24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
50th Anniversary of the Dedication of St. Ann Church
September 11, 2021
20th Anniversary of 9/11
As we mark the 50th anniversary of St. Ann Parish, our spirit of joy and thanksgiving is tempered by the remembrance of what transpired in our country, twenty years ago today, the infamous 9/11. Many of us can remember where we were and what we doing when news broke of planes crashing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the further attempt against our Capital, foiled by courageous passengers in PA. The violent images of that day linger in our consciousness, the mourning for victims is embedded in our hearts, and the courage of first responders and many others continues to inspire us. We remember also the spirit of solidarity that, for a time, prevailed in our country, even as many turned to the Lord and to their churches for solace and understanding.
As we mark this somber anniversary, let us join in begging the Prince of Peace to ease the sufferings of the injured, to comfort the bereft, and to grant us the wisdom and resolve to create a world more just and peaceful, a world penetrated by God’s Kingdom of truth, life, and love. This is also a good occasion to pray for an end to the rancor and division that continues to beset our society in the two decades following 9/11.
The Mission of St. Ann Parish and Its Continuance
As we shall see momentarily, my opening comments regarding 9/11 may apply also to the anniversary we are celebrating here this evening, the 50th Anniversary of the dedication of St. Ann Church on September 13th, 1970. On this occasion we quite naturally recall those whose foresight and generosity made possible the establishment of this parish, and whose creative talents and skills brought this church into being: Cardinal Shehan, the 12th Archbishop of Baltimore, Bishop Francis Murphy, Father Dolan, your first pastor, the original lay corporators and parish council, and, above all, the hundreds of faithful and generous families who came together to make St. Ann’s Parish an enduring spiritual home. We think too of subsequent pastors, including and especially Msgr. Bruce Jarboe, as also priests, deacons, religious, and lay leaders, coupled with generations of Catholic families and individuals, who have carried out the mission of St. Ann Parish thru the years, viz., and I quote: “a welcoming Catholic community that loves God, forms disciples, serves others, and changes lives.” (St. Ann Mission Statement)
Indeed, on this anniversary we recognize that now it is our time, it is our day to unite in accomplishing the mission of this parish, in union with the whole Church. We strive in God’s grace to fulfill that mission in a world filled with God’s blessings, and in a society blessed with many good-hearted and talented people – yet also a world and a society that is torn by violence, greed, selfishness, and anger, indeed a world and a society that is increasingly forgetful of God and ready to go it alone, without the support of faith communities such as this one.
As we look to the future of the Parish of St. Ann, we might ask ourselves the same question that Pope St. John Paul II asked at the beginning of his pontificate: Surveying the events of his day, both in the Church and in the world, he asked, “How, in what manner should we continue?” And so, we ask: ‘How should we continue our to accomplish our mission as a Catholic community that loves God, forms disciples, serves others, and changes lives, indeed, a parish community that is a field hospital in a wounded world? Our answer must be the same as the answer proclaimed by John Paul II ‘Our spirit is set in one direction, the only direction for our intellect, will, and heart is— towards Christ our Redeemer, Christ the Redeemer of the human race’ (cf. RH, 7). The Pope’s answer and ours originates in Peter’s confession of faith in today’s Gospel: “You are the Christ,” Simon Peter said, “the Son of the living God!” (Mt. 16:16) Or, as St. Peter was to say to Jesus many rejected the Bread of Life discourse, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!” (John 6:68) And yet again, “There is no salvation in anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (AA 4:12).
Christ Is All in All
Christ, then, is the fulfillment of the mission you have identified as a parish family. It is in Christ and through Christ that we can truly say that we love God, for Christ is “the revelation of the Father’s love” and by his redeeming, reconciling love, it is he who destroys our sins, those sins which can cancel out God’s love in our hearts, those sins which are obstacles to God’s love finding a home in us as individuals and as a community.
Christ must be at the center of our lives if we would be disciples who form disciples. For, discipleship means following of Christ to the point of being like Christ because we participate, share in his life and teaching, his sacrificial love, his victory. As Pope Francis, quoting Pope Benedict XVI, has said, “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (cf. DCE; EG). It is in the Eucharist that we encounter Christ most profoundly, and because we receive Christ we must be ready to follow Christ and bear witness to him!
It is in Christ and through his love that we find the strength to love others. If we rely merely on our goodwill or on our well-laid plans, we are bound to falter. Only Christ teaches us what it means to love selflessly and inexhaustibly, to love when love is not returned and to forgive when hearts are hardened. It is the Holy Spirit, who gives us the eyes to see Jesus in the faces of the poor and the same Holy Spirit who gives us the strength and generosity serve Jesus in his many “distressing disguises” as St. Teresa of Calcutta said so profoundly. Thus do we acquire a faith that expresses itself in works of love! (cf. Jas 2:18)
Only in Christ are our lives transformed as well as the world around us. When, as a community of faith, Christ becomes at center of all we say and do, when we open ourselves to the transforming power of Word and Sacrament, then our lives are progressively changed and become ourselves agents of change – those who gently persuade others to address the wounds of their existence, those who help to construct a civilization of truth and love . . . a world built not on anger and division but on truth and love. This we must do, as individuals and as a community if we would honor the memory of those who died on 9/11 and the many others who have died because of human folly.
A Future Full of Hope
In spite of the challenges facing us as a Church and as a society, let us be full of hope. For at the heart of our lives, there exists a love— a love stronger than sin and more powerful than death–the crucified love of Jesus Christ. Let us then look ahead to the next fifty years of the life and mission of St. Ann Parish, asking our heavenly Redeemer to bless us and to keep us always in his love. Happy Anniversary!