Thursday, April 05, 2007

Bishop Patrick J. McGrath's End of the Jubilee Year Homily

On Saturday, March 17, 2007, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath called the Diocese of San Jose together to conclude it's 25th anniversary Jubilee Year. (Click here for more information on the events that took place during the Jubilee Year.) Below is the text of the homily he gave at the concluding Mass.

Click here to watch a 17 minute video of the homily (Windows media player)

Homily for the Conclusion
of the Diocese of San Jose Jubilee Year
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph


2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16
Psalm 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29
Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22
Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a

The architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, was known to say, “First we form buildings; then they form us.”

Like the quiet but powerful presence of Joseph in the Gospels, this building named after him, this house for the Church of San José, has been quietly yet profoundly forming us throughout the years.

Look around at the walls, up near the ceiling. Written in Latin around this building are three Scripture passages about Saint Joseph. This building is teaching us something very powerful about our faith.

On the north wall (sacristy side, starting over the choir loft) is an inscription from the Gospel reading that was just proclaimed: “The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream: ‘Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.’ When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” (Mt 1: 20, 24)

This passage shows us Joseph’s gift of recognizing God speaking to him through his dreams. In our culture, dreams and visions are often dismissed as New Age spirituality or youthful but impractical idealism. Yet our Scriptures and this building are teaching us otherwise.

Now, there are two significant Josephs in Scripture, one from the Old Testament and the other from the New Testament, both relied on dreams which they interpreted as messages from God. Their dreams helped them point a new way for themselves or their family or for the leaders and the people of their land.

The Old Testament Joseph, the son of Jacob later named Israel, interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s household and came to be known as the master of dreams. His dreams and his ability to see God’s message in them not only saved his family but also the people of Egypt from starvation during a time of famine.

The New Testament Joseph, son of Jacob, descendent of David, and husband of Mary, also heard God in his dreams. Joseph’s dreams gave him courage in times of doubt. The message he receives in today’s Gospel is “Do not be afraid.” That is, do not be afraid to take a risk. Do not be afraid to embrace what you do not understand. Do not be afraid to invite into your home those whom society rejects—by law, Mary should have been stoned for being pregnant before living with her husband. But Joseph’s dream tells him to have the courage to show mercy and to do God’s justice.

Behind me, the text on the east wall (over the Blessed Sacrament chapel) comes from a later passage in Matthew’s Gospel: “’Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.’ Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.” (Mt 2: 13-14)

In this inscription, we see Joseph not only as a person of dreams but also one who takes action and leads his family to safety. Here again, he has just received a message from God in a dream: “Take the child and his mother and go to Egypt.” Joseph, being a responsible husband, probably already had plans for his home and where his son would grow up. Egypt was likely not part of those plans. For Egypt was where the Old Testament Joseph was sold into servitude and jailed. More importantly, it was where the people of Israel lived in slavery until their exodus led by Moses. In other words, Joseph was being told not only to change his plans but to go where his ancestors had suffered. Yet without hesitation, in the middle of the night, Joseph follows the message of this urgent dream.

What we learn here from Joseph and from this building is that following your dreams may change your plans. It could wreck your day!! It may lead you where you never imagined, into places where you would rather not go. But like the first Joseph, Pharaoh’s interpreter of dreams, and like the second Joseph, protector of his family, we see that following your dreams also leads to freedom. Dreams remain only dreams unless someone acts and takes the lead.

Finally, on the south wall (choir side, starting over Our Lady of Guadalupe) we read from Luke’s Gospel: “Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.’ Jesus went with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. And Jesus was the son of Joseph.” (Lk 2:48-51, 3:23)

In this third inscription, we see Joseph in a more ordinary light. Jesus is missing, and his parents are anxious. Joseph, like many fathers, lets the child’s mother do the scolding. But he calls the child to obedience, teaching him by his own daily example of obedience to God’s word. Ordinary Joseph raises an extraordinary son just by doing all the ordinary things that parents do with their children—teaching them to follow their dreams, showing them how to listen for God’s hidden voice, getting lost and being found, living each day with joy.

