Feast of St. John Lateran dedication
Last weekend, the Church replaced the liturgy of the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time with the liturgy of the feast of All Souls.
This week, instead of the liturgy for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Church celebrates the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.
As was the case last week, the Church has lessons here to teach.
Since historic circumstances have associated St. Peter’s so intimately with the popes for so many centuries, most Catholics probably would be surprised to know that the first-ranking church in Rome is St. John Lateran Basilica.
St. Peter’s is a shrine, not a cathedral. Cathedrals are the churches in which local bishops celebrate the Eucharist and preach especially in their official positions as shepherds of the flock.
In Rome, St. John Lateran is the cathedral, the seat of the pope. Since the pope, the Bishop of Rome, also is the chief pastor of the Church Universal, St. John Lateran has significance for every Catholic.
This link with the pope reminds us that we all are part of the Church.
The dedication of any church is important since by dedication we set a space on earth aside for God, there to hear God’s holy word, and to be with God in Jesus in the Eucharist.
For the first reading, the Church offers us a beautiful passage from the Book of Ezekiel. The prophet sees water flowing from the temple. The Holy Land then, as now, as always, was very arid. Water meant life. Life flowed from God’s house, from God’s presence.
St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians is the source of the second reading. It describes us, the people of the Church, as “God’s building.” We are the brick and mortar of the structure that makes God visible on earth, in which God dwells. Christ is our foundation stone.
The last reading is from the Gospel of John. It reports the event, so familiar to Christians, when Jesus entered the temple area in Jerusalem and found there a virtual marketplace. He drove the merchants away, insisting that the temple was God’s house, the holiest of places.
He denounces the merchants for making God’s house a place not just of business, but by their cheating and greed, a place of sin.
We can be overly literal in reading this passage from St. John’s Gospel. Of course, Jesus ridded the sacred precincts of the temple of merchants and charlatans, preying on the devout.
Sin and human greed have no place in the true temple of God. For John, Jesus was the true temple of God. John further saw a community aspect in the group of believers surrounding Jesus. They were united to the Lord, by the Lord’s own design. He was united with them. The bond was created by none less than God.
Jesus would be killed and in three days would rise. It was just as Jesus predicted that the temple would fall and in three days be restored.
We are now in this community, which is the Church. There can be no sin among us. We cannot allow our greed or dishonesty to defile the holy temple that is Christ.
St. John Lateran, as any dedicated church, has a pragmatic purpose, providing us with a setting for prayer, for hearing the Word of God, and for the Eucharist, reminding us that we are the Church.
We are the Body of Christ, resurrected and living in the world. Christ is in us. We are in Christ.
In God’s mercy, the pope guides us and ministers to us.
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