The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica
Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12
1 Corinthians 3:9c-11, 16-17
You may be lucky enough to have a special place to go where you can recharge, relax, and be deeply at peace. It might be a building or room in a building, a particular path through the woods; a place of special activity or a place of no activity.
When Israel was in exile in the land of Babylon we hear through the Book of Ezekiel of such a place. Israel’s hearts longed to be in the courtyards of the Lord, and their harps hung silent because they could not process singing to the dwelling place of the Lord. But Ezekiel says that Israel is in exile now, they have been unfaithful. Just as well because God has packed up and left the temple! What were their feelings when they heard the place they longed to be was no longer to be their special place? Ezekiel gives hope in our reading today; there will be a new temple in a new Jerusalem. From it will flow a life-giving water; it will cause the trees to bear abundant fruit, and their leaves will even serve as healing medicine. A new favorite place is promised to Israel.
We come to the temple with Jesus, but something is wrong. Zeal for the House of God makes Jesus disrupt what is going on there. The signs that Jesus gives in the Gospel of John are always important, and Jesus when asked, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" gives the temple as a sign. Jesus will replace the physical temple and its special place in the heart of Israel with himself. He will be the special place and center of the spiritual life of his people.
On the feast of the Dedication of the Church of Saint John Lateran, all are invited to stand together in the Cathedral of Rome, the Church of Pope Francis. It is a venerable building, given to the Pope by Constantine and consecrated in 324, shortly after Christianity was legalized. Now we can claim this as one of our special places. While not a place we can stop in to rest a bit on a busy day, it is spiritually a place of welcome and peace. And, it is a place whose doors open outward into the world of daily life, sending us forth to be other Christs in our world.
If we want to find a sacred spot in the Church of Saint John Lateran, it may be the Baptismal Font. How many ‘little fishes’ learned to swim and have come to life in its waters? This sacred spot bears the inscription: "There is no barrier between those who are reborn and made one by the one font, the one Spirit, and the one faith…"
Today we are invited to come to a place good for our spirit, a place that also challenges Christians. The Bishop of this Church, Pope Francis, sees the waters of his church flowing into the world, and calls us to listen to the flow of the Holy Spirit; to show the presence of Christ among us in the works of charity, and in the gift we share that makes us one – our faith.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.