Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sunday word, 09 Nov 2008

Dedication of St. John Lateran (09 Nov 2008)
Ez 47.1-2,8-9,12; Ps 46; 1Co 3.9-11,16-17; Jn 2. 13-22
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Reborn Holy

The liturgical year has a simple structure. It revolves around our feast of feasts, Jesus' dying, death and resurrection. We celebrate it solemnly over three days, from the night of Holy Thursday and move through Good Friday, Holy Saturday into Easter. We tarry for 50 days more to soak in this mystery and unite more with our Messiah Jesus. The rest of the year unfolds aspects of Jesus’ paschal presence with us. Each Sunday is a little Easter when we rededicate ourselves to our Risen Lord.

Twelve feasts, when they fall on the Lord’s Day, replace the Sunday liturgy because they help us tap into the mystery of Jesus present with us. This year we’ve celebrated four of them: Ss. Peter and Paul (in June); the Exaltation of the Cross (in September); All Souls (last week); and now the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral church of the Archdiocese of Rome, named St. John, who was the patron of the monks who served it.

Each diocese has its principal church, where the bishop of the diocese presides. St. John Lateran is the Pope’s church, in the same way that St. John the Evangelist in Cleveland is Bishop Lennon’s church. St. John Lateran is the cathedral of cathedrals, dedicated in 324 in Rome, then the emerging center of Christianity.

Because a cathedral is a building, it isn’t greater than than those who assemble in it. Our parish church is a building; it serves as an extension of the cathedral of this diocese and is in communion with the Lateran basilica, the cathedral of cathedrals.

The word “church” signifies people as the Body of Christ before it signifies a building. We are connected with Jesus, our Messiah, Teacher and Model. No one is born Christian.
Baptism makes us Christian. After baptism unites us to Jesus’ death and resurrection, we gather around his table to nourish and sustain our baptisms, which made us God’s building, the temple of [our Messiah’s] body.

Because many of us have no memory of our baptism, we easily forget its consequences of holy living: living and witnessing God’s desires with our lives. Even those who remember being baptized are challenged daily by the world’s desires. It was always so.

The baptistry in the Lateran basilica bears an early 5th-Century inscription which reminded those, who went under its waters for the first time and ever after, what being reborn holy means:
Here is born in Spirit-soaked fertility
a brood destined for another City,
begotten by God’s blowing
and borne upon this torrent
by the Church, their virgin mother.
Reborn in these depths they reach for heaven’s realm,
the born-but-once unknown by felicity.
This spring is life that floods the world,
the wounds of Christ its awesome source.
Sinner, sink beneath this sacred surf
that swallows age and spits up youth.
Sinner, here scour sin away down to innocence,
for they know no enmity who are by
one font, one Spirit, one faith made one.
Sinner, shudder not at sin’s kind and number,
for those born here are holy.*
Do we “reach for heaven’s realm?” Or are we flab on our Christ’s Body? Do we tap into the “wounds of Christ?” Or do we insulate ourselves from his suffering today? Do we obsess and “shudder” about sin? Or do we put ourselves into Jesus’ care? The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica is far less an occasion to focus on a building. It’s another opportunity to rededicate ourselves to Jesus; to know with keener clarity that we are his body until he returns in glory.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, consider the thrice-holy name in which you were baptized, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Ask the saints whose names you bear to present you to Jesus. Speak with Jesus about how you feel his Spirit has “begotten by God’s blowing” your new, Christian life. Desire to be more aware of your baptism and the Christian vocation it offers you each day. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer; slowly, in order to appreciate how each thing you do as a Christian is for the sake of the world.
* perhaps composed by Pope St. Leo the Great (+461).

Wiki-image of facade of the Basilica of St. John Lateran by Ern is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 license. Wiki-image of the entrance to the Lateran Baptistry by Anthony Majanlahti is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license.

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