Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica
Why Do We Go to Church?
We may question, “why do we go to church”? Today we celebrate the dedication of the St. John Lateran, the first of the great churches built after Constantine ended Christian persecution in the 4th century. Our readings off us an answer to our question.
Ezekiel 43:1-2,4-7. To us, sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, is given a vision of the temple filled with God’s glory. Saying that in the temple is a throne for God and that the soles of God’s feet are planted there, is a way of saying God dwells among us.
All creation is God’s dwelling place, but it seems God’s presence sometimes shouts to us. Come to me. Moses had such an experience in the desert before the burning bush. It seems though, great visions are a bit too rich for our daily fare. But we do need ‘our’ place. A place we go to for peace, a place to speak with God, a place we approach with reverence because for some reason it is sacred to us. The kind of place where I feel I am loved, I can be with the loved one. A church is that! It is an inn of hospitality welcoming all. There we find a banquet table piled high with God’s graces, sagging under their weight. A seat is reserved for each of us at this table of abundance.
1 Corinthians 3:9-13,16—17. Our bodies are the temple where God dwells within us, we are holy. Our homes and offices, buildings of brick and mortar, no matter how large or humble, are transformed by our personality. They bear the marks of our children, our trophies, this favorite color, the smell of that recipe, my favorite chair. So our church buildings, similar in many features, are each unique by their moments in history and also by the ‘living temples’ that they welcome, and that bring them to new life.
Ezekiel speaks of the flowing water running out of the temple to bring God’s life and fertility. Paul speaks of the waters of Baptism that fill us with the Holy Spirit. Priests, prophets, kings and queens we become ‘other Christs’. When the perfumed oil of Chrism is placed upon our heads we are commissioned, even the tiniest of us, to go into the world to love as Christ, seeing Christ in others and in ourselves. In the garden of the church, we tend our hearts so that they may grow to the size of the heart of Christ.
John 4:19-24. At a deserted village well Jesus meets and asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. This woman is one who has not found her place. In the days ahead I suspect it will be this well. But right now she comes every day for the drudgery of carrying needed water for her house. Soon it will be her special place because here she falls in love. It would seem hard to refuse the request for a drink when you are standing at a well with a bucket full of water. More than asking Jesus is giving. ‘Whoever drinks the water I give will have a fountain leaping up to give eternal life’. ‘Give me this water, sir, so I shall not grow thirsty’. On the Cross Christ again is thirsty for us. From his side will flow life-giving water upon all who gather beneath the cross, those filled with the Spirit that Jesus breathes upon us in his final breath.
Answer: We are a holy people, together invited to be with our lover as we eat and drink, celebrating the mystery we are baptized into, our dying and rising with Christ.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is a member of Immaculate Conception Community in Jamaica, New York.