Happy 30th Anniversary of the church and altar, dear people, as we remember today its consecration on Nov. 12th, 1989—after a Resurrection parish initiation on Easter 1981. After eight-and-a-half years as a new parish without its church yet, Cardinal Archbishop James A. Hickey came here and blessed this parish church, in which we gather again today. Thousands of Masses later, we join for another one here this morning.
The celebration of our church’s anniversary can remind us that we Catholic people, living in the midst of the world’s history, are like the mythical Janus of Roman lore, who looked simultaneously forward and backward. I was just in Rome two weekends ago and saw the coins and images of this mythical Janus, depicted by two faces, one as looking one way and one the other way. Our tour guide explained it, that contemporarily—it could represent something back then that meant the transition of life. Appropriating it to today’s parish anniversary, I thought of how this is a transitional day, and one we could celebrate and mark as a parish, as we look back at our blessings, and as we look forward with three decades of liturgies, prayers, community and momentum in our experience so far. We move onward and upward, as Resurrection Catholic Burtonsville parish. Thankfully, we need no god of Janus, as we are under the One Living and True God, Who holds all times and peoples in His Hands. He is transitioning and converting us now into becoming citizens of His Kingdom, dear children of God. This parish altar is our special meeting point between heaven and earth, with God and His elect people, summoned to salvation.
The Lord tells us clearly His main part in all of our parish history. The epistle of His Word states it: “God is faithful and will provide for us.” St. Paul shouts it out to us, for our anniversary of the church altar today, that God has been faithful to save and bless and lead us into Their Triune Company. That Thessalonians reading today adds on that “The Lord…will strengthen and guard us….in our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and in God our Father, Who has loved us and given us an everlasting encouragement…and good hope through His grace (and favor).” On our house of worship anniversary, be lifted up in that.
Receive fully the good word of God for us today—fellow anniversary mates!
A thirtieth anniversary of the parish church and altar has us look back to Nov. 12, 1989. Archbishop Hickey came here on that second Sunday of November and blessed these church walls with holy oils, and smeared the altar as well. He blessed the books and sites of the church, and sprinkled holy water all about the sanctuary and the whole congregational area. The relic of St. Therese was put into the altar and blessed (and I was conversing with the parishioner selected to bring it forth back thirty years ago—it is a sweet memory for them). Then, the archbishop finished his consecration of this holy house, commissioned all the congregants to come and worship the Lord in their own church, and it was indeed a happy inaugural.
Resurrection members and guests have listened to the Word of God and supped in The Lord as Eucharist into three decades..
In our 730 Mass, we use entrance antiphons of celebration for the Sacred Liturgy. One of them we use is Psalm 134, as we pray and exclaim: “Come bless the Lord, all you, God’s servants…in the house of The Lord. Lift up your hands to the sanctuary and bless the Lord… for it is pleasant, (that) God…has claimed us as His possession.” It is indeed appropriate today.
Our look backward to Nov. 12, 1989 is not a long look back–just three decades! I’ve served before in parishes that have had anniversaries of 100 years, 200 years and 300 years ☺—so, in American terms, that would be a long run—but for Resurrection Burtonsville, we did not have enough people around here in these parts for our own church until the 1980’s. It was pretty quiet out here “in the country.” St. John’s on New Hampshire Avenue had the first regional Catholic church in the 1960’s, and eventually this area, too, to its east, got populated big time. But for a long stretch, Columbia Pike, had been a main road heading north up Baltimore way or down south to D.C., and it was a quiet and rustic section right out front where Greencastle now crosses “Old” Columbia Pike. Most motorists now take the highway “29” that we now have just to our east. But this was the north road from DC on route to Ellicott City, then to hang a right onto today’s Rt. 40 and head east to Baltimore. Or this was a road south to D.C.
From the 1960’s, people started filling up these Maryland suburbs. It helped St. John the Baptist parish to start. Twenty years after that—it was decided that a new Resurrection parish could form, cut mostly from St. John’s. It was given the name after the First Glorious Mystery, fulfilling the set, as the Washington Archdiocese already had Ascension-Bowie, Holy Ghost-Issue, Assumption-Upper Marlboro and SE DC, and Coronation of St. Mary-Rockville parishes. It was the early 1980’s. Fr. Jack MacFarlane was living over there at St. John’s in 1980 but setting out to be the founding pastor for over here, but much had to happen first. Today as he presides our 10:30 Sunday Mass, we will surprise him and name the bell tower for him, the one Francis Collins gave themoney for, and father its bells.
The first thing for Fr. Jack and his core team to do was in convincing people to start a new parish, even if they liked the one at St. John’s. This parish began on Easter Sunday 1981. It was fittingly called “Church of the Resurrection.” In another thing for the founding parishioners and Fr. Jack, it was going to take money to get it moving along here, with a vision for getting a church put up locally. 1n 1989 it happened, after eight years plus in the making. The church has held thousands upon thousands of liturgies henceforth, and today it is so wonderful to have our founding pastor (Msgr. Jack MacFarlane, retired) doing a Mass today and attending an anniversary reception!!
There have been many parish members through the 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s, 2010’s and up to now. Mentioning a couple, I was talking to Mr. and Mrs. Trujillo, on a sacrament call to them last Tuesday, who told me how they joined Resurrection in 1984, over in the Calverton end of our territory. Asked by Fr. Jack to do so, they were engaged in meeting and convincing Calverton people to join Resurrection parish and to give towards the building of a church and properties here. Mr. Trujillo says that some land off Calverton Blvd., where he now lives, was once considered for the church location, which today is adjacent to Riderwood. Instead, it became a cozy housing area. Yet it is ironic that Resurrection serves Mass four times a week now on that campus since 2000, so God had His plans for Masses in those woods, where Erickson Corporation built its large senior retirement community. It’s now our parish satellite of Resurrection.
