Friday, November 7, 2008

November 9: Dedication of John Lateran Basilica

November 9 The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
Readings: Ezekiel 47:1-2,8,9-12; 1 Cor. 3:9-11,16-17; John 2:13-22

This Sunday we commemorate the Dedication of Saint John Lateran. What is the Dedication of St. John Lateran? The Solemnity commemorates the oldest and principal Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. The Pope as its Bishop presides over the Eucharist there every Holy Thursday surrounded by Cardinals, Bishops and his diocesan clergy. The name “Lateran” is derived from the Roman Lateran wealthy family that owned the Lateran Palace, but when they fell out of favor, Constantine gave the property to the Bishop of Rome around 313 A.D, and in 324 A.D. Constantine built a new church next to the palace. The present structures of Saint John Lateran were commissioned in 1646 A.D. It remains to be one of Rome’s most imposing churches. Beneath its high altar rest the remains of the small wooden table on which tradition holds St. Peter himself celebrated Mass. The celebration today expresses the unity of all local churches with the Church of Rome. The Pope as head of the college of Bishops presides over the communion of all the local churches in the world. The Basilica is considered to be the mother of all other local churches around the world gathered in communion with the Bishop of Rome. From here flows a river with its streams spiritually nourishing all members the one Body of Christ. That is why the First Reading from the Book of Ezekiel speaks of the stream of life giving water. Ezekiel “saw water flowing from the temple and all to whom that water came were saved." The prophetic nature of the stream of life giving water is found in other Biblical passage. The wonderful and superabundant stream flowing from the temple, transforming dry land into fertile ground, is symbolic of the return to primeval paradise conditions (Genesis 2:10-14). Water signifies great blessings, just as dryness signifies a curse (Ezekiel 26:5, 14).

In the Second Reading, Paul speaks of the Church as God’s building, the temple in which God dwells. Paul reminds the Corinthians that they must build on the foundation he laid, “for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ.” In other words, Christ is the unique foundation. The “you” in this text refers to the Corinthian Christian community. It is this Community that is the temple of God wherein the Divine Spirit dwells and enters into the hearts of its members. To desecrate a temple is a heinous crime. That is why Jesus in the Gospel on going to the Temple in Jerusalem for the Passover sets out to cleanse it. Because of many pilgrims, it was necessary that vendors supply their needs (animals for sacrifice and Jewish half-shekels to pay the Temple tax, as this tax could not be paid in Roman or Greek coins). Unfortunately, this trading gave rise to abuses. That is why Jesus cleanses the Temple, by pushing the traders with a whip to relocate outside the courtyard. In driving out the traders, Jesus makes a claim that angers the religious leaders. “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a market place.” The celebration of this Sunday underlines two points: 1) That the Church is solidly founded on Christ who is the living Temple from where flow streams of spiritual gifts; 2) The Church is a communion of local churches united with the Bishop of Rome, who presides over that communion.

©2008 John M. Mbinda

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