Wednesday, 9 November 2022 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the whole entire Church celebrates together the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the Mother Church of all the whole entire world, the most important and prominent of all the churches, as the seat of the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, the seat of his authority, power and sovereignty over the whole Universal Church. This may come as a surprise to quite a few among us who may have thought that St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican as the most important church of all, given its unique position in Vatican City, just adjacent to the Apostolic Palace where the Popes reside in. Indeed, most of the major celebrations by the Pope and other important major celebrations and commemorations are celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica due to its size and also importance, being essentially the largest church in all of Christendom and also convenient centre of the Church’s coordination and ministry.

However, in terms of actual significance and importance, St. Peter’s Basilica, also known officially as the Papal Major Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican is second in rank after that of the Lateran Basilica, which commemoration of Dedication we are celebrating today. The Lateran Basilica is the actual seat of the Pope and the place where his Cathedra as the Bishop of Rome is located at. In order to understand this better, first we must all know that each ordinary or bishop of a diocese has his own Cathedra, located in a church which is therefore known appropriately as a Cathedral, the Cathedral and also the Mother Church of the entire diocese. Since ancient times and the earliest days of the Church, the bishop’s authority has always been associated and linked to his seat of teaching and authority, which is his Cathedra.

That is why whenever a new bishop has been ordained, he officially takes over the governance of his diocese when he has been installed and enthroned on his Cathedra, a ceremony which is even more explicit and clear in nature amongst our brethren following the Eastern Christian traditions. In the same way therefore, the Pope as the Bishop of Rome also has a Cathedra, the Cathedra of the Diocese of Rome and its bishop, who is also the Pope and the Vicar of Christ. This Cathedra is located at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which is therefore, given the universal nature of the Papal authority and supremacy over the whole Church, is appropriately the Mother Church of the whole entire world. Hence, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, sometimes also known by its official name of the Archbasilica of Our Saviour, and of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist in Lateran, is truly the most important church of all.

Historically, this very important particular House of God was also among the first churches to be built following the end of official persecutions of Christians and the whole Church by the Roman state, as well as the beginning of period of toleration and eventually support by the Roman Emperors and state for the Christian faith. Prior to the Edict of Milan which ended a long series of persecutions against Christians, most Christians usually worshipped in secret, gathering in places where they would not be easily seen and found out being Christians, such as in the catacombs, the tombs where many of the martyrs and saints were buried, as well as in houses, outside of cities and other secret places that were relatively safe from the knowledge of the authorities. Most Christians were not able to openly profess their faith in God, and many were persecuted, suffered and died for their faith in God.

Therefore, when the Roman Emperor Constantine decided to end the official persecution of Christians which had lasted for almost three centuries, and extended toleration and even support for the Church, it was a time of new beginnings for the Church and to the Christian communities long accustomed to great persecution and sufferings. The Emperor helped to fund and provide the lands which would become the place where the then Pope, Pope St. Miltiades, would establish a new church dedicated to God, the Most Holy Saviour of all, as a most worthy House of God and as the seat of the Pope and Vicar of Christ, and hence, as the centre of all of Christendom. The Church since the earliest days and the beginning had always considered St. Peter and his successors, the Popes, to be the ones entrusted by God with the governance and leadership over the whole Church.

That church, what would become the Basilica of St. John Lateran, was dedicated on this date, the ninth day of November, about seventeen centuries ago, in the year of Our Lord 324, just eleven years after the Edict of Milan. This church therefore became the beginning of a visible authority of the Church which had remained long hidden from the world, as it emerged out of the long and dark periods of persecutions, into a new period of establishment and expansion, as many new churches, facilities and communities were established all throughout the Roman Empire and beyond, and seventeen centuries later, this work of evangelisation and establishment of the Church which had begun even earlier since the days of the Apostles, still continued on after the Christian faith has reached the very ends of the world.

On this day, we celebrate the day of the Dedication of this great House of God, the Mother Church of all the whole entire world. What does it mean by a church being dedicated to God? It means that the church as a building and edifice has been solemnly blessed and marked by God to be a House and Temple worthy of His Presence, and worthy of the Divine Sacrifice taking place there, where the bread and wine, by the power of God, through the offerings and hands of the ordained, in persona Christi, are changed in essence, reality, matter and all into the Most Precious Body and the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Himself. And henceforth, because the very Real and Holy Presence of God is present and contained within the church, it has to be purified and blessed, dedicated to God for purpose only of divine worship and praise.

