Homily for November 9, 2014: Dedication of the Lateran Basilica: Msgr. Jim Miller

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
November 9, 2014

Reading 1 Ez 47:1-2, 8-9, 12

Responsorial Psalm Ps 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9

R. The waters of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High!

Reading 2 1 Cor 3:9c-11, 16-17

Gospel Jn 2:13-22


Where do you find sacred space?   Growing up I remember going to St. Mary Catholic Church in Cascade on Saturday night with Dad and preparing myself for confession in the darkened church with just a couple of lights on.   I also remember going to Christ the King chapel one afternoon and praying to God as I searched for the path of my life:   do I continue to study for priesthood or do I look to marriage.   These were two special places where I felt the presence of God and found God leading me to wholeness and holiness.

The Feast that we celebrate today is of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome.   Unless you have been to Rome and visited this church it may not have much importance to you but for us Catholics it is the most important church in the world!  It has served as the cathedral of the diocese of Rome for almost 1,700 years.

When Roman Senator Palutinus Lateranus was executed by Emperor Nero, his property became the emperor’s.  Eventually the Senator’s palace came into the possession of Emperor Constantine who converted to Christianity and felt that the Pope, The Visible leader of Christianity, needed a residence that matched his dignity and office.  In 312, Constantine gave the “Lateran Palace” to the pope.

Pope St. Sylvester dedicated the Lateran Basilica to the Savior and made it the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome on Nov. 9, 324.  The popes lived there for over a thousand years.   During the 10th century the Basilica enjoyed a renovation and was also dedicated to St. John the Baptist, thus the common named of “St. John Lateran.”

The papacy was moved Avignon in France for a time and the Basilica fell into ruin.  Earthquakes also took their toll, and finally, in 1308, the Basilica was destroyed by fire.

While the Lateran Basilica was rebuilt when the papacy returned to Rome in 1377, the popes spent most of their time at their private residence on the Vatican Hill.  “The Vatican,” then is a relatively new papal residence serving only 637 years versus over a thousand at St. John Lateran.  Although the popes moved their residence, the Lateran Basilica still stands as the Cathedral of Rome.  Its full official title is “The Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran.  That is our history lesson for today!

The first reading fills my mind with the wonderful picture of water flowing from our church all the way to the Mississippi River and making it so clean and fresh that we could drink it and it would be better than any water you could buy.   Just imagine fruit trees of all kinds growing on both banks of the river that would bear fruit every month of the year!!   Surely Ezekiel was not writing about Iowa but this does sound like heaven doesn’t it!!

In the second reading St. Paul writes, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you?”  Let us remember our special encounters with God in our lives.   Whether we meet our Savior through prayer at church, in our home or outdoors God wants to live in and through each of us.   Open your hearts and your minds to receive the Lord’s presence more powerfully in your life.   Invite the Holy Spirit to guide you and abide within you.   Recognize the presence of God in each person you meet.   Value the life of each person as God values you.    Be aware of the sacred around you and within you.   Carry the sacred with you wherever you go.

May we be filled with the zeal of our Lord to care for and protect the sacredness of our church building but more importantly the sacredness of the people within it and even those outside of the church.  Let us invite people to join us.   Let us see God’s goodness in all people.   I am thankful for special places like this to worship God and people like you to make this a celebration of new life and possibilities.