One of the most exciting things to happen in our parish while I’ve been here is our dream sessions. I was encouraged and moved by the number of parishioners that gathered together to help us articulate what our dream is for this parish. I wonder what might have happened if St. Luke had wandered in to one of those meetings? Would he have read out the selection from Acts that Tim proclaimed? Because here we have a description of an idyllic church, right after Pentecost has sprung itself on the small band of nascent Christ-followers. This is an image of Church that draws on all kinds of dreams Luke’s contemporaries in different philosophical circles had expressed for the ideal society, and he paints a picture of this community restored by Christ through the Spirit and says: here it is, it’s possible and Christ did it. Strife, dissension, marginalization and persecution would all come, and he won’t whitewash those away, but for a brilliant brief while Christ made us truly live as Church.
It’s a devoted community: a community that was devoted to the teaching of the apostles, delighting to hear Jesus’ voice re-echo through those he had left behind to teach, a community in which miraculous things happened. It was a community which lived in harmony and unity, bearing each other’s burdens, leaning on each other and acting self-sacrificially with their possessions to meet real needs and in thus encountered their Lord who had loved them to the end in perfect sacrifice. It was a community that encountered Him again in the breaking of the bread, and that was bold and persistent in approaching him in prayer. It was a community that enjoyed favor with all the people; that was a beacon in their neighborhood.
I find that here. I find that here in our Mass, where we hear the apostles’ words, share our possessions in the offertory, break the bread and offer our prayer. And in all that, I find Christ in this place. And from our liturgy flows the rest of our life together where I continue to find that. I find people excited about teaching and learning, who share their food with the needy, break bread in soup suppers and lift each other up in prayer. My dream is to find that more fully, to be more profoundly that idyll of Church done right. I am humbled and delighted to be called upon to offer the beginning of my ordained priesthood to serve you, the baptismal priesthood of this parish, as we seek together to be Church on the corner of Wilber and Vassar and of Brookfield and Florence.
How about John? What if he had wandered in to one of our dream sessions? Might he have told the story from his gospel that Fr. Brian proclaimed? Because that’s a story of Church too. It’s a very different type of image than what we read from Acts, not description of the habitual patterns of grace, but of a pair of brilliant singular encounters with the divine. It’s a community that gathers on Sunday. They gather fearful, but in their midst they find their Risen Lord who shares with them his peace, entrusts them with mission of forgiving sin and breathes the Spirit upon them, re-creating them with the messy intimacy of the God who first breathed His own life into us through our nostrils. It’s followed by a story of a man who has constructed his own set of criteria for faith in Christ and receives an invitation from the God-man who has accepted vulnerability, receives an invitation to enter deeper, and is dared to have faith. He responds with adoration.
I find that here. I find that here in our Mass and our practice of baptism, reconciliation and our confirmation. Our sacramental practice flows into our common life and I find that whenever we risk sharing in Christ’s vulnerability and invite someone to dare to trust, to have faith, to “come and see.” I find that in our adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and our encounter of Christ in the poor served. My dream is to find that more fully, to be more profoundly a place of daringly peaceful encounter with Christ, where we’re vulnerable enough to forgiven and be forgiven. I am humbled and delighted to offer the beginning of my ordained priesthood to serve you, the baptized priesthood of this parish, as we seek together to be Church on the corner of Brookfield and Florence and of Wilber and Vassar.
Because those corners need us to be that. As our “Joy of the Gospel”groups have read together: “The Church is sent by Jesus Christ as the sacrament of salvation offered by God.” The world needs the Light that Christ is to shine through his Church, because there’s so much darkness that he longs to illumine. We must break bread to remain connected to the God who let Himself be broken for us. That’s the love we encounter, who comes into our midst here, and begs us to make that known: a love that would break for us, that would accept wound for us, that would be pierced by sin and return nothing but love, forgiveness, peace. A love whose spirit inhabits and animates us, comforts us, quells our fear, invites and dares us to join him, to be close to him, to held by that loving wounded hand as it extends in risky loving encounter, to be that beacon.
My ordination yesterday was a moment of profound self-gift, but not mine. God claimed me in baptism, and I gave myself to Him through my perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in the Congregation of Holy Cross back in September. Yesterday, God gave His very self, to you, his holy people, through me. That’s the kind of self-gift priesthood is. It’s God’s. It lets me break the bread for us. But it’s Christ who loved us enough to break for us. That’s my dream: to be able to help the world see that in us.
Rev. Adam Booth, C.S.C., was ordained on Sept. 26, 2014, at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. He gave this homily during his first Mass on April 27, 2014, at Holy Cross Parish, South Bend, Ind., where he is serving.