Maria Kozakiewicz


Dedication of the Lateran Basilica – November 9, 2014
Ezekiel 47.1-2, 8-9, 12 | Psalm 46 | 1 Corinthians 3.9-11, 16-17 | John 2.13-22
November 3, 2014

The huge Lateran Basilica whose anniversary of dedication we celebrate this Sunday has a long, interesting history.

A nice villa once stood there. Then, beginning in the second century, the land housed the barracks of the imper-ial cavalry bodyguard.

The end of the third century and start of the fourth saw the most cruel and massive persecutions of Christians ever. Hundreds of thousands died in horrible ways because they refused to renounce Jesus. The Church seemed to be dying.

Do you not know that you are God's temple? – 1 Corinthians 3.16


'Do you not know that you are God's temple?'

1 Corinthians 3.16

Then a miracle happened. Constantine the Great experienced the Christian God's intervention and won an important battle. In gratitude, the new emperor gave Christians equal status with worshippers of all religions in the empire. He ended the persecutions and allowed the Church to establish permanent places of worship.

He also gave them the Lateran property for a place of worship. The location was outside the city gates, a sign Constantine did not want to antagonize the traditional gods and their worshippers.

He and his family, however, donated so much gold and silver to the new basilica that it was obvious Constantine's allegiance was shifting to Jesus.

Centuries passed, Christianity flourished and, although the original basilica had to be repaired and rebuilt, it never lost its grandeur.

The first impression of St. John the Lateran Archbasilica, as you approach it on foot, is one of awe – it is vast, well-proportioned and surrounded by space that makes it even larger.

The ancient Roman city wall and gate loom nearby and remind you of the difficult beginnings of the Church. Close by stands the building preserving Santa Scala, the staircase on which Jesus walked in Pontius Pilate's palace.

You climb this staircase on your knees and say a prayer on each step. Then you return to the basilica and face the immense bronze door, which once belonged to the pagan Roman curia.

Ages look down upon you, and you cannot help but think about those who have crossed the massive threshold of Lateran over the last 1,700 years – the popes and kings, the saints and sinners, the beggars and conquerors.

My first steps in every basilica are to the chapel of adoration. There, before the tabernacle, I know I am close to the same God as in my parish of Our Lady Queen of Poland in Edmonton. I need to establish this relationship so I can say, "I am home. I am home because he is here."

Isn't it wonderful to be at home in every Catholic church, no matter how humble or rich? Isn't it wonderful to have your own parish church, grow with it and then age with it?

Isn't it wonderful to hear from God, "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" And also to hear that "the temple of God, which you are, is holy"?

We are the luckiest, the most privileged people on earth. Do we know it?