Tuesday, 9 November 2021 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all celebrate together as the entire Church in honour of the great Mother Church of the whole world, namely the Papal Basilica of St. John Lateran, also known as the Lateran Basilica or by its full name as the Papal Archbasilica of Our Most Holy Saviour, of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist at the Lateran, the Mother and Head of all the Churches in the City (of Rome) and the World. That Basilica of St. John Lateran has such a singular honour because it is the church where the Cathedra of the Pope is, and as such, it is the Cathedral of the Vicar of Christ.

All dioceses in the world have a church in which the bishop’s seat or throne is located at, also known as the Cathedra. This is where the name Cathedral came from, designating the church in which the bishop presides over the entire diocese, as the seat of his authority and also as the mother church of the entire diocese. That church is known as the cathedral of the diocese, and the Diocese of Rome, of which the Bishop is the Pope himself, also has a cathedral, namely that of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which feast of its dedication we are celebrating today.

And because the Pope as the Bishop of Rome by the virtue of his position as the successor of St. Peter the Apostle as the first Pope and Bishop of Rome, and as leader of the entire Universal Church, therefore, the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome has a most special significance, not only as the mother church of the entire Diocese and city of Rome, but also as the Mother Church of the entire world, highlighting the Pope’s special and most important role in his Petrine ministry as the Vicar of Christ and leader of all of God’s faithful people.

That Basilica of St. John Lateran is therefore dignified as the only one in the world to hold the title of Archbasilica, as the chief and mother of all churches, surpassing in honour of all the churches and houses of the Lord in the entire world. Many people thought that the Pope’s Cathedral and seat is at the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican, the largest and most majestic of all the churches, but that is because the Pope resides in the Vatican City, and he celebrates most of the liturgical events in that Basilica. The Papal Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican is no doubt the second most important due to its location, being built above the location of the martyrdom and the tomb of St. Peter himself.

But the Basilica of St. John Lateran is where the Cathedral of the Pope has always been, since it was built as one of the first churches to be established after the official toleration of the Christian faith by the Roman Emperor, Emperor Constantine the Great. It was established as the first major church buildings built in Rome after centuries of persecution which saw Christians being hunted and oppressed, forced to hide in the catacombs and practice their faith in secret. The church that was to become the Basilica of St. John Lateran therefore in way became a symbol of the triumph of the Christian faith, and became the seat of the Pope as the Bishop of Rome.

And what is the dedication of a church? It is the moment and special occasion when the building of the church is consecrated and sanctified by God, as a place of worship and as a place worthy to be the house of God, as the place where the Altar of the Lord’s Sacrifice would be established and placed, worthy for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In the dedication of a church, the church building and especially the Altar is blessed and sanctified, made to be worthy of the Lord’s Sacrifice in the Mass. The relics of saints, at least one of a martyr are placed in the Altar, in memory of how the early Christians celebrated the Mass in catacombs on the tombs of the saints and martyrs.

On this day, as we rejoice in the memory of the great dedication of this most magnificent and worthy House of God, the Mother Church of all the whole entire world, all of us do not in fact just celebrate the dedication of this great House and Temple of God. As we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the faithful in the city of Corinth, one of the first readings used today, all of us God’s faithful people are in fact also the Temples of the Holy Presence, the Temples and dwelling place of God that He Himself has sanctified and marked through the Sacraments we received.

How is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because just as the church is blessed with holy water during its dedication, thus we have also been washed with the waters of the Sacrament of Baptism, and anointed with oil just as the Altar that is consecrated is also anointed with oil, and had white cloth put over it just as we have also been clothed when we were baptised, and we have also received the light of Christ, the same light placed upon the consecrated Altar. And we are also incensed just as the Altar is incensed.

What is the significance then? All of us are the Living Church of God, the living members of God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the Body of Christ. All of us are united as one people and one Church, as one community of the faithful. We must not limit our understanding of the Church merely to the buildings and the structures, or just to the hierarchy of bishops and priests, as all of us are also part of that same Church, all united together in our faith in God, and all journeying together in faith.

