9th NOVEMBER 2023

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Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica


Ez 47:1-2,8-9,12;       Ps 46: 2-3, 5-6, 8-9;   Jn 2:13-22




Today the mother church celebrates the feast of the dedication of the Cathedral Church of Rome. The Lateran Basilica holds a special place in the heart of the Church. It is often called the “Mother and Head of all Churches in the City and the World.” This title reminds us of its historical significance as the first basilica to be consecrated in Rome, the heart of Christianity. You may ask, “Why is the Basilica of St. John Lateran the Pope’s cathedral and not the Basilica of St. Peter since he lives next to St. Peter’s Basilica?” History gives us the answer. In the early centuries Christianity was outlawed in Rome and many Christians in Rome suffered martyrdom. The emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and the famous Edict of Milan in 313 AD allowed Christians to practice their religion in public. Constantine had been given the palace in Rome that belonged to the Lateranus family, and after his conversion to Christianity, he gave it to the Pope. The Lateran Palace was then adapted to become a church and was dedicated on November 9, AD 324, and the Pope then lived in the Lateran Palace, as it was called, for the next 1000 years and the basilica was his cathedral. It was first called the Basilica of the Savior but later was also dedicated to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, and so it acquired the name Basilica of St. John Lateran. When the Papacy transferred to Avignon for about a century, the condition of the Lateran deteriorated so much that when the Papacy returned to Rome, the Pope lived in two other locations before finally settling adjacent to St. Peter’s Basilica where he now lives.

 As we reflect on the dedication of this basilica, we are reminded of the importance of sacred spaces in our lives. The basilica stands as a physical representation of our spiritual journey. Just as the stones of this building were consecrated, we too are called to consecrate our lives to the service of God. In the readings today, we hear about the temple, the dwelling place of God in the Old Testament. The Gospel shows Christ’s reverence for the Jerusalem temple. He regarded this building as his Father’s house, and drove from its walls those who had turned it into a marketplace. Zeal for his Father’s house burned within Jesus. Zeal for all Catholic churches should burn within us, for Jesus is truly present in them. In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of the temple of His body, “Destroy this temple,” he proclaimed, “and in three days I will raise it up.” As John remarks, “He was speaking about the temple of his Body.” foreshadowing His resurrection. Saint Paul says to the Corinthians and all believers: “You are God’s building.” “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” This gives us incredible worth and dignity. We must respect God’s presence in ourselves by living a holy life. We must reverence God’s presence in others by treating them with dignity and love. We, as the living temples of the Holy Spirit, are called to reflect on our own dedication to God. Are our hearts and souls truly consecrated to His service? Are we living our lives in a way that honours the God who dwells within us?

            The dedication of the Lateran Basilica also reminds us of the unity of the Church. This grand structure has seen centuries of history, both glorious and challenging, yet it still stands as a symbol of our faith. Just as the Church has weathered storms and divisions throughout history, we too must strive for unity among ourselves. We are called to be a living, breathing Church, working together as one Body of Christ.

Let us also remember that the Church is not just about the physical building but about the people who gather within it. Each one of us plays a vital role in the life of the Church. Our faith, our love, and our service are the living stones that build up the spiritual temple of God. As we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, let us recommit ourselves to God’s service, consecrating our lives, and working for the unity of the Church. May we always be mindful that we are the living temples of the Holy Spirit, and may our lives reflect the glory of God just as this basilica has done for centuries.

Response: The waters of a river give joy to God’s city, the holy place, the dwelling of the Most High.

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