Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate a great feast of the whole Universal Church, and especially the Church of Rome, the heart of Christendom, as established by the Vicar of Christ, the Supreme leader of the entire Body of Christ, the Church, St. Peter the Apostle, who established his seat in the once Imperial capital of the Roman Empire, the city of Rome, and where he was martyred for his faith in God.
He is the very first Bishop of Rome, and the very first one to lead the growing faithful community there in the Imperial capital. St. Peter the Apostle is indeed also accredited with the establishment of several other important and key dioceses throughout the Empire, and indeed, the See of Antioch also had St. Peter as its first bishop and leader. However, it was in Rome, where St. Peter truly established his seat and served the people of God until he was martyred in the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero.
And when we talk about the Church, we know of the various hierarchy of structures and personnels that made up the whole universal Church, and the administrative divisions in it, which in fact mirrored closely the division of the civil administration of the Roman Empire. The name diocese, was taken from the name used to describe a provincial division of the late Roman Empire, and this is taken into the structure of the Church as a group of the faithful led by a bishop, with many priests and the laity both under his care and supervision.
Bishops are overseers and leaders of God’s people, and they also supervise and coordinate the actions and works of the priests, the holy servants of God. And the premier and the foremost of all bishops is the Bishop of Rome, who as the bishop of the very diocese where St. Peter the Apostle had established himself and martyred, is the successor of that holy saint and shepherd which our Lord Jesus Himself had entrusted with all of His faithful on earth.
St. Peter affirmed his faith in the Lord with his threefold declaration of faith, a reminder that he had once denied his Lord and God three times during the Passion. And Jesus forgave him, and entrusted him with the entire the Church, as His Vicar, by the words, “Feed My sheep.” The Bishops of Rome, the Popes, therefore inherit the same commandment which Jesus had given to Peter, to lead His entire Universal Church.
And as bishop, indeed, he has a cathedral too, the Bishop of Rome having the Cathedral of Rome as his seat. We have to take note that the Cathedral mentioned here does not refer to the largest or the most beautiful churches present in the diocese, but rather the place, the very church where the seat of the bishop is. And this seat is the bishop’s throne, or the Cathedra, where a Cathedral gets its name from.
For many of us, we may think that the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican is the Cathedral of the Pope and the principal church of Christendom. However, this was wrong. Indeed, the Basilica of St. Peter has a special importance, both as a Papal Basilica, of which there are only four in the whole world, and then because it itself is located on top of the Vatican necropolis, which was the very spot where St. Peter was martyred during the reign of the Emperor Nero.
The Basilica therefore housed the remains of St. Peter, and is also the regular residence of the Popes, and where he celebrates the majority of his liturgical functions in Rome. However, the Pope’s Cathedra as the Bishop of Rome is not located at the Basilica of St. Peter, but rather at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, located in Rome, and not in the Vatican City.
Basilica of St. John Lateran was the site of the original Lateran Basilica donated by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, who was the first Christian Roman Emperor, and it became the official residence of the Popes, the adjacent Lateran Palace, and the Basilica became the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. The reason why the Popes no longer stay at the site, was because of the upheavals of two centuries ago, where worldly conflicts forced the Pope to abandon the Lateran for the safety of the Vatican, where he resided from then on.
As the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, the first and principal diocese of the Church, therefore it is also the Mother Church of the entire and whole Christendom, the very first and most important of all churches in the world, superseding even the Basilica of St. Peter, and noticed in its official name, the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran. It is the only Archbasilica in the world and was dedicated first to the Lord, who is the Saviour of the whole world, and then to both St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.
Today, we celebrate the day of the dedication of that sacred and hallowed Cathedral, the heart of the entire Christendom as the seat of the Popes. Dedication of a church is a very important event, for it is the moment when the particular location is consecrated and blessed, as a sacred and worthy space, for all the faithful to celebrate together the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the commemoration of the Lord’s Passion and death on the cross.
This is what the first reading today is all about, the vision of Ezekiel who saw the great and holy Temple of heaven, filled with divine glory and majesty, and he saw a torrent of water coming out from the Temple. This is what the hymn which we sung at Easter, Vidi Aquam, was taken from. ‘I saw water pouring out from the Temple…’ and what is this water? It is the holy water of our baptism, a reminder for us all to be holy and pure as we are at the moment of our baptism.
This is why we have the custom of signing ourselves with the sign of the Cross and the holy water when we enter the church. This is to remind us that we are coming into the holy place of God, which had been dedicated, consecrated and blessed for holy use of the Mass. Remember that Moses was asked to remove his sandals when he came to see the burning bush in the mountain of God? That is because the sandals represent all the vile and unworthy things of the world, which ought not to be present in the holy presence of God.
