By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published December 6, 2013
ATLANTA—The glorious music of the Cathedral Choir filled the air, and the pews and aisles were teeming with worshippers as the Year of Faith in Atlanta came to a close Sunday, Nov. 24, at the Cathedral of Christ the King.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory presided at the Year of Faith closing Mass with Bishop Luis R. Zarama, auxiliary bishop, concelebrating.
“A great many things come together in coalition this morning,” noted Archbishop Gregory at the beginning of Mass, which coincided with the patronal feast of the cathedral.
The solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, is always the last Sunday of the church year. In 2013, the feast day also marked the end of the Year of Faith, declared by Pope Benedict in October 2012.
In his apostolic letter announcing the observance, Pope Benedict called the Year of Faith a summons to an “authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord.”
In Atlanta, the Year of Faith was also celebrated as a Marian Year.
During the closing Mass, the featured music included an arrangement of Psalm 122—“Let Us Go Rejoicing to the House of the Lord” by composer Brian Luckner. The cathedral commissioned the arrangement in commemoration of its recent 75th anniversary.
Archbishop Gregory opened his homily with the words “Save yourself,” the rebuke that Jesus heard from most of those present at his crucifixion.
But self-interest, said the archbishop, was not the way of Jesus.
“He came not to save himself but to save us and all those who have ever lived, even those who jeered at him,” said the archbishop.
While self-interest often dominates this world, the message of Jesus is something else entirely.
“He is the One for others—a radically hard sell in our usually selfish environment,” said the archbishop.
In his homily, the archbishop encouraged all to think about what the yearlong season has meant for individuals and the Church.
“It was intended to have been a year dedicated to reflecting on the gift that is our Catholic faith, a faith that unites us to Christ and to one another,” said the archbishop.
In the Archdiocese of Atlanta, “we also shone a special light on the person of Mary—the Woman of Faith who is a Mother to all of us,” he added.
The Blessed Mother follows people into all of the cultures and ethnic identities that distinguish nations. The archbishop reminded those attending Mass that while Mary’s wardrobe might change, she does not.
“Persistently using every language and inviting every culture, she urges her children to ‘do whatever He tells you.’ That was the theme of this year’s Eucharistic Congress—a gentle reminder of what we are all summoned to do by the Mother of the Church,” said the archbishop.
Living the Catholic faith often leads to generous acts including those of the Thanksgiving season such as stocking food pantries or delivering meals.
“We will, for a few hours, become people who care for others before caring for ourselves,” said the archbishop. “Some people will do so because they announce that it makes them feel good. Our faith says that we should be selfless not because it makes us feel good but because it allows us to imitate Christ himself.”
This invitation to identify with Christ is for all—the clergy, the married, single, young and old.
For Christ the King parishioner Sharon Zukauckas the “culmination” of the Year of Faith was a recent trip to Rome for a conference where she and other women participants had the chance to meet with Pope Francis.
Zukauckas said the pope took the time to meet every participant, “showing his love to each one of us for being there.”
In everyday life, there are opportunities to become more like Jesus, Archbishop Gregory said. Even listening to a boring classroom lecture or washing clothes can be opportunities to strengthen one’s faith, suggested the archbishop.
“These moments represent the ordinary events that we experience each day, and they can become moments of selfless love—praying not for something that we need, but something that others might need, doing the laundry with thoughts of gratitude for the little people whose mountain of dirty socks seems to know no end, listening to that tedious lecture with a spirit of gratitude for the sacrifices that your parents have made to provide you with a college education,” said the archbishop. “… In other words, doing the ordinary things with extraordinary selfless love.”