He dwells among us: A dwelling pleasing to God

We are all called to be mothers of Christ and to be bearers of Christ to others

By Bishop Richard F. Stika

“In you, all find their home.” It is hard to call any one psalm my favorite, as I have so many, but I always like to pause over this verse at the end of Psalm 87 when praying the Liturgy of the Hours. It represents to me the joy of what “home” truly is as a sacred place of communion as a family of God. It reminds me, as the saints tell us, that what is said of Mary can be said of the Church, and should be said of each one of us. With our new cathedral a year from its dedication on March 3, 2018, we will celebrate in a special way the meaning of “home.”

Lent is that season when we renew our joy in our pilgrimage of faith and hope as expressed by the psalmist, “I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Ps 122:1) It is that time when we seek to redirect our steps together with those of Christ as a great procession of the faithful that leads to our heavenly home. It is a time to renew within us the desire to be fashioned by God’s grace so as to become, in an ever greater way, a dwelling pleasing to God, “a temple sacred in the Lord.” (Eph 2:22)

For the people of Israel, Jerusalem was their pilgrim destination as God’s home among them. Jerusalem, also called Zion in many psalms and by the prophets, was the mother-city, the place of the Temple where heaven and earth met and God was truly present. But with the Annunciation and Mary’s fiat — her “yes” to God — which the Church traditionally celebrates each March 25, she became the “living Zion,” as St. John Paul II would say, “in whose womb is conceived the Incarnate Word, and consequently the children of God reborn.”

It is said that a mother is what makes a home special. And like Mary, the Church in her maternal charity is home to Jesus and all His brethren. “Home” is the Church and a new maternity. And as the saints remind us, Mary and the Church are “one Mother” and yet many. For we, too, are all called to be mothers of Christ; to conceive Him in our hearts by faith, and to give him birth in all our thoughts and all that we do. How beautiful our world would be if we were able to give the name Jesus to all that flows from our heart — to be the heart, the face, the hands, and the feet of Christ to others.

Home is the experience of the visitation of Mary, who “went in haste” after the Annunciation and “entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.” (Lk 1:40) She who is God’s home wants every house, every heart, to be the home and the experience of Christ among us.

Home is the experience of St. Joseph, whose feast the Church celebrates on March 19. Speaking through an angel in a dream, God said to St. Joseph, “Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.” (Mt 1:20) To take Mary into our home, to consecrate ourselves to her, is to receive both Mary and Christ. If you receive her, you also receive the blessed fruit of her womb.

Home is the experience of St. John, who, at the foot of the cross, receives Mary as his mother and ours with the words of Christ, “Behold your mother.” And St. John did exactly what all of us should do — “the disciple took her into his home.” (Jn 19:27)

When Jesus says that, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places” (Jn 14:2), we must remember that it is not just the house of the Father, but the house of Mary our mother as well.

One Protestant convert to the Catholic faith told me that the deep reservations he once held about Mary later became his greatest joy. He said, “Only when I embraced Mary as my mother, and gave her my heart as her child, did I come to understand God as my Father, and Christ and my neighbor as my brother — only then did I understand the question of Jesus, ‘Who is my mother?’ (Mt 12:48) When we consecrate ourselves to Mary and make her ‘yes’ to God ours, the Holy Spirit makes our maternity even more fruitful.”

Our new mother church, which has been under construction for almost two years, reminds us we are “living stones” called to be “built into a spiritual house.” (I Pt 2:5-6) Just as the churches of our diocese are an extension of the cathedral church, so we, too, are as many maternal extensions of the Church. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if everyone who encounters us — our families, neighbors, the poor, sick, suffering, refugees, immigrants and, yes, even our persecutors — could have the experience expressed by the psalmist, “In you, all find their home.”

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