Just as the churches are holy and a place made and kept worthy for the worship of God, as St. Paul had also said in the reading today, all of us are also called to maintain ourselves in a state of purity and holiness, so that our lives and our bodies, our whole beings may remain in a state that is worthy of God, for God Himself dwells in us, through the Eucharist, the Most Precious and Holy Body and Blood of the Lord that we have received and partaken, and through the Holy Spirit that He has sent down upon us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore walk with faith in God’s presence, and do our best as we celebrate today’s Feast of the Dedication of the great Basilica of St. John Lateran that we will always strive to live a holy and worthy life, where our faith became evident in our lives and actions. Let us all serve the Lord faithfully in each and every moments of our lives from now on, and may God Who lives and dwells in us, give us the strength and courage to carry out our duties as faithful and dedicated Christians in our world today. Amen.

Tuesday, 9 November 2021 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 2 : 13-22

At that time, as the Passover of the Jews was at hand, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple court He found merchants selling oxen, sheep and doves, and money-changers seated at their tables.

Making a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the Temple court, together with the oxen and sheep. He knocked over the tables of the money-changers, scattering the coins, and ordered the people selling doves, “Take all this away, and stop making a marketplace of My Father’s house!” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture : Zeal for Your house devours me like fire.

The Jews then questioned Jesus, “Where are the miraculous signs which give You the right to do this?” And Jesus said, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then replied, “The building of this Temple has already taken forty-six years, and will You raise it up in three days?”

Actually, Jesus was referring to the Temple of His Body. Only when He had risen from the dead did His disciples remember these words; then they believed both the Scripture and the words Jesus had spoken.

Tuesday, 9 November 2021 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 45 : 2-3, 5-6, 8-9

God is our strength and protection, an ever-present help in affliction. We will not fear, therefore; though the earth be shaken and the mountains plunge into the seas.

There is a river whose streams bring joy to the City of God, the holy place, where the Most High dwells. God is within, the city cannot quake, for God’s help is upon it at the break of day.

For with us is YHVH of hosts, the God of Jacob, our refuge. Come, see the works of YHVH – the marvellous things He has done in the world.

Tuesday, 9 November 2021 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ezekiel 47 : 1-2, 8-9, 12

The Man brought me back to the entrance of the Temple and I saw water coming out from the threshold of the Temple and flowing eastward. The Temple faced the east and the water flowed from the south side of the Temple, from the south side of the Altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside, to the outer gate facing the east; and there I saw the stream coming from the south side.

He said to me, “This water goes to the east, down to the Arabah, and when it flows into the sea of foul-smelling water, the water will become wholesome. Wherever the river flows, swarms of creatures will live in it; fish will be plentiful; and the seawater will become fresh. Wherever it flows, life will abound.”

“Near the river on both banks, there will be all kinds of fruit trees, with foliage that will not wither; and fruit that will never fail; each month they will bear a fresh crop, because the water comes from the Temple. The fruit will be good to eat and the leaves will be used for healing.”

Alternative reading

1 Corinthians 3 : 9c-11, 16-17

But you are God’s field and building. I, as good architect, according to the capacity given to me, I laid the foundation, and another is to build upon it. Each one must be careful how to build upon it. No one can lay a foundation other than the One which is already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Do you not know that you are God’s Temple, and that God’s Spirit abides within you? If anyone destroys the Temple of God, God will destroy him. God’s Temple is holy, and you are this Temple.

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.

Monday, 9 November 2020 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 2 : 13-22

At that time, as the Passover of the Jews was at hand, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple court He found merchants selling oxen, sheep and doves, and money-changers seated at their tables.

Making a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the Temple court, together with the oxen and sheep. He knocked over the tables of the money-changers, scattering the coins, and ordered the people selling doves, “Take all this away, and stop making a marketplace of My Father’s house!” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture : Zeal for Your house devours me like fire.

The Jews then questioned Jesus, “Where are the miraculous signs which give You the right to do this?” And Jesus said, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then replied, “The building of this Temple has already taken forty-six years, and will You raise it up in three days?”

Actually, Jesus was referring to the Temple of His Body. Only when He had risen from the dead did His disciples remember these words; then they believed both the Scripture and the words Jesus had spoken.

Monday, 9 November 2020 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 45 : 2-3, 5-6, 8-9

God is our strength and protection, an ever-present help in affliction. We will not fear, therefore; though the earth be shaken and the mountains plunge into the seas.

