Lateran Basilica in Rome
Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
Reading 1 ez 47:1-2, 8-9, 12
back to the entrance of the temple,
and I saw water flowing out
from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east,
for the façade of the temple was toward the east;
the water flowed down from the southern side of the temple,
south of the altar.
He led me outside by the north gate,
and around to the outer gate facing the east,
where I saw water trickling from the southern side.
He said to me,
“This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah,
and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh.
Wherever the river flows,
every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live,
and there shall be abundant fish,
for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh.
Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow;
their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail.
Every month they shall bear fresh fruit,
for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary.
Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine.”
Responsorial Psalm ps 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9
God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in distress.
Therefore, we fear not, though the earth be shaken
and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea.
R. The waters of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High!
There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High.
God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed;
God will help it at the break of dawn.
R. The waters of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High!
The LORD of hosts is with us;
our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
Come! behold the deeds of the LORD,
the astounding things he has wrought on earth.
R. The waters of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High!
Reading 2 1 cor 3:9c-11, 16-17
Brothers and sisters:
You are God’s building.
According to the grace of God given to me,
like a wise master builder I laid a foundation,
and another is building upon it.
But each one must be careful how he builds upon it,
for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there,
namely, Jesus Christ.
Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple,
God will destroy that person;
for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.
Gospel jn 2:13-22
Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,
as well as the money-changers seated there.
He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen,
and spilled the coins of the money-changers
and overturned their tables,
and to those who sold doves he said,
“Take these out of here,
and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
Zeal for your house will consume me.
At this the Jews answered and said to him,
“What sign can you show us for doing this?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Jews said,
“This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,
and you will raise it up in three days?”
But he was speaking about the temple of his Body.
Therefore, when he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this,
and they came to believe the Scripture
and the word Jesus had spoken.
Homily from the Abbot
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
Just as last Sunday, the celebration of All Souls took precedence over the Sunday liturgy, so today the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, takes precedence over this normal Sunday liturgy. The reason is that the dedication of the Lateran Basilica is a Feast of our Lord. It is not about Saint John the Baptist but about a Church dedicated to God in which we celebrate Jesus Christ Himself. Every dedication of a Church is about Jesus Christ and about worhship in spirit and in truth.
This Basilica in Rome has been considered the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, the Cathedral of the Pope. Actually, today, all of the four great basilicas of Rome are considered more or less Cathedrals of the Pope. Historically, however, this was the first so considered and so has a special place in the liturgy of the whole Church throughout the world.
We have to be honest and say that today’s celebration is also about the role of the Bishop of Rome in the life of the Church. This is not about power, but about service. Yet we all know that the reality of service is that it can turn into power. Thus we can pray in the liturgy today for the service in charity of the Bishop of Rome to the other bishops and to the universal Church.
If we look at the readings in terms of Church and the service of the Bishop of Rome, our Pope, we can see in the first reading, from the Prophet Ezekiel, a reflection of what the Church and the service of the Pope are supposed to be: the water of life flowing out from God and giving life to all that it touches. This is the ideal and it is rarely completely reached. Yet we have seen so many holy Popes in the last one hundred years that we can understand that the role of the Pope and the role of the Church is to give us life.
The second reading today, from the First Letter to the Corinthians, reminds us that we are the Church, the temple of God. We are not the Church all by ourselves in some exclusive way. Each of us is the Church and yet together we are the Church. Each of us is a temple of God and together we are God’s people.
Finally, in the Gospel today, from Saint John, we understand how the body of Christ points to resurrection, for Him and for us. We are to recognize in all of this the hand of God: Jesus dies for us and we must die for one another. This is the Church and this is why we celebrate the dedication of a Church. The Bishop of Rome, our Pope, can lead us to walk with Christ–but we ust be the ones who walk.
Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
• Context. Our passage contains a clear and unmistakable teaching of Jesus in the Temple. Previously John the Baptist had given witness of Jesus saying that He was the Messiah (1, 29); the first disciples, on the indication of the Baptist, have recognized him as the Lamb of God, a quality of the Messiah: to inaugurate a new Passover and covenant, to bring about the definitive liberation of man (Jn 1, 35-51); in Cana, Jesus works a first sign to show his glory (Jn 2, 1-12): the glory becomes visible, it can be contemplated, therefore, it manifests itself. It is the glory of the Father present in the person of Jesus and which manifests itself at the beginning of his activity, in this way, anticipating his “hour” (17, 1).