And therefore, similarly, when we come to the church, we should come with only a single intent, that is to be with our Lord, and to be fully present there, with all of our heart, soul and body completely present, ready to give thanks and praise to the Lord for His love, which we commemorate in the Holy Eucharist in the Mass. We should never even have the mind to do other things inappropriate for us to do when we are in the holy place and presence of God.
Therefore, it is absolutely saddening and disheartening if we see our own behaviours when we come for the Holy Mass, especially when those behaviour represent our disrespect to the Lord and His holiness, in His very temple no less! How many of us are guilty of talking and gossiping, as well as chatting things that are most of the time irrelevant to the celebration of the Holy Mass?
How many of us look to our gadgets and to our smartphones, to our mobile phones and others, instead of looking at the One whom we all should look towards, the Holy One who had given up Himself in death, so that we may not suffer the consequences of death, but gain life in His resurrection from the dead. How many of us therefore profaned His holiness and presence with our insolence and lack of respect for the Lord?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, our actions as I have just mentioned cannot be separated from our own internal disposition. Why is this so? If we look carefully, at the second reading today, taken from letter of St. Paul to the Church in Corinth, he also mentioned that our body is also a holy temple, that is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. This echoes the same words of Jesus, who also taught that our bodies are the Temples of the Holy Spirit, and therefore they should be pure and devoid of all forms of sins and iniquities.
What did Jesus do in the Gospel reading, brothers and sisters? Precisely, He drove out all of the merchants and the money changers who set up their stalls in front, at the courtyard of the Temple of Jerusalem, the House of God. The courtyard itself, even though it is not part of the main temple building, as a whole, still considered as an integral part of the Temple complex, and therefore, what the merchants and the money changers had done there, were abominable in God’s eyes.
What did the merchants do? They sold the animals to be sacrificed in the Temple to the people who wanted to offer those sacrifices, and they did so, by selling those animals at a high price, so that they gained much profits and benefits over the suffering of the people. The money changers did similarly, with charging the people for their money exchange services at exorbitant rates, gaining much more from those transactions.
What those people had done, had profaned the Temple of God, its holiness was marred by the wickedness of men. And our Lord who is a just God certainly did not take a kind look upon these wickedness, and that was why, Jesus our Lord literally went berserk in His wrath, because of the great evil committed by these in His holy Temple. He drove them out with whips and shouts, casting them out of His house and cursed them.
How is this relevant to us? Our bodies are the Temples of the Holy Spirit, the place where our Lord Himself came to dwell in us, and we know this because we who are faithful to Him, He will sanctify us and make us pure and justified. But if we do things as what the merchants and the money changers had done, then we are all going to receive great punishment and condemnation for our fornication and corruption of the holiness of the Temple of our body with sin.
How is this so? If we act in ways such as to serve our own desires, acting selfishly, thinking only of ourselves, just as the merchants and the money changers overcharging the people to gain profits for themselves, or if we act in disrespect of others, disregarding the teachings and reminders of the Lord, just as we had often disrespected the holiness of the sacred space in the church, the holy place of God, then our due is to be condemned and to suffer for those sins we have committed.
Therefore, today, as we celebrate with the entire universal Church, the feast of the dedication of the great Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Mother Church of all Christendom, the seat of authority and the site of the Cathedra of the Successors of St. Peter, let us be reminded of two very important things, that we must not leave today without.
First, we have to make sure that we respect the holy places and act appropriately in the places of divine worship. We have to truly be focused in the celebration of the Holy Mass, that we should dispose of any distractions or any attitudes incompatible with maintaining holiness in such solemn space, consecrated and dedicated to God. Let us remember that first and foremost, we have to come to celebrate the Holy Mass regularly, and when we do so, we have to be truly committed.
Then secondly, and even more important for us, is that we have to realise that all of us are also Temples of the Lord, Temple of the Holy Spirit. We have to keep this in mind, every single seconds of our lives. This is so that before we do every single act, or emit every single word from our mouth, we may think it through twice, or even more than twice, so that we can consider well before we act or say anything, that we may avoid ourselves from committing a sin before God.
May Almighty God, our Lord and Father, bless us all with faith and perseverance, that amidst this sinful and darkened world, we may become sources of light for the world to see, that all of us, the Temples of the Lord, may be consecrated in holiness, just as the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Mother Church of our Faith has been consecrated in holiness and love by the Lord, to be the anchor upon which the Church keeps its faith strongly, that all of us may also remain forever faithful, and keep the sanctity and holiness of the Temple of God that is our bodies, our hearts and our souls. God be with us all. Amen.
First Reading :
Second Reading :
Gospel Reading :