Outside and Inside
Today, we celebrate the dedication of a church in Rome, St. John Lateran. Now a few things right at the beginning. St. John Lateran is not a person. The church in Rome was the Lateran Palace that ultimately was really the first cathedral of Rome.
It is dedicated to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, and it has come to have been known as St. John Lateran. It is one of the four major basilicas in Rome.
We might ask ourselves, why does it matter that we celebrate the dedication of a church so far away in the city of Rome? St. John Lateran is not just any church. It is really the womb of the churches. It is the first church among the churches.
And it’s a reminder to us of a few important things, not the least of which is as Catholics we are united to a much bigger reality than any single parish or community or group of religious or any organization in the church. That the church professes particularly in the creed that we are a universal church. That we are a church that is all over the world. And as such there is tension in the church because as we look at different parts of the world we see that the faith is lived out quite differently.
Not differently in doctrinal ways, not differently in how the mass is celebrated and so forth, but perhaps different in the sense of symbolism and how the church is viewed and what people are called to do. I was talking to someone over the course of this weekend who was recounting to me an art teacher who went to South America and she was struck that the poorer the city, the bloodier the crucifix.
Why? Because their lives were hard. They could really relate to the suffering Christ because their lives were filled with so much suffering. You don’t see as many suffering Christs in our country. We tend to be much more attracted to the image of the resurrection.
And yet we need both. Take a look around and see that the resurrection without the suffering of Jesus really is pointless. And the suffering of Jesus without the resurrection really is pointless. Because the old song, love and marriage says you can’t have one without the other.
So what is the underlying reason we celebrate the dedication of this church in Rome? It serves if we look at the readings of a profound reminder that the building does not mean as much if our lives do not reflect the way of life we have been called to live.
The first reading we might not really have understood. There is a lot in this reading and we don’t have enough time to go through all of the reasons that Ezekiel is helping us to understand the directions and so forth. But there is something that’s very easy that’s easy to mention and that is the water.
You know, there are certain things in the scripture that when we see them we should immediately be thinking of a certain thing. And whenever we see water whether it’s in the Old Testament or the New Testament our mind should be drawn to baptism.
And that’s what happens when the water flows out of the temple. Everything is brought to life. When we were baptized everything was brought to life. We were made beloved sons and daughters of God. We were called to live in a particular way.
And then Paul tells us in the second reading that we must be careful to know that we are the temple of God. And quite honestly if we are not living the life of the gospel then what we do here is weakened. It’s not eliminated because God does all of the things in the liturgy but our witness becomes less than it could be.
Today as we think about the celebration of this church in Rome let us think about our own church. Let us think about our own lives and let us ask the Lord that we may care for the temple of our own bodies and that we might make a witness of the temple of our own bodies to be so compelling that others too are drawn to the faith by receiving the life giving waters of God.
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