FEAST OF THE DEDICATION OF THE LATERAN BASILICA IN ROME

November 9, 2017

Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12

 

Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and the water was coming out on the south side.

He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become fresh. Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes.

On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

 

 

Psalm 46:1-9

 

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.

 

 

1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17

 

For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.

 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

 

 

John 2:13-22

 

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

 

(NRSVCE)

 

 

Meditation

 

When the Lateran Basilica was first built in Rome, it was the first time that Christians were able to build a church above ground.  Up until that point, because of the persecution they suffered from the Romans, they held Mass in secret, even underground in the tombs of their dead.  When Christianity was legalized and Constantine, the emperor, allowed them to build their cathedral for the bishop of Rome, they built a large building with a plain brick exterior.  Among all the beautiful temples and architecture of Rome, the Christians built a church that looked like a factory from the outside.  But inside, they had spared no expense.  The sparkling chandeliers, the mosaic floors, the marble columns all stood in testament to the fact that Christianity deals with matters of the heart and the inside of a person, not how things appear on the outside. 

 

And so the first church was designed as a basilica, a design borrowed from a king’s visitation hall, with a large main aisle to accommodate hordes of people coming in to visit a king, and then two side aisles, separated by columns for their dismissal.  Contrasted with the architecture of pagan temples, which did not allow visitation of peoples to the interior courts, the early Christians stressed through their architecture that our God desires us to come to him, and that he is the greatest King of all kings.  Inside, the chair of Peter is established, the rock on which Jesus said he would build his church.  To this day, an elected pope is not fully initiated as the pope until he has assumed his seat on the chair of Peter in the Lateran Basilica, not at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. 

 

While the architecture and history of the building speak for themselves in why the basilica is important in the history of our faith, our scriptures today reveal to us why it matters every moment of every day.  God’s dwelling place is spoken of in the scriptures as being both a refuge and a resting place but also a source of outgoing life.  There is an internal and external component.  God plays both defense and offense, as it were.  God’s house is an estuary, a place of calm and of refuge for those seeking him, and yet, those waters must flow out back into the world.  Those waters must wash away the brine and the silt and the build up of the world to allow flowing waters and life to thrive.  Just as the basilica is designed for people to flow up to the front to meet God and back out again at the sides, we are supposed to turn to God for our peace, for him to break down the build up in our hearts, and then we are to return to the world, bearing Christ to our neighbors. 

 

But while this is the design of the perfect model for our way of relating to God and bringing him to other people, we all know that we often block that living water from flowing into our hearts.  Like the merchants in the Gospel, we have all turned our minds, our hearts, and our lives into a house of traffic sometimes.  When we let our stresses and worries build up, and we think on these things more than we think about trusting in God.  When we stay so busy that there is never a moment’s rest to turn to God in stillness.  When we fill our minds with entertainment, so we never have a moment of silence to hear God’s voice speaking to us.  These are the ways we turn the temples of our bodies into houses of traffic. When we are too preoccupied with the cares of day to day living that we do not give God his due.  We need to take that time to let him in and to let him wash away those concerns.  We need to let him cast out our cares and stresses, so that we can be rejuvenated and renewed.  This is how he forms us into more fitting servants.  Then, instead of only barely keeping our own heads above water, we will be able to minister in the world and help bring other people to Christ.

 

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, thank you for the gift of your Church.  Thank you for the gift of your Spirit.  Thank you for the gift of yourself.  Please enter my heart.  Break down the barriers that I have built up and wash me clean on the inside.  Help me to be a more fitting vessel to receive your Spirit.  Please fill me with your Holy Spirit, and let it overflow in me to reach those who need you most.  Amen. 

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