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.

Friday, 9 November 2018 : 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.

Friday, 9 November 2018 : 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.

Thursday, 9 November 2017 : 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 with the whole Universal Church the feast of the Dedication and Consecration of the most important church in all of Christendom, and it is indeed fitting to say that this church is the heart of the entire Christian world. Why is that so? That is because on this day, about seventeen centuries ago, the great Basilica of St. John Lateran was dedicated to our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the World, as well as to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.

This Basilica, and not the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican, is the place where the Pope, as the Bishop of Rome and the Leader of the Universal Church, has his Cathedra, or the seat of the Bishop. And where the Cathedra is, therefore lies the Cathedral. And indeed, the Papal Basilica of St. John Lateran is the Cathedral of the Pope and the Diocese of Rome, and as such, just as the Cathedrals throughout the world are the mother churches of their own respective dioceses and archdioceses, this particular Cathedral is the Mother Church of the entire world.

Thus, on the feast day of this illustrious church, known in full as the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist at the Lateran, we rejoice together with the entire Universal Church as one united Church, for the grace of God which He had poured down onto the Church for all these years. The Cathedra of Rome in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran is the seat of the Pope’s authority, which he inherited through unbroken series of succession right from St. Peter the Apostle, the first Pope and Bishop of Rome.

And as we all know, the Lord Jesus Himself established His Church in this world and entrusted it to St. Peter the Apostle, as the leader of all the Apostles and as the Vicar entrusted by God to be His chief representative on earth, and therefore, this edifice which was established seventeen centuries ago is a representation of the foundation of the entire Church in this world, which God first established on the faith of St. Peter, the Rock of the Church.

But today’s celebration is much more than just a happy celebration of the dedication and consecration of this great Archbasilica, as the Scripture passages today pointed out the true meaning of God’s churches and the houses in which He dwell in this world. The churches of God are not just the physical buildings, the beautiful chapels, or churches, or grand Basilicas or Cathedrals of the dioceses. These are indeed part of the Church, as the Houses of God, where God Himself dwells in each of them, in the Eucharist, in the Tabernacle.

For we all believe that the Lord Himself is truly present in our churches, housed in the Tabernacle, where the bread consecrated by the priests, whose authority eventually came from Christ through St. Peter and the Apostles, had become the Most Precious Body and the Real Presence of our Lord. As such, God Himself dwells in the churches, as the new Temples of God, no longer just like the Temple of Jerusalem of old.

In the past, the Lord dwelled in Jerusalem, in the Temple that king Solomon built for Him, which was destroyed by the Babylonians and then rebuilt after many years, as the Temple which existed at the time of Jesus. He was in the Holy of Holies, the innermost sanctum of the Temple in Jerusalem. Yet, what we have today is far greater than that, for God Himself has come upon us in Jesus Christ, His Son, revealing Himself to the whole world, to all those who believe in Him and accept Him as Lord and Saviour.

And we believe this because, the Lord Himself is fully present in our churches and places of sacred worship, be it from the grandest and largest churches, Basilicas and Cathedrals, to the smallest, least and simplest of chapels which have been dedicated for the purpose of sacred worship. The dedication of a church signify the official marking and recognition given to the edifice and place, that it is now worthy of the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass, and dedicated to either Our Lord Himself, or to His mother Mary, or to one or more of His many saints.

For on the altar of the church, the same sacrifice which Our Lord Jesus Christ lovingly offered for the sake of our redemption is enacted, not a recollection, nor it is a repeat, and neither a mere remembrance or memory, but instead the one and very same actual Sacrifice which occurred two millennia ago at Calvary, when Our Lord willingly accept death on the cross, condemned as a criminal, so that through that death, He might redeem many, those who believed and accepted Him, from their sins.

And in that Sacrifice, God Himself has given His own Most Precious Body and Blood, which through the priestly authority given to our priests today, have transformed the mere bread and wine into the very Real Presence of Our God. Thus that is why we consecrate and dedicate the churches to the Lord, for these must be truly holy places, of special sanctity in order for they to be worthy of being the place where God Himself dwells, His Real Presence in the new Temples, our churches.

And today, as we rejoice together remembering the day when the greatest of these physical Temples, the churches, that is the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, is dedicated to God, all of us should also use this time to reflect on two very important matters that all of us will need to pay close attention to. First of all, it is regarding how we ought to behave and participate in the churches, and secondly, with regards to our alternative first reading today from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, for all of us baptised Christians that we are all the Temples of God as well.