In what way is his glory manifested? God restores gratuitously with man a new relationship; he unites him intimately to him giving him the capacity to love like He loves, through the Spirit who purifies the heart of man and makes him son of God. But, it is necessary to recognize the immutable love of God, manifested in Jesus, responding with faith, with a personal adherence.
• Jesus and the Temple. Now Jesus is in Jerusalem, in the Temple fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi (Ml 3, 1-3), he proclaims himself Messiah. Such a presence of Jesus is above all his teaching that produces tension. Now, the reader understands how the great disputes with the Jews always take place in the Temple; in this place Jesus pronounces his substantial denunciations; his task is to lead the people outside the Temple (2, 15; 10, 4). In last instance Jesus was condemned because he represented a danger for the Temple and for the people.
Jesus goes to Jerusalem on the occasion of the Passover of the Jews: it is clamorous to manifest himself in public and to reveal to all that he is the Messiah. During that feast Jerusalem is full of pilgrims who have come from all parts and therefore his actions would have had a great effect in the whole of Palestine.
When he arrived in Jerusalem he immediately is seen in the Temple where there are a number of people selling cattle, sheep and doves and the money changers sitting there. The encounter in the Temple is not with persons who seek God but dealers of the sacred: the amount paid to be able to open a stand to be able to sell was given to the high priest. Jesus chooses this occasion (the Passover) this place (the Temple) to give a sign.
He takes a whip, an instrument which was a symbol of the Messiah who punishes vices and evil practices, and he drives out everybody from the Temple, together with the cattle and sheep. Worthy to be noted is his act against those selling the doves (v. 15). The dove was an animal used for the propitiatory holocausts (Lv 9, 14-17), in the sacrifices of expiation and of purification (Lv 12, 8; 15, 14.29), especially if those who offered it were poor (Lv 5, 7; 14, 22. 30ff). The sellers, those who sold the doves, that is to say, sold reconciliation with God for money.
• The house of my Father. The expression wants to indicate that Jesus in his actions behaves as a Son. He represents the Father in the world. They have transformed the worship of God into a market, a place for trading. The Temple is no longer the place of encounter with God, but a market where the presence of money is in force. Worship has become the pretext to gain more. Jesus attacks the central institution of Israel, the temple: the symbol of the people and of the election. He denounces that the Temple has been deprived of its historical function: to be the sign of the dwelling of God in the midst of his people. The first reaction to Jesus’ action comes from the disciples who associate this to Psalm 69, 10: “I am eaten up with zeal for your house”.
The second reaction comes from the high priests who respond in the name of those selling in the Temple: “What sign can you show us that you should act like this?” (v.18). They have asked him for a sign; he gives them that of his death: “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up” (v. 19). Jesus is the Temple that assures of the presence of God in the world, the presence of his love; the death on the cross will make of him the only and definite Temple of God. The Temple constructed by the hands of man has fallen into decay; Jesus will be the one to substitute it, because He is now the presence of God in the world; the Father is present in Him.
• Have you understood that the sign of love of God for you is no longer the temple but a Person: Jesus crucified?
• Do you not know that this sign is turned to you personally to bring about your definitive liberation?
God is both refuge and strength for us,
a help always ready in trouble;
so we shall not be afraid though the earth be in turmoil,
though mountains tumble into the depths of the sea. (Ps 46,1-2)
IMITATING AND FINDING INSPIRATION FROM MOTHER CHURCH TO BE LIFE-GIVING
SCRIPTURE READINGS: EZ 47:1-2.8-9, 12; 1 COR 3:9-11, 16-17; JN 2:13-22
Why does the liturgy celebrate the dedication of a building, albeit a Basilica? The Basilica of course is more than a mere building. It is a special place where the Spirit of God lives. The first reading speaks of the Temple as the place where the water flows “from under the right side of the Temple”, the symbol of the Holy Spirit that nurtures the Church, bringing life to wherever the water flows. As the prophet said, “all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows … because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.” The psalmist affirms this when he says, “The waters of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High!”
Beyond the fact that the Church is the New Temple of God, St John Lateran Basilica, being the Cathedral of the Holy Father, is regarded as the mother of all Churches. It is appropriate that all particular churches in the world who are in union with the One Holy Catholic Church founded by Christ, express their union with the Holy Father, who is the Bishop of Rome and the Vicar of Christ of the Universal Church, by celebrating this feast of the dedication of St John Lateran. By doing so, we not only celebrate our unity but also demonstrate our love for mother Church and we look to her for direction in matters of morals and doctrines.
