Dedication of the Lateran Basilica
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The Cathedral of the city of Rome is a Basilica dedicated to Saint John the
Baptist. It is on the Lateran Hill, one of the Seven Hills on which Rome is
built, so it is called the Lateran Basilica, or Saint John Lateran. Today we
celebrate the memory of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, which
happened about one thousand, seven hundred years ago. An inscription on
the front of the Basilica says it is: Omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et
caput, “the mother and head of all churches in Rome and in the world”.
The Popes lived in a palace next door to the Basilica, long before they
moved to the Vatican, where they live today. Even though the Pope no
longer lives there, the Lateran Basilica is still the Cathedral of the Diocese
of Rome, the Pope’s Cathedral.
The readings we have heard today are often used when people remember
the dedication of the cathedral where they live, because they tell us some
important things about how churches can affect the areas around them.
The first reading describes the water flowing out of the Jewish Temple in
Jerusalem. The water comes from a holy building, and it brings health and
life wherever it goes. The second reading is a reminder that you and I are
“God’s building”; we are all God’s temple; the Spirit of God lives among us.
In the Gospel, Jesus foretells the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem,
which happened about 35 years after He died. But he is also warning His
followers that His own body would be destroyed, although nobody really
understood what He had said until after He rose from the dead on the
first Easter Sunday.
The first reading today gives us a vision of the wonderful difference a holy
building can make to the surrounding district. In the vision of the prophet
Ezekiel, water came out of the temple in Jerusalem, so much water that it
became a stream and then a river. The important thing is that the water
gave life: lots of fish and all sorts of fruit trees; and the leaves of the trees
growing on the bank of the river were medicinal, so the water from the
temple could heal people.
The Catholic Church teaches that what we do when we celebrate the
Eucharist in this church can have powerful effects on the area around us,
because of the effects that it has on us. The Mass “is the summit toward
which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font
from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works
is that all who are made children of God by faith and baptism should
come to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the
sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper…. From the liturgy, therefore, and
especially from the Eucharist, grace is poured forth upon us”.
“Grace is poured forth upon us”, so that when we go out of our temple,
our beautiful little church, Mariukirkjan, we are like the water that came
out of the temple in Jerusalem. We are filled with strength by God to
bring life and healing wherever we go. But do we? This is where we need to
listen to the warning Saint Paul gave the Christian community in Corinth,
which we heard in today’s second reading. “You are God’s building”. We
are God’s building! But do we behave like God’s building? “If anyone should
destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of
God is sacred, and you are that temple”. Our Catholic community in this
church is God’s temple. Every one of us is part of that temple, so if anyone
destroys any of us, he or she is destroying a part of God’s temple.
Here is a vital question. What effect do you have on the world when you
go out of here? Do you bring life and healing, like the water which came
out of the temple? Do you respect the temple of God, the community of
people who worship in this church, or do you damage it? Do you ever do
anything which could destroy the temple of God? Because, according to
Saint Paul, if you do, God will destroy you. If any of us thinks evil thoughts
about other people who are here, especially during Mass, he or she is
actually working to destroy this temple, this holy community. If any of us
says anything evil about other people who are here, especially straight
after Mass, he or she is actually working to destroy this temple, this holy
community. If any of us does anything to harm other people who are here,
in any way and at any time, he or she is actually working to destroy this
temple, this holy community. And, if we believe what Saint Paul said to the
Christians in Corinth, God will destroy people like that.
As the Church teaches us, the Eucharist, the Mass, pours grace upon us.
But grace does not work automatically. It is not magic. The way we behave
will show if we have allowed God’s grace to change us, to improve us, or
not. Ask God to help you to receive the grace He offers you, so that you
can become the person God wants you to be, a little bit more every time
you come here. We are all free to reject God’s grace, but remember: if we
do, we are working not for God, but for the devil.
Fr. Peter Fleetwood.