Homily for Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran

Homily for Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran

Theme: Two Temples; the Temple of Jerusalem, and the Body of Christ

By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches


Homily for Tuesday November 9 2021

Jn 2:13‐22

Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.

The feast today is quite unusual. We are celebrating not the feast of a saint, but of a church building, the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. The ninth of November is the anniversary of the dedication of this church. It is being celebrated by the entire Christian world on account of its universal preeminence.

This basilica was built by Emperor Constantine and solemnly dedicated by Pope Sylvester I on November 09, 324. Its official title is the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior and of Sts. John Baptist and John Evangelist in the Lateran. It stands on the site of an ancient palace on the Celian Hill, which formerly belonged to the Laterani Family. That is where the name “Lateran” comes from. It is considered “the mother and head of all churches of Rome and the world” because it is the first church to be built, hence the oldest, and therefore, holds the title of Archbasilica. It is the Pope’s Cathedral as the Bishop of Rome.

The celebration of the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran is a sign of devotion to and unity with the Chair of Peter, the authority of the Pope as the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ on earth.

The liturgy of this feast tells us about the two Temples, namely, the Temple of Jerusalem, and the Body of Christ. When Jesus entered the Temple of Jerusalem, He was shocked to see it profaned and desecrated by the moneychangers and merchants selling doves and sacrificial animals. In anger, He drove away these people: “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” (Jn 2:16).

This action of Jesus gives us an important lesson: the church building is not an ordinary place; it is the house of God. As a house of worship, it is where people encounter God in a very special way. Hence, it should be treated with utmost respect and reverence. Pope St. John Paul II teaches: “Any church is your house, and the house of God. Value it as the place where we encounter our common Father.”

The Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship reminds us: “A church is the place where the Christian community is gathered to hear the word of God, to offer intercession and praise to Him, and above all to celebrate the holy mysteries, and it is the place where the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist is kept. Thus, it stands as a special kind of image of the Church itself, which is God’s temple built from living stones.” (Decree, 29 May 1977)

Secondly, we should come regularly to visit the church. If we really believe it is the house of God, why do many of us seldom come here? If we truly love God we will surely come to this place every day to visit and be with Him at least for a few moments.

Thirdly, we should support its maintenance and upkeep. We see many magnificent and luxurious buildings and mansions all around. Although these belong to mortal human beings only, yet their beauty and integrity are well-maintained. Sadly, this is not the case with so many churches. These are houses of worship, the dwelling place of God, yet many people do not really mind.

Jesus also talks about another Temple – the Body of Christ. This Temple will be “destroyed” by death, but on the third day, He will raise it up again. And before He finally ascended to His heavenly Father, He established the Church, His Mystical Body. In Baptism, we have become members of the Church; we have become parts of His Mystical Body. We are the Church.

As we celebrate today the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, we are reminded that the Church is not just the building where we gather to worship, but more importantly, it is the community of believers, the Mystical Body of Christ. The Church is the concrete assurance of the abiding presence of Jesus: “I am with you always until the end of time.”

Let us also make this feast a solemn occasion to renew our oath of loyalty to the Holy Father, the Successor of Peter and the Vicar of Christ, who as St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote, “presides over the whole assembly of charity.” Let us pray for him and for the unity of the entire Church.

Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

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