Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, November 9, 2013 — Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome Lectionary: 671

Reading 1 Ez 47:1-2, 8-9, 12

The angel brought me 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

R. (5) The waters of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High! 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!

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Reading 2 1 Cor 3:9c-11, 16-17

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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.

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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.
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Gospel Jn 2:13-22

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Since the Passover of the Jews was near, 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.
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Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral of Rome. This is not St. Peter’s, but it is the Pope’s cathedral. Also called the Church of Holy Savior or the Church of St. John Baptist, it was the baptism church of ancient Rome. It was built in the time of Constantine and was consecrated by Pope Sylvester in 324. This feast became a universal celebration in honor of the basilica called “the mother and mistress of all churches of Rome and the world” (omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput) as a sign of love for and union with the See of Peter.

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites

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Reflection

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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Personal questions
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Have you understood that the sign of love of God for you is no longer the temple but a Person: Jesus crucified?
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Do you not know that this sign is turned to you personally to bring about your definitive liberation?
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Concluding Prayer
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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)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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It might appear strange that we would celebrate a feast in honour of a church.  Why is this building so important that today we are called to praise and thank God for it? In truth, we are not celebrating a building but what the church symbolizes.  The Church is the gathering of the people of God, the community of believers.  This is reiterated by St Paul when he remarked, “Didn’t you realize that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you?”  Indeed, more than just a building, we are the living temples of the Holy Spirit.  

So what is so special about the Basilica of St John Lateran in Rome that is celebrated universally in the Catholic Church?  It is the first Christian church in history. What is also significant is that this ancient church has become the embodiment and powerful symbol of the Catholic Church that is indestructible, for this church has over the centuries endured and grown in spite of attacks, disasters, betrayals.  It was destroyed many times by enemies within and without, fire and earthquake, but rebuilt and restored again and again.  That it survived all these years through the ups and downs of history vouched for the protection of Christ who promised to be with His Church until the end of time.  So for more than 2000 years, the Church is still thriving.

Furthermore, St John Lateran is the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome and therefore the Pope’s cathedral.  Hence, St John Lateran Basilica is regarded as “the mother and head of all churches of the City (Rome) and of the World.”   In celebrating this feast of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, we are reminded of our mother church in Rome and from her, all other churches in the world find its unity and strength.  From the mother church of the world too, the Holy Father exercises his pastoral authority over the whole Catholic Church. 

Indeed, the Church is called holy mother because the primary task of the Church is to give new life, like all mothers.  The Church through the waters of baptism gives birth to new children of God.  Even the baptismal font is shaped in the form of a womb to symbolize the motherhood of the Church.  Ezekiel gives us the image of temple of Jerusalem that wherever the river underneath flows it gives life and nourishment.  Water is also a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  So too those of us who are baptized in Christ through the waters of Baptism, having received the Holy Spirit, will bear fruit in our lives.

Secondly, the Church as mother nurtures by teaching, sanctifying and pasturing.  The Church, like all mothers, is given the responsibility of nurturing as well.  It is not enough to give birth to new children but the Church as mother must continue to nurture her children through the Word and the Sacraments.  As teacher of the Word of God, the Church teaches and proclaims the truth about God and about life.  She has a duty to speak the truth without fear or favour. The Church is also called to be prophetic and be the guardian of morality for the world; a promoter of life and a champion for the poor and marginalized.  In her sanctifying role, she helps her children to grow in holiness through the sacraments.  As the shepherd, she guides her children and looks after them.

Thirdly, the Church as mother wants to see her children all united.  She therefore has the responsibility to preserve unity in the House of God.  She wants to bring unity not only to the Church but the whole world by helping man to find God through Christ.  In this way, all are one.  The Church is called to be the sign and sacrament of unity.  Hence, the Church is also missionary in character.  She exists to give life to all by offering the Good News.

If we consider the Church as our mother, then on our part as her children, we must respond with love and gratitude.  If the Church invites us to celebrate this feast, it is to inculcate love and reverence for her.  To love the Church is to love ourselves because we are the Church.  Without a true love for the Church, we cannot live in it with joy and peace.  Without a true love for the Church, the Church cannot fulfill her mission of being a sign of love and an instrument of unity for the human race. But what does it mean to love the Church, our mother? It means to think with the Church, love like the Church, feel with the Church and pray with the Church.

