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.

(Special Post) Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, Mother Church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore, also the 120th Anniversary of its Consecration (14 February 1897) – History of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd

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On 14 February 2017, the Church in Singapore is going to celebrate a great occasion of the Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, which is the principal and mother of all the parishes and churches in Singapore. As the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Singapore, it is the place where the Cathedra or the seat of the Archbishop of Singapore is located at.

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The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd was established as one of the first church buildings in Singapore, in the earliest days of its history as a British colony after it was discovered by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in the year 1819. The Cathedral had its origins in a simple and small chapel built from wooden and attap structure constructed between the year 1832 and 1833.
However, the rapid growth of the Church in Singapore, growing number of the faithful and pressing need for a more appropriate place for divine worship resulted in the efforts to establish a permanent place of worship for the faithful in Singapore. Upon generous donations from various individuals including that of the Queen of France and the Archbishop of Manila, the permanent church building that would become the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd became a reality.

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The foundation stone was placed in the site of the future Cathedral in the year 1843 and the completed church was opened and blessed on 18 June 1847, on the Feast of Corpus Christi by Father Jean-Marie Beurel, one of the pioneer priests and evangelisers in Singapore.

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(Picture: Fr. Jean-Marie Beurel)

The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd was named as such upon the inspiration from the holy martyr St. Laurent Imbert, one of the first Catholic priests to visit Singapore, who went on to be the first Vicar Apostolic to Korea, and was martyred for his faith there during the violent persecution against the Church and the faithful. It was told that he gave himself up to the authorities in order to safeguard the other faithful under his care, saying that “in times of great need, the Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” in the imitation of the Lord, our Good Shepherd.

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(Picture: St. Laurent Imbert)
As the Diocese of Malacca (established in 1558 in Malacca, now in Malaysia) was reestablished in the year 1888 after it has been temporarily suppressed in 1839 (and later revived as the Vicariate Apostolic of Western Siam in 1841), the church that was to become the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd was elevated to the status of a cathedral, and Bishop Edouard Gasnier became its first bishop. He was interred in the Cathedral’s crossing (between nave and transepts) upon his death in 1896.
The Cathedral was dedicated by Bishop Gasnier’s successor, Bishop Rene-Michel-Marie Fee, who dedicated and consecrated the Cathedral to our Lord Jesus the Good Shepherd, on 14 February of the year 1897, 120 years ago to the current date. Ever since, the Cathedral had become the hub for the growth of the Church and the Christian faith both in Singapore and throughout the region for the next 120 years.
Ever since, the Cathedral had weathered through good and difficult times, including the turbulent years of the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, when it was functioning as an emergency hospital, but it weathered through them. Nevertheless, time and the rapid construction around it and underneath the ground due to the building of the Mass Rapid Transit train line caused the foundation of the Cathedral to be affected, and serious cracks started to appear on the structure.
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Therefore, serious efforts for a major renovation was carried out, and after many years of preparation, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd finally was closed on 28 October 2013, for a thorough and extensive renovation and modification. Throughout this major project, various discoveries were made on the historic nature of this Cathedral, including the discovery of the original foundation stone placed in site in the year 1843. The original layout and architecture of the Cathedral were also restored.

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Finally the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd was reopened on 20 November 2016, on the Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King, by His Excellency Archbishop William Goh of Singapore during the Opening Mass, where he solemnly reopened the Cathedral for the purpose of divine worship.

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And now, on the 14th day of February of the Year of our Lord 2017, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd is going to be dedicated to the Lord before all the faithful people of God.

Pray for the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, pray for the Church of God in Singapore!

(Singapore – Solemn Pontifical High Mass) Tuesday, 14 February 2017 : 120th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd (14 February 1897), Solemnity of the Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd after 2013-2016 Major Restoration (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 19 : 1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man named Zaccheus lived there. He was a tax collector and a wealthy man. He wanted to see what Jesus was like, but he was a short man and could not see Him because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. From there he would be able to see Jesus, Who was going to pass that way.

When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, come down quickly, for I must stay at your house today.” So Zaccheus climbed down and received Him joyfully. All the people who saw it began to grumble, and said, “He has gone as a guest to the house of a sinner.”

But Zaccheus spoke to Jesus, “Half of what I own, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much.” Looking at him Jesus said, “Salvation has come to this house today, for he is also a true son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

(Singapore – Solemn Pontifical High Mass) Tuesday, 14 February 2017 : 120th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd (14 February 1897), Solemnity of the Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd after 2013-2016 Major Restoration (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Ephesians 2 : 19-22

Now, you are no longer strangers or guests, but fellow citizens of the holy people : you are of the household of God. You are the house, whose foundations are the Apostles and prophets, and whose cornerstone is Christ Jesus.

In Him, the whole structure is joined together, and rises, to be a holy temple, in the Lord. In Him, you, too, are being built, to become the spiritual Sanctuary of God.