Welcome friends of Jesus to today's celebration of the Holy Mass that commemorates the Dedication of Saint John Lateran. What is the Dedication of St. John Lateran? This Feast commemorates the oldest and principal Cathedral in the Diocese of Rome. The St John Lateran Cathedral ranks first among the four great "patriarchal" Basilicas of Rome.
In ancient times, the land on which the Cathedral now stands was
occupied by the palace of the family of the Laterani. A member of
this family, P. Sextius Lateranus, was the first plebian to attain
the rank of consul. In the time of Nero, another member of the
family, Plautius Lateranus, at the time consul designatus was
accused of conspiracy against the emperor, and his goods were
confiscated. The writer Juvenal mentions the palace, and speaks of
it as being of some magnificence, "regiæ ædes Lateranorum". A few
remains of the original buildings may still be traced in the city
walls outside the Gate of St. John, and a large hall decorated with
paintings was uncovered in the eighteenth century within the
Basilica itself, behind the Lancellotti Chapel. A few traces of
older buildings also came to light during the excavations made in
1880, when the work of extending the apse was in progress, but
nothing was then discovered of real value or importance. The
palace came eventually into the hands of Constantine, the first
Christian emperor, through his wife Fausta, and it is from her that
it derived the name by which it was then sometimes called, "Domus
Faustæ". Constantine must have given it to the Church in the time
of Miltiades, not later than about 311, for we find a council
against the Donatists meeting within its walls as early as 313.
From that time onwards it was always the centre of Christian life
within the city; the residence of the popes and the Cathedral of
Rome. The latter distinction it still holds, though it has long
lost the former. Hence the proud title which may be read upon its
walls, that it is "Omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater, et
It seems probable, in spite of the tradition that Constantine
helped in the work of building with his own hands, that there was
not a new Basilica erected at the Lateran, but that the work
carried out at this period was limited to the adaptation, which
perhaps involved the enlargement, of the already existing basilica
or great hall of the palace. The words of St. Jerome "basilica
quondam Laterani" (Ep. lxxiii, P.L., XXII, col. 692) seem to point
in this direction, and it is also probable on other grounds. This
original church was probably not of very large dimensions, but we
have no reliable information on the subject. It was dedicated to
the Saviour, "Basilica Salvatoris", the dedication to St. John
being of later date, and due to a Benedictine monastery of St. John
the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist which adjoined the basilica
and where members were charged at one period with the duty of
maintaining the services in the church. This later dedication to
St. John has now in popular usage altogether superseded the
original one. A great many donations from the popes and other
benefactors to the Basilica are recorded in the "Liber
Pontificalis", and its splendour at an early period was such that
it became known as the "Basilica Aurea", or Golden Church. This
splendour drew upon it the attack of the Vandals, who stripped it
of all its treasures. St. Leo the Great restored it about 460, and
it was again restored by Hadrian I, but in 896 it was almost
totally destroyed by an earthquake ("ab altari usque ad portas
cecidit"). The damage was so extensive that it was difficult to
trace in every case the lines of the old building, but these were
in the main respected and the new building was of the same
dimensions as the old. This second church lasted for four hundred
years and was then burnt down. It was rebuilt by Clement V and
John XXII, only to be burnt down once more in 1360, but again
rebuilt by Urban V. (Source: Catholic Encyclopedia) Such is a
brief history of today's celebration.
Today's First Reading from the Book of Ezekiel [Ez. 47:1-2, 8-9,
12] in the Old Testament spoke of the stream of life giving water.
Its messages was, "I saw water flowing from the temple and all to
whom that water came were saved."
The prophetic nature of the stream of life giving water is found in
other Biblical passage. For example, in the Book of Joel, we read,
"In that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, the hills shall
flow with milk, and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with
water; a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and
water the Wadi Shittim. ("Valley of Shittim.") [Joel 3:18]. In the
Book of Zechariah, we read, "On that day living waters shall flow
out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of
them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter.
And the Lord will become king over all the earth; on that day the
Lord will be one and His name one." [Zech. 14:8-9]
In Psalm thirty-six, we read, "They feast on the abundance of your
house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light."
[Ps. 36:8-9] Finally, in the Book of Revelation, we read, "Then
the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as
crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb." [Rev.
First of all, the flowing water suggests the streams of life that
once came out of the Garden of Eden [Gen. 2:10-14]. As a
consequence of Adam's disobedience and sin entering the world, the
flow of this water stopped.
Secondly, the flowing water suggests the life saving water that
flowed from the rock in twelve streams [Exo. 15:27] during the
Exodus. As you may recall, after three days in the wilderness, the
Jewish people were without water. [Exo. 15:22]
Finally, the flowing water suggests the living water that has been
received through the glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
beginning in Jerusalem.
We heard that the angel said to Ezekiel, "This water flows toward
the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it
enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become
fresh. Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms
will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters
reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where
the river goes." The Arabah is the deep geological rift that forms
the Dead Sea and continues southward. The life-giving effect of
the waters is apparent from the freshening of the salt waters and
the abundance of fish.
According to the prophetic disclosure of the last verse during the
First Reading, the life-giving water will flow eternally, ("every
month") originating from the Divine Presence of Yahweh ("from the
sanctuary"). Those ("all kinds of trees") who drink the living
water shall continuously bear fruits ("fresh fruit every month").
By the grace of the Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy
Spirit, in the Most Holy Name of Jesus, the faithful shall produce
fruits, first for the growth of the Body of Christ, secondly for
personal spiritual growth.
