Homily (Reflection) for the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (9th November, 2016) on the Gospel and the Feast
Ps 45:2-3.5-6.8-9. (R. v. 5);
This feast commemorates the dedication of Saint John Lateran basilica (San Giovanni in Laterano) built under Pope Miltiades (311-314). It was consecrated by Pope Sylvester around 324. This feast is a sign of love for and union with the See of Peter. Saint John Lateran basilica is the first to be built after Emperor Constantine’s edict, in 313, granted Christians freedom to practice their religion and is also most ancient church in the world. Hence it is rightly called “the mother and mistress of all churches of Rome and the world” (omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput). It is also the cathedral of the bishop of Rome, the pope, and as a result is also Rome’s cathedral. Saint John Lateran basilica has undergone several reconstructions and houses a number of important relics that include a fragment of the table on which Jesus consumed the last supper and Jesus’ blood that was brought to Rome by centurion Longino.
It was Constantine who gave Pope Miltiades the ancient palace of the Laterani family, and the basilica, the baptistery, and the patriarchate, that is, the Bishop of Rome’s residence — where the Popes lived until the Avignon period — were all built there. This basilica was named Most Holy Saviour. However, Saint John the Baptist was added to the basilica's dedication in the 10th century by Pope Sergius III (904-911) and in the 12th century, Pope Lucius II (1144- 1145) added John the Evangelist.
Topic: Dedicated to God.
God speaking through the prophet Isaiah concerning all who would keep his statutes He said: “these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Is 56:7). However, as the Jewish Passover was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem and behold right in the temple (God’s house) “... he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables” (Jn 2:14). The same house meant for prayers was turned into something else, cf. Matt 21:13; Mk 11:17; Lk 19:46.
As we celebrate the dedication of the mother and mistress of all churches of Rome and the world, it is important to consider what we do today with God’s houses: the buildings as well as our bodies. Just as Jesus found that the temple was turned into den of robbers, many churches today are not different. The only thing that bothers both the leaders and sometimes even the lead is how to get as much money as possible and probably how to either use or misuse the money. The spiritual wellbeing of the people of God is not considered as something important. Many pastors of souls are rated today based on how rich they are. But it is important to always remember that every priest/pastor is a watchman who must do his duty, cf. Hos 9:8. In the prophet Ezekiel we read: “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for the House of Israel. When you hear a word from my mouth, warn them for me” (Ezek 3:17; cf. Ezek 33:7). God went on to say, “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes, and takes any one of them; that man is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand” (Ezek 33:6).
Again, Jesus said to the Jews who were looking for sign: “‘... Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up’” (Jn 2:19). And the gospel goes further to say “But he was speaking of the temple of his body” (Jn 2: 21). And we read from Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!” (1Cor 6:15). Again he asked: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own” (1Cor 6:19). As a result nobody is free to do with his/her body whatever he/she wants because all of us “... were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1Cor 6:20). In his Letter to the Romans we also read: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present Your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1). Saint James also asks: “Or do you suppose it is in vain that the scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit which he has made to dwell in us’?” (Jas 4:5). And Saint Peter admonished us thus: “... like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1Pt 2:5).
According to Pope Benedict XVI “on this solemnity the Word of God recalls an essential truth: the temple of stones is a symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, which in their letters the Apostles Peter and Paul already understood as a ‘spiritual edifice,’ built by God with ‘living stones,’ namely, Christians themselves, upon the one foundation of Jesus Christ, who is called the ‘cornerstone’ (cf. 1 Cor 3:9-11, 16-17; 1Pt 2:4-8; Eph 2:20-22). The Pope went on to quote the apostle Paul: ‘Brothers, you are God’s building,’ St. Paul wrote, and added: ‘holy is God’s temple, which you are’” (1 Cor 3:9c, 17) (Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, November 9, 2008).
So my dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, we must be careful of what we do with God’s temple because they are all dedicated to God. Remember always Saint Paul’s warning: “If any one destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are” (1Cor 3:17). However, no doubt, we all have either destroyed or desecrated God’s temple in many ways. What then do we do? The gospel reading tells us: “Making a whip of cords, he [Jesus] drove all of them out of the temple ...” (Jn 2:15). In the same vein, it is time to drive everything that either destroys or desecrates God’s house from God’s house.
Bible Reading: Ezek 3:16-21; 33:1-9; 1Cor 3:1-23; 1Pt 2:1-17.
Thought for today: Do you use or misuse the house of God – your body, the Church as a community, and/or the buildings?
Let us pray: God, being aware that we have destroyed your temple in many ways, we humbly ask for your grace to enable us cleanse your temple – Amen.
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