Wednesday, 9 November 2016 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, Major Papal and Roman Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in Lateran, Mother and Head of All Churches in Rome and in the World (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate with the entire Universal Church the great feast and solemnity in remembrance of the moment when the great Cathedral of Rome, the seat of the Bishop of Rome, of the Vicar of Christ, from St. Peter to his successors and to our current Pope, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, was consecrated and dedicated firstly to our Lord, the Most Holy Saviour of us all, and then to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Apostle and Evangelist.

Many of us would have thought that the Cathedra or the seat of the Pope is at the Vatican City, or at the St. Peter’s Basilica, which is truly the largest and most magnificent of all the churches and basilicas throughout the world, but in fact, due to the residence of the Pope in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City, the Basilica of St. Peter is where most of the Papal liturgical celebrations take place due to its position and convenience, but the Papal Cathedra is not at that basilica.

Even though the Papal Basilica of St. Peter is indeed special as that was where St. Peter, the first Vicar of Christ and the Bishop of Rome was martyred, and where subsequently he was entombed, but the Cathedral of Rome is indeed located in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in the middle of the city of Rome due to its historical reasons, as that basilica is the first of the churches to be built in Rome after the official persecutions of Christians were ended by the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great.

Before that time, Christians were not be able to openly celebrate the Holy Mass and other celebrations of our faith in public, or else, the Roman authorities would seize them, arrest the faithful and destroy whatever they had, as the officials and the administration for most of the early Church were hostile and unfriendly towards the Church and the faithful. Unlike today, going to a Holy Mass at that time would actually mean choosing between life or death, and was a matter of chance whether one would be found out and arrested.

In fact, if we read through the history of the Church, the story of the holy martyrs and servants of God at that time, we would realise just how difficult it was to become a Christian, as they had to hide from place to place, and though sometimes under more tolerant Emperors and administrations they were able to have more leeway, but generally, most of the early Christians had to hide underground, and in fact, they celebrate the Holy Mass in the catacombs, on the tombs of the saints and martyrs.

Some of them had to struggle just to get to the Holy Mass, and while some servants of the Lord were risking their own safety and lives in order to minister to the people, including that of St. Tarcisius, who was a young man tasked to deliver the Eucharist, the Body of our Lord, to prisoners who were not able to gain access to the Mass, and when angry enemies of the Lord demanded that he had to hand to them the Eucharist, he chose to defend it to his death rather than to surrender the Lord.

Imagine how joyful the faithful people of God would have been when the persecutions against them by the authorities were rescinded by the order of the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, who extended a universal toleration of the Christian faith throughout the whole Empire in the Edict of Milan, after almost three whole centuries of sufferings of the early Church.

And the Emperor who was attracted to the teachings and the truth of Christianity would then donate funds for the building of churches and places of worship for Christians, the principal one of which was the one built atop the Lateran hill, which would become the Basilica and later, Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. It was there then that the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope was affixed and established.

And this very day, the ninth day of November, was supposed to be the day when the Archbasilica and Cathedral of Rome was consecrated to God and dedicated both to the Most Holy Saviour, as well as to the St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist and Apostle. This is a very important event, as before a church is consecrated and dedicated, it cannot be used as a place to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. And as the Holy Mass is at the centre of our faith, therefore, the dedication of this great place of worship, this House of God is truly very significant for all the faithful.

And ever since, throughout its very long history, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran has been at the heart of Christianity, the Christian faith and Christendom, the focal point of the faith, where the Popes resided for much of their subsequent dominion in Rome and over the whole world in the adjacent Lateran Palace for much of the next millennia and many centuries henceforth.

What is the significance of this great feast day for all of us, brethren? It is firstly that as this Archbasilica is the Cathedral of Rome, the Seat of the Papal authority, therefore, it is the Mother Church of all the other churches, parishes and cathedrals, basilicas and all other centres of the Christian faith throughout the world, as the Head of all the churches, all united under the authority of the Roman Pontiff, our Pope, the Vicar of Christ.

