This homily was given on November 8th, 2008. The readings were Ezekiel 47:1-2,8-9, 12; I Collosians 3:9-11,16-17; and the gospel was John 2:13-22, the cleansing of the temple.
This one is one which worked very well – I think I was starting to find my voice.
“Today is a day to rejoice with great gladness – great gladness I say.
Today we celebrate something wonderful – something that only happens every so often in the Church’s Calendar – today we celebrate Christ’s Church in a special, uniquely visible way.
Today is the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
St. John Lateran is the Pope’s ACTUAL cathedral – it is the official basilica of the Diocese of Rome, NOT St. Peter’s as is commonly believed. And today we celebrate its original dedication over sixteen centuries ago.
And I can imagine many of you thinking “So?”
What is so important about this feast in that it supersedes the regular Sunday’s readings? Why are we celebrating this?
Or to paraphrase everybody’s old friend, Charlie Brown:
“What is the true meaning of this Feast Day, Linus?”
Now I could, as many a homilist no doubt WILL do this weekend, go into the history of the basilica, how it was dedicated and destroyed and rebuilt many times and who did what to whom and when and how beautiful it is today and all of that –
– but self control is going to get the better of me in this.
The reason that this feast is so important is contained within the Word of God that we just heard proclaimed.
It’s about US here living today – not about stones and arches erected centuries ago. They are simply REMINDERS to us as to the TRUE Meaning of this day.
WE are the Church.
WE are the Temple.
WE are the Body of Christ here on Earth.
CHRIST is our head and WE are his body. He directs us and we follow him.
As we just heard St. Paul say – “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
WE are that which flows forth from the Temple to renew the face of the Earth, just like in the Prophet Ezekiel’s vision.
“Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live.”
But most importantly as far as this Feast Day is concerned – WE, the Church, the Body of, and most especially the Hands of, Christ here on Earth – ENDURE.
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Temple of his Body was raised up after three days in the tomb – not simply as it was before but FAR, FAR MORE – it is now glorified and incorruptible – ENDURING forever.
We the Church, Christ’s Body, have endured persecutions and martyrdoms, corruption from within and revolutions from without, wars, famine, pestilence and even death – ALL IN HIS NAME – and in the end, we have ENDURED.
We ENDURE FIRSTLY because we take seriously Christ’s commandments, but we ENDURE MOSTLY because we try and truly LIVE his Spirit – the spirit of the Beatitudes and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
And for 2000 years we’ve tried to be the Healing Hands of Christ to all people in need. Right up to today.
Back in 2005, when Deacon Darryl and I were just a year into our Diaconal Formation, Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast. The devastation was amazing as we all no doubt remember, and many of our Deacon Brothers and their wives from this Archdiocese quite literally dropped whatever they were doing and joined in the relief efforts – no questions asked. And one of them related to me a story I’ll always remember.
It was while working with the relief effort in lower Louisiana, one of the Deacon’s wives encountered an older lady who had just discovered that she had lost several loved ones in the storm and she was particularly outraged at the time with grief and loss. She exclaimed out loud to the people around her “WHY, OH WHY didn’t God send his Angels to help us – in this, our hour of need?”
The deacon’s wife who was telling me the story said that at that moment she walked over to the lady, reached out and took her by the hand and raised her up, for she was on her knees with grief, and looked her straight in the eye. She then quietly said to her:
“Ma’am, God did something far more effective than sending his Angels to help you – he sent all of US. We have the hands – and the hearts – and His Spirit within us – to help you today.”
THAT you see is what we are celebrating today.
THAT is what has endured for 2000 years.
Like the stones of the Basilica, but far stronger and more enduring than they could EVER be, CHRIST’S TEACHINGS have been passed down to us – and we still practice and live by them today.
The Basilica you see is a visible reminder that Christ’s Church is everlasting – it is permanent and will endure until Christ comes again.
Like the Church herself, the basilica has endured fires, earthquakes, wars and over 1600 years of remarkable changes – and through all of that we would not permit it to fall – we repair and even rebuild it as necessary with our blood, sweat, tears and most importantly our prayers – so that it still stands today.
It is the visible sign in bricks and mortar of the Body of Christ that we all are – and which endures throughout the ages.
And that’s what this Feast Day is all about, Charlie Brown.”