Thus, first of all, let us all reflect on how we have behaved thus far in the church during the Holy Mass, during Adoration and Benediction sessions, and during any other liturgical functions, or even during any other times when we are just present in the church for prayers or silent contemplation. How many of us chatted unnecessarily during the Holy Mass, or during times when we ought to be silent, or to be participated during singing of hymns and prayers?

How many of us are distracting ourselves with the use of mobile phones, apps and all the other things that we should not be doing in the Mass? Yet, even though we know that God is truly present in the Eucharist, and stored in the Tabernacle that He is still always present even after the Mass and throughout the day, we did all sorts of things that we should not have done in the presence of God, in His House. And that is how we relate to what we have just heard in our Gospel passage today.

Jesus cast out the merchants and money changers from the Temple of God in Jerusalem, chasing them all out with a whip, turning over their tables and scattering off all their coins and transactions, cattle and animals they were selling for the sacrifices at the Temple. Why did Jesus do that? That is because, He was rightful to be very angry at what those merchants and money changers had done, and to a certain extent, the priests of the Temple as well.

Those people were cheating the people from their money, by charging them extra expensive for the services and for the purchase of animal sacrifices and other things, gaining profits in the process. And the priests and the Temple allowed such heinous acts to continue in the hallowed House of God. No wonder Jesus was angry at them all, having made the House of God, His Father, to be a den of robbers and wicked men, committing sins right before God’s presence.

In the same manner therefore, when we are in the presence of God in the church, from the grandest Basilicas and Cathedrals to the smallest and simplest of chapels, do we truly realise that He is there, and because He is truly present in all of those places, then we ought to keep the place holy through genuine reverence and prayerful silence? Sadly, there are many Christians who did not do this, and it scandalises our faith because there are many who had said that they do not believe in God, because they themselves witnessed that Christians had not done what they should.

Imagine, brothers and sisters in Christ, how are we to persuade others to believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, if they see many of us disrespecting the Lord in the Eucharist, either by receiving Him unworthily, or without due respect, or receiving Him half-heartedly as if we are no different from queueing to get our fast food meal from the many fast food chains out there. Is this how we should behave? If we do not do what we must, then not only that we have neglected our responsibilities, but we may have also turned many others from God’s salvation as well.

And secondly, and more importantly, what I want each and every one of us to realise and internalise is the fact that, each and every one of us who have validly received the Sacrament of Baptism and Initiation, have been made God’s Temple, as the Lord Himself in the completeness of His Holy Trinity has been received in us, dwelling in our very own bodies, hearts, minds, and our entire beings.

If I have mentioned how we must keep the great sanctity in the churches, chapels, Cathedrals and Basilicas and the grave consequences should we fail to do that, then we have to remember that all these, which are physical human products of building and construction, pale in comparison in the physical term, as compared to each and every one of us, mankind, who have been crafted and constructed by none other than God Himself, and we have also been made in the very image of God no less.

We are the perfect Sanctuaries and Temples of God’s Holy Presence, which have once been defiled by sin, by all the immoralities and all the wickedness we have committed. But through the waters of baptism, we have been cleansed and the Lord has entered into ourselves, dwelling in our very own being. Thus, each and every one of us, in accordance with what St. Paul also reminded us in the Epistle, ‘Do you not know that all of you are God’s Temple?’, must live a life that is righteous and free from all forms of sins.

Otherwise, God will severely punish those who desecrate the sanctity of this Holy Temple, and every sin is a corruption that desecrates the sanctity of this Holy Temple that is our body, our mind, our heart, and our whole being. In reality, it is indeed difficult for us to sustain a pure life, free from sin, as we are always tempted all the time, to sin and to disobey God. Yet, the free will and choice have been given to us by God. We are free to choose to continue to sin and do what is wicked in the sight of God, or to do what is right, and repent wholeheartedly from the sins we have committed.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, I cannot stress any less, that it is important for us all Christians to recognise that each and every one of us are sinners, and as we have sinned, we must strive to do what is right and just in the sight of God. And we are called to go to confession regularly and receive the Sacrament of Penance as often as we can, so that the taints of sin and its corruption will not continue to defile the sanctity of the Temple of God in our body, heart, mind and our whole being.

Let us all then, from now on, strive to live a true Christian life, by devoting ourselves to God, deepening our relationship with Him through prayer and charity, by loving others, our brothers and sisters who are in need, giving our time, attention, love, care, compassion and help wherever it is needed. May the Lord help each and every one of us, to keep the sanctity of the Temples of His Holy Presence, that all of us as Christians will be worthy Houses of God, where He dwells, just as He dwells in all of our chapels, churches, Basilicas and Cathedrals. Amen.

Thursday, 9 November 2017 : 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.

Thursday, 9 November 2017 : 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.