Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in RomeEzekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12
Psalm 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9
1 Corinthians 3:9-13, 16-17
To be more available to the graces of the liturgy’s readings, we might imagine Jesus walking into the temple area and seeing a barnyard full of animals, birds and men haggling with each other and the Passover pilgrims.
The smells, the sounds, the sights stop Jesus in his tracks and he looks confused and then pained. In a flash he begins tipping over the counters and invites his disciples to begin cleaning house. The whole scene is disturbing.
We pray for the grace to be dedicated as members of Christ’s Body. As he walked, his walk of touching and being touched, of listening and speaking, of solitude and gathering, we as present-day members are challenged to continue his personality.
We can pray with the reality that the Church is an historical as well as mystical structure. Its buildings as well as its labors and decisions have been glorious at times, and at other times, fraught with human fragility, corruption and decay. We pray as “All-weather” faithful for the splendor of the Church which is the struggling beyond our collective shame and mistakes. We pray so as to live the call of St. Paul, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwells in you?”
We pray to relate with Jesus so intimately and simply that his actions in his life, become his actions in our lives.
A very brief historical note concerning the dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome might help at this point. For further information than I present, you might look up on the Internet, under “Lateran Basilica” and you too will be come an expert in the subject.
The Laterani family had this beautiful palace in Rome and when Constantine was converted to Christianity, he presented it to the leadership of the community. After various political struggles a series of churches were built on the site and in time, burned. Eventually the Bishop of Rome moved headquarters outside the city to the Vatican Hill. On the site of the palaces, a church was finally built, which building has been reconstructed, several times and through its history has remained dedicated as the Pope’s titular cathedral or place of his “chair.”
This feast is celebrated each November ninth and replaces the liturgy for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time this year. It is a continuous, year-after-year feast of the solidity and stability of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.
We are listening to verses from a ten-chapter conclusion of the prophesies and visions of Ezekiel. The Lord plucked the prophet from amidst the people of Israel in exile and has placed him on the slope of a rather high mountain back in their home and holy land.
An angel has been showing Ezekiel many wonderful things centering around a temple where the prophet eventually sees the glory of the Lord returning. The temple and all the regulations for holiness and stability as a nation are contained in what the angel shows and tells him. In a sense, as the prophet Isaiah foretells the return in terms of fruitfulness of the land, Ezekiel envisions the return as a return to ritual and the fruitfulness flowing from the temple’s being at the center.
What we hear sounds like a tour of an agricultural irrigation arrangement. There is much symbolism here of course. What is flowing from the temple is the holiness of God experienced through temple worship. The bitterness or salt water of the sea will be changed by the contact with this holiness. Remember now, the people who are hearing this prophesy are in exile and they are encouraged to dream and trust as well as to begin living the holier life. Vegetable fruitfulness is a familiar biblical promise and those in exile long to return to both forms of living; vegetable fullness and temple-centered holiness.
The Gospel continues a temple theme, but with a messianic twist. The Jerusalem temple had become the identifying sign of God’s presence and power. John uses this rather dramatic intervention or interruption by Jesus to create a scene where John could clearly state his over-all theme. Jesus is the presence of God’s power. Jesus overturns more than tables. The event of changing water into wine precedes this passage and both form a double-barrel opening salvo that Jesus, as prophet is the divine continuation of the temple, but now in flesh.
Zeal and self-understanding, rather than anger are represented. John presents Jesus as knowing himself to be in such union with the God of the temple that any form of unrelational and unholy activity is a personal affront and disgrace. Do not use this text as a proof that Jesus is really human after all! He is human all right, but not because of the emotion of anger, but his personal awareness of the nature of human beings and their desire for union with God. Longing for holiness is the aspect of humanity which John presents as central to us as humans who are called closer.
We are not Christians or Catholics because we go to a church, even more than once a week. We go to a church to live as a part or member, not of a congregation, but of Christ’s Body. We go to church, not to get holy, but because we are holy and something in us calls out to celebrate that truth. We go to a church to be rededicated to leaving that building and living out the building up of His Body. A church is dedicated so that it might be emptied and its beauty and wealth be poured out over the land bringing about the fruitfulness of grace.
As the water flowed from the temple and water flowed from Jesus’ side, so we flow out the doors through which we re-entered. We flow dedicating our simple and then not so simple acts of human relating to the spreading of God’s dedication to us and our world.
i am a little church(no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
-i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april
my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth's own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying)children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness
around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope, and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains
i am a little church (far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish) at peace with nature
-i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing
winter by spring, i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)
E. E. Cummings
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