Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Homily for November 9 Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran

The Basilica of St. John Lateran was one of the first churches built by Christians after the era of persecution during its first three centuries ended. The original Church built on the site was consecrated by Pope Sylvester in 324 and given the name “Our Savior.”

A council against the Donatists was held at the Basilica in 313 even before it was consecrated. From that time on it became the Cathedral of the City of Rome and the place where Popes lived. The Pope no longer lives there, but it retains its distinction as the Cathedral of the Popes. Hence the following title is written on its walls "Omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater, et caput" which means “the mother and head of all churches of Rome and the world".

Why are churches so important? If our prayers can be heard anywhere as we believe, why do we need churches? Before there were churches, God made his presence known to Moses in the “Tent of Meeting” in the desert. There Moses spoke with the Lord as with a friend. A cloud would descend upon the tent as a special sign of God’s presence. When Solomon finished the construction of the Temple, he acknowledged God’s presence everywhere but he prayed “Whatever people shall pray for in this place, You will hear them and show them your mercy.” Solomon’s prayer of the Dedication of the Temple is recorded in 1 Kings 8, 22-53.

In the Jewish religion, the Feast of Hanukkah or the “Festival of Lights” celebrates the memory of the purification and re-establishment of worship in the Temple after Judas Maccabeus defeated the Greek army that had defiled the Temple. 1 Maccabees 4, 52-59 recounts the consecration of the altar. On this feast candles or lanterns - the symbols of the law are placed in the windows of the home to commemorate the anniversary. So also Catholics celebrate the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Individual parishes throughout the world also celebrate the consecration of their churches.

The prophet Ezekiel wrote during a period of exile. He dreamed of returning to his home in Israel and especially to the Temple. The Temple was seen as the House of God. God was at the center of life for the Jewish people. The image of the Temple in Ezekiel prefigures Christ and his Church. Ezekiel had a vision of water flowing from the Temple giving abundant life to the valley below, even to the arid, lifeless region around the Dead Sea(Ezekiel 47, 1-12).

We are called to give respect to the physical Church as the sign of God’s presence among us, to the Church made of living stones – the People of God who have been baptized who are united under the Pope as the successor of St. Peter who share our common faith, and we are called to respect our own bodies as the Temples of the Holy Spirit. We need to refrain from anything that would defile all three.

We need to have a greater spirit of reverence when entering a Church, toward other human beings who are made in the image and likeness of God and for our bodies as Temples of the Holy Spirit.

Reverence is practiced first by recognizing that a Church, especially when the Blessed Sacrament is present, is more than a space where we gather. It is the house of God. It should be a place where the ordinary hustle and bustle of life stops and we focus our attention on the Lord. The Church teaches us that we need to prepare to receive Jesus in Holy Communion by fasting for at least one hour before receiving.

Jesus is truly present in the tabernacle in his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. We acknowledge his presence by genuflecting before the tabernacle. We should take care to arrive at the Church early, not simply to socialize, but to prepare our hearts through silent prayer. We should also try to spend time in Church after Mass to thank God and visit the Church outside of Mass when we have an opportunity. Even a short time spent in prayer can help us continue our work with renewed strength, joy and peace.

St. Paul teaches us that the members of his Church form the Mystical Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12, 12-28). This reminds us that we come to God not simply as individuals, but as a community. The Church is not a purely human institution, it also has an element of the divine.

Pope John Paul II said “The mystical Body is as strong as the degree to which the members adhere to their Head and the measure to which they ‘grow’ in him toward ‘the fullness of Christ’. In and through the Church, ‘the dwelling place of God in the Spirit’, the Lord is glorified by virtue of the spiritual sacrifices of the ‘holy priesthood’ of the faithful (1 Peter 2,5). The Lord’s kingdom is thus established in the world.” St. Paul also said “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3, 16)

We tear down the Church by sin, unfaithfulness and disobedience to the laws of God, destructive habits, lack of charity, laziness, indifference, slander, gossip, lack of forgiveness, envy, etc.. We build it up by faithfulness and obedience to the will of God, love prayer, corporal and spiritual works of mercy, diligence, generosity, etc..

