November 7, 2008

Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran in Rome /
Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionLast weekend, the Church replaced the liturgy of the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time with the liturgy of the commemoration of All Souls.

This week, instead of the liturgy for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Church celebrates the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.

As was the case last week, the Church has lessons here to teach.

Actually, the Basilica of St. John Lateran is the principal church in Rome. St. Peter’s Basilica, probably to the surprise of most Catholics, is not the major church in Rome.

Historic circumstances associated St. Peter’s so intimately with the popes. St. Peter’s Basilica is a shrine, not a cathedral.

Cathedrals are the churches in which local bishops celebrate the Eucharist and preach, especially in their official positions as shepherds of the flock.

In Rome, the Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral, the seat of the pope. Since the pope, the bishop of Rome, also is the chief pastor of the Church Universal, St. John Lateran has significance for every Catholic.

This link with the pope reminds us that we all are part of the Church.

The dedication of any church is important since by dedication we set a space on Earth aside for God, there to hear God’s holy word and to be with God in Jesus in the Eucharist.

For the first reading, the Church offers us a beautiful passage from the Book of Ezekiel.

The prophet sees water flowing from the temple. The Holy Land then, as now, as always, was very arid. Water meant life. Life flowed from God’s house, from God’s presence.

St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians is the source of the second reading.

It describes us, the people of the Church, as “God’s building.” We are the brick and mortar of the structure that makes God visible on Earth, in which God dwells. Christ is our foundation stone.

The last reading is from the Gospel of John.

It reports the event, so familiar to Christians, when Jesus entered the temple area in Jerusalem and found there a virtual marketplace.

Jesus drove the merchants away, insisting that the temple was God’s house, the holiest of places. He denounces the merchants for making God’s house a place not just of business but also, by their cheating and greed, a place of sin.


We can be overly literal in reading this passage from St. John’s Gospel. Of course, Jesus ridded the sacred precincts of the temple of merchants and charlatans who were preying on the devout.

However, John saw more in this event. John recalled that Jesus was the true temple of God. Jesus would be killed and in three days would rise. It was just as Jesus predicted that the temple would fall and in three days be restored.

There is no place for sin in the true temple of God. John further saw a community aspect in the group of believers surrounding Jesus. They were united to the Lord by the Lord’s own design. He was united with them. The bond was created by God.

We are now in this community, which is the Church. There can be no sin among us. We cannot allow our greed or dishonesty to defile the holy temple that is Christ.

The Basilica of St. John Lateran, as any dedicated church, has a pragmatic purpose. It provides us with a setting for prayer, for hearing the Word of God and for the Eucharist.

It also represents us as we are the Church. We are the Body of Christ, resurrected and living in the world. Christ is in us. We are in Christ.

We are God’s people. In God’s mercy, the pope guides us and ministers to us. †

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