'Behold, Look, here God lives among us!'
In the 1960s in the United States a black American woman got on a bus, she immediately became aware of the haughty and superior stares of those around her, especially the woman she sat next to in the only empty seat. She continued to feel very uncomfortable as the woman next to her tried to edge away, she glanced sideways and could feel the haughty and cold look she was getting. Her name was Annabel.
Annabel began to hear a gentle voice saying to her, 'Annabel you are a child of God, Annabel, you have great dignity, you are a daughter of God,' she looked up again at the woman and again felt the frosty stare and again heard the voice say 'Annabel you are a child of God, you are the Temple of the Holy Spirit.' At this Annabel raised herself to her full height, dug the woman in the ribs, looked confidently at her and said 'I bet you don't know who you're sitting next to.'
A few weeks ago Bishop John sent the bishops a copy of 'A Suitable Temple ', the history of this Cathedral. I thoroughly enjoyed and very much appreciated Michael Hanrahan's work.
In his introduction he wrote: 'Most buildings leave some sort of lasting impression with visitors. In many cases the cause of this is some deep personal association. In others something about the place stirs the emotions. Some buildings give rise to feelings of spirituality. The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament is one such,'
he wrote about one architectural feature of this Cathedral which is paramount for him. It is the inscription on the frieze of the entablature:
'ECCE TABERNACULUM DEI CUM HOMINIBUS.'
'Behold, Look, here God lives among us!'
God lives in this temple, in this Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, and God lives in us. Like Annabel we too could rightly nudge others, hold ourselves upright, look confidently, knowing that we are temples of God, we are daughters and sons of God, people of incredible dignity.
Congratulations to you Bishop John and to all in the diocese of Chris tchurch as you celebrate and give thanks for this remarkable building, 100 years of prayer and worship, 100 of witnessing to the presence of God, 100 years of saying 'Behold, Look, here God lives among us!'
For 100 years thousands of people have looked at those words, many will have wondered what those words meant.
Michael Hanrahan asks: 'Was bishop Grimes making a statement to the wider community? ECCE Behold, Look! It is an imperative, a command to those who read it. Not 'Here is' as it is often translated today, but LOOK! This is the place where God is among us!'
This is most definitively a temple suitable for the worship of God, it's certainly the place where God lives among us˜˜however God lives among us in this temple, so that we can go out there and be the presence of God in our world. We, like Annabel, are able to confidently say to those around us 'I bet you don't know who you are sitting next to.' We become the presence of God, become Chris t's presence in the world.
It's wonderful that today we come together to pray in thanksgiving for all that this Cathedral has been for those 100 years, that this centennial Mass is taking place on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Chris t - in this Year of the Eucharist this is a blessing. This Cathedral has been a blessing in so many ways, private prayer, Masses, baptisms, weddings, funerals, ordinations, the visit of Pope John Paul II,.. This Cathedral is much more than a building, it's much more, otherwise why would people have scraped and saved, given generously, struggled, argued, planned and worked both to build and to maintain this suitable temple for the worship of God? This building is a statement for all 'Behold, Look, here God lives among us!'
God lives among us so that we take God to our families, our work places, into our recreation and socialising. God lives among us and in us, 'Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood, lives in me and I in them.'
'As I,' says Jesus, 'who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me.' We draw life from Jesus, and we give life to others.
The Opening Prayer for today's Mass is powerful,
Let us pray for the willingness to make present in our world the love of Christ shown to us in the Eucharist.
Lord Jesus Christ, we worship you living among us in the sacrament of your body and blood. May we offer to our Father in heaven a solemn pledge of undivided love. May we offer to our brothers and sisters a life poured out in loving service of the kingdom where you live with the Father and the Holy Spirit one God for ever and ever.
That's a wonderful prayer? It sums us all that this Cathedral is, all that the Eucharist is, all that we are to be as followers of Jesus.
In that prayer we pray that we will be willing to love as Chris t loved, with a total giving of ourselves even until our body is spent and our blood our life and energy is poured out generously for others, we pray that like Jesus we will give life to others.
We make the statement that we worship Jesus living among us, 'Lord Jesus Christ, we worship you living among us in the sacrament of your body and blood,' this Cathedral has been making that statement since 1905. Look, here God lives among us!
We pray again 'May we offer to our Father in heaven a solemn pledge of undivided love.'
And again 'May we offer to our brothers and sisters a life poured out in loving service.'
We offer to others a life poured out because of what happens here. As we worship God here we encounter the Mystery of the Body and Blood of Chris t who lives among us we are caught up in the mystery of Jesus' teaching - of the Word made flesh, who lives among us and speaks to us in the Scriptures.
We feast on the Word, chew it, swallow it, digest it. We're gifted with the Body and Blood of Jesus, we eat and drink and that, and the Word becomes part of our lives. Jesus speaks to us, bread and wine are transformed into the presence of the Risen Jesus, - we too are transformed. We eat what we have proclaimed and become what we eat, - becoming God's presence in the world.
'Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood, live in me and I live in them.'
We give thanks this day for this Suitable Temple for the worship of God.
We rejoice with you Bishop John and with the clergy, religious and laity of this diocese as you give thanks for this Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.
Today , we remember that because we eat and draw life from Jesus, because he lives in us and we live in him that we too can be like Annabel, that we too are the living temples of God.
We look at this Cathedral, we look at each other and say 'Behold, Look, here God lives among us!'