Monday, November 07, 2011

The Temple of God: A Source of Life

November 9, 2011

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

By Colleen O’Sullivan

The angel brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east; the water flowed down from the southern side of the temple, south of the altar… He said to me, “This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah, and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh. Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh. Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail. Every month they shall bear fresh fruit, for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary. Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine.” (Ezekiel 47:1, 8-9, 12)

Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (I Cor. 3:16)

Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:13-16, 18-19)


Lord, help us as your Church to be your living temple. Help us, wherever we are, to create a holy space where others may experience your love and mercy.


Today we celebrate the feast of the dedication of the oldest of the four papal basilicas in Rome, the Lateran Basilica. St. John Lateran is the cathedral of the pope, who is also the Bishop of Rome. If you ever travel to Rome, be sure to include this historic church on your itinerary.

Our Scripture readings today focus on sacred places. For over 1,000 years (with the exception of a period in the 6th century B.C. when it lay in ruins, having been destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar), the Temple in Jerusalem was Israel’s most sacred place. As a young child, Jesus was presented in the Temple by Mary and Joseph in accordance with Jewish teachings. We’re told that the Holy Family went to the Temple every year for the Passover festival. In the passage for today from John’s Gospel, we see Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry again visiting the Temple. This time, he’s disgusted and irate at what he finds. This place where people are supposed to encounter God has been defiled by the commercial activities of money changers and those selling sacrificial animals. Jesus drives them out in a fury. The authorities demand to know who Jesus is to perform such actions. No one understands Jesus’ response at the time, but basically Jesus says, I am now the Temple. If you want to encounter the Father, you don’t have to travel to this place of worship in Jerusalem, you simply have to have a relationship with me. So the focus moves away from the Temple as a place of worship to a relationship with God’s Son.

By the time Paul writes to the church in Corinth, the concept of the Temple has further evolved. Jesus has ascended to the Father. Paul tells the Corinthians that they, the community of believers, undergirded by the power of the Holy Spirit, are now the Temple of God. Wherever Christians are gathered, one ought to be able to experience the presence of God in their midst.

Many years before Jesus or Paul, the prophet Ezekiel had a beautiful vision of the New Temple. He saw it as the source of an abundant stream flowing forth, the source of blessing and power, new life and healing.


When you have a few moments today, reread and reflect on Ezekiel’s words. As God’s Temple in today’s world, are we a source of blessing, new life and healing to those about us?

If you would like to know more about the Lateran Basilica you can go to for a brief description or for a more detailed account of its history and significance.