Today we are commemorating two different occasions. Firstly, today is kept as Remembrance Sunday in Britain and many Commonwealth countries. And so we call to mind those who lost their lives in the two World Wars and in the many other conflicts since then. It is appropriate that we keep alive the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we might live our lives free from tyranny. We should not forget that, while war is something to be avoided whenever possible, it is also important that certain God-given values should be defended at all costs. So it is fitting that we pay tribute to those who gave their lives in these conflicts. But it is also our earnest prayer that future generations may live their lives in an atmosphere of peace and trust between nations.
If the Gospel means anything at all, it means the avoidance of war and the promotion of peace and mutual understanding. With the unforgettable words of Christ “Blessed are the peacemakers” in mind, we also pay tribute to those who work for the promotion of peace in the world of today. It is good to see with us today the Scouts and Guides who are marking Remembrance Day together with the parish; it is always nice to have them with us. We feel proud that our young people belong to such worthy organisations which are dedicated to peace and to the furtherance of all that is good.
With their many indoor and outdoor activities the Scouts and Guides aim to help their members to achieve success in all sorts of practical areas of life and so help our boys and girls to become good citizens and truly fulfilled human beings. The second occasion we are commemorating today is the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. Now you might think that this is a rather peculiar feast to be keeping since most other feasts are directly connected to Christ or to one or other of the Saints. So it is rather unique in that it marks the dedication of a Church, albeit the oldest Church in the West. Many people think that the Pope’s Cathedral is the Basilica of St Peter, but in fact his Cathedral is the Basilica of St John Lateran where the Popes resided for almost a thousand years. But this is no ordinary Church for it is generally regarded as the mother of all the Churches. For a thousand years it was also the principal residence of the Popes and the seat of the administration of the Church.
This was interrupted when the Popes moved to Avignon in 1309. When the Popes returned to Rome eighty years later St John Lateran was in disrepair and so they took up residence in the palazzo next to St Peter’s at the Vatican. St John Lateran, however, is still today the administrative headquarters of the Diocese of Rome and the residence of the Cardinal Vicar of Rome. And most importantly it still remains the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. One could say that when you get down to essentials any Church building is just bricks and mortar and this would be technically correct.
After all, the real Church, the one that counts, is the body of Christ’s faithful. It is we who are the Church. The Church then is not made from stone but from you and me and the countless other Christians spread throughout the world. That said; the building still plays a key role; for the building is the place where we gather for the liturgy and most importantly for the Eucharist. It is a place that we do not use for merely secular activities because it is dedicated exclusively to the sacred actions of God’s holy people. The Church building is therefore a real visible symbol of that much greater Church which is the Body of Christ. The building is a living sign of the unity of the Church. The building is the sacred place where God’s people gather to hear his Word and worship his holy name. It is appropriate that we have the story of the Cleansing of the Temple as the Gospel text for today’s feast.
This reminds us to keep the Church pure and free from earthly things. The eyes of the Church must always be on heaven. It must never become over concerned with its place in society or with material things. The Church must serve its master Jesus Christ and the best way for us to do this is to follow his example. We must defend the poor from injustice; we must bring healing and comfort to the sick; we must groom ourselves for holiness; we must proclaim the truth in love. And these things are not merely things we do together as Church. These are what we must also do individually; for while the Church is the community of Christians it is also something contained within us. We are, each one of us, temples of God. Our very bodies are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. That is why we treat the body of someone who has died with such respect and dignity.
The Church is the building, the Church is the Body of Believers and the Church is within us. But the Church is also all around us because the Saints also remain part of the Church—the Church Triumphant as we call them. In the I Confess we pray: I ask blessed Mary, ever Virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God. When we say these words what we are doing is calling on the whole Church to pray for us, the Church in heaven and the Church on earth. The Church is therefore a seamless robe uniting in worship its members in heaven and on earth.
This means that the Church is no mere human institution; it is the creation of God himself and is an integral part of his plan for the salvation of the world. It is therefore, by its very nature, holy. Sometimes we don’t play our part, sometimes we members of the Church act in a way that is inconsistent with that holiness—whether we are clergy or laity. Sometimes we drag the Church down and give it a bad reputation. And all of us need to examine our consciences in this regard. But the Church always recovers and it will endure till the end of time. And as Christ’s will that all will be saved is gradually realised the Church will come more and more into its own. We thank God that we have been drawn into the Church. We thank God for the role we have been given to bring Christ to the world, to be his ambassadors to the people of this area. We praise God for the Church he has created and uses to bring to fulfillment his Kingdom.
Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
November 9, 2014
Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica—November 9, 2014
As we celebrate the dedication of a church in Rome (St. John Lateran), built thousands of years ago and thousands of miles away, what exactly are we celebrating?
Gospel (Read Jn 2:13-22)
If we are pondering the question posted above, we will find that each of our readings offers a unique contribution to its answer. Once we have read them all, we will see the summary of their teachings stated most eloquently in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. May all of us be helped by this today.
Dedication of St. John Lateran: We Are Church
In the first three hundred years of its existence the Church was persecuted throughout the world. The persecution was somewhat sporadic. Sometimes, the Roman authorities would close their eyes to Christians, not bothering with them. Other times they would only persecute Christians if an individual Christian was denounced by someone. Quite often, the Emperors, such as Domitian and Diocletian, would declare that all Christians had to be found and put to death.
Are Catholics Saved?
Beth Haile always writes excellent posts, and I benefit a great deal from reading them. I particularly enjoy her commentaries on the lectionary. In her most recent commentary, Haile recounts a story that her priest told during his homily. The story involves an encounter with an “Evangelical” Christian. Haile describes her reaction to the story as follows:
The Forgotten Church: 5 Reasons to Pray for the Souls in Purgatory
“Purgatory shows God’s great mercy and washes away the defects of those who long to become one with Him.” – St. Josemaria Escriva
When is the last time you heard a homily on purgatory? If your parish is like most, it’s been a very long time. Getting more personal, when is the last time you prayed for the Holy Souls? If you’re like many Catholics, the answer is not recently. The souls in purgatory are too often forgotten by Catholics, and I fear this is often out of a misguided desire not seem medieval (as if that were a bad thing), superstitious, or worse yet, ecumenically insensitive.
When Souls in Purgatory Return from the Dead
We don’t hear a lot about Purgatory these days and that’s a shame because most of us will be very lucky to slip in there rather than dropping straight into hell. And lest anyone complain that God is mean or judgmental in sending people to hell, it is well to remember that it’s entirely our own doing, having used the gift of free will to tell God “Nah, I won’t” or more often today “MEH.”