Dedication of the Lateran Basilica – Readings

Commentary Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12; Ps 45; 1 Corinthians 3:9c-11, 16-17; John 2:13-22

The Gospel reading is the account of Jesus cleansing the Temple in John. The synoptics report this event just before the Passion but John puts it much earlier, just after the story of the wedding feast at Cana.

We are told Jesus had gone up to Jerusalem from Galilee because the Passover feast was near. When he entered the Temple area he found people selling oxen, sheep and doves to be offered by pilgrims as sacrifices. There were also money changers because Roman currency could not be used in the Temple and had to changed for Jewish shekels. Jesus was not at all happy about these activities.

He made a small whip of cords and began driving out those selling animals and overturned the tables of the moneychangers. “Get out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market place!” he told them. Of course, what the sellers were doing was not against any law; in fact, it was a necessary service. The problem was that commerce like this should have been done outside the Temple area, just as we would not be happy to see the Sunday newspapers being sold inside the church building after Mass. Hawkers tend to get as close to the action as they can and that is what was happening here – but it was inappropriate.

Some of the Jews, however, challenged Jesus. “What sign can you show us authorising you to do such things?” What Jews were these? Were they priests or officials of the Temple who were getting a ‘cut’ on the hawkers’ profits and turning a blind eye to their selling inside the Temple precincts?

Jesus gave them a strange answer: “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” They took him literally: “It took 46 years to build this Temple and you are going to raise it in three days?!” This was the mighty Temple of Herod which, even after 46 years, was not yet quite finished.

But, as John comments, Jesus was talking about the Temple of his Body. And it was only after the Resurrection that the disciples came to understand the meaning of Jesus’ words. They are words we need to remember today. We are celebrating the dedication of a church building but what is much more important are the people who use that building. It is they who give it its significance, and not the other way round.

In the New Covenant, there is no Temple building. The Temple is now the Christian community which is the Risen Body of Christ. “Who sees you, sees Me.” So it is important in today’s celebration that we recall who we are, and how we are to be seen to be the Temple of Christ’s Body for the world.

The First Reading is from the prophet Ezekiel and is part of a beautiful image of fresh water flowing out from the Temple in Jerusalem and bringing new life and fertility to wherever it flows.

This fresh and clean water flows east into the Dead Sea and makes it fresh again. And “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.” And again, “along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail…”

It is an image of the Temple of Jerusalem as a source of life for all. And in today’s celebration it points to the life that comes to the world through the communities which gather together in a church like St John Lateran and all our cathedrals and parish churches. Again, it is not the building which is the source of life, but the community which gathers together there.

In the alternate First Reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks very strongly of the Christian community as the true Temple of God. “We are God’s co-workers, while you are his cultivation, his building.”

Paul sees himself as a builder but it is not a building of bricks and mortar he is erecting but a building of people. And he is only initiating the building work, others will take over from him and continue it. This building of people can have only one foundation, and that is Jesus Christ.

And he concludes in words that leave no room for doubt:

Are you not aware that you are the Temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s Temple, God will destroy him. For the Temple of God is holy and you are that Temple.”

So, in celebrating today’s feast, we are being called on to focus more on the kind of Temple that we are than on the building, however important and beautiful it may be. In the beginning, there were no churches and people met in each other’s homes for the Eucharist. Church buildings became necessary because of growing numbers. In fact, if St John Lateran, St Peter’s and all the churches in the world were to collapse into ruins, the real Temple of God would continue – in us. “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my Name, I am there among them.”

Comments Off on Dedication of the Lateran Basilica – Readings

Printed from LivingSpace - part of Sacred Space
Copyright © 2023 Sacred Space :: :: All rights reserved.