Over the years considering this Gospel I have come to have a special affection for this character of the Gospel, Zacchaeus. I just realized why: I am Zacchaeus!
I am the one who has been seeking, wanting to leave former ways behind, hearing of Jesus, wanting to rise above the crowd to see him. I am the one he approached and offered his mercy.
Jacob of the first reading has always been a favorite of mine. He too is seeking God, reflecting upon his life and future, dreaming. No wonder he was dreaming, how could he possibly get any deep REM sleep if his pillow was a rock? I’m more the daydreaming type. I have dreamed about having a relationship with God, doing something good with my life for Him. In this sense I am Jacob too!
St. Patrick has always been one of my favorite Saints. That is in part because of my Irish ancestry on my mother’s side. We were always raised to be proud of those roots. But I have also loved his story. A boy from Vth Century England who is kidnapped at the age of 16 and forcibly brought to Ireland where he was put to work as a shepherd and lived as an immigrant for six years. After he was Ordained a priest he chose to return to the place where he had been as a slave after seeing a vision of the people calling him to share his Faith with them.
Patrick encountered God as he cared for the animals in long hours outdoors and in dreams. He came to know himself as well. In his writing he refers to himself in this way: “I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers.”
If this is St. Patrick, it is certainly me.
It is interesting to note that all of these figures had their significant experiences of God outdoors. Many of mine have been as well, out in this midst of God’s creation--places made holy by His presence.
But I have encountered God here in this building as well as I am sure you have. When Jacob had his experience of God that night in a dream he realized that he lay on holy ground. His head rested upon a holy stone. The God, who is present throughout every corner of the universe chose to reveal Himself in a particular place. How true is this of the place we gather tonight.
When this Cathedral was consecrated by Bishop Schuler in 1917 it became the house of God. How many times through these 100 years has God acted within these walls? Every church is holy, but how much more can that be said of a church that is also beautiful and in its beauty raises our minds to the divine.
As if this were not enough, the holiness of this church is affirmed by an event that took place here on February 11th 1918, a year after the dedication: a man who would be recognized as a canonized Saint was Ordained within these walls, San Pedro de Jesus Maldonado. It may well have been here that he celebrated his first Mass.
How many other saints have begun their life as a child of God here? How many have first met him in the Eucharist at the foot of this sanctuary? How many have received the Holy Spirit in Confirmation? How many have been nourished by the Word of God? How many have processed up this aisle to promise their mutual love and enter into the holy union of Matrimony? How many Bishops have been Ordained or Installed here? How many have encountered a loving consoling God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? How many have knelt here in a quiet solitary moment to pray?
Yes, I too have encountered God here in moments private and very public, simple and sublime. Jesus told Zacchaeus that he would come to his house. He has come to ours as well. For generations the Faith of the holy People of God in El Paso has been nourished and strengthened here. We are part of this holy place and it is part of us.
Tonight we rejoice in God’s work among us and His faithfulness and we pray that in this holy place generations to come will reflect and dream, be inspired and committed to God’s service, until the very day of Christ Jesus. Amen!
Most Rev. Mark J. Seitz
Most Rev. Mark J. Seitz