Pastor Installation of Reverend Rommel Tolentino
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 2, 2014
Cathedral of the immaculate Conception, Lake Charles
Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles

“What will separate us from the love of Christ?”  Romans 8:35

St. Paul asks a rhetorical question.  It is asked for effect.  St. Paul knows all too well what the answer will be and thinks that we should know the answer too.  Nothing can separate us “from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). 

Jesus Christ is what it is all about.  The antecedent of “it” is everything.  He is the full expression of God’s love for us.  He is God’s Word made flesh.  We believe with St. John that love consists not in our having loved God first but in God having loved us first (I John 4:10).  As this is true and what we believe, then Jesus Christ is indeed the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega.  God prepared all of creation for the moment when His Son would enter the world to save it.  And it is this moment of salvation that we celebrate when we gather around the altar of the Lord to celebrate the Eucharist.  Our worship, our lives, our thanksgiving, our praise—all is directed through Jesus Christ to the God the Father. 

This evening we are installing a new pastor of the Cathedral.  The cathedral of a diocese is no ordinary church.  In a diocese the cathedral is customarily the most historic, the oldest, and the most beautiful.  While other churches occasionally suffer disrepair because of neglect or forces beyond anyone’s control, the cathedral must be the cleanest, most well-ordered, and conspicuously available church building in a diocese.   Here not only are the parishioners called to encounter Jesus Christ but the cathedral is at the service of the entire faithful of the diocese.  This service is done in union with the bishop, whoever he might be, for he is the chief shepherd and teacher of the diocese.   

The Second Vatican Council reminded us that there is no proper assembly of the faithful, no community of the altar except under the sacred ministry of the bishop (cf. Lumen Gentium, no. 26).   The major document of the Second Vatican Council on the sacred liturgy had this to say about the bishop in his cathedral:  “Therefore all should hold in great esteem the liturgical life of the diocese centered around the bishop, especially in his cathedral church” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, art. 41).  All the while we esteem the cathedral liturgy, we keep in mind that we offer our best not because we wish to “lord it over anyone” or because convention requires it.  Rather, we hold in esteem and reverence the cathedral because it represents Christ in our community.  Let us reflect a little on one aspect of how the cathedral should represent Christ to us.

The words and actions of Pope Francis are first and foremost in my mind.   He repeatedly reminds us to set priorities and place things in perspective.  Mercy is a priority for him, because it is fundamental.  Mercy is, at it were, the framework and background for the composition of our lives.  And to be aware of God’s mercy, we must first acknowledge the need for mercy.  I was quite moved when a few months ago the Pope was photographed in St. Peter’s going to confession.   I think a photograph of a pope going to confession must be a first in Church history.  Popes have always gone to confession.  What Pope Francis wanted to do was set an example for us.  The Pope goes to confession.  I go to confession.  You should go to confession.  This is why every cathedral I have ever known was a place where a penitent knew there was a confessor available for confession.   In the Sacrament of Penance the sinner meets Christ.  And both the sinner and repentant meet Christ in every other occasion here in this place we call the cathedral. 

Perhaps it is with this thought that I would like to conclude.  A cathedral is sometimes referred to as the “Mother Church of the Diocese.”  The cathedral, like a mother, welcomes all of her children.  Here they move from birth to eternal life, they are confirmed and married.  The cathedral is for the tourist, as well as the faithful resident.  It welcomes dignitaries and men and women of the diocese for special occasions.   It is a place of quiet prayer and public celebration.  As a mother, the cathedral knows her children and welcomes them in and out of season.   And as a mother, she introduces us to her Son.   She knows that the Son is what it is all about and that nothing can separate us from His love.