Monday, November 10, 2014

HOMILY - Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome (Year A)

Each diocese has a cathedral – for the diocese of Columbus it is St. Joseph’s Cathedral. The cathedral church in Rome is St. John Lateran Basilica. And it even has an inscription placed it that reads: this Church is “Mother and Head of all the churches of the City and the World.” Each diocese also has a bishop – for the diocese of Columbus it is Bishop Fredrick Campbell. The bishop for the diocese of Rome is also the pope of the Roman Catholic Church: Pope Francis, who is the father and shepherd of not just Catholics in Rome but the entire world. In celebrating today the Dedication of St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome, which happened on November 9, 324, we celebrate annually the unity of all local churches with the universal church of Rome. And so, in a special way today, we celebrate the reality that Our Lady of Peace parish is united with the Church of Rome and its bishop, Pope Francis. This celebration is also a reminder of the grace of God that flows into our lives by our presence in this Church and our participation in this liturgy – the grace we receive in reading God’s revealed Word in Sacred Scripture here, the grace we receive from the Eucharist here, and the grace we receive in the fellowship of this community gathered together here in faith. And in a very special way, today’s celebration, and especially its readings, reminds us beautifully of the goal and mission of THE Church – the Mystical Body of Christ – and every church – whether it is a basilica, a cathedral or a parish church – and (in the words of St. John Paul II) is to guard, reveal and communicate love: God’s love for us and the love we are called to have for God and others. It is especially true in the domestic church, a term that the Second Vatican Council gave to the family, that uniquely guards, reveals and communicates this love to its members. It is the family in which we first learn who God is and to prayerfully seek His will for us in the midst of his abundant love. And for this very reason, Pope Francis – I have to believe in great zeal for the domestic church – recently stated that the enemy so often attacks the family. The devil does not want the family; he tries to destroy it, to make sure that there is no love there. Today’s readings are hopefully a call to action and at the same time a source of encouragement for our families in their many shapes, sizes, proximity and configurations and who are in this parish and in the universal church. After he had successfully established the Church in Corinth and then moved on to do the same in other communities, St. Paul found himself in a long-distance competition with other messengers and messages that followed him. Paul is urging folks in today’s second reading to not be carried way by fancy words and actions, but instead to stay focused and grounded in the one, true, lasting foundation in our life: Jesus Christ. Our families are under attack – we are pulled in so many different directions; bombard by tons of messages and messengers; bombard by the media, politicians, TV and the internet; bombard with mixed messages about what is true, what is important, what is worth living and dying for. The challenge is to remain grounded in Jesus Christ, just as St. Paul urges the Corinthians in today’s second reading. It is only in Christ – and the example he provides us – that we will find joy and peace now and eternally. Is Jesus Christ the foundation of your family and is it obvious to your family members and strangers that it is Jesus Christ? In today’s Gospel, we read the story of Jesus’ great emotion and passion – okay anger – over how the House of God was being used. Has your family been reduced to a place of transactions – going through the motions of work and school, cleaning and laundry and the many other necessary activities of a family or is it ALSO about something more and greater? Is it a place that draws others to God’s love and inspires and supports them in their love of God and others? If not, then today’s Gospel reading challenges us to do a little (or maybe a lot of) housekeeping AND to do so with authority and zeal, like Christ. A zeal that “consumes” us – in which we freely, willingly and selflessly give completely of ourselves for another – as Christ did for us on the Cross. A zeal to re-order our family’s values, actions, and priorities. Finally, in today’s first reading, we read a small portion of a vision by the prophet Ezekiel, who is trying to offer hope to an exiled people who is also without a physical connection to their God – following the destruction of their Temple. Is your family a source of hope for each other in the face of hardship and difficult? Is your family a source of hope for others in need? Is your family like the waters of Ezekiel’s vision that are not only life-giving but life-giving in great abundance? Is your family a place of mercy and forgiveness? A place of joy and peace? While I wish I could say my own domestic church – my family – is always a place of hope, that we always inspire and support love, that it is always Christ-centered in everything we do and say, but truthfully it is not. I think that we do a good job, but we are human, and weak and sinful. And the truth is that, as Pope Francis reminds us, we are under attack by the devil who desires nothing more than to destroy the domestic church as a means to destroy Christ and his Church on earth. Despite many fires, earthquakes and wars, St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome has survived; and has become a symbol of the survival of Christianity itself for over 2000 years. And so, I am confident that the domestic church will survive its many attacks, too! On our part, regardless of the shape, size, proximity or configuration of your family, let zeal for your domestic church consume you. Seek each day for your family to be a place of hope, to inspire and support love, to be Christ-centered in everything you do and say. And be nourished and strengthened now in this space, in this liturgy, and with this parish community, who is united with the Church universal. May God bless you.