Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12; Ps 46:2-3, 5-6; 7-8; 1 Corinthians 3: 9c-11, 16-17; John 2:13-22
Why do we celebrate the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, a 4th century church in Rome today? There were a lot of pagan practices in the Greek and Roman worlds. When Constantine I became Emperor and found his Christian mother, he began to see that religion was not the cause of Rome’s problems. He granted religious freedom to the entire Empire. Constantine began to move Roman culture to Christian values. Due to the corruption of Rome and threats against his life, Constantine began to build the first Catholic city, Constantinople, on the Eastern side of the Black Sea.
St. Peter’s Basilica had not been built. Constantine gave one of his palaces, his Lateran palace, to the popes as their residence in Rome. This basilica has as its patrons St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist. It was built about 324. This basilica, as it is called, is the Pope’s Cathedral as the Bishop of Rome and the world.
The popes don’t live there anymore. During critical invasion times, as the Empire was collapsing, the popes became political as well as religious leaders to protect Rome and its people from harm. So we take time today to remember and honor the Pope's Cathedral and pray for the conversion of all the people living in and around Rome.
The Temple in Ezekiel
The Ezekiel reading tells about a temple with water flowing from it to the East. That water flows to the sea, making the salt waters fresh. All kinds of living things were greatly blessed by that water. Along this river, from God’s temple, grow fruit trees, which produce fruit twelve times a year and their leaves are medicine.
We find this abundance in today’s Psalm 46 and Psalm 1. And we see this abundant water with its fruit trees also in the book of Revelations 22:1-2. The water there flows from beneath the throne of God, Our Father and Jesus, the Lamb of God. It goes to all the streets of heaven and nourishes the fruit trees. It then comes down to earth and nurtures the baptized to bear abundant and good fruit and being healing to others.
The Temple in Jerusalem
The Jerusalem Temple was the center of Jewish worship at the time of Christ. God’s residence was in the Holy of Holies inside that temple. With the death of Jesus on the cross, God’s presence left that temple.
After Jesus came back from the dead and was seen by so many of his followers, he becomes the new Temple. Because the Church, the family of God, is all over the world now, God set up "little temples," which we call our parish churches. We are God’s local families. We worship God in our churches and our homes. And most parishes provide all kinds of services to help people. The Church and its sacraments nurture and teach us how to bear more fruit for God’s kingdom. God gives us his divine power to be able to do that.
The Temple of God in us
When we were baptized and our sins were taken away, the Holy Trinity came to live inside of us, thus making our human bodies "little temples" of God. That is one major reason why we need to love, honor and respect every person, especially other baptized Christians, because God is in residence there.
May God’s power continue to increase in us so we too can bear abundant good works to help God make the world a better place in which to live.
Peace and all good!
+ Fr. Bob Hilz
(© 2014 Fr. Bob Hilz, TOR)