Central idea: Living Temples. Doctrine: Grace. Practical application: Understanding the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome.
Central idea: Living Temples
Reading 1 Ez 47:1-2, 8-9, 12
The angel brought me
back to the entrance of the temple,
and I saw water flowing out
from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east,
for the façade of the temple was toward the east;
the water flowed down from the southern side of the temple,
south of the altar.
He led me outside by the north gate,
and around to the outer gate facing the east,
where I saw water trickling from the southern side.
He said to me,
“This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah,
and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh.
Wherever the river flows,
every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live,
and there shall be abundant fish,
for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh.
Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow;
their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail.
Every month they shall bear fresh fruit,
for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary.
Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine.”
- The prophet Ezekiel wrote as a Jewish exile in Babylon. Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon were destroyed. In his vision of a new temple, he saw a spring welling up it that flowed all the way down to the Dead Sea, which it made fresh. The angel tells Ezekiel that the source of this stream is the sanctuary, the holiest place in the temple. Along this stream every living creature would multiply and the waters would be filled with fish. Along the shores, trees would grow bearing fruit each month. Even their leaves would serve for healing. Every place this spring’s water touched became another garden of Eden, beautiful, full of life, and beneficial to man.
- What can this spring be but divine grace, flowing out from God’s dwelling to humanity and creation, giving life where there was death, healing where there were wounds, and sustenance where there was want? How can we Christians not see this spring as the Sacraments of the Church, with their graces flowing out to humanity through their source, Jesus Christ who is the New Temple of Jerusalem?
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!
God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in distress.
Therefore, we fear not, though the earth be shaken
and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea.
There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High.
God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed;
God will help it at the break of dawn.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
Come! behold the deeds of the LORD,
the astounding things he has wrought on earth.
- God is the life and the security and the source of the gladness of the Chosen People, just as he is for us Christians.
- The stream which refreshes the city of God represents for us all the graces which flow to us in the Sacraments—these gifts are God’s own life.
- Grace is how God is in our midst, giving us life and security and gladness.
Reading 2 1 Cor 3:9c-11, 16-17
Brothers and sisters:
You are God’s building.
According to the grace of God given to me,
like a wise master builder I laid a foundation,
and another is building upon it.
But each one must be careful how he builds upon it,
for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there,
namely, Jesus Christ.
Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple,
God will destroy that person;
for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.
- Paul was writing to mostly Gentile converts to Christianity in Corinth. There was only one true physical temple of God in the world, the Temple of Jerusalem. There were no physical buildings we think of as churches, because the faith was outlawed.
- Paul lays out a profound truth, that we Christians are each God’s “building,” because the Spirit of God dwells in us. St. Paul laid the foundation for the Corinthians’ “buildings” by preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them and then baptizing them in Christ.
- We, each, are responsible for continuing the construction of our own temples. And by our words and actions we contribute to the further construction of other persons’ temples. We can err by trying to substitute another foundation other than Christ. And we can misbuild through error and sin. If we harm our own temple or other persons’ temples, “God will destroy that person; for the temple of God . . . is holy.”
Gospel Jn 2:13-22
Since the Passover of the Jews was near,
Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,
as well as the money-changers seated there.
He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen,
and spilled the coins of the money-changers
and overturned their tables,
and to those who sold doves he said,
“Take these out of here,
and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
Zeal for your house will consume me.
At this the Jews answered and said to him,
“What sign can you show us for doing this?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Jews said,
“This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,
and you will raise it up in three days?”
But he was speaking about the temple of his Body.
Therefore, when he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this,
and they came to believe the Scripture
and the word Jesus had spoken.
- The Temple in Jerusalem really was God’s house for the Jews, although in less than forty years the Romans would destroy it, and it has never been rebuilt.
- Christ’s humanity is even more truly the Temple of God, for with it the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity has united itself.
- Just as Christ is the living stone which the builders rejected, the cornerstone on which is built the Church, the Christian faithful are the living stones that make up the rest of this temple of the Body of Christ.
