Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica
Dedication of the refurbishment of the Church of the Good Shepherd
Homily Notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin, Church of the Good Shepherd, Churchtown, 9th November 2014
“The Liturgy today celebrates the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. There are very few feasts which replace the normal Sunday readings and Mass texts and I think many are a little surprised that this rather unusual feast is given such prominence in the Church’s calendar.
Most of us if asked at a quiz “which is the most important Church associated with the Pope?” would answer Saint Peter’s in the Vatican, as that is where the Pope lives and normally celebrates Mass.
Saint John Lateran’s is in fact the Pope’s Cathedra, dedicated to the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist and is called in tradition the Mother and Head of All Churches of the City and of the World. It may seem a local feast for the city of Rome, but it is not irrelevant for our celebration here this morning.
We come together to celebrate the conclusion of the process of refurbishment of this Church of the Good Shepherd in Churchtown. I congratulate the Parish Pastoral Council, the Finance Committee, the architects and hand workers and all those who have been involved in this process. The fruits of the effort are striking.
We celebrate the refurbishing of a Church building. The readings are not about physical buildings. They are about Jesus himself and also about how God wishes to build a spiritual temple in the world. He wants to build a community that worships him in spirit and truth. The Church is not a primarily a Church of bricks and mortar. It is above all a Church of living stones, of men and women and of human lives. Our Faith is not a Faith of texts and books. It is a faith which must touch the innermost depths of our spirit.
In the New Testament the temple of stones is seen above all as a symbol of the living Church, the Christian community. The Christian community is a “spiritual edifice,” built by God with “living stones”. These living stones are Christians themselves – who come together around the one foundation of Jesus Christ, who is the “cornerstone”.
But a Feast like todays and our celebration here in Churchtown remind us also of the importance of the material buildings in which the community gathers to celebrate the praises of God. A Church is not like any other building. It is rather a place set aside, a space for the worship of God, truly a sacred space. You will note how at the very beginning of Mass the altar was incensed, a sign of our prayer rising up, but also a sign that the altar is a consecrated space, shrouded in mystery because it is where the mystery of faith is celebrated.
A beautiful Church building is not built to be simply an architectural or artistic gem. The beauty is directed to giving praise to God, and to draw us into to an intimate communion with Jesus. This happens above all in the Eucharist, where the community of the baptized unite around the one altar to listen to the Word of God and to nourish themselves with the Body and Blood of Christ.
People today often ask me why put money into building or refurbishing Churches. Would it not be more Christian to spend that money on projects of charity and combating poverty? Certainly it is important that any extravagance in spending on Churches be curtailed. But Church buildings have a vital role in the midst of any community. They are a reminder of the presence among us of something which comes from above. We do not create the Church according to our ideas. The Church is the creation of Jesus Christ. ENDS