You Are God’s Holy Temple

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Today is the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica.  (Wondering why we have a feast day for a building?)

St. John Lateran is one of the great churches of Rome.  It was named after St. John the Baptist and sits on a piece of property in Rome donated by the ancient Lateran family of Rome.

Its greatest significance is this:  it is the Cathedral Church of the diocese of Rome.  It is the Pope’s main church as the Bishop of Rome.  Many might think that this is strange because St. Peter’s is always seen as the Pope’s Church.  But St. Peter’s is second in rank to St. John Lateran, and St. John Lateran is considered the Mother Church of the entire Church.

That is why we celebrate this feast day today.  The whole church rejoices in the dedication of the mother church of our faith which happened in the year 324 AD.  This was soon after Christianity was made legal for the first time in the Roman Empire.

But why all this emphasis on a building?  For us Catholics, churches are more than just buildings.  They are sacred places, specially blessed for the offering of the mass, the place where the family of God – you and me – comes to worship God as one body.

Churches are different from other buildings because they are consecrated by God.  We can say that they are God’s gift to us because it is in the Church building that we meet God in the most intimate way and are united with each other as the one body of Christ.

So today’s feast is not about celebrating “some building in Rome”, but about giving thanks to God for what the church building is, the house of God.

At the same time, the church building is also a symbol to us of the spiritual house of God that is the Church. St. Paul says to us in today’s second reading: “Brothers and sisters, you are God’s building.”  We, all together in the Church, are the place where God’s presence dwells.

God’s presence also dwells within each of us as individuals through the sacrament of Baptism.  Each one of us is rightly called a “temple of God.”

We give thanks today on this feast of St. John Lateran that we have a church to which we can come anytime and be in the presence of God, a temple where the Holy Sacrifice of the mass is offered every day.  It symbolizes the entire church, which is the living Body of Christ, and it symbolizes each one of us who are living temples of God.  May the Lord cleanse and purify each one of His temples.

Fr. Mark Gurtner

About Fr. Mark Gurtner

Fr. Mark Gurtner, J.C.L., is Judicial Vicar for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and pastor of Our Lady of Good Hope Catholic Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Fr. Mark is also an Adjunct Assistant Professional Specialist in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.