Rededicate yourself to holiness and the Lord will use you to purify and sanctify his Church and build up the Mystical Body of Christ - the Church.


Any readings taken from the Common of the Dedication of a Church (LFM 701-706)

Preaching for Life

Rejected Stones Deserve our Love

The Church is built of living stones. So when we celebrate the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, mother of all Churches, we celebrate the Church universal.

That Church is made up of living, breathing men and women, each endowed by God from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death with the dignity of the children of God. It matters not how big the stone, how strong or prominent the stone, it still makes up the Church.

Christ, the cornerstone, was rejected by the builders, and all who seek him will find him in the stones that everyone else has rejected. How blessed we are to be called to make up the household of God!

Reflections for Life

In fact, while the climate of widespread moral uncertainty can in some way be explained by the multiplicity and gravity of today's social problems, and these can sometimes mitigate the subjective responsibility of individuals, it is no less true that we are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin. This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable "culture of death." This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency. Looking at the situation from this point of view, it is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another. A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favored tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated. In this way a kind of "conspiracy against life" is unleashed. This conspiracy involves not only individuals in their personal, family or group relationships, but goes far beyond, to the point of damaging and distorting, at the international level, relations between peoples and States.

—The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II, no. 12.

The following is from chapter 5 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal:

The Church Building

§ 16 § Just as the term Church refers to the living temple, God's People, the term church also has been used to describe "the building in which the Christian community gathers to hear the word of God, to pray together, to receive the sacraments, and celebrate the eucharist." That building is both the house of God on earth (domus Dei) and a house fit for the prayers of the saints (domus ecclesiae). Such a house of prayer must be expressive of the presence of God and suited for the celebration of the sacrifice of Christ, as well as reflective of the community that celebrates there.

§ 17 § The church is the proper place for the liturgical prayer of the parish community, especially the celebration of the Eucharist on Sunday. It is also the privileged place for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and reservation of the Eucharist for Communion for the sick. Whenever communities have built houses for worship, the design of the building has been of critical importance. Churches are never "simply gathering spaces but signify and make visible the Church living in [a particular] place, the dwelling of God" among us, now "reconciled and united in Christ." As such, the building itself becomes "a sign of the pilgrim Church on earth and reflects the Church dwelling in heaven." Every church building is a gathering place for the assembly, a resting place, a place of encounter with God, as well as a point of departure on the Church's unfinished journey toward the reign of God.

§ 18 § Churches, therefore, must be places "suited to sacred celebrations," "dignified," and beautiful. Their suitability for worship is determined by their ability through the architectural design of space and the application of artistic gifts to embody God's initiative and the community's faithful response. Church buildings and the religious artworks that beautify them are forms of worship themselves and both inspire and reflect the prayer of the community as well as the inner life of grace. Conversely, church buildings and religious artifacts that are trivial, contrived, or lack beauty can detract from the community's liturgy. Architecture and art become the joint work of the Holy Spirit and the local community, that of preparing human hearts to receive God's word and to enter more fully into communion with God.

For more information on the Basilica of St. John Lateran see:




For pictures of the Basilica of St. John Lateran:

Exterior: http://jesuit.ls.luc.edu/~yost/photogallery/Complete/johnlat2.JPG

Interior: http://www.breviary.net/images/churches/lateran10.jpg

Exterior and Interior: http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.breviary.net/images/churches/lateran10.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.breviary.net/propsaints/propsaints11/propsaints1109.htm&h=595&w=463&sz=47&tbnid=ENLv6PsrAGwJ:&tbnh=133&tbnw=103&hl=en&start=18&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dbasilica%2Bjohn%2Blateran%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26sa%3DG



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