Full text of Bishop Tylka’s homily at dedication of St. Jude Church, Peoria
EDITOR’S NOTE: Following is a transcript of the homily by Bishop Louis Tylka at the Dedication Mass for the new St. Jude Church in Peoria. The Mass was celebrated on the evening of Nov. 29, and our story is found here.
This is awesome!
Take a moment and look around. Look what has been created. Look at these walls. The Stations of the Cross. The altar. This wonderful mural of Pentecost. Take it in. See how wonderful it is. Think of all that will happen here. From this night on, this church will be a place to encounter Christ Jesus.
I want to take a moment as I begin to congratulate Father Pat Henehan, pastor, who led this community in building this church. Job well done, Pat. (Applause.)
As this process was underway and I was new to the diocese, it so happened that Pat was coming to the pastoral center for a meeting with the liturgical committee and the building committee about building this. I was at a meeting earlier in the day and found out that was going to happen, and so out of my curiosity I showed up at the meeting. Father Pat wasn’t too pleased that the new bishop was there, especially as I started to ask lots of questions!
I know that he would not take all the credit himself and he had many people help with this endeavor. I want to acknowledge you if you were part of the committee or helped raise the funds, if you contributed, if you were the folks who were designing or decorating or building. Job well done. Give yourself a round of applause.
It wasn’t too long ago that we had a groundbreaking ceremony to begin this effort. I think I’m the only bishop who used a backhoe of sorts to dig into the ground. Truthfully, they wouldn’t let me into the cab. I just had to stand on the tread and watch the shovel of dirt get knocked down.
But after many months and much hard work, here we are. Here we are in this beautiful church.
As we come together to dedicate this space, to consecrate it for use to encounter Jesus Christ, as much as we look around and see its beauty, as much as we understand all the work and effort that went into creating this space, I caution us to not get overwhelmed, or single-minded, in the fact that we built a church. Churches are important, but they only have purpose, they only have meaning, and their only true significance, is to proclaim Jesus Christ. Without what we do in this space being centered on Jesus Christ, truthfully we have no purpose in being here tonight. If it is not about our ability, like Peter’s ability in the Gospel, to proclaim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, then these are simply four walls. And if they’re simply four walls, we can knock them down.
If not for the encounter that is meant to happen each and every time someone walks into these doors, whether by themselves to simply kneel and pray in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, to gather, to initiate someone into the life of the church through the sacrament of baptism, to walk in to hear God’s merciful gift of forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation, if not to come in to be fed on the Bread of Life and the cup of salvation, if not to receive the gift of the Spirit to empower and equip us for a life of discipleship, if not to hear God’s call calling one to a sacrament of Holy Orders, of consecrated life, of Holy Matrimony, dedicating yourself to God, if not to be the place where those who are sick can be anointed with the healing touch of Jesus, and ultimately, to have their life celebrated as they go home to God . . . if not for all of that, then these are just four walls and let’s knock them down.
But the truth is, and the desire was in creating this space, is to say it is for all of that. It is for living as a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is for our confession of faith. It is to provide a space for that encounter that transforms our lives. That’s why we are here. That’s why this place has been built. And that is its purpose for the years to come.
We should take pride in all that work that went into here. We should be grateful for all the sacrifice that helped to bring it about. But we must remember that it is simply four walls unless we as the church come together and worship and praise and be fed and be nourished and instructed and encountered by the God who loves us. We cannot lose sight of that.
And on one hand, I would suggest that perhaps it would be a good idea to kind of blow out the walls. I know you don’t want to hear that, right? These walls cannot contain and hold back the purpose of why we are here. These walls must be opened to anyone who wants to encounter Jesus Christ. And it’s our responsibility, yours and mine, to go out into the world — having come into this space transformed by the encounter of Jesus — to invite others into the same relationship. We should never be satisfied thinking that we’ve done our job, now that we’ve built our church, because our church begins here, but goes out there into the world to proclaim our faith.
In the Gospel, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” We hear the great confession of Peter, “You are the Christ, son of the living God.” It’s our same question and our same response lived in discipleship. We hear in our second reading that it is Christ himself, the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord . . . into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
It’s all about Jesus. Not about us. And this mural behind us, this mural of Pentecost, should be a constant reminder to everyone who comes to this place of what it is about. To see Jesus, to learn from Jesus, to be fed by Jesus, and then by His Spirit, sent out, so that the world can know Jesus as well.
This is awesome. What a great joy. What an amazing job that has brought us to this place. But tonight would be empty, and we would lose our purpose and meaning, if we lose sight of Jesus. He is the capstone. He is the one that calls us to follow him, to be his disciple, to change the world. And we change the world by changing our own hearts and our own minds. And this space will be a place where many lives are changed, because here we will always remember that it is about Jesus, and allow him to do the necessary work in making us his disciples.