In each of our own Cathedrals in our respective dioceses, or Archdioceses, or other circumscriptions and territories of the Church, they are the respective Mother Churches and the focal points for all the believers in those local regions and divisions, but all are united to the whole entire Church in the authority of the Pope, as the leader of the entire Universal Church.

In the Scripture readings we heard today, we saw the vision of Ezekiel of the Temple and the Sanctuary of heaven, where he saw the Temple of the Lord, where the Lord Himself resides, and from it flowed out life-giving stream of water, which gave life to many things on wherever it flowed to. And this is the second point that we should take note in our celebrations today. That the Church of God, its edifices and buildings should be holy places worthy of the Lord, and out of which should come out life and goodness.

And yet, how many of us defile the sacredness and the holiness of the House of God? How many of us came to the Holy Mass with inappropriate attire, inappropriate gestures, and more important of all, with inappropriate state of heart and mind. We come to the Mass not because of the Lord, or because we want to visit Him and be with Him, but rather due to other reasons.

And what are these reasons, brethren? It is either that we feel the obligation to come to the church and the Mass because it is what the Church told us to do, or because we come to the Church to find our friends and to chit chat and talk with them, or because we do not know what we did so? All these are the common reasons why we have not been genuine with our devotion to God in the Holy Mass, coming to the churches for our own selfish desires and not for the sake of the Lord. We forget that when we come to the Mass, it is the Lord Who ought to be the centre of all of our attentions.

And the fact is that, as Jesus pointed out in the Gospel today, our bodies are the Temples of the Lord’s Most Holy Presence, much as the Temple of Jerusalem was the place where God dwelled among His people. Why is this so? That is because the Lord Himself has come to dwell among us, within us, inside us, deep inside our hearts, when we, His people, receive Him through the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Yes, we received the Lord through the Eucharist, His own Body and Blood, from the bread and wine offered to the Lord and by the power and the authority granted to our priests acting in persona Christi, or in the person of Christ, to transform them completely in matter and reality to that of our Lord’s very own Presence and Essence. And by coming down into us, we have made ourselves to become the Holy Tabernacle of our Lord, the Temple of the Lord’s Divine Presence.

And God Himself had sent us His own Holy Spirit, and by the life He had granted us, the life given to us by God the Creator, God is fully inside us, blessing us and providing us with sustenance and strength to carry on with our daily lives and more. And this is something which many of us might not have realised, as we tend to be too busy or too distracted by many things in this world, and indeed, if our behaviours and attitudes towards the Holy Mass, towards God’s Holy Temple had been indicative, how would then one be surprised at what we have done to our own bodies, which are also the Temples of the Lord?

St. Paul said in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, the first letter, verse three, where he spoke to them about us as in his own words, ‘Do you not know that you are God’s holy Temple and God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?’ And this precisely what I was just talking about, on all of us being the Vessels and the Temples of God, and therefore, just as much as our holy places, churches and all dedicated to God for holy purposes, then each and every one of us must also make sure that we are clean, pure and holy in all of our bodies, hearts and minds.

Those who have defiled the sanctity of that holy Temple of God will therefore receive the same treatment that Jesus did to all the merchants, money-changers and other crooks who corrupted and defiled the holy grounds of the Temple of God in Jerusalem. He fashioned a cord out of reeds and whipped all of them out, throwing away their money boxes and chasing out all of their merchandises, animals and all sorts, purifying the Temple and House of God from all of these.

In the same manner, therefore, if we have not been faithful to God, wicked in our ways and do not preserve the sanctity of our bodies, minds and hearts, then at the end of our earthly lives and on the day of judgment, God will reject us, cast us out and leave us to our fate of eternal suffering, separated for eternity from His love and grace, for indeed we have committed a great sin.

Instead, brothers and sisters in Christ, what should we do then in order to be faithful to the Lord? Returning back to what I have mentioned at the beginning of this homily, I mentioned how the faithful were oppressed and had great difficulties in the days of the early Church, where they were literally unable to practice their faith openly, lest they be arrested, put into prison and tortured because of their faith in God.

