Homily for the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, Cycle A 2014

Homily for the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, Cycle A 2014

(Bishop Ron’s second volume of “Teaching the Church Year- Cycle B” is now available on amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OSRJST0# ) Be ready for Year B starting in Advent.)

Water has always been a symbol of life. Because it is so necessary and life sustaining it is often used as an archetype since all people, regardless of race or background, share that common symbolic meaning. Today’s readings use that archetype in the first two of today’s readings.

In the Ezekiel reading today we see water in relationship to the temple. The Jewish temple in Jerusalem was seen as God’s resting place on earth, and as such it was holy. The original Ark of the Covenant which was carried from place to place and was home for God on earth, was eventually incorporated into the Temple that Solomon had built.

Ezekiel’s water imagery signifies that the place of worship, the dwelling place of God was life-giving. Water flows from the Temple, and eventually ends up in the sea and freshens the start waters as it goes.  Also, as the water flows it gives life to the animals and the plants along the way, the plants giving both food and healing because they have drunk of the holy waters flowing from the the place of God.

So the importance of the Temple as a life-giving place is established by Ezekiel. There was only one dwelling place of God, a much different idea than we have of the various churches today. A synagogue in a town was a teaching place, where Scripture could be read, but if they wanted to sacrifice to God, ask of God, meet their God, it would have to be at The temple in Jerusalem, which is why we so often reading of people going each year to the temple – for cleansing, for forgiveness, for sacrifice, for worship.

The slam today re-iterates that message: “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most high.” It reminds us that because of the Temple, God is with us.

All of this changed when Christ came.

St. Paul explains to us today that the temple was no longer necessary since God came down to be one of us, live with us, and finally to live in us. Paul says, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in you… God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

It is the same imagery used when after the crucifixion we read that the cloth of the Temple covering the door to the Holy of Holies was ripped in half. Withe the crucifixion came a major change in how we view the dwelling place of God. With the the institution of the Eucharist, Christ becomes present with us physically at Mass, and when we eat and drink at Mass, Christ is in us. Even more, the Spirit comes into us at Baptism and Confirmation and dwells inside each of us.

The Gospel today shows the only really violent image of Jesus, overturning the tables in the Temple in Jerusalem because they had forgotten the ‘holiness’ of the place of God, and had turned it into a marketplace. Immediately after this, he predicts that he can rebuild the Temple in three days. The logic of this is, of course, totally misunderstood by his listeners, but reading backwards, we see that though God the Father may dwell in that Jerusalem temple, God also was Jesus, and after his death he would be restored to us in three days.

Paul picks up on the moral concerns of having Christ within us as well. If Christ is in us, we must treat our bodies like temples. We must not do anything to make our bodies a “marketplace”, to discredit the holiness of our bodies. Much of our Christian morality stems from this simple truth that God dwells within us.

If we can meditate on this, if we can live our lives, living up to the holiness in our bodies, we can be wonderful dwelling places for God, doing godly things and fulfilling the two great commands of loving God and our neighbor because we will first love ourselves, recognizing the holiness that is in us.

The Lateran Basilica is celebrated today because it is, in a way, like the temple in Jerusalem, in that it is the called the mother church of all Catholics, the oldest church of the western hemisphere, and the cathedral for the Roman diocese. As such, we use it as a reminder that God is present in our churches and in ourselves, and that reminder each year helps us to remember the holiness that we should be striving for in all things.

And this is the Good News of Christ being inside each of us today!

Bishop Ron Stephens

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

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