Reflection for Sunday, November 9, 2008: Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome.
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Gillick, Larry, S.J.
PRE-PRAYERING | The "Election Season" is over, finally. Those who were victorious, who spent time telling us about the changes they were going to execute are now going to figure out how to fulfill those promises. Those who did not win are going to watch how their victorious opponents try to do what they said. Change! Well, we haven't noticed any differences except there are no more political advertisements on the television.|Change is very difficult to bring about in government, family structures and especially within ourselves. It is hard to want to change. It is harder to redirect attitudes and our actions. I read a sign a few years ago, "The best way to break a habit is to drop it." Easily said.|We prepare to celebrate the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus. The graces of God through all the sacraments are offered us to complete the holy transformation of us, the congregation. We can pray these days to elect certain areas of our lives and to pray to be victorious in allowing that Grace to patiently change us. Things will change slowly in our political world. Change will happen as well if we vote for patience, honesty, and awareness of our call.|The Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time is replaced this year by an unusual feast. The Lateran Basilica in Rome is the Pope's Church, he being the Bishop of Rome. One might think that St. Peter's Basilica would be the church of the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Obviously, there is a history behind this church and this feast.|The palace of the Laterini family became property of the Catholic community in 313 as a gift from Constantine. He desired it to become the cathedral for the Pope. Through fires and reconstructions, for centuries the present building remains the first church in Rome. This feast has been celebrated first in Rome and then throughout the world since the twelfth century. It was the first of the four larger churches in Rome. It stands now as a symbol of the permanence of the Catholic Church in the world. Today we celebrate its dedication and so, too, the dedication of the Pope and the Church to bring about the Kingdom of Christ in this world.| REFLECTION |The First Reading is from a series of visions. The prophet Ezekiel is being shown a river flowing from beneath the temple outward. This river flows to fertility and fruitfulness of all kinds. This river is seen to be ever-lastingly alive. The Second Reading is so clear and direct; it must be highlighted and listened-to and taken inside. Paul is giving his readers a strong definition of church as well as individuals. "You" the community and "You" the member are now the "temple", now the graced presence. Your "Body" the congregation and the participants, each, is a holy place! It is often easier to believe just in Jesus more than what He has said about who we are and who each of us is in our person.|The Gospel is a tough one. Some might think it is an image of the Catholic Church, driving out people who are doing disgraceful things. No! No! No! This is not a story so much about cleansing as it is about holiness.|These cattle hustlers and sheep dealers were actually providing a service for those faithful who desired to fulfill sacrificial rites within the temple. The whole scene sets up Jesus' discussion with the Jewish leaders about "signs" which are a strong feature in John's Gospel. "Bread of Life", "Living Water", "Light of the World", "Sight" are all "signs" or images by which John presents Jesus as a God-Sent Prophet. In the religious traditions of Israel a prophet from God would be inspired to do actions which God alone could do. John takes artistic pains to present Jesus doing these acts within a setting of irony.|Here, for example, Jesus talks about "Temple" meaning His Body, but within the context of the Jewish leaders thinking He is speaking of this years-in-the-making temple of Jerusalem. John has Jesus do that with bread, water, sight and light in other contexts of irony.|The real movement of these readings is the holiness of Jesus flowing into humanity through the river of the ever-lasting presence of Jesus among and within us. It is way too easy to take this Gospel and start praying about Jesus' driving something unholy out of each of us as He drove the animals and sellers out. Don't go there! This would be a kind of desecration of the holiness of John's Gospel. Holiness begins, not with driving out, but allowing in. It is not something we achieve, but receive, because we believe. Jesus did not come into the world, into our lives to attract us by driving forcefully something bad from within us as a human family nor each of us as individuals. This is why the Second Reading is so important. Jesus came to identify us and actually to attract us to the holiness God has shared with us.|I know this of myself and through the years have experienced it in so many of the people I have directed, personal recklessness or bodily disregard is present until that moment that some other person enters our lives lovingly. That love does not drive out recklessness. Rather, that personal darkness leaves quite quietly when a person's love lightens and enlightens exactly who we are. We are invited by that love to see ourselves as valuable, precious, loved. The hustling and dealings diminish as the truer image replaces the used-to-be. Holiness is that then, being loved into the way God's sees us in Christ. In a sense, Jesus did not so much drive out as drove in.|"Like living stones let yourselves be built on Christ as a spiritual house, a holy priesthood." 1 Peter
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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