The “Election Season” is over, finally. Those who were victorious, who spent time telling us about the changes they were going to execute are now going to figure out how to fulfill those promises. Those who did not win are going to watch how their victorious opponents try to do what they said. Change! Well, we haven’t noticed any differences except there are no more political advertisements on the television.
Change is very difficult to bring about in government, family structures
and especially within ourselves. It is hard to want to change. It
is harder to redirect attitudes and our actions. I read a sign a
few years ago, “The best way to break a habit is to drop it.”
The palace of the Laterini family became property of the Catholic community in 313 as a gift from Constantine. He desired it to become the cathedral for the Pope. Through fires and reconstructions, for centuries the present building remains the first church in Rome. This feast has been celebrated first in Rome and then throughout the world since the twelfth century. It was the first of the four larger churches in Rome. It stands now as a symbol of the permanence of the Catholic Church in the world. Today we celebrate its dedication and so, too, the dedication of the Pope and the Church to bring about the Kingdom of Christ in this world.
The First Reading is from a series of visions. The prophet Ezekiel
is being shown a river flowing from beneath the temple outward.
This river flows to fertility and fruitfulness of all kinds. This
river is seen to be ever-lastingly alive.
The Gospel is a tough one. Some might think it is an image of the Catholic Church, driving out people who are doing disgraceful things. No! No! No! This is not a story so much about cleansing as it is about holiness.
These cattle hustlers and sheep dealers were actually providing a service for those faithful who desired to fulfill sacrificial rites within the temple. The whole scene sets up Jesus’ discussion with the Jewish leaders about “signs” which are a strong feature in John’s Gospel. “Bread of Life”, “Living Water”, “Light of the World”, “Sight” are all “signs” or images by which John presents Jesus as a God-Sent Prophet. In the religious traditions of Israel a prophet from God would be inspired to do actions which God alone could do. John takes artistic pains to present Jesus doing these acts within a setting of irony.
Here, for example, Jesus talks about “Temple” meaning His Body, but within the context of the Jewish leaders thinking He is speaking of this years-in-the-making temple of Jerusalem. John has Jesus do that with bread, water, sight and light in other contexts of irony.
The real movement of these readings is the holiness of Jesus flowing into humanity through the river of the ever-lasting presence of Jesus among and within us. It is way too easy to take this Gospel and start praying about Jesus’ driving something unholy out of each of us as He drove the animals and sellers out. Don’t go there! This would be a kind of desecration of the holiness of John’s Gospel. Holiness begins, not with driving out, but allowing in. It is not something we achieve, but receive, because we believe. Jesus did not come into the world, into our lives to attract us by driving forcefully something bad from within us as a human family nor each of us as individuals. This is why the Second Reading is so important. Jesus came to identify us and actually to attract us to the holiness God has shared with us.
I know this of myself and through the years have experienced it in so many of the people I have directed, personal recklessness or bodily disregard is present until that moment that some other person enters our lives lovingly. That love does not drive out recklessness. Rather, that personal darkness leaves quite quietly when a person’s love lightens and enlightens exactly who we are. We are invited by that love to see ourselves as valuable, precious, loved. The hustling and dealings diminish as the truer image replaces the used-to-be. Holiness is that then, being loved into the way God’s sees us in Christ. In a sense, Jesus did not so much drive out as drove in.
“Like living stones let yourselves be built on Christ as a spiritual house, a holy priesthood.” 1 Peter 2, 5
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