‘It is good to be here!’

Bishop Raica blesses new chapel building

On March 5, Bishop Raica celebrated Mass at Resurrection Catholic Chapel in Moulton. During Mass, the bishop blessed the parish’s new building. The complete text of the bishop’s homily follows herein. Photographs courtesy of Resurrection Catholic Chapel.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, “How good it is to be here!” Yes, how good it is to be here! I thank Deacon Chenault and his team for their extraordinary pastoral zeal that has grown this rural parish. Through various methods of evangelization, you have invited people to come and see. What a joy it is for us to see a growing church / parish community. It speaks of the need and vitality of faith in the greater Moulton area.            

I also welcome Bishop Baker who has been watching the events here closely these past few years. In addition, I thank Father Merrell and many other priests, deacons, and women and men religious who have contributed to the mission effectiveness here and have been mindful that this local community become solid and vibrant witnesses of faith going forward.           

As parishes and mission churches outgrow their structures, it is good to provide an enlarged church. Pope Francis always talks about how important it is to “enlarge the tent.” Today, we celebrate your accomplishment of one of his dreams for the future of the Church. Today, we, like Peter, say, “How good it is for us to be here!” 

Providentially, the commemoration of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor is a fitting moment of celebration for us today. I can only imagine Jesus’ disciples, especially Peter, James, and John, who are trying to figure out who Jesus really is. He takes them up Mt. Tabor and is transfigured right before their eyes. It was something that struck them to the heart and captured their imaginations. This relationship with Jesus, as they knew him up to that moment, was not what it seems. Everything was different. Everything was new. They didn’t know how exactly to react. Peter says, “Let’s build three tents,” as if to say, “Lord, let’s stay here” – we have never seen anything like this before. The rest of the world could go on, but let’s just stay right here. Let’s keep having this experience. 

They also came to know Jesus as Someone very unique! They heard the “voice from Heaven” say, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him.” Was the voice a male voice – a tenor, baritone, or bass? How were they able to recognize it? It wasn’t Jesus’ voice – it was somehow different. Yet, it commanded attention and respect. It was the voice of “God” proclaiming “this is My beloved Son!” Already we know that Jesus and the Father had a very special relationship, one that is so intertwined with the other. Jesus is doing the Father’s will. And in time, they will begin to understand.

After a period of time, the extraordinary experience they had came to an end. They had to come down the mountain and return to normal life like everyone else. Try as they might, they couldn’t adequately explain what they had just encountered to others. No one would believe them! Yet it certainly informed them. 

We, too, often talk about mountain top experiences as being unique, special, significant moments in our lives. An event like this – the blessings of a new church facility – is one such mountain top experience where we gain a deeper understanding about ourselves, not merely as human beings, but true disciples of Christ! It’s like we’ve gone up the mountain today. Whenever we do, it is like getting a glimpse of “coming attractions!” Like all of us, after a short time, the experience falls off the horizon, and we settle back into our normal routine. But there must have been something that remained with them because this experience is recounted several times in the different Gospels. Even though they weren’t supposed to talk about it, how could they not cherish and treasure what had just occurred in the presence of this extraordinary man. 

Now, Jesus, perhaps because He wanted His closest collaborates to catch a glimpse of eternal glory and splendor, brought Peter, James and his brother John up that mountain where He was transfigured before them. It must have been such an experience that they would never forget it. It was such an experience that they couldn’t tell anyone, for no one would believe them. They carried it deep inside, and when the moment was right, they recounted it again so that it could be written in our Scriptures.

But one of the words that they would carry with them is rather simple and true for any disciple: “Listen to Him.” It can come to us in a variety of ways. Overall, it requires us to be open, ready, watching so we don’t miss it. Truly, His word changes lives. God’s word can chart a new direction and give us the grace to embolden us to be who we are supposed to become.

People of my generation may remember short wave radios and how hard they were to tune. But once you did you could hear channels from other countries. Now our computers and phones pick them all up. We had one radio channel when I was growing up on the AM dial. As kids we tried desperately to tune into other channels at night, when the signal was the clearest. We were lucky to pick up WLS in Chicago or WKNR in Detroit. In the UP we were very rural and tried to connect with the rest of the world.    

If we say we are disciples of Jesus, shouldn’t we try to connect with Him? What wavelength is He broadcasting on? The spiritual and corporal works of mercy give us a strong hint – so does the story of the Good Samaritan – in defining who our neighbor is! So, too, it is our spiritual reading, our prayer, our moment of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. It can be the treasure of the sacraments or the awareness of being alert to the indications of being good citizens and neighbors to each other.

We need the right channel so that we can hear clearly what the Lord is saying? I think often of the need we have today to be quiet – to quiet our hearts and our lives down. Perhaps that’s why some people truly enjoy eucharistic adoration or stopping by the parish for a 10-minute visit with our Lord. It’s a good part of our Catholic culture! It is a moment of quiet to pray, to speak, but also to listen for that word that will encourage us.  Every time we can say, like Peter, “Lord it is good that we are here!”

Today we have the challenge to listen but also, like Peter, James and John, not to remain in church – not to remain in our comfort zone, but to go out. Pope Francis talks about going “out to the peripheries,” even to the edge, the horizon - the place of questions and ambiguities and doubts where not everything is crystal clear. There we will find Jesus also waiting for us among His people whose lives are somewhat different yet where we live our lives sometimes, too.

We live in a world, or in a culture, where it is going to be necessary to know who we are and to Whom we belong. What remains amazing to me is something that the French writer Charles Peguy observed: “But Jesus came. He didn’t pass His years on earth whining and questioning the malice of the times. He went right to the point. In a very simple way. By creating Christianity.” 

My friends, we find this over and over in the Scriptures. As disciples, what made Christianity work was the new way that people lived. It required no federal, state, or local law to force it or guide it. It requires the exercise of one’s freedom to attach ourselves to the only One Who can give us this life – and a “life in abundance.” We will not necessarily be saved by a committee, saying the right words, living a perfectly upright life, but by a relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ. That life, lived in a full and complete way, is attractive because we see something and see more; we hear something and we hear more; we love something and we love more. Christianity is like that – the fulfillment of our desires to have a joy that is extraordinary and almost unbelievable that one cannot believe that this is possible. So, is it possible to live this way? Look at the saints and Peter, James, John, St. Paul: it sure is. In the uncertainty of our times, as Christians, we remain certain of this relationship with Christ and the decisions we make and live to demonstrate the wonder and love of Christ to all. It pulls us away from everything else.

As we bless this church, we echo the salient point: “It is good to be here!” With the proclamation of the Word of God, we also hear: “Listen to Him!” Here is the place – Resurrection Parish – to hear Him and proclaim Him alive: He is truly risen and among us today!

May Lent be for us a way forward in our journey as Christians to be people of joy and people of hope, especially in these uncertain times. May God bless you!