Homily for the Blessing of the Church

Cistercian Monastery of Kunnambetta, Kerala, India

May 10, 2011

Neh 8, 4a, 5-6, 8-10, 15; Eph 2, 19-22; Mt 16, 13-19. 


Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

          The building that we call a Christian “church” is the House of the People of God.  It is the place where the People of God meets in order to sing the glory of God, to pray, and to celebrate the Eucharist in memory of Jesus Christ.  Because Jesus promised that wherever two or three would gather in His name, he is there, in the midst of them – because of this, a Christian Church is also the House of God, that is the house where God meets His people. 

          There is therefore a great difference between a Christian church and the Temple of the Old Testament, which was conceived first of all as the residing place of the Glory of God, where people would come, fearing and trembling, to meet God. From the moment that God became man in Jesus Christ, the Temple has been replaced by Jesus Himself.  He is the new Temple of the New Jerusalem.  In Him resides the fullness of the divinity.  And, since his death and resurrection he is present in the community of those who believe in Him.  Where that community meets, there He is. 

          In the Gospel narrative that we just read, we heard Jesus asking his Disciples : “who do you say that I am?  And then we heard Peter saying, in the name of all the other Disciples: “Yu are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”.  Then Jesus said to Peter: “You are ‘rock’; and on this rock I will build my Church”.  The “rock” about which Jesus speaks is not simply Peter’s individual person;  it is his faith, a faith received through a revelation from the Father.  That faith, he shares it with all the other Disciples, and he expresses it in their name.  The community of those who believe in Jesus Christ is the People of God that meets in all the buildings around the world, that we call a church.  Today, here, we are this People of God. 

          This church, this building where we are united and that will be blessed in a few moments by the authority of the diocese is a house of God, because it is a place where a small community of believers, a small community of Sisters, will meet several times a day, and even at night, to pray God and to sing His praise. 

          This church is, as you can see, part of a larger building, that we call a monastery, and that will also be blessed and officially inaugurated today.  The monastery is the place where the community of Sisters will live permanently, in an atmosphere of solitude and silence leading to a constant communion with God. That communion with God will express itself in a communion among the Sisters leading together the normal occupations of human life : working together, eating together, learning about God together and also, of course, praying together. 

          A Christian community that is authentic cannot be closed on itself.  Therefore, when the Sisters will pray in this church, the door will be open to all those who want to share in their prayer, or simply to be there in silence and communion. In their prayer the Sisters will share all your joys and sorrows, and they will present to God your needs and your thanksgivings. 

          In a short period of time – less than two years – bonds of love and fraternity have been established between this community and the local parishes, as well as with the neighbors, whether they are themselves also Christian or serve God according to other faiths and traditions.  Those bonds of love have been manifested during the last few days by the help many of you have brought to the Sisters to make sure the place would be ready for today’s blessing.  They are very grateful to you all. 

          All of us here this morning form a large celebrating community, representing many vocations and many walks of life.  In our time when there is so much hate and war around the world, this fraternity is a blessing that certainly comes from God and must be fostered in the respect of each one’s own vocation.  After this day of celebration all of you will return to yours families or communities and your various vocations.  The Sisters will remain here, in a life of solitude and prayer, constantly making this place a House of God. 

          Let us continue our celebration in memory of Jesus Christ, that memorial transforming us into one large community of the children of God.