They had to celebrate the Mass in catacombs and graves of the saints, in hidden places underground, or in places without people, and the ministers of the Lord had to suffer a lot, as they had to move on from places to places, ministering to the people of God, and often times, they were discovered by the authorities. And in the end, they were liberated and free to practice their faith, as the Emperor accepted the truth of Christ and was converted to His cause, and the Lateran Archbasilica was built and consecrated.

Therefore, first of all, each and every one of us should be grateful and be thankful of all the graces that God had given to each and every one of us. We should be grateful if we had had a good life, and had no problem to practice our faith openly. We have to remember that in this world, there are many of our brethren in various areas who still have to practice their faith in secret, lest they might encounter persecution and even death, and thus, let us all pray and help these brethren of ours in whatever way we can.

And then, if we give our best to decorate the holy Tabernacles, as well as the holy churches, Cathedrals and Basilicas, consecrating them to the Lord, then we should do the same with our own selves, body, heart, mind and soul, for we are indeed also the Temple of God’s Holy Presence and where the Holy Spirit of God dwells. Thus, it is only logical that we should also honour Him by giving the best we can, devoting ourselves to make this Temple that is our being, worthy of the Lord.

Let us do this by exhibiting true Christian actions in our lives, that where we see hatred and divisions, we should bring love and unity; and where we see sorrow, sadness, lamentation and anguish, we should bring hope, kindness, tenderness and sympathy. And we can also begin by truly understanding the importance of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in our lives, spending precious and good time with the Lord, and truly give Him the adoration, worship and respect He deserves, by giving our best whenever we come to His House, to be truly there for Him and being with Him.

May the Lord help us and His Church, bringing all of His faithful ones closer to Him, that just as today we celebrate the memory of the dedication and consecration of the great Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, the Mother Church and Head of all the churches and parishes throughout the whole world, then we too will devote our own bodies, minds, hearts and souls, and devote them fully to the Lord our God. Amen.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, Major Papal and Roman Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in Lateran, Mother and Head of All Churches in Rome and in the World (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 turning My Father’s house into a marketplace!” 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 2016 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, Major Papal and Roman Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in Lateran, Mother and Head of All Churches in Rome and in the World (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 the Lord of hosts, the God of Jacob, our refuge. Come, see the works of the Lord – the marvellous things He has done in the world.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, Major Papal and Roman Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in Lateran, Mother and Head of All Churches in Rome and in the World (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 eastwards. 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 sea water 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 a 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.

Cardinals Update : Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, President Emeritus of the Governatorate of the Vatican City State and the President Emeritus of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State (Italy), turned 80, ceases to be a Cardinal-elector

Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo,Pope Benedict XVI leads a solemn mass at St Peter's basilica to celebrate the feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

(Image of Cardinal Lajolo is courtesy of Spaziani)

On Saturday, 3 January 2015, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, Cardinal-Deacon of S. Maria Liberatrice a Monte Testaccio, President Emeritus of the Governatorate of the Vatican City State and the President Emeritus of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State (Italy), turned 80, and therefore, according to the rules written in the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, he lost his right to vote in any future conclave. Cardinal Darmaatmadja was born at Novara in Italy on 3 January 1935.

Cardinal Lajolo was made Cardinal-Deacon of S. Maria Liberatrice a Monte Testaccio by Pope Benedict XVI in the 2007 Consistory of Cardinals on 24 November 2007, the second Consistory of his pontificate. Cardinal Lajolo was made a Cardinal in honour of his position as the President of both the Governatorate of the Vatican City State and the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State. He was for a long time involved in the works of the Roman Curia and in the relations between the Church and the states.

lajolocardinale

http://www.gcatholic.org/hierarchy/data/cardB16-2.htm#664

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(Coat of arms of His Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo)

May God bless His Eminence Cardinal Lajolo with a blessed old age and health. May he remain strong in the faith and hopefully can perhaps still continue to work great graces and good works of love and peace just as he had once done in his long service to the Church, through his many contributions to the Church via the Roman Curia, helping to manage the extensive governance of the Church of God.

