Saturday, 9 November 2019 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this great day and occasion, we together with the whole Church, the entire Christendom rejoice for the Holy Mother Church, because today we mark the anniversary of the Dedication of the great Mother and Head of all the churches of the whole entire world. On this day we mark solemnly the remembrance of the Dedication of the great Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, which is also the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, our Pope.

The Basilica of St. John Lateran was one of the earliest churches to be built after the ending of the official persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire, after the Emperor Constantine the Great extended toleration of Christians through the Edict of Milan and soon took up the Christian cause by donating lands and money to support the growing Christian Church, beginning a vigorous program of church buildings, including that of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in the middle of the ancient city of Rome.

A lot of people may not know that the Basilica of St. John Lateran or the Lateran Basilica is actually the Cathedral of the Pope and not the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican. Although the latter Basilica is truly of great importance, second only to that of the Lateran Basilica, being the Basilica built over the Tomb of St. Peter and his place of martyrdom and being the largest and most wonderful of all churches in Christendom by architecture and also being the place where the Pope celebrates most of his liturgical celebrations, but it is in the Lateran Basilica that the Cathedra of the Bishop of Rome is placed.

A Cathedral is the mother church of the entire diocese and is the seat of the bishop, as that is where the Cathedra or the official seat or throne of the bishop is placed. Since the earliest days of the Church and also following ancient customs, the seat of authority is the mark of a ruler’s authority and power, and they are also used to denote the teaching and preaching authority in religious context. When Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to death, he was also seated on the Seat of Judgement, or Gabbatha in Hebrew.

Similarly therefore, the bishop’s Cathedra is the preeminent symbol of his authority over the whole diocese, and the church where the Cathedra is placed, is called the Cathedral of the diocese, the most important and preeminent of all the churches in that entire diocese. In the same way therefore, the Cathedra of the Popes being located in the Lateran Basilica means that the Lateran Basilica is the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome and its most important church.

And Rome being the heart and centre of all Christendom being the seat of the Vicar of Christ as the Successor of St. Peter the Apostle made the Lateran Basilica all the more important, as this particular House of God and church is not just an ordinary Cathedral for any bishops, but is the Cathedral and the primary church of the Vicar of Christ, the Pope himself. As a result, this is reflected in its title being the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour, dedicated to both St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, and also given the additional title of being the Head and Mother of all the churches in Rome and in the whole world.

Therefore today, we rejoice with the whole church for this Dedication anniversary and remembrance of the greatest church and House of God on earth, calling to mind the suffering and the pains endured by the many martyrs of the early Church who had to go through persecutions before the triumph of Christianity and the faith in the time when this great Basilica was built, as a symbol of victory of the true faith over the pagan religions and the false gods of ancient Rome.

And also, we reaffirm our loyalty, obedience and unity to the Church of Rome, to the Vicar of Christ, currently His Holiness Pope Francis, the Successor of St. Peter the Apostle as the leader of the entire universal Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of God. By celebrating this Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, we show our unity to the whole Church, and adhering ourselves to the bounds and the rules of the Universal Church as espoused in the divine authority invested in our Popes, seated on his Cathedra in the Lateran Basilica.

This is why we have to keep in mind this unity and this faith we have, which is very important, considering the many bitter divisions of Christians over the past two millennia, bitter divisions that still last to this very day, although efforts had been made towards the reunion of the splintered Church of God. We have to pray fervently and do our best in whatever small ways we can do, to maintain and foster unity among all Christians.

Hopefully one day, soon, the entire Christendom and all those who believe in the Lord will be reunited as one united Church as how it was in the early days of the Church, united under the leadership of the Vicar of Christ, the Pope and Bishop of Rome, together with the entire episcopate, the College of Bishops and all the leaders of the Church. This is why as we celebrate today’s glorious occasion we also have to pray for the unity in the Church and also the unity of all Christians.

And now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all today also called to reflect on ourselves, for one thing that we must also not forget is the fact that each and every one of us are truly also Temple of God’s Holy Presence, where God truly dwells and made us all to be His House. His Spirit He has given to us, and through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, by which He has transformed the essence of bread and wine into His own Precious Body and Blood, we have received Him into ourselves.

Therefore, all of us are God’s living Church, the true Church of God that is even more important than all the physical church buildings we have. For while all those churches are built by men, we are all built by God Himself, and we were made to be good and perfect, had it not been for sins that made us to be defiled and corrupted. And yet, God’s love for each and every one of us is still so great that despite even all of that, He wants to forgive us and be reconciled with us.

And thus, we have to realise just how seriously we have to take God’s love for us, His compassion and merciful heart always directed towards us. If we take very good care of our churches and make sure that only the best are given to God, in our worship and in the careful prescription of the liturgical laws and norms, then we must also show the same attitude and commitment in our own lives as well. For we are all God’s living Church, and He is truly present within us.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the famous story of the Lord Jesus clearing the Temple from all the merchants who were peddling their goods and exchanging money in the courtyards of the Temple. In that story, we saw the Lord’s great anger as He chased out all those merchants and overturned all their tables and ceased all of their transactions, all because they have actually defiled the sanctity of the Temple by their actions.

The context of this action was that those merchants were tolerated or were probably even encouraged by the Temple authorities as they were beneficial to each other, with the merchants’ livelihood depending on the presence of the Temple and its many worshippers and visitors and the continuous activities in that Temple. Meanwhile, the Temple authorities, the priests and the elders gained from the presence of the bustling merchant activities as they were the ones who also sold the necessary sacrificial animals to the worshippers coming to the Temple.

However, as they did so, they ended up being greedy and corrupt in their practices, tricking the worshippers coming from afar by being unfair and unjust, as the prophets themselves once foretold, of the wickedness of those who would treat their brethren with contempt and seeking only their personal benefits, overcharging for their goods and services, and gaining plenty of profits from the losses incurred by innocent people who came to the Lord seeking to worship Him.

That was why the Lord was rightfully angry, as He cleared the Temple grounds from all those corruptions as a stern reminder for each and every one of us, that we should not allow those corruptions from defiling our own House of God either, that is the Temple of our body, our heart, mind, soul and our whole being, for God is truly present in us, and He Who dwells in us is all holy and perfect. Should we willingly and consciously defile our own Temple, we shall suffer grievously in the end.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, having been reminded that we are all God’s living Church and that we are the Temple of His holy Presence, let us all strive from now on to be righteous and to be faithful in all things. Let us all distance ourselves from sin and from its many temptations, so that while we may fall into sin again from time to time, but by our resolve and by our desire to love God wholeheartedly, we will always remain anchored strongly to God.

Let us all strive to be holy and be exemplary in our actions in life from now on then, so that we may be beacons of light and hope for our fellow brethren, that despite the challenges and darkness in our lives, we will always be focused on God and will be ever closer to Him. Let us all seek to love God and be faithful to Him ever more, with each and every passing days. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

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