Otherwise, the Sacraments cannot be celebrated within the church, and therefore it is imperative that a church has to be dedicated before it can be properly used for any benefits for the faithful and the community of the people of God. That is why we celebrate and rejoice in the dedication of a church because that moment of dedication is the time when the people of God can finally celebrate together the Sacraments and be in the Holy Presence of God. The Church of God rejoices because a new House of God where the people can gather together as a Church has been blessed and hallowed as such, appointed to be a place of holiness and virtue, and for the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is rightful therefore that the people celebrates the dedication of their parishes and the anniversary of that dedication, and the people in a diocese to celebrate the dedication of their Cathedral and the respective anniversaries.

Therefore, it is most fitting and right for the whole Church to celebrate together the dedication of this great Basilica of St. John Lateran and its anniversary, which happens on this date, as it is the Mother Church of all of us, reminding us of the unity of all Christians through the leadership and guidance of St. Peter and his successors, the Popes and the Vicars of Christ. As we celebrate this Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, we therefore renew our commitment to the unity between all the faithful people of God, all members and parts of this same Body, the one and only Church of God, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We remember the seat of the Pope and his authority, over the whole Church, together with all the bishops and other leaders that the Lord has appointed, and the deposit of faith that has been preserved from the time of the Apostles themselves, and those are what we celebrate today.

And not only that, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are also reminded at the same time that while we rejoice greatly at this House of God which God has blessed and made worthy to be the Temple of His holy Presence, we should not forget that there is yet another Temple of God, the House of His Presence that is equally important for each and every one of us. And what is that, brothers and sisters? It is the body that we have, each and every one of our body, heart, mind, soul and indeed, our while entire beings. We are all the Holy Temples of God, the Temple of His Holy Presence just as St. Paul told the faithful and the Church in his Epistle to the Corinthians. All those who have received the Lord and accepted Him as their Lord and Saviour, are all the dwelling places of God, Who is truly present in us.

Those who are familiar with the rites of dedication of a church will know that what happens during the dedication is exactly just what we as Christians went through during our initiation to the faith, be it as infants or as adult converts. Just as the church is blessed with holy water, so has us as Christians received the holy waters of baptism, and just as the church is anointed with oil, on the twelve consecration crosses, we too have received the anointing with holy oils of sacred chrism during our baptism as well. The incensation of the Altar and the whole church is mirrored by the incensation of all the people of God in the Mass as the living Church, the Temple of the Lord’s Holy Presence, marking that each one of us are truly set aside to be holy and worthy of God. And just as the Altar is clothed in white, so we have also received the white garments at our baptism.

What is even more important is that, while churches and even the great Basilica of St. John Lateran are all made with the hands of men, imperfect and flawed, the One Who crafted and made us all was none other than God Himself. He made us all to be worthy and perfect, but unfortunately, due to our disobedience and refusal to follow His path, His Law and commandments, sin had entered into our hearts, our very being and corrupted this Temple and House of God that is our bodies and our being. Yet, God did not give up on us or destroy us, because of His ever enduring love for us, and He gave us the means towards our salvation and liberation from sin through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God has called all of us to holiness and to be worthy of Him, remembering that each one of us have received the Lord Himself, in His Real Presence through the Eucharist, and also have been sanctified and set aside by our baptism, and our whole initiation into the Christian faith and Church. Therefore, let us all be reminded of the need to keep ourselves as far as possible to be blameless and free from sin, and refrain from doing things that are contrary to God’s will and can lead us down the slippery slope towards sin and damnation. We have to do our best to guard and take care of ourselves to avoid falling into the many temptations, coercions and pressures all around us trying to drag us away from the path towards God’s salvation and eternal life.

Let us hence live our lives to the best of our abilities, to be good role models and inspirations for one another in faith. Let us all be truly worthy of God dwelling and being with us all the time. Otherwise, if we fail to fulfil our respective Christian callings and missions, then it will be more difficult for us to come nearer to God. May the Lord give us the strength and the perseverance to remain firmly committed to Him despite the challenges and hardships we may have to encounter along the way, keeping our body, heart, mind, soul and our whole existences and beings free from sin, as the Temples of the Lord. May God be with us all, and as He blessed the great Basilica of St. John Lateran, may He also bless us all in our future good works and endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022 : 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.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022 : 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.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022 : 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.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022 : 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.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022 : 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.