Today we celebrate the dedication of the Basilica of St John Lateran, historically the oldest church in Rome. It was the residence of the Pope for centuries and remains his cathedral. It is considered the mother of all churches. The dedication serves as a reminder that we are not simply individual churches ‘that do our own thing’ but rather that our local parish life serves as part of a greater unity that is the one body of Christ. We are to remember that it is not about our parish is better than another parish, or our local church is preferable to that Roman basilica; it is about remembering that we are called to live the life we were baptised into our unity as God’s building through our faith in Christ. With our Christ-foundation, we are called to exhibit this faith in our fellowship with one another in our worship: it is who we are and who we hope to become.
In today’s Gospel Saint John recalls Jesus cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem. The goods sold in the Temple markets were used in sacrifices so that people could meet the requirements to be ‘closer’ to God. Jesus was angry and challenged this model, driving the people selling the animals and the money-changers out of the Temple but he also drives out the sheep and the cattle, while commanding the dove-sellers to remove everything from his Father’s house; it is not a market place. He tells people early on in John’s Gospel that he is God’s Temple. God cannot be confined. Jesus’ words are too controversial for his listeners and challenging such powerful structures comes at a price.
We can take away many reflections from today’s feast: we celebrate the Church as a place of encounter with God; we are also reminded that God is not confined to one building or the structures placed around it. We gather as community in prayer and worship in our churches united with Christians all over the world, yet we remember that it is the people who gather there in Jesus’ name who are the real Church. The Temple of God is the Christian community, the body of Christ with Jesus as its foundation. This is pre-echoed in the second reading today from St Paul when he says: ‘For the Temple of God is holy and you are that Temple’.