclaimed the faith with such beauty and depth, the Church rejoices in her new Holy Father, Pope Francis. Building on the teaching of Benedict XVI regarding the New Evangelization, Pope Francis has reached out in simplicity and love to a waiting world, signaling his desire that all of us would embrace and live the Gospel with fresh energy and join with him in bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ, crucified and Risen, to those who no longer practice their faith, to those who do yet believe, and especially to the poor and vulnerable, those at the margins of human society.
And there is yet another sign of new life – namely – this beautiful basilica which has been painstakingly restored to its original splendor. As most of you know, it was the vision and determination of Cardinal Keeler that made possible the restoration of this historic building in 2006. Unfortunately, this Basilica suffered further damage caused by an earthquake that took place in late August 2011. Led by Msgr. Valenzano, the Lewis Contractors, working with our Archdiocesan and Basilica team, has restored it once again, such that if its original architect, Benjamin Latrobe, were to walk in, he would rejoice to see his handiwork made new with resplendent glory.
II. The Reality of the Resurrection
Yes, the signs of new life are all around us. Yet, this Basilica, the first Cathedral in the United States, the cornerstone of which was laid by Archbishop John Carroll in 1806, is more than an historic monument that has been renovated.
Rather, in the earliest days of our Nation, this edifice was built as a witness to the Church’s faith in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. For well over 200 years, the Good News has been proclaimed within these walls, and from this Church the faith has spread through these United States. Within these walls, the Christ proclaimed in Scripture has come to dwell among us; our Redeemer has come to present to us in the power of the Holy Spirit His own presence, His saving Words and Deeds, so that we might share in them, make them our own, allow them to transform us, so that we might truly live as members of His Body, the Church. Here generations of Catholics have been baptized and confirmed; here they have received the crucified and risen Lord in Holy Communion; and have had their sins forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation; here at the end of their life’s journey, they have been commended to the Lord, the Resurrection and the Life.
One of those who involved in the restoration of this Basilica told me that studying this building, coming to know its history and purpose, helped to open his eyes to the truth and beauty of the faith and he was baptized. So I would say that these very stones cry out to us today: “The Lord is truly risen, alleluia! To him be glory and power, for all ages of eternity!”
III. What the Resurrection Means to Us
What should this mean for our lives? It is well and good to celebrate the return of spring, or the election of a Pope with an engaging style, or even the restoration of this beautiful and historic basilica. Yet the fresh hope and joy of these events will elude us unless we do the most basic thing of all on this Easter Sunday 2013 . . . --in faith to welcome the Risen Lord into our hearts; --in hope to make our relationship with the Risen the Lord the most important and fundamental relationship in our lives; --and in charity to resolve to listen to His Word, to worship him in His Church, so as to live as men and women who are the friends and disciples of the One who has truly conquered sin and death by dying and rising from the dead.
This is a day for us not only to celebrate with family and friends but indeed a day for each of us to look deeply into our hearts and to meditate on the very meaning of our lives. For all its ups and downs, its triumphs and tragedies, its successes and failures, we love life and we do all we can to prolong our existence. The thought of our sins and failings will ultimately define us and the thought that death will be the final word about our existence frightens us. The Son of God did not come into the world to wave a magic wand that would cause all sin, suffering, and death to disappear in an instant. Rather, He assumed our humanity, preached the Good News, cured the sick, and then underwent the one experience that epitomizes our sinful alienation from God our Father, from one another, and from creation itself, viz., death. And having died, he rose from the dead in our humanity . . . a human body, a human soul, a human will . . .
The Son of God did not have to do this for himself or for His Father in heaven. No, He did it for us, He did it because He loves us. He has broken the power of sin and death, and he has given us that same power to overcome sin and death in our lives in the sacramental life of the Church, most especially Baptism and Holy Eucharist. This is where we encounter the Risen Life & begin to share the new life he won for us. This is where we receive the strength to renounce Satan, and to reject the emptiness and destructiveness of sin and instead embrace a life of discipleship, a life of worship, a life of integrity and joy. Encountering the Risen Lord in Scripture and in the Eucharist week after week, truly we say that we “believe in . . . the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting!”
IV. The Day the Lord Has Made
So on this Easter Sunday, let us open the doors of our hearts to the Lord. Let us invite the Lord into that inner temple of our consciences, and there allow him to repair whatever damage has been caused by the recurring earthquakes of sin, of selfishness, and discord. Let us invite him not only to make external repairs but to put the steel of supernatural virtue so as to reinforce a structure that is mean to stand not for centuries but for all eternity. Let us then invite the Lord to adorn our soul, our inward temple with His grace, to make it bright and beautiful with very own holiness – the glory of the Word made flesh, who made his dwelling among us, “the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Truly, dear friends, this is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad! Alleluia!