To think with the Church means to believe in the Church and be one of mind and heart with the Church in doctrines.  We must therefore accept the teachings of the Magisterium on faith and morals.  We cannot pick and choose what we like or don’t like because truth is not a matter of opinion.  There are times when it seems more difficult to believe in the Church than to believe in God.  But we cannot separate the Church from Christ, since the Church is not an organization or man-made institution but founded by Christ to be His Body, He being the head. To believe in the Church is to believe that the Bishops, together as a College, have been entrusted with the gift of infallibility to teach the truth from God for all of humanity.  That is why the Church is an object of faith, since to believe in Christ is to believe in His Church.  Hence, in the Creed, we confess, “We believe in one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.”   To separate our belief in Christ from our belief in the Church would be to separate Christ the head from His body.

However, it is not enough to obey the teaching of the Church; we must be ready to defend the Church as well.  In the light of moral relativism in society, do we defend the Church’s moral teaching against organ trading, euthanasia, same sex union, surrogate motherhood and other ethical and moral issues?  To think with the Church means that we are ready to explain what and why we believe.

To love the Church means to be united with the body of Christ, the Christian community.  It means that we are ready to serve the Church and be involved in the life of the community, using our resources, whether material, financial or personal resources to help the community grow.  We must show care and concern for our fellow Christians.  We must also be concerned for the poor and the marginalized and surely also to be caring for the migrants who are working or living in Singapore.

Loving the Church means to respect the Church.  Many claim that we have respect for Christ but yet they do not have respect for fellow worshippers.  A case in point is the issue of proper attire.  Of course, this is a highly sensitive issue.  The argument has always been that proper attire is relative. That might be true, but why is it that for weddings and formal engagements, job interviews, etc, we suddenly know how to dress appropriately?  At the end of the day, it is a question of charity.  Is my attire helpful for oneself and for others around me to worship together? How would you feel if I came to your wedding dinner in shorts and slippers?  So even if you feel that it is not disrespectful, at least wear clothes that will not distract your fellow worshippers from rendering worship to God.  Observing decorum in attire is an act of charity and respect both to God and to others.  To dress as we like is to please ourselves.  To dress what the Church likes us to dress is to please the Church.

To love the Church also means to forgive each other.  We must recognize the sinfulness of the Church.  Quite often we have been wounded by the Church, most of all by priests and fellow Catholics because the people whom we love most hurt us most. The temptation is to reject the Church when we are wounded by priests.  The truth is that when we reject the Church, we end up losing Christ as well, because by rejecting the Church, we will find it very difficult to keep in touch with the living Christ or be supported in our faith by the community.  Thus, the challenge is to forgive the Church and recognize that the Church, being a community of sinners, often needs forgiveness and to forgive. Forgive us priests because we, too, are struggling to live a holy life.  Instead of condemning us, pray for us just as I pray for those of you who hurt me as well.

Finally to love the Church is to feel with the Church in her zeal for God’s House.  As the gospel tells us that the disciples, upon seeing how Jesus purified the Temple, remembered the words of scripture, “Zeal for your house will devour me.”  Jesus was dedicated to the house of His Father.  We too are called to be His evangelizers.  We too must feel the thirst of Jesus for the whole to know His Father.  We are called to be the living Temple of God for the world to see, as St Paul reminded us.  By our love and service, we are called to be the sign of God’s presence in the world.  We must have this missionary desire to proclaim the Gospel and announce Christ as the Good News to all.

Yes, as we celebrate this feast, we are called to be part of the story and the history of the Catholic Church founded by Christ and sustained by St Peter and his successors throughout the centuries. And even in the midst of trials and oppositions to our faith, we can stand firm in our distress because we know, as the psalmist tells us, that God is our refuge and strength, and Christ will ensure that His Church is indestructible.  Yes, are you proud of Jesus?  Are you proud to be Catholic?  Are you proud to be numbered among the one billion members of the Roman Catholic Church?  If you love our mother Church, then think with her, feel with her, love like her and pray with her and for her.

http://www.csctr.net/reflections/

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