The Feast of St. John Lateran

Today’s readings

[Celebrating Sunday’s feast today for the school children.]

Have you ever heard the story of the three pigs?  If you have, then you remember that one of them built his house out of straw, and the wolf was able to come along and huff and puff and blow his house down.  The second pig built his house out of sticks, and again, the wolf came along and huffed and puffed and blew the house down.  But the third pig was smarter.  He built his house out of bricks.  So when the wolf came along and huffed and puffed, he wasn’t able to blow the house down and that third pig was able to live safely.

That can be a very scary story when we hear it; the wolf is devious and wants to hurt the little pigs.  But because that third pig was smart and built his house out of the right kind of material, he didn’t have to be afraid.  His house stood up to the wolf and kept the pig safe.  I thought about that story when I read today’s readings.

In our first reading today, Saint Paul talks about us being the temple of God.  We are the temple of God when God dwells in us; when he lives within our hearts.  The foundation of that temple is Jesus.  He gives us a rock solid base for our lives.   We have to be smart and build our temples with the right kinds of things.  What are those things?  Well, they are things like prayer and love and being of service to those in need – feeding the poor, teaching other people about Jesus, going to Church for Mass every week – these are the things that build a good solid temple where God can live and guide us through our lives.

This weekend we celebrate the feast of the dedication of the Cathedral of St. John Lateran in Rome.  This is the Pope’s church, where he serves as bishop.  Because of that, it is called the mother church of all Christianity.  Because it is the Pope’s church, it is like the parish church for all of us Catholics.  The first church was built on that site way back in the fourth century.  Over time, the church and its successors suffered from fire, earthquakes, and war, but there has always been a church there.  The current St. John Lateran was built in the seventeenth century.

The Cathedral of St. John Lateran is more than just a church building.  It’s a symbol of the Catholic faith that has stood the test of time, surviving just like the building survived all those fires and earthquakes and wars.  Just the same way, this building we are worshipping in right now is more than just a building for us.  It’s a symbol of the faith of all of our parishioners, all the people who gave money to have it built because they loved the Lord and loved our parish, and all the people who continue to support the church with their time, talent and treasure.

But even more than that, this church we worship in is a symbol of our relationship with God.  We build a house for worship because we want to be with our God and pray to our God and celebrate our God who gave everything to be with us.

Because Jesus, when he walked on the earth, was a temple too.  In the Gospel he says “destroy this temple and in three days I will build it again!”  He wasn’t talking about the temple in Jerusalem, where the whole thing was taking place.  He was talking about the temple of his body.  What he meant is that he would die – he would be destroyed by those who thought he was dangerous – and in three days he would rise again, destroying death in the process.

So we have to take care of and celebrate all these temples we have.  We have to take care of the church building so that it is always a good place for people to come and pray and find God.  We have to take care of the temple that is the Church in the world, so that it will always be a symbol of our faith and will always lead people to the Lord.  And we have to take care of the temple of our own bodies so that we can be a strong and beautiful place for our Lord to live.

God wants to live with us and in us forever.  We have the strongest foundation we could possibly have – Jesus himself, the son of God.  We just have to build that temple up with the right kinds of things – with prayer, and good works, and holy living.  We have to stay away from things that are bad for us, like drugs, and the wrong kinds of movies and TV, and so-called friends who try to get us to do bad things.   When we do all that, we will have built a strong temple that can lead us through all the good times and especially all the bad times in life.  We all need that kind of faith in our lives.  And when we build our lives up around it, we will never be alone, because God will always be with us.