What is the primary role of a mother if not to give life to her children and to nurture that life? A mother gives birth to a child and then continues to nurture this life by love and education. The Church too is called to give birth to the children of God and to nurture the life of the faithful. The Church is therefore both mother and children making up the Body of Christ. This is what St Paul tells us in the second reading. “You are God’s building. By the grace God gave me, I succeeded as an architect and laid the foundations, on which someone else is doing the building.” And again he reiterates that the Church is more than a building, “Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.”
How does she do it? Principally, through the sacraments and the proclamation of the Word of God; through baptism, she gives rebirth to those who were given physical life; through the Eucharist, she incorporates us into Christ and His body, the Church, and through Confirmation we are bestowed the gifts of the Holy Spirit to live a life of holiness and witnessing in the world. Through the priestly, prophetic and kingly role of the ministerial priesthood, the common priesthood of the people of God are led to the Lord through worship, knowledge of the Word proclaimed in scripture and tradition and united under the bishop and his priests acting in persona Christi capitis, that is, in the person of Christ the head of the Church.
Obviously, the efficacy of the sacraments and the ministerial priesthood is brought about by the grace that comes from the Holy Spirit, without which the sacraments are mere rituals, the Church a mere human institution, and the teaching mere human philosophy. In this way, the Church, as mother, strengthens the members who, by living the life of Christ, are infused with the grace of the Holy Spirit and become the Temple of the Living God in the world.
Consequently, as we celebrate this feast of St John Lateran, we must not forget that the Church does not exist for herself but for the sake of the world. Being Church is to be a sacrament of unity and love in the world. We are not called to form ourselves into an exclusive group but for mission in the world, according to the culture and situations we live in. As the Temple of the Living God, as the Temple of the Holy Spirit, our task as members of the royal priesthood sharing in Christ’s prophetic and kingly office, is to make His presence felt and known, directly or indirectly through our words and deeds. Like the water in the Temple of Jerusalem which flows out from the Temple “east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome”, we who are filled with the Holy Spirit, too, must bring the love and the light of Christ to the world, so that all cultures, societies and human values are Christified and purified by the gospel.
How can we be truly His Church and His Body in the world unless we begin by purifying ourselves? This was why Jesus came. In the gospel, we see Him purifying the Temple by driving out the merchants. “Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money-changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market’.” St John commented further, “Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: ‘Zeal for your house will devour me.’”
If we wish to acquire the same zeal for the House of God and for the conversion of the world, let us not forget to purify our own house, especially of sin, and cut off the dead branches even as we go out to witness Christ in the world. We must grow in holiness and grace. The light of Christ cannot shine through us when we allow sin, especially that of self-centeredness expressed in greed, power and ambition to take control of our lives. Indeed, Jesus warned us, “If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.” Let us not forget that we have been consecrated to God at baptism. The failure to realize this will cause our own perdition. It is therefore important that we be faithful to the sacraments, especially of reconciliation and the Eucharist, as well as a fervent prayer life founded on the Word of God.
Through such means as these provided by our mother Church, we will renew our zeal for the house of God. As Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta says, “A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love. I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.” And even when we face opposition from our foes, within and without, as we seek to spread the Good News or in trying to live a holy life, we need not fear, for like Jesus, we know that God is with us. Like the psalmist, we can pray with confidence for “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress. Therefore, we fear not, though the earth be shaken and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea. God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed; God will help it at the break of dawn. The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.”
Whenever the ninth of November falls on a Sunday, many are surprised to learn that the regular Mass has been replaced by the Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran. The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral of Rome, and therefore the Pope’s cathedral. The foundation of the Lateran basilica goes back to the time of Constantine, the Emperor of Rome. The palace of the Laterani on the Coelian Hill belonged then to Constantine’s wife Fausta. After Constantine’s conversion he gave it to the Pope as his private residence and founded the church of the Lateran which became the mother of all the churches of Rome and the world. It was dedicated to Christ our Savior by Pope St. Sylvester on November 9, 324. In the twelfth century it was given as its second title St. John the Baptist whose name was also that of the ancient baptistery connected with the church; hence the present name of the basilica, St. John Lateran. Twelve councils have been assembled in the basilica and palace of the Lateran, four of which were ecumenical, the first in 649, the last in 1512.