Friday, August 5, 2011

Dedication of St Mary Major/Friday of 18th Week (I)

Deuteronomy 4:32-40 / Matthew 16:24-28

Some things in life seem a bit over-dedicated. I have seen, for example, an advertisement for a device designed for the sole purpose of heating up hot dogs while, at the same time, steaming the hot dog buns. For all I know, it may work marvelously. Even so, how often does one really want to eat hot dogs with steamed buns? Such a device, however well it works for its dedicated purpose, is surely frivolous, a waste of time, of space, and of money. Other kinds of overdedication are more serious in their consequences: the father so dedicated to earning a living to support his family that he cannot name a single one of his children's friends, the woman so dedicated to serving others at her own expense that her body is worn out and her soul is without joy.

Even so, other things is life can be decidedly under-dedicated. Witness, for example, the barren and soulless multipurpose spaces, indistinguishable from oversized broom closet, that masquerade as "interfaith chapels" in airports around the world. Or, consider the hours, even days, wasted aimlessly and without purpose lying around on the sofa or drifting about the internet. As frivolous or perilous overdedication can be, the lack of dedication seems decidedly worse, a squandering of human potential, joy, and flourishing.

The problem, then, is not dedication itself, the being set apart for some singular and special purpose. The problem is whether we are dedicated to the right end, the right purpose. After all, it is because the church whose dedication we celebrate today, St Mary Major in Rome, is set apart for the worship of Almighty God and in honor of the Blessed Virgin, and for those purposes alone, that it can serve countless pilgrims every day: as a place of beauty to honor God, as a source of consolation through the work of confessors absolving the faithful of their sins, as a place to give thanksgiving for the intercession of the Mother of God, Mary most holy.

Likewise, it was because the people of Israel were dedicated to God, and to God alone, and pledged to fix that dedication in their hearts and in their lives, that their faith served not only them, but became a light and beacon to all the peoples of the world. More than that, it is the all-consuming joy of being dedicated to Jesus Christ, and not only to his life, but to his suffering and death as well, that we can look with joy rather than fear or anxiety for the Son of Man to come with his angels in his Father's glory.

Brothers and sisters, we have in the end three choices. We can choose to refuse to dedicate our lives, and so waste away, missing out on the beauty and joy of the gifts God sends. We can dedicate ourselves to lesser things, and so be either frivolous or used up, but in the end no more joyous or alive than those who are dedicated to nothing at all. Or, we can rededicate ourselves to Jesus Christ, who in our baptism has already dedicated us to himself. In that dedication, we will find life and joy, death only to what kills the spirit, and a rising to love everlasting in the Kingdom that will never end.

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