There is a river whose streams bring joy to the City of God, the holy place, where the Most High dwells. God is within, the city cannot quake, for God’s help is upon it at the break of day.

For with us is YHVH of hosts, the God of Jacob, our refuge. Come, see the works of YHVH – the marvellous things He has done in the world.

Monday, 9 November 2020 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ezekiel 47 : 1-2, 8-9, 12

The Man brought me back to the entrance of the Temple and I saw water coming out from the threshold of the Temple and flowing eastward. The Temple faced the east and the water flowed from the south side of the Temple, from the south side of the Altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside, to the outer gate facing the east; and there I saw the stream coming from the south side.

He said to me, “This water goes to the east, down to the Arabah, and when it flows into the sea of foul-smelling water, the water will become wholesome. Wherever the river flows, swarms of creatures will live in it; fish will be plentiful; and the seawater will become fresh. Wherever it flows, life will abound.”

“Near the river on both banks, there will be all kinds of fruit trees, with foliage that will not wither; and fruit that will never fail; each month they will bear a fresh crop, because the water comes from the Temple. The fruit will be good to eat and the leaves will be used for healing.”

Alternative reading

1 Corinthians 3 : 9c-11, 16-17

But you are God’s field and building. I, as good architect, according to the capacity given to me, I laid the foundation, and another is to build upon it. Each one must be careful how to build upon it. No one can lay a foundation other than the One which is already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Do you not know that you are God’s Temple, and that God’s Spirit abides within you? If anyone destroys the Temple of God, God will destroy him. God’s Temple is holy, and you are this Temple.

Friday, 9 November 2018 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together joyfully with entire Universal Church, the great feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, also known by its full name of the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist in Lateran, Mother and Head of All Churches in Rome and in the World. It is the actual Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, and as such, is where the Cathedra of the Pope as the Bishop of Rome is.

We may think that the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican is the place where the Pope has his Cathedra, and we may think that it is the principal and the most important church in all the world, but in truth, today, we mark the anniversary of the dedication and consecration of the Cathedral of Rome, the most important church in all of Christendom. It is the heart of Christendom and the centre around which all the whole world of Christianity revolves.

Indeed, the Pope now resides in the Vatican City and celebrates most of the liturgical celebrations and functions in St. Peter’s Basilica, clearly the second most important church after the Lateran Archbasilica, as it was the place where St. Peter was martyred and where his tomb was laid. But historically, the Pope stayed for many centuries in the Lateran Palace just adjacent to the Lateran Basilica.

And today as mentioned, marked the date when the Lateran Basilica was completed and dedicated for divine worship, the very first of its kind after the official toleration of the Christian faith throughout the Roman Empire after hundreds of years of persecutions. The Roman Emperor Constantine ended the persecution of Christians through the Edict of Milan in the year 312 AD, and within slightly more than a decade after that, the Lateran Basilica was completed, and to be followed by many other churches, many of them sponsored by the state.

The dedication of a church marks the moment when the building and the spaces of a church are made holy and sacrosanct, blessed and worthy of the worship of the divine as prescribed by our faith. In the dedication of a church, the altar, which is the centre part of every churches, is blessed first with holy water, and then anointed with holy oil, incensed with the fragrant perfumes of incense, and finally has its altar candles lighted.

Then the same process of blessing with holy water, anointing with holy oils, incensation with fragrant incense, and the lighting of candles are done, on the whole church building and all the people gathered inside the church, and twelve consecration crosses are blessed, as the sign that the church has been dedicated and consecrated for the proper use of divine worship, becoming a worthy space for the worship of God.

In the reading today, the first reading is taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, in which part his vision of the heavenly Temple of God was read out to us. He saw the vision of the Temple of God in heaven, and how water was flowing out of the Temple, a life-giving water that brings about life to its surroundings, and provides enrichment for all that Ezekiel saw.

This Temple is a figurative representation of Christ, Who is the true Temple of the Lord, His own divine presence in heaven, which surpasses and overrides the earthly Temple, which at that time represents the Temple in Jerusalem, first built by king Solomon, and then rebuilt by Ezra and Nehemiah, and last of all, the latter was rebuilt and enlarged by king Herod the Great, which was the Temple standing at the time of Jesus.