The Second Reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians
[1 Cor. 3:9-11, 16-17] reminds us that we are God's Temple. The
first verse of this reading said, "You are God's building." What
does that mean, being God's building? Does it mean that we are
God's fellow labourers, working together in God's interests? No!
It means that we are cooperating with the Lord God who acts in and
through His apostles. We are God's instruments, servants,
ambassadors, humbly submitting ourselves to the way that the Spirit
of Jesus guides us for the good of the Church. (See: Eph. 2:20-1;
1 Tim. 3:5)
Saint Paul informs us in this Letter that we are God's building.
By the grace of God given to him, Saint Paul laid a foundation so
others, including ourselves, may come afterwards to continue his
spiritual work as guided by the Holy Spirit. He instructs us to be
careful as to how we build on the foundation that he laid. No one,
be it a preacher or a lay person, can lay another foundation other
than the one that has been laid, that foundation being Jesus
Christ. No one can lay another foundation for another Church in
the Name of Jesus. For there is only one Church that was
instituted by the Lord, only one Faith, only one Baptism.
Paul asked, "Do you not know that you are God's Temple and that
God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's Temple, God
will destroy that person. For God's Temple is holy, and you are
As God's Temple, we are living stones, Jesus being the cornerstone
[Eph. 2:20]. We are branches feeding on the tree, Jesus being the
Tree of Life. In the Book of Isaiah, we read a prophecy regarding
the cornerstone, "Therefore, thus says the Lord God, 'See, I am
laying in Zion a foundation stone, a tested stone, a precious
cornerstone, a sure foundation.'" [Is. 28:16] In the Book of
Psalms, we read, "The stone that the builders rejected has become
the chief cornerstone." [Ps. 118.22]
When speaking of the Temple of God, discernment should be applied
to determine which Temple is referred to. As the One, Holy,
Catholic and Apostolic Church is the Temple of God, each Diocese
being a living stone to it, equally, each Diocese is a Temple of
God, each Parish being a living stone that belongs to it. And
equally, each Parish is a Temple of God, each member of the Church
being a living stone that belongs to it. Finally, each baptized
person is a Temple of God because the Divine Spirit dwells in him.
It should be noted that the Temple of God within the individual is
secondary. Why secondary? Because the Holy Spirit comes into the
community and gives Himself to individuals through the community.
Each living stone, the Church, the Diocese, the Parish and the
individuals are absolutely necessary for the productive growth of
the Body of Christ. If one weakens, the entire building is
affected. An example of this is the scandals that have rocked the
Catholic Church during the past year. While the scandals were
limited to certain geographical areas, the entire Church has
suffered from it.
During today's Reading from the Gospel of John, [Jn. 2:13-22],
Jesus was speaking about the Temple of His Body. He was speaking
about the new Temple, the Resurrected Christ.
We heard that when Jesus visited the Temple in Jerusalem, He found
some people selling cattle, sheep and doves. Different kinds of
sacrificial animals were being sold at the Temple so that the
pilgrims would not have the added expense of bringing them from far
away. When Jesus drove them out of the Temple with a whip,
assuming there was a large number of sellers, He must have enlisted
the assistance of His disciples. The reference to the whip during
the Gospel Reading may have been symbolic, serving the purpose of
emphasizing the authority of Jesus as the Lord versus being used as
a physical goad.
During the aforementioned action, the disciples who were
knowledgeable of the Holy Scriptures and who awaited the coming of
the promised Messiah surely had two specific passages on their
minds. These are, "It is zeal for your house that has consumed me;
the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." [Ps. 69:9]
"And every cooking pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be sacred to
the Lord of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and use them
to boil the flesh of the sacrifice. And there shall no longer be
traders in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day." [Zech.
Because of Jesus's action, those who were indifferent to the Laws
of Moses and who lacked respect for the Temple, asked Jesus for a
sign to prove that He had the authority to do what He had just
done. As we all know from previous reading, the demand for a sign
was continuously made upon Jesus. Such was not provided because
signs are for the well-disposed, to evoke or to confirm their
faith. A sign bears no fruit among the hypocrites, the
unrepentant, the proud, the greedy, etc...
Jesus said, "Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it
up." What Temple was Jesus referring to? He was speaking of two
Temples. While He foretold the destruction of the physical Temple
in Jerusalem, however, here, His emphasis was a reference to His
death and Resurrection, the one sign that should be sufficient for
all believers of all times. It was only after His glorious
Resurrection that the disciples discerned the profound meaning of
Christ's words and deeds.
These words of Jesus, "Destroy this Temple and in three days I will
raise it up" are the exact words that the Jewish persecutors used
against Jesus at His mockery trial. They took Jesus' words
literally, such power implying some kind of sorcery.
Those who were present indicated that the Temple, not yet completed
in Jesus' time, had been under construction for 46 years. How
could Jesus possibly rebuild it in 3 days? According to the
writings of Josephus, construction of the Temple of Herod began in
the eighteen year, about 20/19 B.C. It was completed in A.D.
63/64, shortly before its destruction by the Romans. It took a
total of about 83/84 years to build it.
Today's three readings teach us that through the glorious
Resurrection of the life giving Temple of Christ, we become living
stones that feed on the ever flowing Divine graces that are
bestowed upon us as a gift of God's love and mercy for His sinful
creations. This week, let us be thankful to the Lord God for His
tremendous sacrifice as the Lamb of God, a sacrifice that is
undeserved and unearned. May His Most Holy Name be praised