The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica
Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12
1 Corinthians 3:9c-11, 16-17
We are Made Beautiful in the Beauty of the Church
The church of St. John Lateran is the cathedral of Rome, the church of Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome. More than the Church building we celebrate the living stones that make up the Church. Our greatest symbol when we gather at the Eucharist is the community of the faithful, the Body of Christ.
A long way from Rome, in Calgary, Canada, Heidi Grogan, describes the Servants Anonymous Society (SAS), which supports women leaving the sex trade. She describes the poverty of these women with words such as these: broken hearted, crushed in spirit, powerless, those for whom no one cares, belonging nowhere, and, women who have had the gift they are ‘taken’ verses freely given.
An SAS volunteer expressed her shock at the ingratitude of the women who were living in a newly renovated home. The blinds were broken; stains marred the tabletops. Heidi replied to the volunteer that the women were grateful but uncomfortable. The house did not match the way they felt inside. The volunteers insist the women are beautiful and want them to see themselves that way, to feel they belong in a beautiful home. But new girls will make their home affirm their poor self-mage. The volunteer looked at the damaged drywall, the marks on the walls. She made the connection to the newest resident, whose body had been a punching bag, whose arms bore scars from self-harming.
[Weavings XXIX Number 1 p. 8]
Like the volunteer in the story John’s gospel makes the leap from the building to the person. Those who hear Jesus think he speaks of the building but he speaks of his body. Our gospel follows the miracle at Cana, where Jesus gives the gift of wine that comes from water; today is the gift of himself as the New Temple that replaces the old.
As the women’s bodies were abused, so the temple of the Lord was being abused. Those who want to help heal and to bring justice will meet opposition in many ways. To give us the new Temple Jesus would endure his Passover from death to life.
Why celebrate a dedication of a church building? How our words that describe the Church are so different than the descriptions of the abused women above. We describe our Church as: mother, New Jerusalem, a bride made beautiful for her husband, a refuge for sinners, a family where all are welcome, the place where we gather to share the life giving and transforming presence of our Savior. The women made their home conform to their suffering. We celebrate the dedication of the church so that it may enable us to see in ourselves the mystery and beauty that is the Church, and we may share this gift with one another.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.