32nd Sunday: Dedication of Saint John Lateran Nov 9, 2008

 The readings: [Ezek. 47:1-2, 8-9, 12; 1 Cor. 3:9-11, 16-17; Jn. 2:13-22]

     Today as we celebrate the Dedication of St. John Lateran, we thank God for our union with the Church in Rome. Most Catholics think of St. Peter’s Basilica as the pope’s main church, but they are wrong. St. John Lateran is the pope’s church, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome where the Bishop of Rome presides. It was once a royal palace and basilica which belonged to the ancient Roman Emperor Constantine and his family. The first basilica on the site was built in the fourth century by Constantine on the land he had received from the wealthy Lateran family and donated it to the Church. That structure and its successors suffered fire, earthquake and the ravages of war, but the Lateran remained the church where popes were consecrated until the popes returned from Avignon in the 14th century to find the church and the adjoining palace in ruins.  As the Cathedral of the Pope, the Supreme Pontiff and Pastor of the Universal Church, the Lateran Church or Basilica is the head and mother of all churches. It is dedicated under the title of the Most Holy Savior as well as that of St. John the Baptist. It is more known by this second title of St. John, its full proper name being the Patriarchal Basilica of the Most Holy Savior and Saint John the Baptist at the Lateran.   Behind the Cathedral is the Baptistery, which is about half the size of our Church.  When people, infants to adults, were baptized, the entire parish gathered for the celebration. The entrance of a new Christian into the faith was a central focus of the Church. Today’s celebrations remind us of our union with the Bishop of Rome, the Holy Father.      

The Scripture readings of today give us the insight about the places of worship that are worth pondering. They acknowledge the beauty and the importance of the sacred place like the Temple of Jerusalem.  They remind us that the life given to us by God cannot be confined even to a building, even if it is the most revered sanctuary of the Holy One.  Jesus and his disciples had great respect for the Temple but Jesus warns us against giving too much of importance to anything built by human hands.  God’s presence cannot be contained in any one particular building. He is every where. More and better than in any temple, God’s presence is now made visible to us in Jesus who lived on earth, suffered and died and rose for our sake.  This God will dwell within us and we are his Temples the sacred place of his presence.  In us God will make his dwelling place and the Trinity will live within us.

Today’s First Reading from the Book of Ezekiel speaks of the stream of life giving water. The message is very clear:  “I saw water flowing from the temple and all to whom that water came were saved.” Water is life giving element as it was given in the Garden of Eden or in the desert for people to quench their thirst and the living water that flowed out of the heart of Jesus symbolizing his glorious resurrection.  Prophet Ezechiel says that 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 and everything will live where the river goes.

The Second Reading from the First Letter of St Paul to the Corinthians reminds us that we are God’s Temple and that we are God’s building. This is the place where God dwells.  He instructs us to be careful as to how we build on the foundation that he laid. Hence there is only one Church that was instituted by the Lord, only one Faith, and only one Baptism.  As God’s Temple, we are living stones, Jesus being the cornerstone.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is speaking about the Temple of His Body and is speaking about the new Temple, the Resurrected Christ.  The Temple is a holy place and God stays in it in a very special way. The Gospel says that when Jesus visited the Temple in Jerusalem, He found some people selling cattle, sheep and doves. Different kinds of sacrificial animals were being sold at the Temple so that the pilgrims would not have the added expense of bringing them from far away. He takes upon himself the task of cleansing the Temple.  When Jesus drove them all out of the Temple with a whip, assuming there was a large number of sellers, He must have enlisted the assistance of His disciples. The reference to the whip during the Gospel Reading may have been symbolic, serving the purpose of emphasizing the authority of Jesus as the Lord versus being used as a physical support. The reason for this action is as the psalmist says, “It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”

Because of Jesus’ action, those who were indifferent to the Laws of Moses and who lacked respect for the Temple, asked Jesus for a sign to prove that He had the authority to do what He had just done. Jesus said, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” John clearly says that he was referring to the temple of his body.   There may be some reference to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, yet, His emphasis was a reference to His death and Resurrection, the one sign that should be sufficient for all believers of all times. Incidentally, these same words of Jesus, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up” are the words the Jewish persecutors used against Jesus at His mockery trial. It had taken them 46yrs to complete the decoration of the Temple and could not accept his riddle of three days, talking in human and divine contexts.

Today’s feast  teach us that through the glorious Resurrection of the life giving Temple of Christ, we become living stones that feed on the living water, the ever flowing Divine graces that are bestowed upon us as a gift of God’s love and mercy for His beloved children. let us be thankful to the Lord God for His tremendous sacrifice permitting his temple to be destroyed so that it becomes living temple for us, for eternity.

 

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