Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
The “Election Season” is over, finally. Those who were victorious, who spent time telling us about the changes they were going to execute are now going to figure out how to fulfill those promises. Those who did not win are going to watch how their victorious opponents try to do what they said. Change! Well, we haven’t noticed any differences except there are no more political advertisements on the television.
Change is very difficult to bring about in government, family structures and especially within ourselves. It is hard to want to change. It is harder to redirect attitudes and our actions. I read a sign a few years ago, “The best way to break a habit is to drop it.” Easily said.
The Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time is replaced this year by an unusual feast. The Lateran Basilica in Rome is the Pope’s Church, he being the Bishop of Rome. One might think that St. Peter’s Basilica would be the church of the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Obviously, there is a history behind this church and this feast.
The palace of the Laterini family became property of the Catholic community in 313 as a gift from Constantine. He desired it to become the cathedral for the Pope. Through fires and reconstructions, for centuries the present building remains the first church in Rome. This feast has been celebrated first in Rome and then throughout the world since the twelfth century. It was the first of the four larger churches in Rome. It stands now as a symbol of the permanence of the Catholic Church in the world. Today we celebrate its dedication and so, too, the dedication of the Pope and the Church to bring about the Kingdom of Christ in this world.
The Gospel reading from John is a tough one. Some might think it is an image of the Catholic Church, driving out people who are doing disgraceful things. No! No! No! This is not a story so much about cleansing as it is about holiness.
These cattle hustlers and sheep dealers were actually providing a service for those faithful who desired to fulfill sacrificial rites within the temple. The whole scene sets up Jesus’ discussion with the Jewish leaders about “signs” which are a strong feature in John’s Gospel. “Bread of Life”, “Living Water”, “Light of the World”, “Sight” are all “signs” or images by which John presents Jesus as a God-Sent Prophet. In the religious traditions of Israel a prophet from God would be inspired to do actions which God alone could do. John takes artistic pains to present Jesus doing these acts within a setting of irony.
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