Monday, 9 November 2020 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, together with the entire Universal Church all of us rejoice together celebrating the great Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, which is the preeminent, principal and most important of all the churches in the whole world. It is the most important church and the heart of all Christendom.

The full name of the Lateran Basilica is appropriately, the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist at the Lateran. It is the only Archbasilica to signify that it is truly above all every other churches as the place where the seat of the authority of the Pope as the Vicar of Christ is at.

Although most of us would often associate the Papal Basilica of St. Peter as the seat of the Pope given that it is part of the Vatican City and the Pope himself resides within its complex in the Apostolic Palace, and although most of the Papal celebrations and liturgies take place in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, but the Cathedra of the Pope is not there.

Each of the diocesan bishops of the world has his seat of authority in a church, which is then named as the cathedral of the diocese named after the cathedra, the bishop’s seat of authority as the symbol of his jurisdiction and authority over his entire diocese. The Pope as the Bishop of Rome therefore also has his cathedra which is at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

The Basilica of St. John Lateran was the first of the public churches of Rome to be built after centuries of often intense persecutions of Christians by the Roman government and state and the faithful in Rome had to clandestinely meet and celebrate the Mass in catacombs. There were also other churches built in Rome by the Emperor Constantine after he extended official toleration of Christians in the Edict of Milan, including the old St. Peter’s Basilica, the current one being rebuilt five hundred years ago.

It was therefore there at the very heart and centre of Imperial Rome that the Basilica of St. John Lateran was built and completed, and the Pope took it as his Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome and it has remained as such to this very day. The Pope himself lived and reigned at the adjacent Lateran Palace for many centuries before political circumstances and agreements made it such that now the Pope resides in the Vatican.

But the Cathedral of Rome remains and is always at the Basilica of St. John Lateran and the events of the inauguration of a new Pope is only complete when he assumed his cathedra at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The possession of this cathedra makes this great Basilica as the Mother Church of the Diocese of Rome, just like in any other dioceses.

And since the Pope is not just the Bishop of Rome, but also the Successor of St. Peter the Apostle as the Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff, the leader of the entire One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, thus, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran is the Mother Church of the entire world, the Mother of all the churches. Hence, this is why all of us rejoice together today marking the anniversary of its Dedication.

But we must also not forget that even as we rejoice at the Dedication of this great House of God, the Mother and Head of all the churches of Rome and the world, we are also ourselves God’s Holy Temple, as St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Corinthians. We are all the Temples of His Holy Presence and of His Holy Spirit, dwelling in us all and sanctifying us.

Just as at the Dedication of a church, the church’s Altar is blessed with holy water, anointed with holy oils, and had its candles lighted and the Altar covered with pure white Altar cloths, thus, each and every one of us at the moment of our baptism, we have been baptised with holy water in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, anointed with the holy oil of chrism, dressed in new, white garment and received the lighted candle.

We can clearly see the parallel between the Dedication of a church, like the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, with our own ‘dedication’ to God that is our baptism and initiation into the Faith and the Church. Just as the Dedication of the Church and its Altar sanctifies them and makes them a holy place worthy of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, then through baptism we have also been sanctified and purified to be worthy to be God’s Holy Temple.

We receive the Lord Himself into us in the Eucharist, the Real Presence of the Precious Body and Blood of the Lord, and also the Holy Spirit indwelling in us. Thus, if we keep the sanctity and purity of our churches and their Altars, then we must also keep the sanctity and purity of the Temple of our body and being, the House of God that is each and every one of us. Doing otherwise and to defile this sanctity is a sin against God.

What do we do then if we have defiled the sanctity of our Temple of God, our body, heart, mind and soul? Then we ought to try to rectify it as best as we can. The Lord has granted us through the Church, the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by which through the authority He has given to His Apostles and their successors, our bishops and priests, the authority to forgive us our sins and absolve us from our faults and wrongdoings given that we are willing to fully repent from them.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, if we have not gone for confession for a while, let us have the courage to admit our faults and sins, and have the desire to repent and turn away from those sinful ways. The Lord through His priest and the Sacrament of Reconciliation will heal us and make us whole again. And then, more importantly, we must strive henceforth to resist further temptations to sin.

It will definitely be challenging as we live in a world surrounded and filled by those many temptations. But if we do our best and keep strong our faith in God, and help one another in persevering through the challenges then we should be able to pull through the difficulties and trials together, and together we shall be found worthy of God and be glorified together with Him in the end, forever and ever.

May the Lord, our ever loving God help us to keep each and every one of us holy and filled with faith, each as glorious Temples of His Holy Presence, much like the glorious Mother of all the churches of Rome and the world, the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Amen.

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