- Our own physical churches are also living temples of God, for in it the Eucharist is celebrated and preserved in the tabernacle.
- Just as the Temple in Jerusalem deserved not to be a “marketplace,” our own Catholic Churches deserve our best care—keeping them clean, well-decorated, in good repair—and if they merit it, restoration and preservation.
- Many modern Catholic church buildings deserve to be razed and rebuilt so that they may really reflect what they signify.
- We claimed above that the spring that trickles out from the mystical Temple of Jerusalem is a symbol of grace. What is grace? It is “favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life” (CCC 1996).
- “The divine initiative in the work of grace precedes, prepares, and elicits the free response of man. Grace responds to the deepest yearnings of human freedom, calls freedom to cooperate with it, and perfects freedom.” (CCC 2022) Salvation and sanctification are divine gifts.
- “Sanctifying grace is the gratuitous gift of his life that God makes to us; it is infused by the Holy Spirit into the soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it” (CCC 2023).
- “Sanctifying grace makes us ‘pleasing to God.’ Charisms, special graces of the Holy Spirit, are oriented to sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. God also acts through many actual graces, to be distinguished from habitual grace which is permanent in us.” (CCC 2024)
- Sanctifying grace is the permanent change God makes in our nature. A charism, like the ability to comfort others in their sorrow, is a special grace given to us for others. An actual grace is a particular help, like the ability to be patient at this very moment with a crying baby when one is at her wits end.
Practical application: Understanding the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
- This is what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has to say about this feast:
- Today we “celebrate the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, called the ‘mother and head of all the Churches of the Urbe and Orbe’,” that is, the City (of Rome) and the orb (of the world). It was dedicated in about AD 324 by Pope Silvester and built by the Emperor Constantine, after he granted Christians religious freedom.
- The Lateran Basilica the pope’s cathedral. “Hence, honoring the holy building is meant as an expression of love and veneration for the Roman Church ‘which’, as St Ignatius of Antioch affirms, ‘presides in charity’ over the entire Catholic communion.”
- “The Word of God during this Solemnity,” that is, the lectionary readings we have just considered, “recalls an essential truth: the stone temple is the symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, that the Apostles Peter and Paul had, in their Letters, already understood as a ‘spiritual building’, constructed by God with the ‘living stones’ that are the Christians, upon the one foundation that is Jesus Christ, who is in turn compared to the ‘cornerstone’.”
- “The beauty and the harmony of churches, destined to render praise to God, invites us human beings too, though limited and sinful, to convert ourselves to form a ‘cosmos’, a well-ordered construction, in close communion with Jesus, who is the true Holy of Holies. This reaches its culmination in the Eucharistic liturgy, in which the ‘ecclesia’ that is, the community of baptized finds itself again united to listen to the Word of God and nourish itself on the Body and Blood of Christ. Gathered around this twofold table, the Church of living stones builds herself up in truth and in love and is molded interiorly by the Holy Spirit, transforming herself into what she receives, conforming herself ever more to her Lord Jesus Christ. She herself, if she lives in sincere and fraternal unity, thus becomes a spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God.”
- Finally, Pope Benedict adds, “today’s feast celebrates an ever current mystery: that God desires to build himself a spiritual temple in the world, a community that adores him in spirit and truth. But this occasion reminds us also of the importance of the concrete buildings in which the community gathers together to celebrate God’s praises. Every community therefore has the duty to carefully guard their holy structures, which constitute a precious religious and historical patrimony. For this we invoke the intercession of Mary Most Holy, so that she might help us to become, like her, a ‘house of God’, living temple of his love.” (from Benedict XVI, Angelus address, Sunday, 9 November 2008)
- Some practical considerations:
- To pray for the Roman pontiff daily.
- To appreciate those persons in our own parish, often volunteers, who clean and decorate our churches.
- To get involved in the care and restoration of our church buildings if we are able to do so.
- To assist in the building of new church buildings or the rebuilding of ugly, inhuman church buildings, if we are able.