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St. John Lateran

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Dedication of St. John Lateran

1. Ezekiel 47, 1-2, 8-9 and 12

  • The angel brought me back to the entrance of the temple.  I am listening to a very old vision.  What is he saying about the temple?
  • I saw water flowing out.  What does it mean?  In my part of the world it rains in abundance, but in Israel rainfall was scarce and had to be captured in barrels or cisterns.  The prophet sees water flowing in abundance, and in all directions.  He is amazed, and I should try to capture some of that amazement.
  • The façade of the temple was toward the east.  All the great religions at their core celebrate starting points that unite all believers.  They orient their places of worship toward such a point.  Some Catholics would like the entire Eucharistic assembly to face east.  But if we followed this reading to the letter, our altar tables would be facing west!
  • Every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live. Fruit trees shall grow.  Five verses are missing that indicate that the water flow rose to a level of superabundance.  As in the country song, “Two feet high and rising.”  God gives more than we can imagine.  The Lateran Basilica became the mother church not just of western Europe but also of the other lands and peoples who came to embrace the Gospel through her emissaries.
  • Central point: Sheer abundance: Water flowed, and it is repeated six times.  Sheer life: Fruit, food, medicine.
  • Message for our assembly: This is one of the days on which we Roman Catholics celebrate our Romanicity.  Let us take pride in our shared heritage, at the same time we open ourselves to the catholicity of the church.
  • I will challenge myself: To let my words dance as I celebrate the corners of the universe, east, south and north.  (Those were the forbidding directions where rain never falls and life cannot survive, at the Dead Sea and the rest.  “West” is missing because it always rained on that side of the mountains.)

2. I Corinthians 3, 9-11 and 16-17

  • You are God’s building.  In a sense we celebrate our bonds by referring back to a basilica in Rome.  But every proud basilica and every humble chapel need to be measured by their fruits, by the difference they make in people’s lives and hopes.  In a greater sense we celebrate ourselves today, insofar as we inherit the message proclaimed from there, and pass it on to others.
  • Like a wise master builder I laid the foundation, and another is building.  Again I hear a history of salvation, passed on from one apostle to another.  As I gaze on the congregation I mean to say that you and I are all in the process of laying foundations, but especially building on foundations set down by Paul and our other forebears.
  • No one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ.  We share that foundation, as the hymn The Church’s One Foundation reminds us.  Another humbling thought:  History shows us that Christians do not break apart in division because we fail to love our neighbor, but because of our earthly politics or the way we conceptualize Christ.  In other words, unity and salvation (and witness before the nations) come from doing the truth rather than from assenting to it.
  • The Spirit of God dwells in you.  The apostle wrote the letter because he was scandalized by the thoughtless way the Corinthians treated each other.  Again, if we honor buildings (and that includes secular structures like a capitol building or a royal palace), how much more should we honor each other.
  • Central point: You are God’s building You are the temple of God.  Edifices remind us about ourselves.  We are greater than these inanimate structures.  Our calling is just as noble.
  • The message for our assembly: Let us imagine a unity among assemblies that trace their origins through the messengers from Rome to many nations.
  • I will challenge myself: To reinforce the apostle’s challenging and encouraging words.

Gospel. John 2, 13-22

  • I hear many details about a prophetic event from the life of Jesus.  This symbolic attack on the temple has the appearance of a real event, though it is only recorded in the Gospels and nowhere else.  In our world we hear reports of men and women who pour blood on military draft records and dent the cones of ballistic missiles, who march to the sea to produce their own salt (as Gandhi did), or who lie down in front of bulldozers in the Palestinian lands (Rachel Corrie).  These disparate events do not appear in many history books, either.
  • The evangelist provided so many graphic details, that I find it easy to paint the scene.  There is real though token action, more in the nature of disruption than of violence, a whip made out of cords and money tables overturned and sheep and oxen driven out.  Finally, the plea: Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.  This time the new lectionary is certainly an improvement!
  • The reading begins by describing the prophetic act.  When the temple authorities confront Jesus, they ask him What sign can you show us for doing this?  At this point Jesus compounds his action by declaring that he is greater than the temple. 
  • Climax: The prophetic words Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.  For Jews in the time of Jesus, the temple represented and embodied the covenant between God and the people, and the liturgies held there made it a sacred sign.  Most Catholics would feel the same way about St. Peter’s, or the even older Lateran Basilica that we commemorate today. 
  • Message for our assembly: A single man, Jesus, is greater than the temple.  Where do we come down?  Are we proud of bricks and mortar, or do we rejoice in the love we show each other and our neighbor today?
  • I will challenge myself: To take the details and make them come alive for the congregation.

From Word to Eucharist: We are one especially today with our mother church.  Do we have to go to Rome to feel this way?  Why not build up the sentiments now?

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