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Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran's Basilica
St. John Lateran's Basilica - 2013 Pilgrimage
14th-century Gothic baldacchino - 2013 Pilgrimage
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
While we can worship God anywhere and everywhere, there are places set apart as His home among His people where worship and prayer can be offered worthily in an atmosphere of reverence and true devotion. Such was the temple in Jerusalem, and Jesus, recognizing it as His Father’s house, was filled with indignation at finding it desecrated. As narrated in the Gospel, He drove out with a whip all the sellers together with the sheep and oxen, spilled the coins of the moneychangers, overturned their tables, and told those selling doves: “Take these out of here and stop making my Father’s house a market place.” Jesus’ action reminded the disciples of the words of Scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:15-17)
Already in the early years of my childhood, my own parents, the priests in our parish and the nuns in the school, impressed upon us the sacredness of the church as the house of God. As a reminder, there was written in very big letters on the arch just at the vestibule of the main entrance of the parish church “Ro ang baeay hay baeay it pagpangamuyo” or in English, "My house is a house of prayer." As we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran's Basilica, I find it fitting that we reflect on the implications of this simple but very profound inscription:
1. Divine Worship should not be treated like a business transaction. We go to Church not to transact a business as in a bank or any commercial establishment such as when we ask “what’s in it for us?” And so, if we don’t get any profit, we close the transaction. With God it is different. This is an ongoing loving relationship with Him. As in a parent-child relationship, it is built up on mutual love and respect. Hence, fulfilling one’s Sunday obligation must not primarily be motivated out of fear of mortal sin and consequent eternal punishment, but of one’s yearning to “see” Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
A little girl was taken to the church for the first time. As she was coming out of the church the pastor standing at the front door asked her how she likes the Holy Mass. “I liked the music,” she replied, “but the commercials in between were too long.” Well, this is coming from an innocent child who doesn’t know anything about divine worship. Again, we come here not for personal profit but to establish that closer connection with God in a relationship.
2. We are the temples of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul reminds us today that we are “Temples of God” and that the “Spirit dwells within us.” (1 Cor. 3:16) Hence, he warns the Corinthians and us that we have to keep our bodies pure and our souls holy. Well, we heard this said several times but how many of us are truly aware of God’s presence dwelling within our hearts? At times, we forget or worse, we simply ignore His presence like He was not there in the first place.
A man was having troubles in sleeping, with frightening dreams of angry Jesus chasing him with a whip in his hands. He knew in his heart it was his conscience that was keeping him awake. He'd been less than honest in filing his tax return, and it was getting to him. So he sent a check to the IRS with the following note: "Dear Sirs, in filing my 2007 tax return, I did not report all my income. Therefore, I am enclosing my check for $100.
P.S. - If my conscience still troubles me with those dreams of a whip-wielding Jesus, I'll send you the rest." Guess what happened next! Today’s Gospel challenges us to examine ourselves to see if Jesus has to take a whip when he comes to our hearts – the Temple of the Holy Spirit – in Holy Communion.
3. Let us love our parish Church and use it. A Church is a place of worship and more importantly of fellowship. We come here as a community to adore, thank, and worship God after asking His forgiveness for our sins. This place is therefore, sacred or “set apart” as a place fitting to offer our lives, our needs and our petitions before God and where we obtain Divine strength by receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. Let us make our Church an even more holy place by adding our prayers and songs to community worship and by offering our time and talents in the various ministries.
How do we use Churches today? Playgrounds for children allowed by parents or guardians to run around and make noise while the Mass or any other form of worship is being offered? Places of gossip and chatting for those attending baptism, a wedding, or any other Church function? It is sad to note too that in many places today, including Rome, magnificent Churches and basilicas are converted to tourist attractions. In deference to tourism, the Blessed Sacrament is relegated to a side chapel, so tourists may enter in and move around unmindful of the real presence. If you can remember in the Old Testament, Moses, before the burning bush, heard a voice that told him to remove his sandals. Why was that? Because he was standing on holy ground!
The Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome (the Pope’s Cathedral – mother of all the churches in the city and in the world – and their head … not the Basilica of St. Peter as it is often confused and mistaken) is a feast reminding us of the Church in its truest sense. It is not just a “building” big or small, but a “community of persons” – a community “set apart” by God Himself in order that they may come together to praise and worship Him and to establish that relationship built from His unselfish love for mankind.
Let us be thankful for such gift for through the church we are able to communicate to God in a special way. Like what the inscription says, "My House is a House of Prayer." Now that we know what the inscription essentially means, treat "her," the Church as she truly deserves.
God bless us all!