Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica
November 9, John 2: 13-22
A Basilica is an early Christian church designed like a Roman Basilica; or it may be a Roman Catholic church or cathedral accorded certain canonical privileges. The design of a Basilica is a building with several parallel isles separated by rows of columns, ending in a semicircular structure, the apse. It is, in other words, a particular architectural style. The word itself comes from the Greek word basilike which means a royal hall. Our word “church” comes from the German word kirche. The Latin word for church is ecclesia and in the dictionary I looked in there are 17 different meanings for church, the first of which is: a building for public Christian worship. Words, words, words.
Whatever you wish to call it, a church in the common estimation of humankind is a place where God dwells and is worshipped. We are all, I hope, very much aware of the existence of God. And even our first graders know that God is everywhere; he cannot be contained in this or that particular place. There are millions of churches in the world and they all tell us: God lives here. Human beings seem to have an inclination to pinpoint the presence of God and this is probably why we have churches. In the Old Testament they had the Arc of the Covenant where God dwelled. Some of them have different names because of size, shape, or canonical privileges. I guess for me a church is a church is a church. It is a place for a community to meet their God in a ritualistic way as a community. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am in their midst.”
Today’s feast of the Lateran Basilica focuses on a church that is special in Christian history. It is one of the major basilicas of Rome. The word Lateran means the church was built on land in Rome that was owned by the Laterani family. It is the cathedral church of Rome, where the Pope first lived, and was built by Constantine c. 324. It is regarded by Catholics as “the mother and head of all churches of Rome and of the world.” And it is a church particularly loved by the Franciscans because it is where St. Francis and his first followers went in 1209 to have their first Rule approved by Innocent III who resided there. The Popes resided at the Lateran Basilica until 1309 when the seat of the papacy switched to Avignon. There is to this very day a very beautiful sculpture of Francis and his Companions approaching the Lateran in the front of the building. Make sure to see it if you visit Rome.
In the meantime, instead of focusing on all this architectural and historical rank and importance of various churches, let’s just make sure that we use the one of our choice to worship, praise, honor, and to give glory to the God who loves us all so very much and who is always with us and present to us.
Monday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
November 10, Memorial of St. Leo the Great
Our Saint for today, November 10, is St. Leo the Great. He was one of the early Popes, reigning from 440 to 461. He is perhaps best remembered for the part he played in the fifth century barbarian invasion of Italy by the Huns. He persuaded the terrible Atilla the Hun, at the very gates of Rome, to turn back. Surprisingly, Atilla listened to Leo and did so. Later when the Vandals occupied the city of Rome, Leo persuaded them to desist from pillaging the city or harming its inhabitants. Leo the Great died in 461, leaving many writings of historical value.
St. Leo the Great, pray for us.
Tuesday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
November 11, Luke 17: 7-10
These few verses in the Gospel appointed to be read today are found only in the Gospel of St. Luke. They remind us, the disciples of Jesus, to increase our faith, and they also serve to remind us that we can make no claim on God’s graciousness. When we fulfill the demands of discipleship, we are only doing our duty, we are only doing what a disciple should do. Tomorrow’s Gospel, which follows the verses for today’s, is going to deal with increasing our faith. I think the point of today’s Gospel, or one point anyway, is that we are not to bargain with God using what we do for leverage. This idea was and still is prevalent among us today. There really is no need to bargain with God. All of his gifts are free for the taking. All I have to do is ask. All I have to do is receive – along with having the desire to take what God gives me and bear fruit with it. This happens when I take what God has freely given to me and use it for others in service. This is what a disciple is all about. We are servants and when we serve we are only doing our duty, what a disciple of the Lord should do. Rewards and all that, or more, more, more are of no concern whatever. Whom can I serve today?
Wednesday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
November 12, Luke 17: 11-19
“And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.”
We often encounter this Gospel selected for today’s Liturgy on the holiday of Thanksgiving because of the one leper who returned to thank Jesus. But, in this beautiful story of Jesus healing the ten lepers, we are given an assist in increasing our faith. This story, like the parable of the Good Samaritan, holds up a non-Jew, a Samaritan, as an example to the followers of Christ. The point that is made in our Gospel for today is that this Samaritan received his healing, his salvation, through his great faith in Jesus. If we find this much faith in a Samaritan, a Gentile, then where is our faith, we who have had the words of Jesus manifested to us so often?
In the words of the man who brought his son to Jesus to be cured in another part of the Gospel: Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. How many times has Jesus referred to us as “you of little faith?” How much does God have to do for us before we open our eyes and see?
Thursday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
November 13, Memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini
Yesterday we spoke of increasing our faith. Today’s commemoration of the feast of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini gives us another story that reinforces our faith. She was born in Italy in 1850, one of thirteen children. When she was eighteen, she wanted to be a nun but her health at the time prevented this. She began to help her parents on their farm until they died and then began to teach school. Her efforts must have been outstanding because her Bishop asked her to found the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for poor children. Her work was also noticed by Pope Leo XIII who urged her to go to the U.S.A. in 1889 to work among the Italian immigrants. With great faith in Jesus, she responded to the Pope’s request and with six of her sisters she left for the United States. Her work is legend. She founded many schools, hospitals and orphanages to aid the Italian immigrants and their children. By the time she died in Chicago on Dec. 22, 1917, her institute of Sisters had houses in England, France, Spain, the U.S., and South America. A truly remarkable woman! She became the first citizen of the U.S. to be canonized a Saint by Pope Pius XII in 1946. It goes without saying that she is the patron saint of immigrants.
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, pray for us.
Friday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
November 14, Luke 17: 26-37
Yesterday’s Gospel, which we did not refer to because of the Memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, and today’s Gospel which follows it, both respond to the Pharisee’s question about the time of the coming of God’s Kingdom. Jesus tells them the Kingdom is already among them, it is already here. It is present among us in Jesus’ healing and preaching ministry. Jesus also assures us that in spite of delay, the coming of the Son of Man will bring judgment to those who do not continue to be vigilant.
Many times we still make reference to God’s Kingdom as though it is something that will come someday in the future, only God knows when. Jesus tells us it is already here; it is here in the compassion, forgiveness, love, caring, service, peace and serenity taught by Jesus. When we practice these things, we bear fruit, we bring the Kingdom among us. We must be active, we must be vigilant. In the words of St. Francis of Assisi at the end of his Rule: “Brothers and Sisters, while we have time, let us do good.”
Saturday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
November 15, Luke 18: 1-8
Today’s Gospel selection is a good Gospel with which to end the week. It is the story of the unjust judge and the persistent widow who was going to get her rights come hell or high water. The judge finally gives in to her request because of her persistence and his own fear that if he didn’t capitulate she would clobber him.
I think all of us will probably agree that there is hardly anything more frustrating than waiting. Many of us experienced this waiting in long lines to vote on election day. We were not in control of the long line and hence the frustration. We are not in control of prayer either – God is! We see the frustration of the widow when the judge ignores her. Today’s Gospel urges us, despite our frustrations, feeling sorry for ourselves, minor depressions, anger, cursing and other negative reactions, to hang in there with our prayer. Surrender to God; letting him be in control of the situation will produce the desired results.