SFX Bulletin, 9 November 2014: The Church celebrates today the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica – the oldest of the four Papal or Major Basilicas of Rome (the other three are St. Peter’s Basilica, Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and the Basilica of St. Mary Major).
The name “Lateran” comes from the Laterani family who originally owned the palace and the grounds on which the Basilica is built. Emperor Constantine gave the palace to Pope Miltiades in 313 – the same year that he granted Christians freedom to practice their religion thus ending centuries of persecution. This, in turn, had come about from Constantine’s victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 which he attributed to a vision of the Chi-Rho (the first two letter of CHRIST in Greek).
The Basilica was initially dedicated to “Our Holy Saviour”. In the 10th and 12th centuries, it was rededicated to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist respectively. Hence, its name today of St. John Lateran.
Today’s feast celebrates our love for and union with the See of Peter. It is therefore timely to examine how deeply we believe what we say in the Creed that we, “…believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church”. Do we grow in unceasing marvel that the Church and the primacy of Peter is in fact part of God’s plan?
The Church is the place where one most intimately encounter God. None of us are compelled to come to church but God desires us to so that we can be healed and strengthened by Him. “God created us without us: but he did not will to save us without us” (St. Augustine). “God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures’ co-operation…For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own… and thus, of co-operating in the accomplishment of his plan” (CCC306).
God’s grace comes to us through the sacraments. Like Ezekiel’s vision of the life-giving stream coming from the Temple that wells up to become rivers and can even transform dead seas into life-giving bodies, God’s grace received by us is meant to flow out to others, let them “taste and see that the Lord is good” and so, draw them in to the healing and transformation we all received at our baptism from the “sanctuary” that is Jesus (cf. Ps.34:8; Ez. 47:12).
The Church, as Christ’s Body, is the earthly sanctuary for all men because everyone is in need of healing and restoration. She is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic”. “One” because she is founded by and on Christ. All of us are the “living stones” on the “one foundation already laid, that is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor.3:11). The Church is “holy” because she is the body of Christ and mercifully aids all men into Christ’s holiness. “Catholic” means “universal” and Jesus died for every man past, present and future. Before his ascension he told his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19). The Church welcomes everyone regardless of their social standing and race. The church is “apostolic” because Jesus founded the church on his twelve apostles and the Petrine ministry, “.You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church…” (Mt. 16:18). He promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide the Church in preserving, teaching and handing down the truth in faith and morals so all men will be instructed and aided into God’s holiness.
Today, we are called to persevere continuously to build up and not “destroy” the church through infighting, sexual immorality and nebulous spirituality – problems that riddled the Corinthian church but can still be found in our churches (cf. 1 Cor. 3:17). The New Evangelisation calls us to a maturity in faith that can lead others to know and grow in Jesus. Our Holy Father calls us to be “like a river that irrigates” and transmit the faith to our families and others (General Audience, 15 January 2014). Let us co-operate with Mother Church who has been unceasing in this duty since her foundation.