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.

Thursday, 22 February 2018 : 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 we commemorate together the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, one of the celebrations commemorating the leader of Christ’s Apostles and His vicar on earth, besides that of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul in the month of June. On this day, we are focusing on the Chair or indeed, better known as the Cathedra of St. Peter, the first Bishop of Rome and Pope.

Some of us might be wondering, why is it that we celebrate the feast of a chair, even if it is the Chair of St. Peter himself as the Vicar of Christ. That is because we must understand the importance of chair in the historical context of the Church. A chair is historically related as the symbol of power and authority, much as thrones are for kings and rulers. When a king or ruler is enthroned, he or she symbolically receives the power and authority to reign over his or her kingdom.

Similarly therefore, the chair for the bishops of the Church symbolises their authority, the authority to teach the Gospels and the truth of God to the people, as well as their administrative and spiritual authority over the flock and the people entrusted under his care. And throughout the dioceses in the world, there is a particular chair in each of the dioceses, in a particular church, named the cathedra as mentioned, as the seat of the bishop’s authority, and the churches with the cathedra are called cathedrals.

There is in fact an actual physical cathedra belonging to St. Peter in the Vatican, at St. Peter’s Basilica, where the chair that is supposed to be St. Peter’s actual chair of teaching is placed in the most prominent place above the high altar on the eastern end of the Basilica, underneath the famous and magnificent dove imagery representing the Holy Spirit. This signifies the authority of the Pope as the successors of St. Peter as the Bishop of Rome and as leader of the entire universal Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, nonetheless, the celebration today is much more than just the celebration of a physical and actual chair possessed by St. Peter at the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican. In fact, this celebration is more about the authority which the Lord Himself has delegated to His vicar, St. Peter as well as to his successors as Bishop of Rome and Pope, in leading all the faithful people of God, His flock and faithful ones.

But if we imagine that St. Peter is someone who was amazing and great, glorious and mighty, then we ought to remember that he was once a mere poor fisherman trying out his best to make a living by fishing in the lake of Gennesaret or Galilee. It was as a poor, illiterate fisherman that the Lord Jesus encountered him and his brother, St. Andrew the Apostle. And many other Apostles and disciples of the Lord also came from humble and unremarkable origins.

Yet, the Lord chose them and called them to follow Him, and for some among them, He entrusted them to become the most important among all of His disciples as the Apostles because they had qualities in them which the Lord discovered, and which He deemed to be worthy. It was not us who make ourselves worthy, but God who makes those whom He called to be worthy.

And the tasks He entrusted to the Apostles were not easy ones, as challenges and difficulties were abound. They had to face persecutions and oppressions from various sources, from those who were against the Church, the teachings of the Lord and against whatever good works that they had done among the people. They had to endure prison, arrests and torture, sufferings and rejections from time to time.

St. Peter himself had to endure the same difficulties, as he travelled from place to place establishing the foundations of the Church in those places. When he was in Rome, Christians there were persecuted heavily at the reign of the Emperor Nero, and together with St. Paul, St. Peter himself was martyred during the reign of that Emperor. He suffered with his flock and remained true to his calling as a shepherd of the Lord.

He remained committed to the end, and humbly even requesting the Romans who were about to crucify him to put him on the cross upside down, as he felt it was not right for him to be crucified and died in the same manner and way as his Lord and Master. Through all of these examples, St. Peter had shown us how he is truly a devout and hardworking servant of God, who places his responsibility to the Lord above everything else.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember all the things that the Apostles had done, especially St. Peter in all the works he had done. Through him, the Lord had established His Church in this world, built upon the strong foundation of faith which he had, and upon the faith and commitment of the Apostles. But their hard works were not yet complete, and there are still many things that we can do in this world, fulfilling the vocation to which we have been called to.

Each and every one of us as Christians ought to follow the examples of our holy predecessors. And as we are all part of the one Church of God, which is the same Church that He established upon the foundation of His Apostles, especially St. Peter the Apostle, let us all do our respective parts, in order to work together as one Church, under the authority of the successors of the Apostles, the bishops, who themselves are united to the successor of St. Peter, our Pope, the leader of the Universal Church.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He bless the Church He has built, so that we may always stay together and remain strong in our faith and in our dedication to serve the Lord, and preach more and more of the Good News to the people who have not yet heard of it. Let us all deepen our faith and commit ourselves more wholeheartedly to fulfil the mission which the Lord had entrusted to His Church. May the Lord bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 22 February 2018 : 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.”

Thursday, 22 February 2018 : 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.