Today's feast is fairly unique. We don't celebrate a person today but a church. It's the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. Why do we celebrate a church? A few reasons. Today's readings give a lot of insight into that, but I'll mention some historical reasons also.
St. John Lateran Basilica was the first church built after the legalization of Christianity by Constantine in the fourth century. It is the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome and thus where you'll find Pope Francis's cathedra, or bishop's chair. We commonly consider St. Peter's as the mother church of all Catholicism, but truly that honor belongs to St. John Lateran.
Before I worked at Nativity, I didn't belong to any particular parish. Ross and I were trying to decide where we were going to get married. When people asked and I communicated my uncertainty, many responded by saying, "It's okay. A church is just a building." I get the sentiment, but it always rubbed me the wrong way. As a Catholic, I've always considered a church to be more than just stones under which we worship. Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, truly resides in our churches. A Catholic Church is a palace in which the King is always in His throne room waiting for his beloved people to come before Him.
The first reading describes the blessings that come out of this reality. It's true, the church itself has no power, but Power itself resides within. That's why churches are sacred. Out of the temple flows the water of life.
Equally, though, Jesus resides in His people. I am a stone that builds up the world church, the Christian faithful. Knowing what we do about our physical churches, celebrating as we do St. John Lateran, what can we learn? How does this inform our lives? We celebrate the grand structure that is the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, but this church does have a chance to be resurrected to new life in heaven... but you do. How much more should we celebrate Jesus alive within you! Within me! Within all of humanity.
I was talking to a friend last night about Jesus's love for the poor. Do we venerate the poor as the treasures of the Church? I remember visiting St. John Lateran in Rome when I visited a few years ago. I was awestruck by it's magnificence. But I was made uncomfortable by the homeless. The poor and homeless are everywhere in Rome. As a young woman it's easy for me to let me fear overcome my awe. Jesus loves each of these more than He loves the structures we build in His honor, just as He loves you more than He loves any building (Not to say that we shouldn't build them. He is worthy of them and they're truly a gift to the poor as much as the wealthy because we all share in their glory.).
So celebrate our faith today. Celebrate St. John Lateran and the gift of religious freedom, but pray for the poor. Recognize your own dignity and the dignity of all of God's children. And then ask yourself, what am I going to do about it?
-Amanda Benner, Director of Evangelization