Feast of the Basilica of St. John Lateran – 1 Corinthians 3:9-17; John 2:13-22
I’ve had the privilege of seeing the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, the cathedral of the pope as Bishop of Rome, which I remember as a huge, white, kind of jumbled church, with big steps and a great white façade, and we’re going there again, to Rome and Assisi and Florence this next summer, on pilgrimage.
It was a wonderful experience the first time, on our first pilgrimage to Rome, and I came back with this sense of how rich and beautiful our tradition is, and ancient, how far back it really goes. The depth of the faith that gave rise to it in the beginning. The beauty of the art and the architecture.
And coming back, too, I had a stronger sense of how wonderful our own church is, this particular church, St. Mary’s, with these windows and walls and this light: how we are related to the Church of St. John Lateran and all the churches in Rome and all the churches everywhere, that what happens here at Mass and even at a communion service is in communion with what happens there in Rome, that we’re not making this up, that we all being carried on a great wave of faith and tradition, everyday, and yet at the same time that this is home, this is where we come to be who we are right now, that the Church is both grand and ordinary, universal and local, huge and yet intimate—ancient and yet in this particular moment.
And the famous reading from Paul takes us deeper into the paradox, because as Paul says, we are the Church, each of us, I am the Basilica of St. John Lateran and you are the Basilica of St. John Lateran, and the reason we go to church and the reason we go to mass is to be reminded of that—to drive out the money changers from within us and open ourselves up to what is always already true, that Christ is everywhere, outside us and inside us, every second.
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas but what happens in Rome doesn’t stay in Rome and what happens at the mass doesn’t stay at the mass. It extends out into the parking lot and out into OSU and Walmart and Sam’s Station and every other place we go, in the kitchen, in the living room, because we are the Body of Christ. That isn’t a metaphor. It’s true. We need the Church and we need the mass to continually remind us, to continually open our eyes to the fact, that the temple is within and that our vocation is to sanctify the world when we leave here, with our kindness and our courage and our humility and our joy.
O Lord, forgive us when we fail at this, as we often do. Forgive us our pride and our forgetfulness and our selfishness, our cowardice, our smallness. Thank you for the gift of your Church and thank you for the gift of our tradition, and may we live inside it and may it live inside us, and may we go out into the world as your missionaries. Give us peace and give us joy that we may share it with others. May we be your conduits, in our own small ways, in our own small places, in our own moments, our own lives.