Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all celebrate together as the entire Church in honour of the great Mother Church of the whole world, namely the Papal Basilica of St. John Lateran, also known as the Lateran Basilica or by its full name as the Papal Archbasilica of Our Most Holy Saviour, of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist at the Lateran, the Mother and Head of all the Churches in the City (of Rome) and the World. That Basilica of St. John Lateran has such a singular honour because it is the church where the Cathedra of the Pope is, and as such, it is the Cathedral of the Vicar of Christ.
All dioceses in the world have a church in which the bishop’s seat or throne is located at, also known as the Cathedra. This is where the name Cathedral came from, designating the church in which the bishop presides over the entire diocese, as the seat of his authority and also as the mother church of the entire diocese. That church is known as the cathedral of the diocese, and the Diocese of Rome, of which the Bishop is the Pope himself, also has a cathedral, namely that of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which feast of its dedication we are celebrating today.
And because the Pope as the Bishop of Rome by the virtue of his position as the successor of St. Peter the Apostle as the first Pope and Bishop of Rome, and as leader of the entire Universal Church, therefore, the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome has a most special significance, not only as the mother church of the entire Diocese and city of Rome, but also as the Mother Church of the entire world, highlighting the Pope’s special and most important role in his Petrine ministry as the Vicar of Christ and leader of all of God’s faithful people.
That Basilica of St. John Lateran is therefore dignified as the only one in the world to hold the title of Archbasilica, as the chief and mother of all churches, surpassing in honour of all the churches and houses of the Lord in the entire world. Many people thought that the Pope’s Cathedral and seat is at the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican, the largest and most majestic of all the churches, but that is because the Pope resides in the Vatican City, and he celebrates most of the liturgical events in that Basilica. The Papal Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican is no doubt the second most important due to its location, being built above the location of the martyrdom and the tomb of St. Peter himself.
But the Basilica of St. John Lateran is where the Cathedral of the Pope has always been, since it was built as one of the first churches to be established after the official toleration of the Christian faith by the Roman Emperor, Emperor Constantine the Great. It was established as the first major church buildings built in Rome after centuries of persecution which saw Christians being hunted and oppressed, forced to hide in the catacombs and practice their faith in secret. The church that was to become the Basilica of St. John Lateran therefore in way became a symbol of the triumph of the Christian faith, and became the seat of the Pope as the Bishop of Rome.
And what is the dedication of a church? It is the moment and special occasion when the building of the church is consecrated and sanctified by God, as a place of worship and as a place worthy to be the house of God, as the place where the Altar of the Lord’s Sacrifice would be established and placed, worthy for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In the dedication of a church, the church building and especially the Altar is blessed and sanctified, made to be worthy of the Lord’s Sacrifice in the Mass. The relics of saints, at least one of a martyr are placed in the Altar, in memory of how the early Christians celebrated the Mass in catacombs on the tombs of the saints and martyrs.
On this day, as we rejoice in the memory of the great dedication of this most magnificent and worthy House of God, the Mother Church of all the whole entire world, all of us do not in fact just celebrate the dedication of this great House and Temple of God. As we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the faithful in the city of Corinth, one of the first readings used today, all of us God’s faithful people are in fact also the Temples of the Holy Presence, the Temples and dwelling place of God that He Himself has sanctified and marked through the Sacraments we received.
How is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because just as the church is blessed with holy water during its dedication, thus we have also been washed with the waters of the Sacrament of Baptism, and anointed with oil just as the Altar that is consecrated is also anointed with oil, and had white cloth put over it just as we have also been clothed when we were baptised, and we have also received the light of Christ, the same light placed upon the consecrated Altar. And we are also incensed just as the Altar is incensed.
What is the significance then? All of us are the Living Church of God, the living members of God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the Body of Christ. All of us are united as one people and one Church, as one community of the faithful. We must not limit our understanding of the Church merely to the buildings and the structures, or just to the hierarchy of bishops and priests, as all of us are also part of that same Church, all united together in our faith in God, and all journeying together in faith.
Just as the churches are holy and a place made and kept worthy for the worship of God, as St. Paul had also said in the reading today, all of us are also called to maintain ourselves in a state of purity and holiness, so that our lives and our bodies, our whole beings may remain in a state that is worthy of God, for God Himself dwells in us, through the Eucharist, the Most Precious and Holy Body and Blood of the Lord that we have received and partaken, and through the Holy Spirit that He has sent down upon us.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore walk with faith in God’s presence, and do our best as we celebrate today’s Feast of the Dedication of the great Basilica of St. John Lateran that we will always strive to live a holy and worthy life, where our faith became evident in our lives and actions. Let us all serve the Lord faithfully in each and every moments of our lives from now on, and may God Who lives and dwells in us, give us the strength and courage to carry out our duties as faithful and dedicated Christians in our world today. Amen.