Laying Foundations

Today is the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. It is a feast that celebrates the building in which the bishop of Rome is seated; it is the cathedral of the diocese of Rome. The basilica and the land upon which it sits has a long history, beginning in the time of Constantine when the land was donated by the Lateran family. It is the place where popes were consecrated until the Avignon papacy in the fourteenth century. When the pope returned from France, the church and the palace were in ruins. The building we now know at the Lateran Basilica began to be built in 1646. Most Catholics think of St. Peter’s as the pope’s church, but truly it is the Lateran Basilica which is. And likewise, it is the people’s church because it is the home of Catholics worldwide.

It seems odd, then, that the Gospel reading recounts Jesus’ anger in the temple, and his promise to destroy the temple. Perhaps it is even stranger to listen to today’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, which speaks of individuals being temples. “Brothers and sisters,” Paul says. “You are God’s building.” This Sunday then points to a creative human tension that exists: we celebrate the dedication of a building as a place that shelters and empower, heals and shepherds the people of God while also acknowledging that the power to build comes not from a physical structure and the trappings of it, but from the people who dwell in and around it.
The river that flows down side of the temple, as described by Ezekiel, does not just pool. If it did, it would become stagnant and unfruitful. Instead, it flows past the temple and waters the fruit trees whose leave and fruits serve to both nourish and heal. The people of God act the same way, then, streaming out of the basilica and into the larger world in order to promote greater healing and care for all people of the world. And yet this feast of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica gives us great pause, causing us to recall that no building can do what individuals gathered together can.

Kate Lassiter recalls laying bricks with her Dad, the handyman, when she was in 5th grade. She remembers being amused by the seeming orderliness of the lining up the bricks in a repeating pattern, while knowing that the brick sidewalk was built on a bed of sand.
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