“It gives me extraordinary joy to gather with you today to offer our praise and worship to God on the opening of the 175th anniversary year of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist,” said Bishop Edward Malesic.
He celebrated the 10:30 a.m. Mass on Oct. 22, with Auxiliary Bishop Michael Woost, Father Arnel Lagman, cathedral parochial vicar, and Father Eric Garris, diocesan vocation director, as concelebrants. Deacons John Sferry and Matt Lawler assisted. Father Sean Ralph, cathedral rector, served as master of ceremonies for the bishop. The liturgy was livestreamed and featured additional musicians and vocalists coordinated by Tom Fielding, cathedral music director, for the special occasion.
(See photo gallery above.)
The bishop told those gathered for the Mass that the structure stands today not only as the magnificent mother church of the Diocese of Cleveland, “but also as a lasting symbol of the faithful love and steadfast dedication offered to God over these many years by the thousands upon thousands of clergy, religious and lay members of this wonderful cathedral faith community.”
Bishop Amadeus Rappe, the first shepherd of the newly erected diocese, knew that one of his first major decisions involved selecting a location and building a cathedral. Unlike today, the site he purchased on what is now East Ninth Street and Superior Avenue was not in a heavily populated or traveled area. However, as the city of Cleveland grew, that changed.
The original cathedral was built of brick and the cornerstone was laid on Oct. 22, 1848. Construction was completed four years later.
“Since then, much work has been done, even within the last few years, to ensure our cathedral remains a modern, welcoming place for our worship of God, for prayer and the administration of the sacraments,” Bishop Malesic said.
“As the place of the cathedra of my episcopate, our cathedral here in the heart of downtown is the spiritual home to more than 613,000 Catholics within our diocese. It stands as a monument to all those who have in any way answered the Church’s call to serve the spiritual and material needs of God’s people. It also serves as an enduring beacon of God’s light and hope, spreading the message of God’s love to future generations,” he added.
The bishop said as the cathedral’s 175th anniversary year gets underway, he wanted to thank Father Ralph, the cathedral staff and clergy as well as the cathedral parish community for their efforts in planning an impressive and meaningful anniversary celebration.
“May God bless you as this special year unfolds,” he said.
Reflecting on the day’s Scripture readings, the bishop noted the first two readings spoke of how God choose and works for his people. In the first reading, he explained that the Lord called Cyrus, gave him a title and that Cyrus knew there is only one Lord. In the second reading, St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians encouraging and instructing them that God had chosen them and that they should prove their faith in the Lord through acts of love.
In the Gospel, St. Matthew reminded us of the words of Jesus when he was quizzed about whether it was lawful to pay tax to the emperor. The Pharisees and Herodians, who didn’t agree on much, tried to trick Jesus. But he was wise to their scheme and told them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
The bishop explained that there is an obligation to Caesar and to God and each generation must work out the balance between the two. There is discussion about church and state, he said, and looking through history there are many examples – especially on the Middle Ages – where there was thought that both should be one. Today, some say there shouldn’t be a divider or a border wall between the church and state.
“But, if we think about it, we realize that this idea just is not possible,” Bishop Malesic said, pointing out the state regulates how we build our churches and schools. It also provides police and fire protection and exempts church property from taxation. The federal government doesn’t tax collections as income because the church provides a tremendous spectrum of critical social services to the community.
“The connection between church and state today is neither a tight union nor an absolute separation but it is more akin to a collaboration that develops over time. The church is the voice of conscience, a ‘community of conscience,’ if you will. The church has the numbers and strength to question official policies where Gospel values are at stake, because government policy has moral implications. It can build up or weaken families; it can protect or destroy life; it can enhance or weaken human dignity; it can support or weaken the practice of our faith,” the bishop said.
If we think about the situation, he explained we can apply the Lord’s words to our situation today – not just the relationship between the church and state, but also to our religion and politics.
“Our faith should be the driving force of our politics because we can bring moral vision to our nation. If we do not, others will bring their own priorities to fill the void and influence what the government does. So, when the Lord says, ‘Repay to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s,’ the Lord is not speaking only about the institutions of church and state, the Lord is also speaking about our religion and our politics. We should not separate our religion and our politics because we have obligations to Caesar and obligations to God. They are not separate completely sealed compartments.”
The bishop said Jesus is telling us to “Let Caesar be Caesar, but let God be God.” We really can’t confuse the two, he explained. We give Caesar (the state/government) our taxes, our loyalty and our judgment but our conscience – our soul – and our choices in life belong to God. He said this is especially important when considering the upcoming general election.
“We can take real action that protects the life of our most vulnerable, the unborn. Our Gospel today reminds us that, in the evening of our life, we will be accountable for what we have done as individuals and as citizens --not to Caesar, but to God. In our Gospel today, Jesus felt no necessity of answering the question of the Pharisees, but we should be eager and willing to respond with the right answer when he asks us, “Will you give to God what is God’s?” the bishop asked.
“In our Gospel today, Jesus felt no necessity of answering the question of the Pharisees, but we should be eager and willing to respond with the right answer when he asks us, “Will you give to God what is God’s?” he added.