The Lord Jesus in the Gospel passage today mentioned that the Temple of God would be destroyed and in three days, the Temple would be rebuilt again. And it was mentioned that the Temple that the Lord Jesus referred to, was actually His Body. And this is linked to what the alternative passage for the first reading today reads, that is from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians.

St. Paul spoke of each one of us as the Temple of the Holy Presence of God, where the Holy Spirit dwells in each and every one of us. And if we are the Holy Temple of God, where God Himself is present, then we must do our very best to uphold the sanctity and the goodness of the condition of this venerable House of God. We cannot defile this Temple with corruption, that is the corruption of sin.

This was what the Lord Jesus did with the physical Temple of Jerusalem, when He came there and saw all the wicked things and the corruptions that had struck at the heart of the House of God, the focal point of the community of Israel. He saw all the merchants and money changers that set up their businesses at the Temple, selling animals for the Temple sacrifice and exchanging the money of foreigners and Jewish diaspora migrants who came back to the Temple.

And in order to understand and appreciate fully the extent of the anger of the Lord, when He took a whip and chased all the merchants and money changers out of the Temple grounds, we must realise that most likely, the merchants were selling their sacrificial animals at a high price and therefore earning a lot of profit from the exchange, and the same occurred for the money changers as well. Essentially, they were dishonest merchants that tricked the people off their money.

And it was likely that the priests of the Temple benefitted from the dishonest and wicked merchants and money changers. By judging on common practices that we mankind usually do, we often try to help one another, even in illicit and illegal ways, and that includes blatantly allowing such sinful activities to take place within the holy grounds of the Temple, at the profit and benefit of both the merchants and the priests of the Temple.

Imagine, then, brothers and sisters, what will happen if we, the Temples of God’s Holy and Real Presence, defile ourselves with sin, even to the smallest and least serious amongst all sins? If the Lord cast out the merchants and the money changers from the Temple of Jerusalem with such anger and righteous justice, then what can we expect at the Last Judgment, when the Lord will divide those who are righteous from those who are just?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice and recall the wondrous memories of those who have been persecuted for their Christian faith, and finally triumphed with the great dedication of this magnificent Archbasilica, the mother and head of all the churches in the world, we must also recall our own calling and mission as God’s own dwelling place, where He resides in each and every one of us who have received the Lord through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist.

And because God created us in His own image, thus our bodies and our existence are the image and the reflection of the Body of Christ, through Whom Christ unites us into His Real Presence, which He gave us through the Eucharist, His own Body and Blood given to us who receive Him into ourselves. We are the Tabernacles and the Ark of the Lord’s Presence. Therefore, we really need to be mindful of the sanctity and the holiness that is needed to be maintained, in keeping our bodies, minds and hearts, and our souls, our whole being, free from the corruption of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore, rediscover our purpose in faith, in honouring God through our daily living, and through our worthy commitment. Let us all turn our hearts, minds and our whole being towards the Lord from now on, with a new faith and with a new conviction, willing to do what it takes, in order to keep ourselves holy and worthy of God’s Holy Presence in us.

May the Lord continue to guide us and bless us, that through His Holy Presence in us, as His Temples and Houses, He may guide us to the right path, and that we may, in the end, be found worthy of His eternal glory, and be worthy to be with Him forevermore. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 9 November 2018 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 2 : 13-22

At that time, as the Passover of the Jews was at hand, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple court He found merchants selling oxen, sheep and doves, and money-changers seated at their tables.

Making a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the Temple court, together with the oxen and sheep. He knocked over the tables of the money-changers, scattering the coins, and ordered the people selling doves, “Take all this away, and stop making a marketplace of My Father’s house!” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture : Zeal for Your house devours me like fire.

The Jews then questioned Jesus, “Where are the miraculous signs which give You the right to do this?” And Jesus said, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then replied, “The building of this Temple has already taken forty-six years, and will You raise it up in three days?”

Actually, Jesus was referring to the Temple of His Body. Only when He had risen from the dead did His disciples remember these words; then they believed both the Scripture and the words Jesus had spoken.