What Joseph and this building are teaching is that dreams and visions are important. Dreams give us hope and courage; visions give us direction.

The first point in our diocese’s vision statement found in the pastoral plan is this: “Let us be a Church unafraid to dream.”

And so, what then is this diocese’s dream for the future? What kind of future do we want to embrace?

Throughout this Jubilee Year, I have visited every one of our 52 parishes and missions and our schools. I have seen the overwhelming hunger for justice that many in our faith communities have demonstrated. I have seen countless persons stepping forward to lead their communities in various ministries and works. And I have witnessed the untiring commitment of parents, grandparents, teachers, and mentors for our youth and young adults.

One year ago this weekend, we gathered in this church and looked back at the first twenty-five years of our history as a diocese. But if we are to be a church unafraid to dream, we must now look forward. And in particular, we must look to those who are the holders of our dreams today—our youth and our young adults.

You who are our young church today, I ask you to listen to your dreams, especially your dreams for this Church of San José, for God is speaking to you now. You are our prophets calling the church to truth, accountability, and courage in a culture of violence (From Age to Age: The Challenge of Worship with Adolescents). You are our leaders today and our leaders tomorrow showing us the way to freedom. Some of you are already parents yourselves, teaching your children the faith, just like Joseph. All of you are companions for/to your contemporaries, helping them listen to God’s voice, encouraging them to not be afraid, and strengthening them with your own example.

Continue then to be our dreamers and visionaries. Help us not be afraid to leave our plans behind and go a different way. Show us how to see God in the ordinary events of each day. This church and the next twenty-five years of its history, its dreams and visions, are rightfully yours. I pray that you will continue to help us make the dream of this, your church, a reality.

In return I pledge to do the same: I pledge to be unafraid to dream with you.

  • I dream with you of a church that welcomes all persons: the young and the old, the gay and the straight, the native and the immigrant, the sinner and the saint, the poor and the despised.


  • I dream with you of a church that embraces the crying infant and the autistic child, the disabled and the mentally challenged, the elderly and the unborn; a church that honors single persons and those seeking meaningful relationships; a church that acknowledges the presence of God in those who are married, divorced, or remarried, those who have left their vocation and those struggling to remain faithful; a church that claims its faults, asks forgiveness, and rights relationships it has wronged.


  • I dream with you that poverty in Santa Clara County, through the work of Catholic Charities and their supporters, will be cut in half by the year 2020.


  • I dream with you that homelessness will be eradicated by providing high-quality, affordable housing.


  • I dream with you that no elderly persons will spend their days alone and neglected.


  • I dream with you that every child, regardless of language, income, or status, will learn not only how to read but how to succeed and thrive in this community.


  • I dream with you of a church in which the wisdom of both women and men, whether lay persons or ordained, whether young in age or young in heart, are called forth, honored, and reverenced; a church that is irresistible because of the joy, laughter, and love its members share.


  • I dream with you of a church, a people, that judges the authenticity of its worship by the concern it shows for the poor; a church that preaches not abstract theology, but uses the homily to interpret the lives of the assembly through the Word of God proclaimed in its midst; a people that shows compassion in other’s misfortune and courage in their own; church that knows its priorities—persons over things, truth over expediency, love over all else.

Every time we gather in this church, around this altar, we are formed by the dreams held by these walls, painted on wood and plaster and written on the hearts of all who have worshipped here. With every Eucharistic prayer spoken and nourished by the body and blood of the Lord from this table, we dare to dream together of a world united as the one Body of Christ. We dare to become the church God dreams us to be.

This morning, we gather in the shadow of our jubilee cross, which has traveled this year to every parish and mission of this Diocese. Christ leads us always, and it is more than symbolism that on this cross, the 52 parish and mission tiles are so closely bound to Christ, the crucified and risen Lord. May this cross remind us always of our bond to one another and to him.

So let us give praise for what has been and for what dreams may come in these next twenty-five years, and together may we act boldly and with courage for the Gospel and follow in the footsteps of Joseph our patron, interpreter, master, and lover of dreams.


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