Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Wednesday word, 09 Nov 2011

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (09 Nov 2011)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Reborn Holy

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: The Presentation of the Lord (in February); Ss. Peter and Paul (in June); the Exaltation of the Cross (your parish feast in September); All Souls (last week); and the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral church of the Archdiocese of Rome.1

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. Peter Cathedral in Erie is Bishop Trautman’s church. Dedicated in 324 in Rome, the emerging center of Christianity, St. John Lateran is the cathedral of cathedrals. 
A cathedral is a building. It is not greater than than those who assemble in it. This parish church and chapel form a building which 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 Christ Jesus as our Messiah, Teacher and Model. No one is born Christian. We are made so by baptism.2 After baptism unites us to Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection we gather around his table to nourish and sustain our baptisms, which made us God’s building, the temple of [Christ’s] body. Like the disciples we appreciate this in the light of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. 

Because baptism is a one-time event and because many of us have no memory of it, it is difficult to keep its consequences of holy living, that is, to live and to witness the desires of God with our lives. Those who remember their baptisms 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 holy living 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 heavenrealm,     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 borne here are holy.3
Do we “reach for heaven’s realm?” Or are we flab on 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 Christ’s care? The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica is far less an occasion to focus on a building. It is another opportunity to rededicate ourselves to Jesus Christ; to know with keener clarity that we are his body until he returns in glory. It allows us to renew our baptized holiness as women, men and children “begotten by God’s blowing” Spirit for the sake of the world.
  1. Its official name is Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior and Sts. John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran.
  2. Tertullian, 2nd-to-3rd-Century church author, in his Apology, ch. 18.
  3. Perhaps by Pope St. Leo the Great (+461).
Wiki-image by Anthony Majanlathi of Lateran baptistry entrance is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Wiki-image of Lateran font was released into the public domain.

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