The following is the homily delivered by Bishop Cunningham at
the closing Mass at Holy Trinity Church, Syracuse, NY on February 14, 2010.
A careful reading of the New Testament shows us that there are two instances in the life of our Lord when He cried. One was over the city of Jerusalem when the people of the city forgot that they were God’s specially chosen people and began to live lives not in keeping with that high calling. The other occasion was at the death of his good friend Lazarus. Today we join our tears to those of our Lord as we mourn the passing of something that is near and dear to us. Our faith, however, teaches us that no matter the cause of our sadness there is always a new day, a brighter day. The sorrow that engulfs the Church on Good Friday gives rise to the glories of Easter Sunday. Mourning gives way to new life.
A closing causes pain and suffering. But people are good and they re-invest. The Paschal Mystery involves dying and rising. Even in darkness and closures, people find new life and new ministries. In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah reminds us that God has plans for us, plans for happiness, not for woe. And in our first reading today the same prophet Jeremiah tells us clearly: “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.”
Today we gather in faith and friendship to celebrate the rich history of Holy Trinity parish. Founded as the third German parish in the city of Syracuse in 1890, it was a haven for newly-arrived immigrants. Throughout its history it served not only people from Germany, but also people from many nationalities and all walks of life.
Holy Trinity has been a place where all could find a home and all could approach the Lord. It has been the House of God and the Gate of Heaven for generations who have gone before us. Its beautiful traditions and most especially the “living stones” that comprise this building, you and all the parishioners who have gone before you, are a source of justifiable pride. Our primary sentiments, therefore, must be ones of praise and thanks to God for all that He has done for us and all that He has given us through this blessed parish. This church building holds rich memories for all who have worshiped here.
Just as we mourn when a much loved and venerated member of our family is called home to God, we mourn today. But we rejoice, too, for the blessings and graces that have emanated from this parish.
We remember with gratitude in a special way the priests and the women and men religious whose faith was nourished within these walls and have taken the Gospel to other parishes and other areas – both within and outside our diocese.
We pray that all of us will be true to what Holy Trinity parish taught us: a deep love of God, a concern for fellow human beings, and love and loyalty for the Church which our Lord established and which has nurtured and nourished us for so many years. Through the death of a parish we can see the life of the Church: large, bright and God-given.
The best made plans, events, and life itself can sometimes get turned upside down. St. Luke’s gospel this morning clearly shows us this. The unexpected, the poor, the hungry, those who weep, those who are persecuted are the ones who will ultimately rejoice.
As a seminary student I was impressed with the writings of Cardinal Henri de Lubac who spoke so lovingly of the Church as our mother. He noted the gift of those who learned from their mothers in early childhood to regard the Church as a mother! He reminded us, too, that despite her faults and her failings the Church always remains the “Mother of love at its most lovely, of healthy fear, of divine knowledge and holy hope. Without her our thoughts are diffuse and hazy; but she gathers it together into a firm unity.” Yes, even in our sadness if we remember that the Church “is the holy Mother, the unique Mother, the immaculate Mother, the great Mother, the holy Church, the true Eve, the sole true Mother of all living” then Holy Trinity parish will have fulfilled its mission. You will be true to this parish if you remember the lessons learned here and recall them each and every time you pray, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham
Bishop of Syracuse
(If you have a request for Bishop Cunningham’s prayer list, please send it to him at P.O. Box 501, Syracuse, N.Y. 13201.)