Parish historians tell the main story of how it was a Protestant person who sold this land of Old Columbia Pike to be used by the Archdiocese of Washington, and that it was the site finally chosen for our parish church and home. The church sits here. They started from the ground floor with the building, first with a hall area, and then worked upward to build a church on the second floor. Some people remember those last downstairs hall Masses, especially after a rain, as some water came down into the hall from the construction site leaks atop, and you got an unrehearsed sprinkling rite at Mass. Our blessing rite today during the Creed will be from the holy water bucket and aspergillum (the sprinkler instrument)—not from any leaks above!
One reason for my making a fuss for our church’s anniversary to Nov. 12th is that (, with the liturgy committee and parish council’s agreement with me,) the parish needed to mark an annual anniversary to celebrate her onward progress. Her Easter start made it a problem, as its reserved for celebrating the biggest Catholic feast of the year, and the culmination of Holy Week. We could not honor our anniversary at Easter, without some interference to the Church’s full honor of the Victory of Jesus meant for that Sunday. Another thing we know, is that, Easter is a movable feast, never on the same Sunday each year. Easter 1981 was on April 19th, but it changes every year to the Spring Equinox. Last year, you might remember, Easter fell on April 1st. In talking with staff and parish leaders, we choose to use the fixed Nov. 12th date from now on (moved over to the Sunday closest to it each year), as our time to annually observe our parish’s progress as “anniversary style.”
I have to also preach of the Word of God and the readings for this 32nd Sunday of Ordinary time on the calendar, though it did not give us easy matches to our anniversary theme, at least not on the first glance. Seven brothers dying as martyrs (OT reading) and seven married men dying as then leaving the one wife as a seven time widow (Gospel)—this theme showed no connection to me for a parish anniversary, unless we wanted a drab and dreary 30th!
But then I found some uplifting messages within the Word. Here it is.
One could make a connection of you as sacrificial givers of time, talent and treasure to the seven brothers who were martyrs for the Jewish faith, as told in 2nd Maccabees. These men represented their spirit of holy sacrifice to the God of Israel, and their great willingness to witness to it. So I can find in Resurrection’s flock through the years, by your many acts of sacrificial giving and strong interest in Catholic living and the growth of the faith. It has been practiced by members, going back to the 1980’s.
In the Psalm there is a line that proclaims: “My steps have been steadfast in your paths, my feet have not faltered.” This Psalm 17 verse celebrates a covenant people living out a lifelong plan of faithfulness to God. Let’s make a parish connection to it, too. For you who have been here for years supporting this parish, or for you even who have been supporting parishes in your journey around different places, you can celebrate how you have centered life to your spiritual home, this house of The Lord. You say by your priorities My feet have not faltered, Lord. My steps have been steadfast. Here I am once again to worship You, Lord.
In the New Testament epistle today, the anniversary connection is easier to see. St. Paul writes to his church in Thessalonica and says to them: “brothers and sisters…”– in that opening, he is telling what a church community is meant to be—people living as brothers and sisters to one another, as a family in the Lord Jesus. Then Paul says, “brothers and sisters, let us pray together, that the Word of the Lord may speed forward and be glorified.” Indeed, my parish friends in Christ, we come and we pray to be as one, with hopes that God’s Word and the Gospel of Christ may surely speed forward and be lived by many, especially by us, that God may be glorified in it. Amen to that.
St. Paul further says to his upper Greek city parish, how they need to bond together so to be delivered from a world of “perverse and wicked people.” We echo that Word, knowing how we (at Resurrection) need to be a refuge from the world, too, in living as a people set apart in faith for Christ, so not to be living for an exalted self or of a worldly life, getting caught up in the many ungodly things going on today. ‘Amen?!
On our anniversary as Resurrection Catholic parish—Burtonsville, the Gospel of Luke today has that woven tale of the widow with seven deceased spouses, as the Sadducee Jewish leaders mock the idea of any afterlife that Jesus is teaching about. The gospel speaks darkly of the Sadducees, the ones who den(ied) that there is any such thing as a Resurrection hope. Sadducees, and any one like them today, truly are sad people, arguing for a dead end to all life, or an eat drink be merry and all die forever and so who cares about anything view. Yet we must be glad people in the Risen hope of our Lord Jesus. We need to live up to be people of our name—Resurrection parish—who are never sad of soul but who proclaim a glad, living hope in Jesus Christ. Because of eternal life begun in us by Jesus, there is great meaning to our daily experience as Catholics, for thus, it leads to a perfect hope in Jesus Christ. Forever. That is Good News!! Great News!! We live in a glad spirit. There is no hopeless Sadducee sadness spirit here, unless you’ve gotten partly sucked in to the world. If that’s the case, then shake off the depression or darkness, repent and be free in Christ. For if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed!
Rounding the homily corner and home: In the early 1980’s I came here recruiting music groups for the TV Mass at channel 9 and 4, which I was co-serving. I heard a parish folk group play in Liberty Grove church up the road. They were playing “Eagles Wings” in the liturgy. It is fitting to end with some words from the song, today. “You who dwell in the shelter of The Lord…. (You in God’s home and parish at Resurrection…) Who abide in His shadow for life… (We live, yes, really abide, in a family of faith in God’s nearness, for life….) Say to The Lord: “My refuge, My Rock in Whom I trust.” … (In this Catholic Faith, believe and live upon the Lord Jesus, its Founder)… For He will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, and make you to shine like the sun, to hold you in the palm of His Hands. Alleluia!
Fr. John Barry, 6th pastor of Resurrection