Bridge To Eternal Life – Msgr. Charles McGlinn

Msgr. Charles McGlinn’s Homily August 22, 2020

“A number of years ago I was privileged to travel with some of my parishioners at the time on a pilgrimage to Rome and of course there’s so much to see in Rome and the history there and art and the churches are magnificent, but one thing stands out in my memory especially and that was the tour that I took of the scavi. Now the scavi is an archeological excavation that is underneath the basilica of St. Peter’s church in Rome and the archeologists have discovered there that there is a first century cemetery on which St. Peter’s was built and in this cemetery there is a grave with many Christian symbols and around it there are some other graves with Christian symbols and they conclude that this is the grave of St. Peter and it has been held that for long tradition through the centuries. St. Peter was martyred in Rome around the year 65-66 A.D. that first century that was so calamitous for the church actually and also it saw such expansion of the church at the same time and as I was thinking of that I remembered these words in the Gospel today, Jesus speaking to Peter. He asked him, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ and he said, ‘You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.’ and then in response Jesus says, ‘You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. That word ‘peter’ was rarely given to anyone as a name to anyone in the first century and so Jesus is not only giving him a new name, but a new mission. He is to be the rock of the church especially in time of calamity and of great disturbance and for the first three centuries the Church knew that calamity with many bloody persecutions. It knew the hostility of the world. It knew also enemies from within. There were false teachers in the Church as well as enemies from without and through that first century until his death Peter was a rock. He was a person who inspired hope in people. He was someone who from whom there was assurance that the Holy Spirit was truly with the Church guiding and leading it through its great suffering in that time and so after Peter, the pontiffs, the successors to Peter, the popes of Rome have by and large been just that fulfilling that mission of being rock through good times and through bad times and of bringing hope to the world through the Church.

Now the scavi also showed that in the cemetery there were a couple of monuments that were erected in the first century with many Christian symbols on it and Emperor Constantine who built with his mother many Christian churches throughout the world, erected a church over that spot in that cemetery in Rome and over a thousand years later, the present basilica of St. Peters was built and so it’s been through the centuries that the Church has lasted and through that time we have found orthodoxy, stability, hope through the Church of Rome and its pontiff. The word pontiff means bridge builder and indeed that is one of the missions of the church of the pope that he is to be a bridge builder between the world and God just as Jesus was the bridge builder, the man-god. We see later in the Gospel the Jesus will appear to Peter after his resurrection and he will ask Peter three times, ‘Peter, do you love me?’ After the third time Peter was getting a little antsy and exasperated and he says, ‘Lord you know I love you!’ ‘Feed my lambs and feed my sheep.’ That’s the mission of the Pope, to feed the Church with the truth of Christ with the light of the world and then he goes on to say, ‘You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.’ My friends, the Church is not made of stone, brick and mortar. The Church is made of people, people who love the Lord, people who believe in Him and you and I are a part of that living church. We are living stones in that Church that Jesus founded if we can with Peter in word and in deed say, ‘Yes Lord you are the Messiah the son of the living God. I believe.’ and Jesus tells us the gates of Hell will not prevail no matter what calamity we face no matter what hostility from within or without we endure and today in modern times, you know there are some elected officials that we can’t trust. There’s some bishops and priests that we can not trust. There are some business people, heads of commerce that we can not trust, but Jesus assures us they will not prevail. The gates of Hell will not prevail. That is our faith.

I’d like to share with you a little prayer. This prayer I entitled, ‘Bridge to Eternal Life’.

O Jesus Lord you are the bridge
Spanning the waters deep
Over danger hardship and trial
And many gorgeous steep

Thou many here may weep and wail
Hell’s gates shall not prevail

This world of ours is not secure
For travelers to pass
In safety to the other side
To God, to life alas

Thou we be blown in wind and gale
Hell’s gates shall not prevail

You are the bridge in your being
O God and man made one
For us to go from here to God
The victory has been won

Thou sin and death our lives sail
Hell’s gates shall not prevail

Jesus Lord you give us your Church
Within you do abide
Your Church is now the bridge to life
Across the threatening tide

Though Satan works that we might fail
Hell’s gates shall not prevail”