Giovanni_Cardinal_Lajolo

The College of Cardinals now stands at 208 members in total, with 110 Cardinal-electors and 98 Cardinal non-electors. There are now a vacancy of 10 Cardinal-electors as compared to the maximum number of electors allowed in the Conclave of 120.

Next Cardinal-elector to age out (80) will be Cardinal-Patriarch Antonios Naguib (Egypt), the Patriarch Emeritus of Alexandria of the Copts on 18 March 2015.

Text of the Joint Declaration of the Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople

http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/text-of-joint-declaration-signed-by-pope-and-ecumenical-patriarch

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We, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, express our profound gratitude to God for the gift of this new encounter enabling us, in the presence of the members of the Holy Synod, the clergy and the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to celebrate together the feast of Saint Andrew, the first–called and brother of the Apostle Peter. Our remembrance of the Apostles, who proclaimed the good news of the Gospel to the world through their preaching and their witness of martyrdom, strengthens in us the aspiration to continue to walk together in order to overcome, in love and in truth, the obstacles that divide us.

On the occasion of our meeting in Jerusalem last May, in which we remembered the historical embrace of our venerable predecessors Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, we signed a joint declaration. Today on the happy occasion of this further fraternal encounter, we wish to re–affirm together our shared intentions and concerns.

We express our sincere and firm resolution, in obedience to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, to intensify our efforts to promote the full unity of all Christians, and above all between Catholics and Orthodox. As well, we intend to support the theological dialogue promoted by the Joint International Commission, instituted exactly thirty–five years ago by the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios and Pope John Paul II here at the Phanar, and which is currently dealing with the most difficult questions that have marked the history of our division and that require careful and detailed study. To this end, we offer the assurance of our fervent prayer as Pastors of the Church, asking our faithful to join us in praying “that all may be one, that the world may believe” (Jn17:21).

We express our common concern for the current situation in Iraq, Syria and the whole Middle East. We are united in the desire for peace and stability and in the will to promote the resolution of conflicts through dialogue and reconciliation. While recognizing the efforts already being made to offer assistance to the region, at the same time, we call on all those who bear responsibility for the destiny of peoples to deepen their commitment to suffering communities, and to enable them, including the Christian ones, to remain in their native land. We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians, who have professed the name of Jesus there for two thousand years. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have been forced violently from their homes.It even seems that the value of human life has been lost, that the human person no longer matters and may be sacrificed to other interests. And, tragically, all this is met by the indifference of many. As Saint Paul reminds us, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together” (1 Cor 12:26). This is the law of the Christian life, and in this sense we can say that there is also an ecumenism of suffering. Just as the blood of the martyrs was a seed of strength and fertility for the Church, so too the sharing of daily sufferings can become an effective instrument of unity. The terrible situation of Christians and all those who are suffering in the Middle East calls not only for our constant prayer, but also for an appropriate response on the part of the international community.

The grave challenges facing the world in the present situation require the solidarity of all people of good will, and so we also recognize the importance of promoting a constructive dialogue with Islam based on mutual respect and friendship. Inspired by common values and strengthened by genuine fraternal sentiments, Muslims and Christians are called to work together for the sake of justice, peace and respect for the dignity and rights of every person, especially in those regions where they once lived for centuries in peaceful coexistence and now tragically suffer together the horrors of war. Moreover, as Christian leaders, we call on all religious leaders to pursue and to strengthen interreligious dialogue and to make every effort to build a culture of peace and solidarity between persons and between peoples. We also remember all the people who experience the sufferings of war. In particular, we pray for peace in Ukraine, a country of ancient Christian tradition, while we call upon all parties involved to pursue the path of dialogue and of respect for international law in order to bring an end to the conflict and allow all Ukrainians to live in harmony.

Our thoughts turn to all the faithful of our Churches throughout the world, whom we greet, entrusting them to Christ our Saviour, that they may be untiring witnesses to the love of God. We raise our fervent prayer that the Lord may grant the gift of peace in love and unity to the entire human family.

“May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you” (2 Thess 3:16).

From the Phanar, 30 November 2014