|Dedication of the Basilica of
St. John Lateran in Rome - Feast
Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12
Psalm 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9
First Corinthians 3:9c-11, 16-17
This feast day always reminds me of what "church" is about. St. John Lateran in Rome is the Pope's parish in Rome. The Pope is also the Archbishop of Rome, and this is the "cathedral" church for Rome. It is also the oldest of the major churches in Rome. I think the anniversary of its dedication is a "feast day" because it allows us to reflect not only on church - as a building - but on ourselves as church.
Particularly in the Catholic tradition, a place is sacred because wondrously holy things happen there. When I was a pastor of a wonderful parish, I used to get goose bumps just walking into the church. It was so full of memories of incredible, grace-filled moments. The Easter Vigil is celebrated there, and an elderly person with cancer comes there for strength and courage. It is the place to which we are gathered, the place where we were nourished, the place where we celebrate who we are, and the place from which we are missioned. The very building itself is full of symbolic expressions of profound realities. How it is shaped, where things are, how light comes in, what images give definition to our memory and emotion - all of this gives depth and richness to our experience in that sacred space. Religious experience is always "prepared for." The place in which we are gathered prepares us for openness to the Holy, for remembering who we are, and for our being sent forth.
When I reflect on a church building this way, it helps me to remember that we are the Church. We are the "ec-clesia" - those who are "gathered," the assembled - the Church. As Church, there are those who are anointed to serve us in a variety of ways, but we must never lose sight of the central reality that our servants are not the Church. We are the Church - all of us. For it is the Spirit of Jesus who gathers us to be together. Jesus promised that he would not leave us on our own. He promised to send us a Gatherer. The Spirit of Jesus gathers us to save us. We remember how he loved us. And we celebrate. And, empowered by the fire of that Love, we can go forth as Church to love as we have been loved.
Dear Spirit of Jesus, gather your people. Renew us as Church
and enkindle within us the fire of your love. Send us forth, that
we might join you in renewing the face of the earth. May we gather
and reconcile what is divided. May we honor the symbols that help
us remember who we are.
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