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.

Saturday, 22 February 2020 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us celebrate together with the whole Church the feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle. It must have been quite bewildering for some of us why the Church chose to celebrate the feast of a chair, but in this case, the chair mentioned here as being the Chair of St. Peter, was more than just of any physical chair, for the meaning and significance of this Feast today is tied very much to the history and the foundation of our Church.

For the Chair being referred to here, while it represents the actual chair and seat of the Apostle St. Peter, the Cathedra Sancti Petri which by tradition is the wooden chair encased in gold and enshrined at the Altar of the Chair of the Basilica of St. Peter as the chair which St. Peter himself once used as his Cathedra, it also symbolically represents his teaching authority and the powers which God has entrusted to St. Peter as the Chief Apostle and His Vicar on earth.

Just like for the bishops of the Church, who has their seat of authority, or the Cathedra located at the church which is then named and known as the Cathedral of their respective dioceses, St. Peter as the chief of all the bishops and all the disciples of the Lord also has his Cathedra, both as the actual seat as well as the symbolic authority of his leadership as the shepherd of the whole entire Universal Church, which we celebrate and focus on today.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Peter, we heard of the Apostle speaking to the faithful with regards to the roles and responsibilities of the elders or the bishops in the community of the faithful. And St. Peter in today’s passage addressed those same elders or bishops directly with the exhortation and reminder that they, as the shepherds of God’s flock must lead God’s people to His truth and salvation, and they must labour hard and give their best for the sake of the flock entrusted to them.

It was through the authority which Christ has entrusted to St. Peter that the latter, as the Vicar of the one and true Head of the Church, and as the Shepherd of all the shepherds of God’s flock, that St. Peter spoke, inspiring those bishops who had been appointed to succeed the works of the Apostles and the first bishops of the Church. That was how the Church of God began and continued to flourish in its very beginning, as more and more people came to follow God and more and more people were called to serve them as deacons, priests and bishops.

The role which St. Peter played in the early history of the Church was indeed very crucial and important as several occasions in the Acts of the Apostles showed us how St. Peter was clearly the leader of the Apostles and the disciples, settling disputes and problems within the growing Christian communities, and as the one indeed who had been entrusted by Christ Himself with the governance of His Church in this world.

This was what we heard in our Gospel passage today, in the account of the establishment of the Church by God, through the words He Himself had spoken, as He was acknowledged by St. Peter as the Son of the Living God and Messiah of the world. The Lord Jesus spoke to St. Peter, saying that thus, he is Peter, whose name means ‘Rock’, and upon that same ‘Rock’ He would establish His Church that will prevail over all trials and tribulations that even the gates of hell cannot stand against it.

And Christ also entrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven to St. Peter, which is now the symbol of Papal authority of the two crossed keys, representing what Christ had said, that the very authority to loosen or bind souls on earth and in heaven has been given to His Church through St. Peter, His Vicar, the first Pope and Bishop of Rome, as the leader of the entire of the whole Universal Church supported by the other Apostles who are the pillars of the Church.

We have to also note how Christ chose this man, St. Peter, who was then named Simon, son of John, who was the most unlikely of candidates to be chosen for such an important role. Simon was merely a poor, illiterate and brash fisherman from the lake of Galilee, whom the Lord called to follow Him. Simon followed, and Jesus gave him a new name, that is Peter, a symbolic grant of a new life and vocation, by which indeed later on he would be the ‘fishers of men’ together with his fellow Apostles and disciples.

Through the Holy Spirit, God guided St. Peter and turned him from the illiterate, uneducated and emotional man he was once before, cutting off the ears off a Temple servant in anger and denied knowing the Lord three times, into the great Apostle and Pope he was to become, as he gave his life to the service of God and ministered to the people throughout his many years of journeying to many parts of the world and resolving disputes between communities of the faithful.

Today therefore, we commemorate this great celebration and Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle as the reminder for each and everyone of us that our Church is indeed the one that Christ Himself has established in this world, as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. And we therefore recall this very important Communion that we have as one Church and one Body of Christ, as we are united with St. Peter and his successors, our Popes and Vicars of Christ, who sit on the Cathedra or throne of St. Peter, as the Shepherd of shepherds of God’s people, entrusted with the care of the Universal Church.

Therefore today, let us all pray for our current Pope, His Holiness Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome. Let us pray for him that he will be able to carry on his ministry as the successor of the Prince of the Apostles, St. Peter, in guiding the entire Universal Church forward with the support of the bishops and priests, as well as all the lay members of the Church. Let us also support our Pope and the Church in our ever growing efforts in evangelisation and missionary works, in our numerous charitable outreach and works, and the many other efforts of the Church.

May the Lord continue to bless His Church and provide for us in everything, particularly through difficult and challenging moments. May He bless our Pope with courage and strength, with faith and perseverance as He once blessed St. Peter, the Prince and Chief of the Apostles. St. Peter, Holy Apostle, Pope and Vicar of Christ, pray for us all. Amen.

Saturday, 22 February 2020 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 16 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them You are John the Baptist, for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Bar-Jona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Saturday, 22 February 2020 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Saturday, 22 February 2020 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Peter 5 : 1-4

I now address myself to those elders among you; I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, hoping to share the Glory that is to be revealed.

Shepherd the flock which God has entrusted to you, guarding it not out of obligation but willingly for God’s sake; not as one looking for a reward but with a generous heart; do not lord it over those in your care, rather be an example to your flock.

Then, when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will be given a crown of unfading glory.