A Church Fully Alive April 19, 2024

This year’s Easter Vigil was an extraordinary liturgy! The Basilica was magnificently decorated and the music and liturgy were sublime. Thanks to all of our volunteers and staff who decorated the church and served at the various liturgies. In my homily, I noted that all the symbols that we see and experience during Easter communicate new life in Christ – the water, the Easter candle, the Alleluia, the white vestments, and the flowers and ferns.

Six adults and one child were baptized at the Easter Vigil, and you could see on their faces both a look of awe and deep joy. A few of our newly baptized – neophytes is their proper liturgical name – provided a moving reflection of their experience of baptism to their fellow OCIA members and sponsors. What they experienced at the Easter Vigil was the real and transformative grace of God poured forth through the Holy Spirit and God’s risen Son. Archbishop Hebda preached a beautiful Easter homily to a packed Basilica on Easter Sunday morning. In his homily, he remarked that the empty tomb was a game changer for Jesus’s disciples and exhorted all of us to be joyful witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus, like Mary Magdalene.

One of my favorite aspects of the Easter Season is the opportunity to delve deeply into Luke’s Acts of the Apostles – here we encounter great characters, miraculous events, and a transformed Church preaching boldly the good news that Jesus Christ is risen – he is risen indeed! In the Acts of the Apostles, we encounter a Church fully alive! In the first reading for today’s liturgy, we are told that Peter was filled with Holy Spirit and boldly asserts that they are preaching in the name of Jesus the Nazorean who was crucified and raised from the dead – the stone that was rejected has now become the cornerstone. Peter who denied Jesus on the day before he died and then abandoned him as he went to the cross, has been transformed, he is now a new man relying on the power of the Spirit. Not just Peter, but all the disciples are alive with God’s power and grace. In fact, it is interesting to see in the Acts of the Apostles that the disciples are doing the very same things that Jesus did during his earthly ministry: preaching, teaching, healing, forgiving sins, advocating for and serving the poor, and suffering persecution for the sake of the Gospel.

Like the early Church, we are also called to continue the saving work of Jesus, until he comes again. Like Jesus’s first disciples, we must be open to the healing balm of Jesus and the transformative power of the Spirit. All of us are in need of healing and restoration. The outstretched hand of the risen Christ awaits us. Good things happen when we experience healing and restoration – there are positive ripple effects that go out to transform our families, relationships, and communities.

Here at The Basilica, we have seen positive sings of new life and renewal. More and more people are coming to Mass, but we are not near the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. Parish leaders have come to consensus that more intentional engagement is needed for all of our members from all generations and also engagement with those outside of The Basilica community. Parish leaders are preparing for a new strategic plan that will carry us through the next several months as a community. We are also guided by the numerous listening sessions that occurred last year which will help in discerning necessary dimensions of our next strategic plan. As we seek the restoration of our historic church in the coming years and the attendant renewal of our parish, I pray that we will be a parish community fully alive.

There are good signs that the we are moving in the right direction on many fronts. Vital programming and beautiful liturgies abound and I remain impressed with the talent, level of commitment, and love for The Basilica by many of our parishioners and friends. The Block Party is back – the Golf Tournament is back – there have been many engagement and arts events that are gathering a diverse array of parishioners and friends. Last year’s Spark event was the most successful ever and this year’s Spark event is shaping up to also be a grand event which will raise needed funds to help preserve our Basilica. Please join us May 17as we celebrate our community and our historic landmark.

In all of the work that lies ahead to restore our church and renew our parish, it is essential that we intentionally listen to and follow the voice of the Good Shepherd and open ourselves to the wisdom and power of the Spirit. So too, we would do well to ask for the efficacious intercession of our patron, Saint Mary, as we yearn to become a community of faith fully alive.