Today, in Cheyenne, we celebrate the anniversary of the dedication of our Cathedral, The Assumption of our Blessed Mother. The readings for such an occassion recall from Matthew the encounter between Jesus and his disciples when he asks them: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” It is at this time that St. Peter makes his marvelous confession of faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mt 16:16) It is because of this faith of Peter Jesus is then able to have the “foothold” or “foundation” he needs to establish, to “build” his Church.
A feast like today begs the question: “What is the mission of the Church”? Indeed, that mission has always been, is today, and will always be a mission of Evangelization and Salvation. Just as Jesus founded the Church on a profession of faith, so is the Church through the ages to continue to proclaim the same faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. For it is by this name and person of Jesus that salvation is accomplished.
As if to reinforce the importance of faith, Jesus turns to Peter again at the Last Supper and says: “Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail, and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” To this, Peter bravely, and somewhat naively responds: “Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and die with you.” (Luke 22:31-33)
As we know, Peter’s faith did falter, but he did “turn back” to the Lord, as we know from another beautiful encounter between St. Peter and the Risen Lord in John 21. “Simon Peter, do you love me”? This faith of St. Peter, this “foundation” of the Church, is the faith that has come to us over the ages, in and through the Church, because of the Church. Indeed, every liturgical celebration within our churches, every prayer offered up to God, has been a great procession of “giving and receiving” faith.
Pope Benedict in his writings offers that we cannot proclaim the faith except from within the Church. The faith, as a gift given to Peter by the Father, is a gift given to us by the Church. It is always and only with the Church we profess Christ as the Son of the Living God. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict has cited several times in recent months that the greatest crisis facing the Church today is a crisis of faith.
As we celebrate the solemnity of the dedication of our Cathedral church today, I pray that every member of this Body of Christ may today be strengthened and renewed in this great faith. May each of our celebrations of faith continue this great procession of giving and receiving faith, until history and time pierce eternity itself.