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Mass of Dedication

Corpus Christi Church, Edmonton

Solemnity of St. Joseph
March 19, 2016

As we gather this morning for the dedication of this church, one word comes to mind: finally! This day has been long awaited, and I find myself looking back in my mind to all that has brought us to this moment. The last time I was here Fr Joseph and Fr Jim presented me with a new mitre - they called it a hard hat- which I had to don, together with a special vest and protective boots, as I toured the site and saw the structure taking shape. I think back further to sitting in a backhoe to turn the first sod and send people running for cover as I put my hand to the controls. I can remember the meetings held in my office to consider plans, discuss vision, to review blueprints, and to wonder how we would ever pay for all of this - a question still lively in the mind of your pastor. You, too, I am sure, the people who have carried all of us to this moment, can remember the endless meetings called to imagine, design, furnish, and fundraise. Many present for this gathering can take their memories back even further to June 18, 2006, when then-Archbishop Collins announced the name of the parish, and perhaps also to November of 2000 when the Archdiocese purchased this plot of land. We gather in a church that has been 16 years in the making, and give thanks to God for inspiring the generosity and creativity that has brought us to this moment. Lots of plans, and now fulfillment.

When we hear God's Word addressed to us in this mass, our retrospective lengthens. Sacred Scripture reminds us that this building has, in fact, been in the planning and preparation stages from before time began, arising from the very heart of God. At the same time it teaches us something very important about what it means not to be in a church but to be the Church.  Being in this church is the result of our careful planning. Being the Church demands a readiness to put human plans aside and yield to the plans of God.

Consider the first reading. Through the prophet Nathan God is making a promise to King David. It is a promise to build a house. The king had been devising some plans of his own. He wanted to build a dwelling for God, a magnificent edifice of cedar to house the ark of the covenant. The blueprints were probably already taking shape in his mind when God said, Put your plans aside. I have plans of my own. In the passage we heard God say to David, it is I who shall build you a house. I will raise up from your descendants an heir, and he shall build a house for my name.

That prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and in his Church. Jesus is the promised descendant of King David. By his death, resurrection and gift of the Holy Spirit he has fashioned a people in whom God dwells, that is, the Church. The mortar uniting us as one is the gift of faith, by which we daily lay aside our own plans and surrender to God's purposes.

It is very fitting, then, that our celebration occurs on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph. The Church honours him as the just and righteous man who gave expression to his faith in God by putting aside his plans to adopt the plans of God. The Gospel narrative reminds us of his plan to dismiss Mary quietly after having learned that she was expecting a child and knowing he was not the father. That all changed when in a dream God's own plan for Mary and the child was revealed to him. The Gospel does not say that Joseph understood all this. What it does affirm is that he believed, he trusted the word spoken to him and he adopted God's plan as his own. 

St. Joseph models how we be the Church, grounded in faith. By faith we trust not in our thoughts but in God's Word, we rely not upon our capacity but on God's power, we place our hope not in our ability to complete a project but in God's fidelity to his promises. The pattern was established by Abraham. St Paul reminds us that when Abraham was very old and his wife Sarah far beyond childbearing years, God promised that from them he would raise up a multitude of nations. Abraham placed all his hope in God's promise to do the impossible, he hoped against hope, we are told, and on the basis of his faith in God looked forward in confidence to a future he could scarcely even imagine.

Here we meet another important difference between being in a church and being the Church. Being in this church today our thoughts went back in time to what we have done to get here. Being Church, however, our memory is always directed to what God has done for us in Christ. Moreover, by the act of faith retrospective becomes prospective as our gaze turns to the future. By remembering God's fidelity to all that he has promised us in Jesus Christ, we look forward in hope to the future God holds in store for us.

This does not mean, however, that we are somehow caught between past and future, unaware of what God asks of us in the present. On the contrary, the demands of being Church in the here and now are made very clear to us through that mystery in honour of which this parish is named: the mystery of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ, the mystery, that is, of the Eucharist. In this wondrous sacrament both past and future become present. The sacrifice that Christ offered once and for all upon the altar of the Cross is rendered present here on the altar we are about to consecrate. Since the real presence here of the Body and Blood of Christ is the presence of Him who now reigns at the right hand of the Father, the Eucharist unites heaven to earth and makes our earthly act of praise a participation even now in the heavenly liturgy that awaits us in the future. When past and future so unite in the celebration of the Eucharist, we know what our present must encompass. Laying aside our plans to adopt those of God, we offer our lives to the Father in and through Christ, and give expression to our self-sacrifice through daily works of mercy toward all in need. Drawn by the Spirit toward the Eucharist's heavenly culmination, we live each day as a people on pilgrimage, setting our hearts not on the passing things of this world but on the enduring things of God, placing all our hope not in human accomplishment but in divine fidelity.

Today we dedicate this church building to the glory of God. By God's grace and the intercession of St. Joseph, may we likewise dedicate ourselves every day and so live as members of the Church, the Body of Christ, the dwelling God planned from all eternity.

Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton
March 19, 2016
Solemnity of Saint Joseph.